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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Friday, January 17, 2014

Publishing a book? Read this

Here we would like to offer some advice about book publishing. So if any of you are interested in publishing anything, read this first.

Sunni’s don’t read books

Yes, this is not a lie. Any Sunni who works in a book shop knows that Sunni’s very rarely read books. As most of them are common folk and are not interesting in expanding their knowledge. Those who are interested are not many. The interested party are typically university educated and because of this expect a high standard of publication. To publish a book on the ‘cheap’ does not work these days because people will not purchase a book done on the cheap.

So you if your market is the Sunni market then your product must be high in terms of quality. Know that you have to publish a certain type of book. As more useful books might not be deemed ‘sell worthy’ even though they are useful. So you might have to bite your tongue for a while until you decide what to do. There are many books who have useful information but do not reach far because the quality of the book is not there.

Do it yourself?

Publishing books is like putting money in a safe. Unless you are putting out books which the public wants then you run the risk of publishing a book that no one wants. So you need to be aware that publishing a book of a ‘useful’ nature might not be in high demand. This is the sign of the times where many people are not bothered about rectifying their prayer but buy classical works that they have very little hope of understanding. How large is the disparity between those purchase these books and those who actually study them. Yet, the books that they really need never make their shelves.
We were so fed up of hitting brick walls that we made a lot of translations free to read on our other blog Straight Translations. Because we did not see any other way of getting them out.

If you decide to put them out yourself then you need to have between three to five thousand pounds, this does depend how much you pay each party. The following are the essentials that you need to follow when you publish a book.

Essential list

These are the things that you have to do for your book to have any impact. People expect a certain standard and these are things you do:

-   It needs to be an interesting subject – not necessary useful. Something that captures the imagination of people which excludes books of fiqh! 

-   It needs a professional cover – this needs to be done by a professional not by you on a PC!

- Typesetting and editing – the book has to be type set or else it’s not professional. 

-   Good paper. - Nice quality and not too thick. 

-   Proof reading and editing - this is a job for a professional and not a novice. Though their corrections need to be looked at. Editing is also important for things that have crept into the work. The more educated people you get to correct it the better. 

-   It needs to be uniform – meaning that if it’s done in one style that has to continue throughout the book.

- Isbn Numbers - if you are self publishing

The optional note is whether you want to make it hardback or not. If you do, people are more than happy to pay for it.

If you follow all these essentials then expect your books do well but this might not guarantee sales. Please note that all the above stages have their costs and do not come for free.


You need to hit your target market by targeting lectures of certain scholars and certain book shops. Most of the book shops are established names and they are your target market. They will want a large discount (40 to 50%) bear in mind that they know the market and it is worth asking some of them for their opinion.

Use all the websites, facebook, other social media and blogs at your disposal.

Bear in mind advertising is expensive. Your most effective method are book launches, in specific areas.

It does help if your book has quotes from famous personalities or prefaces. This is your other most effective.

Choosing the translation

Follow these guidelines: 

-   It has to be a new text - never before translated – if it’s a new translation then it has it to better than the previous one. Unfortunately, I have done this a few times. Golden rule is: do not translate anything that has been translated because you are wasting your time. 

Likely to sell. Do not choose a book that is not meant for wide public consumption like a book on Usul Al-Fiqh 

Include footnotes and references.

- Choose the text that is going to help the most Muslims. 

-   Choose the translator who can do the best job. But beware you'll view the translation through his eyes, so pick one with best background in knowledge.

Getting it out

Make sure that there are no mistakes in it but at the same time know that there will always be mistakes in any book with the exception of the Quran. Make as many checks that you can. This is a tiresome task but it has to be done. This is one of the reasons that projects take time to get off the ground.

Even if you cannot get a publisher to publish your book then you can get it out yourself by funding it yourself or even releasing it as an e-book. In any case if you follow these points then you cannot go far wrong. Also, if you get fed up with publishers then you put out your works on file sharing website even though this has little monetary benefit it has much afterlife benefit. I normally do this because its just easier for me put something out for free then to get someone to share my view.

Bear in mind that there are people who want to download your book for free, so will get people to scan it and put it on a file sharing site. In some ways the internet has destroyed many industries.

So I hope this is proved useful for those budding translators and publishers.