This post is also available in: العربية
Born in Amman in 1975, Hisham Al Bustani is an author and short story writer. His works include ‘Of Love and Death’ (Beirut: Dar Al Farabi, 2008), ‘The Monotonous Chaos of Existence’ (Beirut: Dar Al Farabi, 2010) and ‘The Perception of Meaning’ (Beirut: Dar Al Adab, 2012), among other collections.
What is your first published book?
My first book is titled ‘Of Love and Death’ and was published by Dar Al Farabi in 2008. A collection of stories, it has a foreword written by Sonallah Ibrahim. I felt the pressure of publishing for a long time before it came out, hesitating through a fear that in artistic terms it would not offer anything new. I published my first book twelve years after my first short story, which won the ‘Best Short Story Award 1996’ – a title conferred by Jordan’s universities and intermediate colleges.
What are the key challenges that faced you when you published your first book?
I write short stories and narrative fiction, which incorporates poetry. I am not interested in writing novels and it was difficult for me to find a good publisher willing to take the risk of bringing out a collection of short stories. This was the main challenge for me and a very stressful one!
Did you cover the costs of publishing your first book?
I refute the notion that the writer should pay the publisher to cover the costs of publishing their book. So what should the short story writer who would like to publish their first collection in the grim and bitter environment of the current publishing industry in the Arab world do? In my case, I struck the following bargain with the publisher: I buy a limited number of copies at wholesale price (distributor cost) but I own the distribution rights in Jordan. Whenever I distribute all the copies I have purchased, I order another limited number of copies… and so on. Following this method I have become a successful distributor of my own book.
Are you pleased with the production, publishing and distribution of your book?
Yes, I am. The book’s production is excellent. The publisher has successfully promoted it and distributed it in the Arab world – I have found copies in libraries in Beirut and Cairo. It is my best seller (I think), perhaps because the title sparks people’s interest or perhaps because of its diminutive size. To be honest, I am not quite sure why people are interested in this book more than the books that were published after it.
Do you have your own copy of your first book?
I have a copy of every book I write – these copies I will never give up.
Can readers buy a copy of your first book, and how?
Yes, they can. The book is available in libraries, bookstores and exhibitions in Amman. The publisher also has it – he was optimistic about the book and printed 2,000 copies. He still has a fair number of these available.
Do you convert your books into e-books?
The publisher does, but I am not sure if the platform that provides the e-books is still operational.
Have your books been converted into e-books or other digital forms without your permission as the author?
Yes, some of my books have been converted into pirated PDF files.
What did you learn from the experience of publishing your first book?
Deliberation and extreme patience should be considered before publishing any literary work. As I said, I waited for 12 years before publishing my first book, during which time I rewrote it many times. In fact, I rewrote it again last year for a second edition, which will be issued shortly.
What do you hope to happen to the Arabic publishing sector?
I hope that it becomes an Arabic publishing sector and not a commercial printing shop, which it seems to be now.