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April is officially National Literacy Month: NBDB Bookshop Tours and Literature Convention

May 5, 2017       Arts and Culture
National Literature
Month is April!
Bus Tour of Indie Bookshops plus
National Literature Convention at the QCX

If you want to personally know more about publishing, making books, writing books and novels, working in the local book publishing arena , and knowing what opportunities are available for a career in writing, there is a free event every year at the QCX Museum at the Quezon Memorial Circle Park in Diliman.  It is the summer event to look forward tor for students and book lovers as well as writers looking at both the local and ASEAN scene of books, and careers in publishing.

Enacted into law by
Proclamation No. 968, s. 2015, April has been assigned officially as National Literature Month, in the same breadth that other countries around the world have the month assigned as a National Literacy Month too. The Philippine government authority that supports and promotes the reading advocacy program for Filipinos is the National Book Development Board

The NBDB assigns several events for the special month every year.  These include free, tour bus sign-ups for book shop tours around Luzon, a book fair tiangge, and the most important, the the National Literacy Month seminar talks at the QCX
located inside the Quezon Memorial Circle compound.  We were able to catch the latter for two years in a row, and here is a rundown of what went on:

National Literacy Month, April 2016

Last April 2016, the NBDB held seminars on Intellectual Property Rights for protecting copyright among Filipino authors and artists in light of the notorious piracy of local textbooks (Recto-based, fly-by-night textbook publishers) and reading materials.  The NBDB also recognizing the resugence of Do-It-Yourself publishing as a legitimate way for promoting literacy and making books had several enterprising speakers talk about DIY book publishing methods.  This part of their 2016 program was targeted at student entrepreneurs and DIY authors looking to self-publish their first book or novel.  The other speakers included a German book agent for the Frankfurt Book Trade Fair talking about opportunities in foreign markets, plus award winning, Chinese dissident poet activist, Bei Ling talking about indie bookstores helping DIY authors get their work known and how translation enables books to reach bigger markets than any writer can imagine if they allow their work to cross borders.

Creator of DIY Indie book:  Para sa mga Supot
PUP student, Eman Nolasco

The DIY self-publishing talks had PUP dudebro, Eman Nolasco, colorfully describing via a slideshow, how their initial photocopied indie magazine, Ang Kuwento ng mga Supot, turned into an actual book project on a shoestring that surged into a cult favorite YA anecdote-filled short fiction book.

UP Creative Writing teacher, Conchitina Cruz, on the other hand, was able to eloquently describe in full detail, all the good stuff one can do with DIY as opposed to being stuck with toeing the line with a brand publisher, and how DIY was going to be the future for small press and indie books of poetry in the Philippines.  Also for fiction, because her writer group of same-minded DIY hobbyists, Better Living Through Xeroxography, or BLTX have enabled the proliferation of self-produced 'zines as well as fiction books by small writer groups.

UP Creative Writing Faculty,
Conchitina Cruz
Speaker on DIY Publishing

There were international speakers-an American representing a publisher looking for ethnic writer content, and a German representative of the Frankfurt Book Fair--a trade fair in her home country.   Other talks we attended included one about the work of literary, copy editors locally where the speaker was renowned English and Creative Writing professor and writer, co-owner of Milflores Publishing: Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo, who described the work of the literary copy writer and line editor in making books fit for publishing, as well as opportunities for young editors who want to make line editing for literary work a career.

UP Creative Writing Faculty, Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo
speaker on Literary Criticism

The last speaker was Chinese literary poet and actiivist, Bei Ling,  who offered insights on how small bookshops kept small publishers alive by farming books to the mainland and among the local book buying public in Taiwan and HongKong.  Bei Ling, has been the chairman of the Independent Chinese PEN Center since 2013, organizing countless conferences and forums for publishers.  He has been nominated as a finalist in the 2016 Freedom to Publish Prize.  Ling was not a fluent English speaker, but his talk in the 2016 NBDB event resonated most for us--having indie or DIY literary work circulate via indie book shops and getting translation rights for Asian markets is where the future is for all authors and publishers, (not just penetrating western markets or Amazon).  And since we are Asian and do share common cultural sensibilities that include literature and stories, being a successful indie author on our side of the world might matter more and be more accessible for both local publishers and writers.  Strangely, no one picked up on this at that seminar because Bei Ling was not really a fluent native English speaker and his talk on the subject was in halting (but understandable) English that had to be carefully followed by a keen listener to get what he was talking about.

Bei Ling, Chinese poet-translator
for Hong Kong indie book publishers
speaker on Indie Books Keeping Small Press Alive

with Translation Markets

These were the better talks and seminars given at the 2016 NBDB National Literacy Month activitiies at the QCX.  We hope Bei Ling does come back in a future book or publishing event because his insights are the most priceless.  Even better than the German rep for the Frankfurt Book Fair, who just talked about the importance of international book trade fairs for showcasing cultural offerings.

National Literacy Month, April 2017

This year, the NBDB talks focused on book rights, publishing contracts, reading communities, licensing publishing rights to overseas markets, creative commons licensing and how it works, and careers in book publishing, as well as short fiction opportunities  online and in gaming.

A 2-day free local bookstore bus tour was organized earlier in the month and tour buses sponsored by the NBDB visited indie bookshops everywhere around Luzon with their respective owners or guest authors as speakers at each stop talking about book curation and managing book shops.

Unlike the previous year, which had up to 4 sessions going on at the same time slot, the 2017 Incendiary Event had only 2 sessions going on at the same time and had only 6 for each day.  Last year also had plenty of academic speakers and even university presses selling their books, but this year it was only the publishers listed on the NBDB's board of directors that had their books on offer, which is rather strange.  Why were the university presses from different schools not invited to sell their books and get more students to participate in the event? The 2016 event had university presses with their own tables selling books and had almost every session filled by student writers and book fans and had some standing room only speaker events.

The first seminar we checked out was the Writing Science and Math where the lead writer of the Mind Museum, an Ateneo professor and a social media science section content editor from a corporate news site would explain how they would go about their work with science article curation, writing, editing and other tips.  Dr Queen Lee-Chua was the most informative among the three--relating that it takes an interdisciplinary writer to handle science or math writing well because one can make the topic at hand more accessible to all points of view, and admonishing writers to know what readers want to know about that particular topic so they can deliver their story or rundown effectively.  Perhaps, the best advice of the Ateneo math teacher was that science writers should learn to write about any hard science topic in a manner that can be understood even by a second grader (advice given to her by CW teacher, Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo)--which is not to say pander to a lower reading level, but to make a science topic easy to visualize and follow, even without any technical science know-how from the reader.

Dr. Queena Lee-Chua talking about effective
Science and Math, creative writing

The next seminar event was a poet who talked about writing in Tagalog and English and the difficulties inherent in such a task, where we personally noticed that punchy Tagalog poetry was entirely built on aphorisms that sound profound but really aren't because of the nature of the Tagalog language.  The speaker was Dr Allan Popa of the Ateneo, and he was trying to convince the audience that translation into whatever vernacular should not hinder the texture and form of the poetry or narrative as long as the translation chooses the most apt words.  Not really something new if you are a keen writer who already knows that word choice translation is always a tight, browbeating  exercise that anyone worth his writing chops should master.

The most insightful part of 2017's event were the speaker events on writer's contract management, book publishing rights trading and negotiating for royalties.  An Indonesian, (Yuri) and a Singaporean, (Chun Hing Koon) book rights negotiator, plus a Turkish book agent (I passed on this speaker to get lunch), all took turns talking about writer contracts with publishing companies and what one as an author should be aware of as his negotiable book rights.

An international or even a local book contract with a publisher can be summed up as a print-run number for the book of the writer, a cash advance payout, the royalty percentage payout to the writer per books sold and the number of books for when this royalty deal kicks in, the number of years the book contract will be valid--typically 3 to 5 years, and lastly any film rights, character rights, translation into foreign language rights (with print run, royalty and payout structures) and any other writer income deals that can be negotiated between the writer and the book agent or publisher.  Royalty fee payouts in the international book scene was quoted at 15 percent for name authors, the bestseller writers you know,
for each book sold, and 10 percent or less for new authors or lesser known novelists. 

The biggest revelation came from the Indonesian speaker, Yuri, who revealed that eBook royalty deals today are at 25 percent to 50 percent off selling price (0.99 cents to $2.99) for each eBook sold.  No wonder plenty of local female romance authors are gunning for it all by writing in the various subgenre niches for romance pulp, primarily as eBooks, and running their print copy option through Amazon's indie author book printing service.  There are some U.S. based Pinoy writers who ghost write romance or horror novels under some U.S. brand authors too.

Since we were an adult writer-editor, we passed on the other talks about what careers were open to young people interested in the local or overseas publishing industries, and the short fiction work opportunities available in gaming companies and for media websites. 

Anyway, if you want to make a book for yourself or work in a place that sells or makes books, I'm pretty darn sure you already know what's in it for you.  We're sure you can find out better stories elsewhere about careers and video game opportunities.

But details about writer contracts and book rights selling are not privy to everyone--which is why we sussed out what the venerable book agents would say about them at the QCX event.  In spite of the lean offerings for 2017, the insights and information available was as meaty as you make of them if you are smart and can block out some of the unnecessary fluff you hear at the talks.

The best part of National Literacy Month by the NBDB is you get to buy all the books by all the local authors you like in one place, and horror and genre fiction are always a favorite read for us Pinoys.  This is what we picked up at both events:

Alternative Alamat edited by Paolo Chikiamco,
Si Betchay at ang Sacred Circile by Rogelio Braga,
How to Traverse Terra incognita by Dean Alfar,
Report from the Abyss by Karl R. De Mesa

Tulay: a Filipino-Chinese newsprint magazine with
cultural news and features

The Loot Bag of freebies at the NBDB Literacy month convention:
 a Copyright primer for writers and artists, the 2017 NBDB journal calendar,
and Bookwatch magazine, the official publication of the NBDB. 
The Adarna House was a separate catalog I got
from the table of the children's book publisher.

Better than just Wattpad books, although some of those popular Wattpad stories and authors were also available to some extent from some of the publishers like Visprint.  If you cannot attend the Manila International Book Fair in August-September, when it is rainy and the SMX at the Mall of Asia is too far away, you can mark April on your calendars and free your schedule for the month-ender convention at the QCX to get your books and attend some of the most useful free information and talks about writing books, publishing and writer's rights.  All during National Literacy Month events sponsored by the National Book Development Board of the Philippines. 

Hope they invite more publishers, small press and indie book authors as well as the important school and university presses to have tables with their book titles available to the public every year.


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