INTERVIEW WITH HARIS IOANNIDES OF ARMIDA PUBLICATIONS
by Miriam Pirolo
As published in Volume 8, NO 4, Dec 2011
Q: Where does Armida Publications stand on the international scale?
A: Armida is but a drop of water in the vast ocean that is the global publishing establishment. If you consider that in the US alone, around 1500 titles are being published every day, our production of around 10-15 books a year, is insignificant. Where we have managed to create a small ripple in the ocean however, is in our ability to distribute and promote our country’s literature around the world. So far, we have managed to get some of our titles translated into a multitude of languages by overseas publishing houses. This gradual growth in the promotion of the local literature has attracted a multitude of authors from all over the world who would like to join our growing family. We have authors submitting manuscripts from the US, the UK, Serbia, Greece, Ireland, India, to name a few.
Q: What role does the company play on a national scale?
A: There are no market statistics to help us understand our local market penetration and/or position. According to our sales, I would argue that we are a midrange company with a strong distribution network and a growing exposure to the local and the Greek market. Our position has been significantly enhanced during the past few years with the assistance of a few books that have drawn both national and international acclaim. Of course, the shift in our business model is taking us away from the national equation as we are now competing on an international lever. National sales are still an important element of the company but our main focus is overseas. National presence is also vital as the main source of manuscripts come from Cyprus based authors.
Q: Where does Cypriot literature stand in comparison to other countries?
A: Literature is literature, regardless of its point of origin. We come from a small Mediterranean island, which happens to be extremely rich in both history and tradition. If one looks back in time, from antiquity up to the 19th century, one will find brilliant examples of what are now considered classical authors of Cypriot descent. Cypriots are good at expressing themselves with words. They know how to tell stories. I strongly believe that this country has a wealth of stories to offer to the world. It’s just a matter of getting the stories known. Cypriot literature is just as important as any other. We just have not made it well known yet. Modern Cypriot prose is rich, full of brilliant imagery, full of life and with a strong sense of pride. Yes, it is true that the Greek language is not as popular in the world as we’d like it to be. Yes it’s true that unless you address your audience in a language that they comprehend, your story, brilliant as it may be, will not be heard. These are our shortcomings. But I strongly believe that our uniqueness and what was until now perceived as a disadvantage, can be made into our advantage. We’ve read authors like Pamuk, and Marquez, and Lorca, and Mishima, and countless others in translation. We value their work, we love their work, and yet few of us can read the original manuscript. If all others can do it, why can’t we? And the advantage that we have is that our ideas, our words, our stories, are fresh. Our perspective is new to the international community, our point of view is forged by events and circumstances that can trigger powerful emotional responses by an audience. This is the power of Cyprus literature. It’s, in my humble opinion, a powerhouse that needs to be unleashed.
Q: Which book of the recent past would Armida Publications have liked to publish and why?
A: If I was to answer this question as a businessperson, I would love to have published “Harry Potter”, don’t ask me why!
Q: Are there any visible trends concerning the type of books which are being published and have been published in the past?
A: The world has shifted. In the past decade or so, the global publishing model, one of extremely large companies dominating production, distribution and marketing, has all but collapsed thanks to the immense growth found on the Internet. New models have appeared, models that allow for small but energetic companies or individuals to create major ripples on the ocean. We have numerous examples of authors, previously rejected by the faceless and often cruel face of big business, literary agents and all who stand between the author and his/her audience, persevering and breaking through. Often with spectacular results. The most visible trend, and the one gathering the most attention right now is the ebook phenomenon. Electronic books, virtual books, are on the rise and have managed to redefine the publishing world. Even if this trend is a dud, even if tomorrow people cease to purchase these products, their legacy will be felt for many years to come. What ebooks have done to publishing is to completely transform it. I would argue that a similar comparison would be the invention of the movable press by Gutenberg. Instant paradigm shift. Prior to the press we had darkness, information was tightly controlled. Similarly, prior to the internet and its lovechild, the ebook, we had an extremely insulated publishing industry, very frugal with allowing new trends in, very conservative (to a large extent) and very picky as to what and whom it chose to promote. Please consider this. To the best of my knowledge, Germany, a country immensely rich in literary culture going back centuries, has only produced one book that topped the New York Times best seller list, Patrick Süskind’s “Perfume”. The publishing industry used to work like an inverse funnel. Up top dominate (and still do) the top US publishers. Whatever they produce is funneled down to the rest of the world. Nowadays, the advent of ebooks has put a major dent in that one-way process. Authors from all over the world have now access to US readers. It goes without saying that now, through Armida’s system of promotion and distribution, Cypriot authors can enjoy the same exposure. Armida’s titles are currently available globally and are enjoying growing sales in the previously unattainable North American market. Furthermore, our strategic alliances with marketing and promotion firms in the US, now allows a true fighting chance, as it were, to our authors, enabling them to illustrate and promote their work. One cannot compete if one is not present in the arena. Cypriot authors can now show off their skills to the rest of the world and their success is now based primarily on the quality of their work.
Q: Are there any visible trends concerning the type of authors Armida is currently involved with and with whom Armida has worked in the past?
A: Apart from the obvious concern of any self respecting publisher, to have a great manuscript, one that stirs the mind of readers, what we are currently looking for in our authors is the ability to promote their own work as a complementary element to our promoting and marketing strategy. So vital this element is to us, we have gone so far as to create seminars for our authors, coaching and guiding them as necessary. At Armida we strongly believe that the strongest ally of a book is its creator. He or she is its true ambassador, the one person that can rally support behind his/her work. We have managed to create the channels, we have managed to open the door. The author needs to be the one stepping through. It really does not matter if the author is young or old, computer literate or a technophobe. We provide the tools and the technical expertise, authors provide the energy that fires the engine.
Q: Which have been the last favorite three projects of the Armida team and are there any new projects to look forward to?
A: As I mentioned before, our extensive utilization of the Internet has brought in a plethora of brilliant manuscripts. One of my personal favorites is “Secret of the Elements” by a young Greek author, Christos Tsotsos. I do not want to ruin the surprise but the book takes an extremely innovative approach in addressing the most basic existential question ever posed; is there a god and if yes, what is he doing. In my opinion, it’s a brilliantly structured novel, full of humor and with many surprising and unexpected twists. Another book we are in the process of finalizing is the very provocative “Master and Cancer” by DRAENNE (pen name). This novel explores the psyche of a psychologist/counselor working in oncology hospitals. Extremely challenging, often incendiary, peppered with ample doses of black humor, a book that is not a ‘light read’. I chose to publish this novel not because of its potential to sell but because of its ability to provoke. In my opinion, anyone who reads it will feel its power and effects instantly. In addition to these novels that are about to be revealed, another novel that stands out is “Chrysalis” by Hollywood actor, author, producer, composer, Richard Romanus. He is a close personal friend currently living on Skiathos. When he sent me this manuscript about the life and drama of a young girl from Metsove who experiences life during the second world war and the Greek civil war, I have to admit, I was very impressed with how clean, clear and crisp his style was. So impressed we were with this book that we have translated it and it is about to come out in Greek in a couple of days. Not wanting to overshadow all the other titles we are preparing, I’d also like to mention Colette Ni Reamonn Ioannidou’s two short story collections “To Live or not to Live” and “To Die or not to Die”. These complementary books explore the two fundamentals that are truly universal, life and death. Colette’s language and imagery are beautiful, down to earth and succinct. Thought provoking, spiritual and philosophical. Its Colette’s debut and we are very proud to have her on our team.
For more: armidapublications.com and http://armidabooks.wordpress.com/