Director of Ukraine’s Largest Christian Publishing House: We Publish Books to Stimulate People to Think
Svichado Publishers is one of the leaders of the Ukrainian market of religious and spiritual literature. In more than 20 years of its existence, the publishing house has presented literature of a very wide spectrum: from children’s books to serious scholarly monographs. All in all, over 1000 various editions. In addition, the publishing house is not afraid to “experiment” by publishing books, for instance, about sexuality and the Catholic view on sexual relations in the family. A year ago, the publishing house became famous for its bestseller “Recipes of Sister Olha.” In his interview to RISU, the director of Svichado, Bohdan TROIANOVSKYI shared about its history, modern developments and why it is not afraid to raise “awkward” themes.
What was the concept of the Publishing house in the beginning of its activity?
As we defined our mission, we wrote: “”Svichado” seeks through its professional activity, the publishing of books, to promote development of both individuals and the society in general along the line of the Christian values.” These are not my words but I agree with them completely. We wanted to enter the society, to be its active participants but to do it through religious literature as we believe that we can have serious influence in this way. In other terms, I myself am not a very medial person. In my opinion, I have no gifting for writing, speaking or preaching. Instead, I can be a mediator between a good author and reader. I have found such a place for myself, a link, and it suits.
The goal of the publishing house is to bring closer a good author, preacher, priest or simply a good and wise person, their views to the wide circle of readers.
“Svichado” is the largest religious publishing house in Ukraine and you have entered the Association of Christian Publishers. Is there anyone whom you view as competitors or do you prefer to have partners rather than competitors in this market?
I believe competition is very useful for us. I view competitors also as partners. It would be better both for the Church and the people to have more of such publishing houses as ours. One publishing house is not sufficient. It is better if there is a lot of good literature, because it stimulates better development and search. It stimulates people to write and read more. Therefore, I, for one, am not afraid of competition. When we opened our shop, the question arose if we should sell only our own literature or also other people’s books. There was a discussion as well. I insisted on maximally wide range. Whereas some people were afraid that other books will be sold and this will reduce the sales of ours. Paradoxically, it is the opposite: the more of other books we have, the more of our ones are sold. I would call our motivation “Christian:” to offer more literature for people to benefit.
During courses conducted by a Polish consulting group, we heard an interesting thing: when you begin to offer good literature, it provokes a response, people come to buy a specific book and pay attention to the context and can buy also other books. Therefore, when a person wishes to buy some literature, they think where to go. And recall that the biggest shop is Svichado” and one can buy there various books. They can look for a book of a Protestant author and will also pay attention to other authors when they have a chance. It is like the question what to advertize. A good or bad book? I mean one which is easily sold or one which is less commercially successful. Many people, including us, in the beginning, thought that one should advertize the one which is difficult to sell, as the other one is easily sold anyway. Then, we were recommended to make some calculation. If a book is sold well and you begin to advertise it, the profits will increase by 50%. The same can happen with the advertisement of the less successful book. But if you compare, the profit from the commercially successful book will still be bigger. For the number of sales thereof will be bigger. And another thing, if you do not advertize the less successful book, it will still be sold. Because many people will come for that successful one and some will occasionally buy the other one. Therefore, it is better not to advertise books which are difficult to sell.
There is also another problem: a good book can be difficult to sell. For instance, poetry. As a rule, it is difficult to sell. But it is necessary for the development of culture, the development of people, after all. And at the meeting of our publishing house, where we assess books from various viewpoints, the need for it, its content and the commercial factors, we mostly rejected poetry. Because it is unprofitable. But later, we decided that once or twice per year we can select for the print a book which is not commercially profitable. This applies to scholarly and Theological books as well. They are also unprofitable. But one must publish also unprofitable books from time to time.A provocative question now: we cannot see from an outsider’s viewpoint but you probably have problems, unsolved issues on which you are working. For instance, some people complaint about the quality of your translations.
There is a difficulty here. We would like all publications to be good translations, editions and designs. But we have to look for the golden mean. Some books require highly qualified translation, for some an ordinary translator is sufficient. There is a certain compromise here. We can produce a very good book and it will cost not 20 but 50 UAH. Who will buy it then? And we are faced with a dilemma how to find the golden mean. To ensure that the book ios not too expensive and at the same time to ensure a satisfactory language level of the edition. One also must understand that we are dealing with religious literature which is characterized by a specific language and terminology. Not all the translators have necessary knowledge in this area. We know that similar problems exist in the west as well. Therefore, we assess how much work a book requires. When we translate Lewis, it is clear that the language should be very good as it is the world’s classic. But if it is a book on upbringing designed for mothers, the main thing there is not the literary language but to ensure that everything, all the explanations are understandable. For after all, the language of the author in this case is also not perfect as the author is a practicing psychologist and not a literary man.