Sail Publishing’s Iman Ben Chaiba

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Iman Ben Chaibah started Sail Publishing 12 years ago as the first e-book company. She has since added print books and an online store.

Sail Publishing at the 2021 Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. Image: Sail Publishing

By Porter Anderson, Editor | @Porter_Anderson

See: Our coverage of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2022 and Our special magazine Abu Dhabi International Book Fair Show / Here is a video of the ADIBF team with the highlights of our magazine from Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2022

A book publisher and magazine

OWorking on a wide range of productions including children’s books, poetry, fiction and non-fiction in Arabic and English, Dubai Sail Publishing started as the English language Navigate magazine and is now 12 years old.

Sail CEO Iman Ben Chaibah offers a perfect example of a publisher embracing the “digital acceleration” that has happened during the COVID-19 pandemic and in response to changing market conditions.

Ben Chaiba says, “Our journey with digital publishing has been humbling.” And yet, in our conversation with her, it’s clear that she and Sail Publishing have overcome the challenges and made a significant transition to the growing awareness of the digital platform in the region.

We start by asking her what she plans to be at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair this year.

Iman Ben Chaibah: Sail is a book publishing house since 2014, based here in the United Arab Emirates. We have been running before that, since 2010, like Navigate magazine, which publishes articles on community and cultural topics written by regular writers from all over the Emirates. In the publishing house, we specialize in books, both in print and digital. Our goal is to be a one-stop-shop for individuals and families to find anything they might want to read with us.

Book fairs are definitely a great place for authors who are looking for new publishers to publish their works, as it gives them first-hand experience to talk with publishers, to feel if there is any chemistry in communicating with them and if they get the essence of what they wrote and may be the best place for their new book.

Participating in the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair gives us privileged access to our audience and the general public. We can gauge the books they respond to, the genres they appeal to, and general consumer behavior when it comes to buying books that we often don’t get through online sales or bookstores.

“When the book fairs stopped working”

Iman Ben Chaiba. Image: sailing edition

Publication prospects: How did your business perform during the pandemic years?

Iman Ben Chaibah: COVID-19 has been very interesting from different points of view for us. On the one hand, it pushed us to launch our online store in order to sell our physical books much earlier than our business plans dictated at the time.

When the book fairs stopped working, we had to find new ways to sell our books and keep releasing new titles, and the store was our solution for that. Before, we only sold at fairs and through marketplaces like Amazon. Having our digital store has given us access to our audience. We could get the full margin of our sales. And it also helped us release new titles throughout the year, as opposed to book fairs.

On the other hand, in the main COVID year, 2020, we actually doubled our new releases from the years before and after. Thanks to the quarantine times, it looks like they finally had a chance to focus on the book ideas they’ve had for so long and get them written.

Although we held a book fair later that year, it didn’t register a third of the sales we had the previous year, but we noticed that most of the sales went to the online retail, which was always a plus for us.

Publication prospects: Being as advanced in digital publishing and selling as you are now, do you see Sail as some sort of service platform? Who are your usual customers? And do you offer distribution and marketing as well as publishing?

Iman Ben Chaibah: Our journey with digital publishing has been humbling. When I started Sail I was an avid Amazon Kindle reader and thought that was exactly what was missing in our area.

‘What does it mean to belong?’ by Maryam Al Shehhi

So when I started Sail, it was all about publishing e-books on Kindle, iBooks [later Apple Books], Kobo and others. But then I faced a number of obstacles.

When I found the number of sales too low to be sustainable, I realized that at the time, the major digital platforms did not exactly allow users residing in the Middle East and South Africa region. North to buy the books. So even though, as a publisher, I had the digital rights to a book that was sold worldwide on these platforms, there were still geographic limitations imposed on sales by the platforms themselves.

While some avid digital readers knew their workarounds, I realized I wouldn’t be able to reach the mainstream with this approach. Some of the platforms have since expanded their reach in the MENA region, but the catalog is still not as rich as for Western readers.

So after two years of this, we launched our print line and were surprised by long lines for signings. Some of these consumers, I knew for a fact, had already read digital versions of these books, but they nevertheless expressed their love for autographs on printed books.

And since then, we have expanded our catalog and simultaneously published our books digitally and in print.

As we became experts in digital publishing in the region, those who could not afford it partnered with us to digitally publish their own books, whether from major cultural entities, small or niche publishers and a few self-published authors. .

We are proud to have developed our expertise in digital publishing not only in English books but also in Arabic books as they come with their own complexities. Through these services, we have enabled our partners to extend their reach, and some of them have seen their e-books on Amazon’s bestseller lists for a few weeks, which we are really proud of.

Publication prospects: Can you name some of the specific pieces you will be displaying on your stand at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair?

Iman Ben Chaibah: We will be releasing a few new books, including a beautiful Arabic children’s book called ما معنى أن ننتمي؟)) which translates to What does belonging mean? by Maryam Al Shehhi.

We are also publishing the third book in our English Collective Poetry Series, in which we have brought together diverse groups of up-and-coming authors and featured their works in published books, finally giving them pride in knowing their works. are on the market.

We are proud to have spotlighted around 30 young poets so far, bringing out their beautiful writings for the world to see. And I hope this encourages them to go on and write their next complete poetry books for publication, and signals to other potential young poets that they can share their valuable writings with the world.

We also have one of our new releases, called How I survive motherhood by Nada Binghalib. It’s a fun but very useful approach to parenting in today’s world. No matter what generation you were born into, you will soon realize that this world is broken when it comes to raising a child. So the book really taps into the emotional roller coaster of what it means to be a parent in today’s increasingly complicated world, as the author navigates the waves of child-rearing amid recent parenting tendencies and existing outrageous stereotypes.

You will find Sail Publishing on the exhibition floor of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair at stand 9F01.

And here’s a video created by the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair team, highlighting some of the features you’ll find in our Show Magazine 2022. Our thanks to the video editing experts at ADIBF.


Our special magazine Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2022 is here for your free download (PDF).

More information on Publishing Perspectives on the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair is here, and more on the United Arab Emirates market is there. To learn more about book fairs and global publishing trade shows, click here. More on translation is here, more on Arabic in publishing is here, and more on digital publishing is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the global media partner of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award and the International Publishers Association. Our extensive coverage of ADIBF 2022 is supported by the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

More information on Publishing Perspectives on the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident member of Trends Research & Advisory, and was named International Business Journalist of the Year at the London Book Fair’s International Excellence Awards. He is editor of Publishing Perspectives. He was previously associate editor of The FutureBook at The Bookseller in London. Anderson was a senior producer and anchor for CNN.com, CNN International and CNN USA for more than a decade. As an art critic (National Critics Institute), he has collaborated with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which is now owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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