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Culture and big business meet at #LondonBookFair




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The London Book Fair will see some 25,000 attendees – including myself - descend on Kensington’s Olympia this week for a multimillion-pound industry show and tell. It’s an opportunity for countless national and international publishing houses, as well as established and emerging literary talent, to secure vital distributions deals and the good press that will - hopefully - stimulate eventual sales, writes Tale Heydarov.

The global publishing industry will be worth $356 billion by 2022. It is a market that is still heavily concentrated in Europe and North America, but for publishers outside of these geographies, book fairs are an ideal opportunity to break through and quickly establish a reputation. The success of a book in a previously ignored genre swiftly leads to a lot of hype and interest from Western publishers keen to get a piece of the action. What can seem like a daunting mountain quickly becomes surmountable, but only if smaller publishers are sufficiently business-savvy.

There were more than 13,000 visitors from over 118 countries at last year’s London Book Fair, with over 1,700 exhibitors from 60 countries. This year sees similar numbers of international exhibitors, and successful books can help Western readers step inside the shoes of those from other countries and help them understand their history and contemporary culture. For many countries, literary success is not only about the hard-economic realities of encouraging greater export income – it’s also about opening your culture to the world.

Every year at the London Book Fair, the British Council works closely with countries to help define a narrative about their nascent publishing industries, which may build on centuries-old literary traditions. This year, Indonesia will showcase some of the best writing to come from its ‘17,000 Islands of Imagination’ with range of events with Indonesian writers.

It was the turn of the Baltics at last year’s London Book Fair, where Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania showcased the cultural and business opportunities on offer. As a business owner in Azerbaijan’s flourishing book market, these initiatives are a promising example for authors and publishers of the Caucuses. Much like the Baltics, the Caucuses have emerged from the Soviet Union to rediscover our literary traditions and pushed to redefine our image abroad in a modern, globalized world.

TEAS PRESS Publishing House was founded in 2014 with the ambition of raising the standard of publishing in Azerbaijan to a new level, and to nurture the talent of Azerbaijani authors to help them reach their potential. TEAS Press has also focused its energy on translating – to the highest standard – world classics of popular literature and academia for Azerbaijani, Turkish and Russian audiences. This opens these titles up to a potential new market of approximately 140 million readers. At the same time, we have worked with Azerbaijani writers to translate their works for Western audiences for the very first time.

For international publishing houses and authors looking to enter new markets, there are several key market factors that determine success – most notably the size of market and ease of distribution. The Libraff Bookstore network was established in Azerbaijan in 2017 to help grow and mature the supply of - and demand for - a rich source of publications in Azerbaijani, Russian, English and Turkish.


2019 promises to be an exciting year for TEAS, with several blockbuster titles in the pipeline. These range from The Rabbi’s Daughter, a 15th century thriller set on the streets of Venice and Istanbul, to the latest instalments of Chingiz Abdullayev’s thrilling Drongo series about the adventures of an international detective “born behind the Iron Curtain”. Abdullayev is often cited as Azerbaijan’s most successful author, our equivalent of Ian Fleming or John le Carré.

TEAS has also recently secured to the rights to distribute recent titles like The Neighbours by Israeli author Einat Tsarfati. Annabel Abbs’ The Joyce Girl will be distributed in Turkey by Hep Kitap, a major Turkish publishing house with whom TEAS regularly collaborates.

Supporting literary talent is vital, but as an entrepreneur I know that it’s also about getting the business right. International engagement is an essential part of making new markets, and for publishing houses book fairs are a good place to start.

About the author

Tale Heydarov is founder of TEAS Press Publishing House and LIBRAFF chain of bookstores in Azerbaijan. Tale is a prominent Azerbaijani businessman, passionate about sport, education and the arts. His diverse range of business, philanthropic and cultural achievements reflect those passions, and are matched only by his plans for the future.

Tale Heydarov is one of Azerbaijan’s most prominent businessmen. He is president of Gabala FK football Club, and founder of the European Azerbaijan School.  Tale studied at the London School of Economics and Political Science and at Birkbeck College. It was while he was at university in the UK that his passion for improving the knowledge of Azeri culture and history abroad began. Through his work, Tale dedicates significant time and resources to promoting the interests of the people of Azerbaijan and raising awareness of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.


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