By Olivia Snaije
This is the first time that Morocco has a collective stand at Frankfurt, uniting twelve publishers who print in French, Arabic and Amazigh, the Berber language.
Morocco was present in 2004 when the Arab world was the Guest of Honor, but otherwise individual publishers have since come on their own as visitors.
“It’s the first year that the [Moroccan] Ministry of Culture showed an interest,” said Abdelkader Retnani, founder of one of Morocco’s biggest publishers, Editions La Croisée des Chemins. “Like all Moroccans, we have always had a fixation about the Paris [salon du livre] and that wasn’t producing many results.”
Retnani publishes illustrated books, novels and essays, and spent six months carefully preparing his catalogue in English with titles he believes will be of interest to foreign publishers.
Rachid Chraïbi’s Marsam Editions publishes illustrated books, children’s literature and essays. His books are primarily in French but he also produces bilingual French/Arabic editions, which could prove interesting to francophone publishers in countries where there are Arabic-speaking communities.
Jad Hoballah is representing the 35-year-old publisher Afrique Orient in Frankfurt with scientific and academic books, philosophical essays and children’s literature primarily in Arabic.
“In Morocco, we are more used to buying rather than selling rights. But we want to develop and have excellent titles,” he tells Publishing Perspectives.
Frankfurt is an opportunity for Moroccan publishers not only to sell rights in other languages but also to meet Arabic-language publishers and discuss co-publishing.
Amina Hachimi Alaoui, who runs Yanbow Al Kitab, which publishes children’s titles for ages 5–12, has co-published before with Arabic-language publishers and says it’s one way of bypassing a complicated distribution network.
Surprisingly, the North African market itself is the toughest for Moroccan publishers to deal with.
Guillaume Jobin, a Frenchman who has lived in Morocco for seven years and founded Casa express editions, publishes books on history, society and politics. Trying to export to neighboring Algeria, he says, is “impossible, a nightmare. The government doesn’t want to open the market for political reasons.”
French publishers are also natural partners for Moroccan publishers but for the moment it’s still difficult for them to penetrate the French market with new authors. But Abdelkader Retnani, who recently came back from the Beijing Book Fair and was just at the Barcelona book fair, has a number of appointments and said he was feeling hopeful.