The AP Writer’s Conference ‘Bridging Cultures: Creative Writing and Literary Translation in Asia today’ was a blast! Really, we aren’t just saying that because we got to eat a lot. Hosted by the Arts House in conjunction with the National Book Development Council of Singapore (NBDCS), the conference was held from July 17th to 20th 2014. It was great opportunity for us to listen in on and participate in the important dialogues about writing and publishing, and meet some inspiring people as well!
While the Writer’s Conference itself addressed an array of topics pertaining to literature and publishing, we’ve distilled some of the key takeaways that we feel are most relevant to writers.
1. Keep creating local, Asian content
In the words of columnist and founder of Asia Literary Review Nury Vittachi, Asian content is the next big thing in literature and publishing. ‘Asian content will be featured in Hall 4 of the Frankfurt Book Fair’, he announced excitedly, ‘Hall 4, that’s huge!’. An article covering this new concept explains: The Asian market is proving to be one of the most dynamic publishing markets worldwide. Among many exhibitors, interest in creating deeper professional ties with Asia has increased tremendously. Asia, India and the Arab world will, in 2015, be centrally located in Hall 4 – in the immediate vicinity of the German and English-language halls. Here’s a statistic from PwC: by 2017, China will overtake Japan and Germany to become the second largest market for books worldwide!
As enthusiasts and supporters of local stories, we couldn’t be more thrilled! Clearly, people around the world are sitting up and taking notice of Asian content, and are hungry for more. Local markets for books are thriving. Writers, take this as an affirmation and encouragement to keep telling your stories!
2. Writers, market yourselves!
In a panel on the literary and publishing landscape, it became evident that writers need to go the extra mile today in order to establish credibility and engagement with their readers. Panelist and publisher Angelo Loukakis argued that since publishers want to reduce risk, an author who has a substantial online following would have an edge over an author whose efforts were entirely focused offline.
- Work your social media presence
Readers want to know what goes on in a writer’s mind beyond their published works. Having a social media presence allows writers to tell the world what excites, motivates, challenges, inspires and drives them. The personal touch is key here. Being active on social media gives readers the chance to feel like they know you and can interact with you on an everyday basis. A tweet takes a few minutes to compose, but can do wonders in building engagement. Writer and poet Felix Cheong highlighted how he used Facebook as a way to receive instant feedback on his writing from friends and the writing community. He also used it to gauge interest in new content he might be creating! Contributing to blogs is another great way that writers can generate interest in their upcoming works or get on the radar.
- Create a marketing plan and commit to it
Literary agent (and we reckon, part time humorist) Anuj Bahri urges writers to dedicate their energies into creating a marketing plan that will connect your writing with its target audience. With digital reading on the rise, writers need to more aggressively pursue opportunities to be seen and heard. Whether you’re self-published, with a digital publisher or otherwise, it is important for authors to proactively participate in a book’s marketing. Getting your name out there is as much the writer’s responsibility, according to author Zafar Anjum.
3. Write and read beyond ‘tribes’
As writer and academic Merlinda Bobis cogently stated, we tend to read and write within our ‘tribes’. Tribes can be ordered by language, state, medium or sensibility. She encourages writers to think of literature as an interrogation and reflection of the self, but also a recognition of the ‘other’. We resonated strongly with this notion. In terms of writing and reading, perhaps better translations will allow for an insight into the ‘other’s’ lived experiences. This in turn allows for empathy and understanding, but also opens up new markets for our books. We also think that embracing all forms of telling stories – oral, digital and print is the best way to further the art form.
In all, the conference left us feeling very optimistic and enthused about the future of writing and publishing in Asia!