marcel barang

Of buyers and beggars

In English, Reading matters on 02/04/2012 at 5:00 pm


The other day I went shopping for books at Phra Chan pier, which is closed down for substantial post-flood repairs but never mind that. I was looking for back and current issues of Writer Magazine, Ra-hoo Om Jan (Lunar Eclipse) as sources of short stories to read and perhaps translate. I ended up with only three volumes, plus the current, No 32, issue of Esan Writer, a magazine of Northeastern writers – now ‘back to normal’, it says, whatever that means – of which I’d never heard before.

I was also looking for Saneh Sangsuk’s – or rather Daen-aran Saengthong’s – latest novella, Diaodai Tai Fa Khlang (Lonely under a demented sky). Unusually enough, Saneh had called me that morning to tell me his book was out today but he had yet to receive copies of it, being in Phetchaburi, so couldn’t send me one yet…

I could read between his lines (since you’ll turn it down like my last two ones, go and buy it yourself).

As I went back home with this load of books I mulled a recent exchange of emails with a well-known publisher. It went like this:

From: Cristina \(Editorial Tusquets\) 03/05/12
Dear Sir or Madam,
My name is Cristina and I’m rights department assistant at Tusquets Editores, a Spanish publishing house. Our Rights Manager (Mrs. Carmen Corral) would like to have a look to the book THE STORY OF JAN DARRA: A THAI EROTIC NOVEL OF THE 1960s, by Utsana Phleungthamif Spanish rights to this title are still available. If so, could you send us a reading copy for consideration, please? Thank you very much in advance for your help.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Yours faithfully,
Cristina Martínez
Assistant – Rights Department

De: marcel barang – lunes, 05 de marzo de 2012
¡hola Cristina!
The Story of Jan Darra is only available as an e-book these days. You can get it from my website,
The Spanish rights are available. As far as I know, mine is the only translation into any language.
The problem might be to contact the heir to the author, his daughter I think (also a writer), but I may be able to help if you decide to run a Spanish version.

From: Cristina \(Editorial Tusquets\) Sent: 03/05/12
Hola Marcel:
Thank you very much for your quick response. The first thing for us is to read the book, do you have a PDF of it you can send us? It would be easier. Please let me know. Thank you!!

De: marcel barang – lunes, 05 de marzo de 2012
That’s what my e-books are: PDFs [].
If you wish for an epub/Kindle etc. version, go to

From: Cristina \(Editorial Tusquets\) Sent: 03/16/12
Dear Marcel,
Sorry but I can’t see but a PDF of 7 pages on that link… Don’t you have a complete PDF for reading/consideration?

De: marcel barang [] – viernes, 16 de marzo de 2012 13:17
Dear Cristina,
Is it too much to expect you to BUY the e-book? Only 300 baht (7.5 euros), you know. Also Mobypocket (Amazon Kindle) and ePub versions at for the same price.

From: Carmen Corral – Sent: 03/16/12
Dear Marcel,
Thank you for your message to Cristina, my assistant. I’m sure that you understand that it’s not a problem to buy the e-book: we still have 7,5EUROS. However,  from my point of view, this way is not very “professional” and is against the customs in publishing. If I need to buy ALL the books to be considered…

I didn’t answer this last mail and I’m not aware of any sale of The story of Jan Darra since then. I agree, though: it’d be outrageous for a well-established publishing firm to ‘need to buy ALL the books to be considered’. It’s so much better to beg for them from non-professionals like me who do all the legwork, ‘need to buy ALL the books to be considered’ (apart from those a few authors kindly send them) and should be grateful to be solicited at all.

To go back to Lonely under a demented sky (why does this ring a bell here?), I’ve found the time to read two dozen pages since I bought it. The story is about 20/25,000 words long. The prose is luscious and the short preamble puts us in the presence of nine nuns in a room one of whom is going to tell them her story in the remaining hundred pages – and a complicated story it looks like. More of that anon.

  1. I’m with you on no more freebies to publishers who, when dealing with distribution, know that “the customs in publishing” have gone the way of the top hat. Jan Dara is hardly some unknown writer’s attempt at a novel. I say, “Make ’em pay.”
    And thank you for providing such a great service with so little remuneration.

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