Fresh authors need to overcome hundreds of hurdles during every Amar Ekushey Book Fair, but their sufferings this year have surpassed all previous records.
A sharp rise in the price of books as a result of the hike in paper costs has made the publishers bound to rely more on popular writers instead of offering ample opportunity to new writers.
"As a new writer, I have gone through a tough process. I went to a number of publishers, and many of them rejected my manuscript even before going through it. They stated that due to the high cost of paper, they would publish fewer books this year. Finally, I had to publish my book by spending money from my own wallet," said a young author, who asked not to be named.
Questioning the literary judgement of publishers, the writer also said that publishing houses often prefer fresh authors who have a large number of followers on social media.
According to the Bangla Academy, some 158 new books were published on Monday, the 27th day of the fair, making the total number of books published this year 3,463. The academy is yet to reveal the number of books written by the new writers.
As of Sunday, a total of 1,059 books of poetry have been published at this year’s book fair. Publishers said a large part of these poetry compilations is by new authors, though they also penned books in other categories.
Young authors’ acquaintances and members of their close circles are the main readers of their books. Besides, their books are also sold based on publicity.
Fresh authors point their fingers at the publishers. But denying their allegations, publishers said they encourage talented new writers if they find potential in their copies.
Bhashachitra editor and publisher Khandaker Manirul Islam brought around 50 books by young writers, and among them, some 30 to 35 have come up with their first book.
"We inspire new writers. We have an unofficial editorial board. They select the manuscripts. Following their suggestions, we publish the manuscripts of talented writers. New writers are doing quite well. Sometimes, books by them outsell those by established authors," he said.
Publisher and CEO of Agamee Prakashani and former president of the Academic and Creative Publishers Association of Bangladesh Osman Gani criticises the urgency of some young writers who want to bring their books to the Amar Ekushey Book Fair at any cost.
"Many young writers spend their own money to publish books from various publishers." It doesn’t matter if the readers read those or not. Some of the young writers cannot accept the suggestions of our editorial boards," he said.
He also said that this trend should be changed and that fresh writers should show patience to reading more books before wishing to bring their books to the fair.
Being fixated on solving the riddle created a mutual blame game; even the conscious readers found it difficult to identify the real young talents. Writers and publishers expect the Bangla Academy to play a more active role in recognising promising new writers.
Poet Pias Majid said the role of fresh authors is crucial to understanding the future landscape of Bangla literature.
"New writers are the life of the book fair. Readers are accepting them. Apart from writing stories and poems, they are translating, writing plays, writing about movies and music, and doing research," he said.
Pias Majid said young writers have more courage to experiment with form and content. Therefore, the fate of Bangla literature depends on them.