Discussions: Sharjah Booksellers Conference Workshops

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

In Emma House’s apt programming, workshops held a key interactive dynamic at the Sharjah International Booksellers Conference.

The Netherlands’ Fabian Paagman, center facing camera, leads a Sharjah International Booksellers Conference workshop on ‘How To Create Effective Social Media Campaigns That Will Sell Books.’ Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

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

Booksellers’ Workshops and Publishers’ Pitches
In addition to bringing together what has been reported as some 400 delegates in its second year, the Sharjah International Booksellers Conference—produced by Ahmed Al Ameri, chair of the Sharjah Book Authority and director Mansour Al Hassani—has introduced a simple but highly effective programming format that combines a very select number of events with opportunities for discussion and interaction among the delegates.

Developed by Emma House with Kuo-Yu Liang’s facilitation, the program has opened on each of its two full days with (1) commentary from the stage, (2) a total of 17 one-hour workshops on bookselling topics, and (3) a total 15 “publisher pitches.”

In the case of the workshops and publisher pitches, booksellers were allowed to choose which session they’d attend. And because the pattern repeated these offerings four times (workshops and pitches were offered four times each), delegates had a good chance to be sure they got to their main interests and colleagues.

The broad, roomy space used for the event placed each workshop and pitch at a large round table. Because the room is so large, acoustics were not a problem: delegates could hear their presenters and colleagues well, and without having to break these sessions of so many offerings into separate rooms,

On Monday (May 1), we looked at the conference-defining headline comments from Al Ameri, Bodour Al Qasimi, and Markus Dohle

Today (May 2), Publishing Perspectives has moved from workshop to workshop, getting some images of the conversations, in hopes of giving our readership a sense for how this round robin of interactive programming has looked.

The day, again hosted by Kuo-Yu Liang, opened with the wry memories of Kinokuniya’s Steve Jones in The Five P’s of Retail: The Hits, Misses, and Learning of 30 Years in Bookselling.”

The assembly then when into its sequence of workshops and publisher pitches, some opting to have one-on-one meetings with publishers at tables and chairs lining the room.

‘Why People Buy’

In this workshop, Poland’s Sonia Draga—who is also the vice-president of the Federation of European Publishers—led a workshop called Why People Buy: Consumer Book-Buying Behaviors, a session attended by particularly attentive booksellers, who were quick to pick up on her concept of drawing a customer to the mid-range price point.

Sonia Draga, Polish publisher and bookseller, in her Sharjah International Bookseller Conference workshop on consumer behavior. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

‘Building a Community’

In this workshop, Nigeria’s Lola Shoneyin—known to our readers for her work with the Aké Arts and Book Festival in Lagos and her initiative in the Global Association of Literary Festivals—spoke with booksellers on the popular concept of a bookstore as a community center, a focal point for events and interaction among booksellers and consumers.

Lola Shoneyin, Nigerian bookseller (Ouida Books) and literary festival producer, in her Sharjah International Bookseller Conference workshop on bookstore community. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

‘Working With Publishers’

Among the most popular of workshop sessions, the Working With Publishers seminar with Penguin Random House’s Cyrus Kheradi and Gaurav Shrinagesh was at times very heavily attended as booksellers pulled up extra chairs to the table—logically wanting to hear from key players at the world’s largest publishing house.

Kheradi is senior vice president for international sales and marketing in East Asia business developement for PRH, working both in the States and in Southeast Asia. Shrinagesh is CEO for Penguin Random House India and Southeast Asia.

In this photo, Gaurav Shrinagesh, left, and Cyrus Kheradi, both of Penguin Random House, speak with a Saudi Arabian bookseller in their ‘Working With Publishers’ workshop at the Sharjah International Booksellers Conference. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

‘Selling Manga and Graphic Novels’

Selling Manga and Graphic Novels is the special expertise of Seong Oh at Manga Books and Café in Auckland. In his workshop, he talked booksellers through some of the consumer logic behind recent high levels of interest in manga and graphic novels, and trends in audience demographics.

New Zealand-based Seong Oh in his workshop on ‘Selling Manga and Graphic Novels talks booksellers through a publisher’s catalogue. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

‘Stages of Distribution’

Well known to Publishing Perspectives readers, Cairo-based publisher and bookseller Ahmed Rashad led one of the best-attended workshops in Arabic, discussing issues in distribution. Rashad is the executive director of two publishing houses, Dar Al Masriah Al Lubnaniah and Dar Al Arabia lel Ketab. He also is chief executive of the high-end bookstore named al Masriah Al Lubnaniah.

Cairo publisher and bookseller Ahmed Rashad engages in an exchange with a bookseller during his Sharjah International Bookseller Conference workshop on distribution. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

‘The Four C’s of Bookshop Design and Marketing’

India’s Ajay Jain of Kunzum is an author, photographer, and the founder of a chain of boutique bookstores set up in 2022, the shops being called Kunzum. He was joined by the conference’s keynote headliner Markus Dohle during one of his sessions on design and marketing for bookshops.

Markus Dohle listens with workshop leader Ajay Jain, the founder of the Kunzum chain of bookshops in India. This workshop was titled, ‘The Four C;s of Bookshop Design and Marketing.’ Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

One-on-One Meetings

In addition to workshops and publishers’ pitch sessions, booksellers and publishers held one-on-one meetings in the Sharjah International Bookselling Conference space at specially devised display shelves set up for publishers. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson


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.

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.