Kazakhstan’s Foliant Books: Expanding With Stores, Fairs

In Feature Articles by Eugene Gerden

Foliant Books is launching its own bookstores, book fairs, and exhibitions to connect directly with its customers across Kazakhstan.

Foliant Books’ stand at the sixth Eurasian International Book Fair in Astana, organized by the publisher to build consumer exposure for its releases. Image: Foliant

By Eugene Gerden

Building on a Good Year in 2023
Managers of the Astana-based publisher Foliant Books in Kazakhstan say they plan to accelerate the company’s expansion in its domestic market this year, something they expect to do by increasing both their sales and range.

Assel Maratova, the company’s head of marketing, tells Publishing Perspectives that 2023 was very successful for the company in the domestic market.

In 2023,” Maratova says, “our publishing house released 243 projects of its own. These included 200 new books, about 90 percent of them in Kazakh.

By the beginning of this year, we had another 96 titles ready to publish. We’ve had traction in translated world literature; translated and domestic modern prose; translated nonfiction; and our main direction, children’s books. That means for us, world children’s classics, Kazakh classics as well as modern books, both imported for translation and our own, and across all age demographics.”

The company is using its own retail units to amplify its publishing work. Maratova says that last year Foliant opened several bookstores in Kazakhstan and expects to make more such moves in its retail network this year. 

Using Fairs and Exhibitions as Sales Platforms

Nermin Mollaoğlu of Istanbul’s Kalem literary agency, right, and two colleagues at Foliant’s 2023 Eurasian International Book Fair. Image: Foliant

Maratova says the press is seeing success with more active promotional channels that it has used in the past for its books and for its Kazakh authors’ writings. This primarily involves organizing public-facing book fairs and exhibitions to bring consumers in contact with the house’s output.

“We held our annual sixth international book exhibition and fair, the Eurasian International Book Fair, last year,” Maratova says. “More than 100 publishers from Kazakhstan and abroad participated, and the exhibition was visited by more than 70,000 people over five days.

“This year,” she says, “we’re hoping to draw more than 100,000 visitors to the fair. We also plan to present our new publishing fellowship programs. In one, we hope to give Kazakh authors a wider platform for presenting their books, and to get more Kazakh classics translated into foreign languages. The second program, the Astana Publishing Fellowship, is intended to develop the publishing industry in Kazakhstan by acquiring foreign rights and sell theirs.”

Maratova says that the company has bought the rights to more than 50 titles and is in the market to buy more. 

“We’re preparing our own projects, which our editors, designers, illustrators, and marketers are working on, and we send these out to international partners with proposals for publication in international languages.”

These outreach efforts, she says, are to be coupled with more frequent appearances at book fairs in other markets. She says the company has visited sgtnificant events and intends to return to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair and Frankfurter Buchmesse (October 16 to 20).

“There we watch and learn how publishers in different countries work,” she says. “We adapt their experiences and share ours.”

Hoping for State Support

At an edition of the Eurasian International Book Fair in Astana. Image: Foliant

While there have been recent announcements of increased state support for the Kazakh book industry, Maratova says few benefits have materialized as yet, and this leaves the company having to handle several structural hurdles in its business.

“Taxes for book publishers have not changed,” Maratova says, “and we buy Russian, European, and Chinese paper. The state can’t influence the issuance of copyrights, since those are protected by law. The rights to translate and publish books often are very expensive. So customers say that our books are not cheap.

“Another thing is that in other countries there are serious measures to support translations and publications into foreign languages,” such as government-sponsored and funding translation grant programs.

“But here in Kazakhstan, the situation is gradually improving,” through benefits that indirectly can help domestic publishers. For example, she says, “There’s now a state program to support and stock school libraries. So we’re trying to work with libraries, and we hope that in the future the state will begin to work more closely with  publishers.

Visitors at an edition of the Eurasian International Book Fair in Astana. Image: Foliant

More from Publishing Perspectives on translation is here, more on international translation and publication rights is here, and more on Asian markets is here.

About the Author

Eugene Gerden

Eugene Gerden is an international freelance writer who specializes in covering global book publishing and bookselling industry.