Style Living Self Celebrity Geeky News and Views
In the Paper BrandedUp Hello! Create with us

#2022MIBF: On the way to shaping a reading generation

By Joel Pablo Salud Published Sep 19, 2022 4:51 pm

“Spirit”-less though it may be without the bars and cocktails, the scene was everything a party atmosphere ought to look like. People lining up in long queues. Youngsters huddled in small circles on most every corner, reading their hauls for the day. High fives and fist bumps between friends who, but minutes ago, were only limited to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Books flying off the shelves like there was no tomorrow. 

I have to say, it is the very essence of the pursuit of happiness—to readers and authors alike—to be there at the 2022 Manila International Book Fair at the SMX Convention Center.  

There is a singleness of purpose to simply gracing the occasion—to purchase a book and, perhaps, someday read it. So far as my experience goes in the recent MIBF, I’ve seen youngsters take to the floor sans the least bit of trepidation if only to read the books they’ve bought just minutes after purchasing them. 

Couldn’t wait to get home to open their book hauls is a good sign. It tells me that there is more than mere enthusiasm fueling the excitement. That we authors should soon come to terms with the real love readers are giving to our works. 

Too, it’s an introvert’s haven, like the recluse’s study guide on social niceties, that is, meeting other bookworms outdoors, if only for a brief moment, to chat, and share their love for stories. It was almost as if the varying stress levels of having been locked down due to COVID-19, and the isolation the pandemic had imposed, had forced many youngsters to seriously consider the next best option, that of reading books. 

Authors are not only peddlers of tension and terrors, we are likewise purveyors of hope. In the world of the imagination, nothing is impossible.

This is, by far, the grandest choice one can make, penultimate, perhaps, to watching movies online. No matter how one views reading, readers know that it is between the pages that they can live several lives and equally several lifetimes—without the restrictions of masks and social distancing and booster shots—with the slimmest need to stay anonymous as some netizens are wont to do in cyberspace. 

The amount of time people spend reading a book is like being in a state of pure bliss, given the happy perplexity of traversing worlds newly created, the lives of characters both riveting and intriguing, and the satisfaction of not getting our hopes crushed despite a horrendously terrible darkness swelling in front of us.   

Authors are not only peddlers of tension and terrors, we are likewise purveyors of hope. In the world of the imagination, nothing is impossible. 

The author with Alfred "Krip" Yuson, Atty. Noel del Prado and Ambeth Ocampo at the San Anselmo Press booth

Meeting one’s readers is in and by itself a jovial experiment on social behavior. At least, to me it is. Rare it is for writers to hobnob with readers up close and personal, save for the intermittent book fairs, book tours, book launches, and the like. Even then, the rather spasmodic occasions do not lend more than a few minutes for the shaking of hands and the brief time allotted to converse while signing a book.   

The short engagement is worth it nevertheless. In the course of three hours, from 1PM to 4PM, I’ve learned three things while signing books: 

First, a serious reader would go to great lengths just to show up in a book signing gig if only to see the author they truly like. One young lady from a southern Tagalog province came all the way to meet me and buy my book, explaining further that she had been saving up for that one purpose.  

This level of support should not only be considered as coming from a captured audience, these are the diamonds in the ruff. No writer, however famous, should think of this as an entitlement. It is something to be truly thankful for. 

The author having a selfie with a young reader 

Next, there will be readers and buyers who’d make their presence felt, maybe even ask for a selfie with the author, but with a peculiar look in their eyes that says I do not have enough money to buy the book. In the Philippines, this is more the norm than the exception, I assume. Authors should be quick to recognize that rather fainting glare in the eyes and find a way to remedy it, even at the cost of subtracting from the pittance we call royalties. Joy in the eyes of a reader, to me, is priceless. 

Lastly, for the fresh-off-the-frying-pan author, know this: The bond that authors and readers share, however much you think it feeble and sometimes even unnecessary, should change the way you think about the craft—your craft, in particular. On the eve of the MIBF, I had a chance conversation with a new novelist where he shared with me his fear of being in a book fair for the first time. What if no one comes to buy the book? 

I have to admit, it’s every author’s nightmare, even mine. Through the years of doing this, however, I’ve learned that an author’s best marketing spiel is his or her own confidence in his work. Confidence in the author begets confidence in the work of the author. And if only for that, readers will come, in trickles or in droves matters little. 

The author with Rom Factolerin, author of the novel "Andrea"

While the best of authors create their best works with iron tyranny, it is through the democratic process of reading that we are rewarded. While it would be premature to say that the MIBF is on its way to shaping a reading generation, of this I am certain: book fairs have a clear and purposeful mission—to stretch the imagination to its limits. 

With relentless confidence in what we do, authors must soldier on. Don’t worry about the readers. They know.  

The author at the University of the Philippines Press booth