The Sharjah International Book Fair runs November 1–10, but before the fair officially kicked off, two professional days were held on October 30 and 31, featuring what is becoming a growing rights event. The fair organizers flew in more than 200 rights directors, agents, editors, scouts, and others to the United Arab Emirates for matchmaking and networking sessions.

As an incentive to strike deals, the fair offers grant support for translation projects spawned at the event. An adult title can receive up to $4,000 and a children’s book $1,000; the total pool of funds for translations to and from Arabic is $250,000 and, for translations between two other languages, $50,000.

“It is a great program,” said Amy Spangler of AnatoliaLit, a literary agency in Turkey. “I have been here multiple times, and each time I get the chance to meet people from smaller markets I would never meet at a fair like Frankfurt and London, where my attention needs to be focused on my biggest clients.” The sentiment was echoed by Yasmina Jraissati of the Raya Agency in France, who said that the diversity of Sharjah “made it a unique and exciting event” on the publishing calendar. Sonia Draga, president of her eponymous publishing house in Poland, said her attendance at the fair led to contacts that resulted in more than a dozen book deals, as well as her decision to launch a line of comic books after meeting Kuo-Yu Liang, v-p of international sales and business development of Diamond Book Distributors, last year.

Among those who took part in the rights matchmaking session at this year’s fair were Nenad Saponja of Agora Publishing House in Serbia, Bahaa Eddin Rashid of Dar Ghar Hiraa in Syria, Karine Pansa of Girassol Brasil Edicoes Eireli in Brazil, Rajeev Dahr Joshi of Kathalaya in Nepal, and Simon de Jocas of Editions 400 Coups in Canada. Among the Americans on hand were Michel Moushabeck of Interlink Publishing, Gigi Ishmael of Ishmael Tree, and Pandora Geary of Insight Editions.

One publisher who attracted a great deal of attention and fielded interest in numerous books was Armen Martirosyan, CEO of Antares Media Holding of Armenia. Martirosyan’s company had one of the broadest ranges of products available, encompassing literary translations of the works of French writer Michel Houellebecq, an anatomy book for children, and a virtual reality game set in an Egyptian tomb.

The relative intimacy of the event coupled with the fact that everyone was housed together at two hotels and participated in numerous social events was cited as something positive. “Maybe it was the jet lag, but I actually had someone tear up when I was describing a book to them,” said Renata Zamida of the Slovenian Book Agency. “I’ve never had that happen before.”

The two days of professional meetings were followed by the start of the consumer-oriented fair. Other notable events related to the fair included the launch of a new Arabic-language edition of Publishers Weekly and the opening of Sharjah Publishing City, a free-trade facility that offers some 500 offices for publishing-related enterprises. U.K.-based Austin Macauley Publishers is the facility’s first confirmed tenant.