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Suriyabandara says that the NLDSB follows the UNESCO regulation which demands that a book must have more than 49 pages Suriyabandara says that the NLDSB follows the UNESCO regulation which demands that a book must have more than 49 pages (Pics by Rasika Kotudurage)


Writing skills alone do not suffice for an author to have work published. Rupees and cents may not buy you happiness, but having one’s copy published does cost money. While publishing your work online can be done for free, most writers dream of the day their books are displayed on storefronts and bookshelves. This could only be made possible if authors raise the funds to have their work published.

Since 1984, the Publications Assistance Project of the National Library and Documentation Services Board (NLDSB) has been assisting authors to publish their work. Assistance doesn’t merely come in the form of the Project providing most of the funds required for publishing, but the board also considers the content of the book, cover picture, page layout, paper quality and finish.

A special committee is appointed to work on the publication of the books chosen each year, and the members chosen depend on the subject matter of the books they will be working on. The committee meets once a month, although the frequency of meetings depends on the number of publications the Project has accepted.

Further, an author is granted funds for only one publication per year. Previously, an author was given seven opportunities to publish his or her work with the assistance of the project. The project has now reduced these opportunities to five per author.

No objections have risen from the writers or publishers, especially regarding the cover and layout suggestions made by the project committee. While the project handles most aspects of the text, the author is closely involved when the text is being edited.

“Many authors start here. We have published the work of many novice authors who have gone on to become famous authors,” says Publications Assistance Project Assistant Director Shrima Suriyabandara. While the number of copies the project receives has reduced over the years, Suriyabandara says this does not mean they accept all copies submitted by writers. The Project does not fund the publication of texts related to school syllabuses, especially because there is a demand for such texts and the writers do not face financial difficulty as much as writers of anthologies and literary texts do. Further, Suriyabandara says the NLDSB follows the UNESCO regulations, and thus, to be published, a book must have more than 49 pages.

Novels, short stories, classics, educational and archeology texts are accepted. Copies in Sinhala, Tamil and English are published. However, Suriyabandara says that they receive a very low number of copies in Tamil.

The NLDSB is the only government department to assist the publication of a copy. In 2014, over 50 copies were accepted while 73 books were published. The publication of a book takes time, Suriyabandara says, explaining that since they work on a number of books at a time, it isn’t possible to publish all books within a year. However, the books are usually published within a year and a year and a half.

The project does not provide all the funds required for the publication of a book, and the author is also required to raise funds. However, under the project, certain publications have received funds up to 60,000 rupees, although the average funding provided is between 40,000 and 50,000 rupees.
“We are not involved in the promotional programs of the books,” Suriyabandara says. She added that the NLDSB does not interfere with reprints and have no objections if the author wants to reprint the book. However, under the project, the book’s quality is ensured and 1,000 copies are printed. The books are also available at the NLDSB bookshop and are given as donations.

Over 3,000 books have been published and 50 have received State Literary Awards. Authors like Jayatilaka Kammallaweera and Prof JB Dissanayake have had their books published with the assistance of the Publications Assistance Project. However, despite the quality of books and substantial funding provided by the project, Suriyabandara says that the number of copies they receive has reduced over the years. She says that, while a reason for this is not clear, it could be due to the number of literary awards given for manuscripts. Writers opt to submit entries for awards in manuscript form and publish later rather than submit in book form.

The NLDSB also carries out a children’s and youth literary assistance project, under which the publication of children’s books and youth literature is funded. The project was launched in 2012, and 15 children’s books and 49 youth books have been funded. According to UNESCO standards, a children’s book must have at least 16 pages and youth literature must have a minimum of 49 pages. Muhuda Saha Doni by Thanuja N Ayagama was also funded by the Project. It is a hardcover edition. Suriyabandara says that if the author is willing to bear the cost, a hardcover edition can be published. However, very few can bear such costs.

Last modified on Saturday, 14 February 2015 13:08

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