Sharjah’s Booksellers Conference: 400 Attending

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

Markus Dohle headlines the second iteration of Sharjah’s Booksellers Conference, May 1 and 2, in an interactive program for 400 attendees.

At London Book Fair, April 20, Ahmed Al Ameri, right, chair of the Sharjah Book Authority, and Mansour Al Hassani, the authority’s director and head of sales. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘Publishing People You Don’t Meet Anywhere Else’
In a conversation on the Sharjah Book Authority stand on Thursday (April 20) at London Book Fair, the chair of the authority, Ahmed Al Ameri, had an interesting point to make about the upcoming second edition of the Sharjah Booksellers Conference.

“We grow slowly,” Al Ameri said, a figure especially familiar to our world readership,  not least for the many guest-of-honor programs he has spearheaded in so many markets’ marquee trade shows and festivals.

“We don’t grow fast. But it’s becoming clear that this program is attracting more publishers as well as booksellers.” And that, he realizes, may mean that the program—which premiered just last year—may be evolving into a booksellers-and-publishers conference.

Markus Dohle

Headlined by Markus Dohle in conversation with Publishing Perspectives and an opening address from Bodour Al Qasimi, the program features a strong cohort of speakers from a deeply internationalized list, with leadership figures from The Netherlands, Nigeria, Spain, Poland, New Zealand, India, Mexico, Canada, Belgium, the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Southeast Asia, Spain, Singapore, and more.

“This year,” Al-Ameri says, “we’ve increased registration from 253 booksellers, distributors, and publishers, to 400.” And the number of countries from which those participants are coming has jumped from 53 last year to 69 this year.

As Publishing Perspectives readers will recall, the May 1 and 2 second iteration of the two-day Booksellers Conference—even as it seems to be evolving rapidly into a broader remit—is being dovetailed on the calendar with the 11th Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival and an all-new Sharjah Animation Conference.

“And you’re going to see a lot of publishing people you don’t meet anywhere else in the world,” Al Ameri says. “There are some African publishing professionals,” he says, “that you don’t see here in London or Frankfurt. And there will be many Asian, European, South American” attendees “and many more.

Programming for the 2023 Sharjah Booksellers Conference

At Sharjah Publishing City during the 2022 inaugural Sharjah Booksellers Conference. Image: SBA

Probably the most distinctive component of this conference, which will be set at Sharjah Expo Centre—well-known to frequent trade visitors at the Sharjah International Book Fair , the Children’s Reading Festival, and more—is its combination of presentations and round-table workshop events that encourage interaction and engagement by participants.

The development and organization of this complex programming has been supported by Sharjah team members Emma House of Oreham Group and TMPR’s Tony Mulliken, working from their offices in London.

Here’s a look at this dynamic. The opening sessions before mid-morning and again after lunchm, each day, are presented by keynote speakers. What follows, then, are one-hour round-table workshops, with attendees selecting which topics are most important for them.

Monday, May 1

Bodour Al Qasimi, founding publisher of the Kalimat Group and the immediate past president of the International Publishers Association, speaks at the Sharjah Booksellers Conference in 2022. Image: Nabs Ahmedi

9:30 a.m.: Welcome and Introduction

  • Ahmed Al Ameri
  • Event host Kuo-yu Liang
  • Bodour Al Qasimi

9:50 a.m.: Keynote One
Markus Dohle: The State of Global Publishing, Bookselling, and the Promise of Emerging Markets
In conversation with Publishing Perspectives’ Porter Anderson

Sonia Draga

10:45 to 11:45 a.m.: Round-Table Workshops
(Attendees choose which to attend)

  • Data in the book industry. How it can help your businessVikrant Mathur and Mamdou Wanli, Nielsen Book Service
  • Sustainability and The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Amber Harrison, Folde Dorset, United Kingdom
  • Why People Buy: Consumer Book Buying BehaviorsSonia Draga, Sonia Draga Bookstores, Poland, and vice-president of the Federation of European Publishers
  • The Art of Giving Great Customer ServiceAgnes Debiage, ADCF Consulting, France
  • Creating Partnerships: How to Develop a Network of Collaborators, Federico Lang, Libreria Luces, Spain
  • Building a CommunityLola Shoneyin, Ouida Books, Nigeria
  • Working with Publishers Gaurav Shrinagesh and Cyrus Kheradi, Penguin Random House, United States and Southeast Asia
  • Selling Manga and Graphic NovelsSeong Oh, Manga Books and Café, Auckland, New Zealand
  • How to Create Effective Social Media Campaigns That Sell Books, Fabian Paagman, Paagman Bookstores, The Netherlands
  • The Four C’s of Bookshop Design and MarketingAjay Jain, Kunzum, India
  • Maximizing the Impact of Your Bookshop in the Innovation Ecosystem Around Your CityFernando Pascual, Mexico
  • Canadian Books: Distribution-Bookstore Operation/Bibliodata Management Robert Morgan, Bookland Press, Canada
  • Innovation in Bookselling – Julie Belgrado, European and International Bookselling Federation, Brussels
  • Reduce Distribution CostTalal Albalawe, Saudi Arabia (Arabic session)
  • E- distribution for eBooks and AudiobooksAli Abdel-Moniem, Egypt (Arabic session)
  • Stage of DistributionAhmed Rashad, Egypt (Arabic session)
  • Making Profit From Activities Parallel to DistributionMustafa El Tayeb, Egypt (Arabic Session)
  • Special Round Table for Publishers: Bookselling and Distribution in Southeast Asia — Gaurav Sabharwal, Prakash Books and Prashant Pathak, WonderHouse, India

11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.: Coffee Break

12:15 to 1 p.m.: Publisher Pitches
(Attendees choose which to attend)

  • Penguin Random House
  • Wonder House
  • Austin Macauley
  • Bonnier/Igloo
  • Kogan Page
  • Pan Macmillan
  • Difference Engine
  • MMS
  • Avicenna
  • Bookland Press
  • Lightning Source: Print on Demand
  • Hala Publishing (Arabic session)
  • Estifan (Arabic session)
  • Alshamel (Arabic session)
  • Dar Amnah (Arabic session)

1 to 2 p.m.: Lunch

Mark Thornton

2 to 2:45 p.m. Keynote Two
Mark Thornton, Bookshop.org, United Kingdom; Sarah Dennis, Mostly Books and Borzoi Bookshop; Jo Coldwell, Red Lion Books
Expanding Your Digital Footprint: How UK Booksellers Use Online Platforms to Grow Book Sales

2:45 to 3:45 p.m.: Round-Table Workshop
(Attendees choose which to attend)
See agenda above

3:45 to 4:45 p.m.:  Publisher Pitches
(Attendees choose which to attend)
See agenda above

Networking follows


A panel discussion in the inaugural Sharjah Booksellers Conference, 2022. Image: SBA

Tuesday, May 2

10 a.m.: Welcome and Introduction

  • Event host Kuo-yu Liang

Steve Jones

10:05 a.m.: Keynote Three
Steve Jones, Kinokuniya
The Five P’s of Retail: The Hits, Misses, and Learning of 30 years in Bookselling

10:30 to 11:30 a.m.: Round-Table Workshops
(Attendees choose which to attend)

11:30 to 12 p.m.: Coffee Break

12 to 1 p.m.: Publisher Pitches
(Attendees choose which to attend)

Julie Belgrado

2 p.m.: Keynote Four
Julie Belgrado, The European and International Booksellers Federation director, on Sustainability

Round-table workshops, publisher pitches, and networking continue, as previously, to 5:30 p.m.

Commentary in the inaugural Sharjah Booksellers Conference, 2022. Image: SBA


More on Sharjah Book Authority and its programming is here, more on Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival is here, more on bookselling is here, and more on publishing issues and trends in the Arab world is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the International Publishers Association’s world media partner.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.