Malta boasts 58 registered publishing entities, hosting hundreds of authors writing books across a wide swathe of genres and formats. These numbers emerge from an NSO survey into the book industry, conducted on the basis of the year 2021. Effectively, we could say that there are ‘more authors than churches’ in Malta, with over 700 authors populating the National Book Council’s database.
This hints at a varied industry, the stakeholders of which all fall under the remit of the National Book Council, which seeks to assist, support, and represent Maltese authors and publishers, as well as related industry stakeholders such as translators and illustrators. While the Maltese context does have its own particularities, neither is it immune to the industry’s wider, global realities, a case in point being the price hike on paper caused by the war in Ukraine, which continues to be felt across the board. Maltese publishers must also bear the brunt of this unfortunate phenomenon.
The National Book Council continues to advocate for increased governmental support to aid publishers, whether in this particular challenge or others, and it also offers direct financial aid through the Malta Book Fund, which last year issued a grand total of €120,000 to various industry stakeholders, targeting projects of high cultural value which may not have a straightforward route to market success.
But while some challenges may be met halfway through financial incentives, others require a systemic — or cultural — shift in attitude from all parties involved, which takes a certain degree of workshopping to be borne out. The slow uptake of ebooks bears pondering (the NSO survey saw 146 new ebooks issued in Malta in 2021, contrasted with printed counterparts of 418 in the same year), as does the worryingly high number of authors published without adequate contracts in place.