Indian Publishers and the Art of the Freebie

Via Time Out Delhi

When a child buys a book from The 39 Clues series, she doesn’t only get an adventure story about a pair of siblings trying to uncover a family secret. Nestled inside the book is a set of collectors’ cards that can be used to play online games. Increasingly, Indian publishers are tucking gaming cards, badges and funky bookmarks into children’s books in a bid to break through the clutter at bookstores. Considering that Crossword Bookstores stocks approximately 12,000 children’s titles at their flagship Select CityWalk branch, it’s difficult for publishers to draw attention to their books unless it’s a classic such as Charlotte’s Web or a popular hit like Twilight. All this competition has bred innovation, said Vatsala Kaul Banerjee, an editorial director of children’s and reference books at Hachette India. “

Hachette has published three books with freebies so far: Friends Forever celebrates Friendship Day and comes with a friendship band, Mom & Me for Mother’s Day is available with a shining “World’s Best Mom” badge and World’s Best Dad has a Dad & Me button.

Apart from gifts, publishers are also throwing in posters and online contests that offer prizes. For instance, Tara Books is giving away a silk-screen print of a cat along with Anushka Ravishankar’s I Like Cats, which features felines in a variety of Indian tribal art forms. When Puffin launched Jeanne Perrett’s Ash & Tara: The Emerald Dagger, a fantasy set in the Mughal era, the marketing team organised an Ash and Tara Online Treasure Hunt on the Penguin India website.

While some publishers are focussing on such marketing innovations, others are trying to create a buzz around the book or its characters. ACK Media, the publishers of Tinkle and Amar Chitra Katha comics, has a school programme at which students learn about Indian heroes such as Subhash Chandra Bose and JRD Tata.

A classroom presentation is followed by a quiz, peppered with questions like “What will you do if someone snatches away your lunch box?” Based on the answers, a child is given a Hero profile – “You are 50 per cent Akbar, 10 per cent Gandhi and 40 per cent Laxmi Bai”, for example. “The point being that heroes are of different types, and you too can be a hero,” said Samir Patil, the CEO and founder of ACK Media.

However, publishers insist that innovations and freebies can only push a book’s popularity so far. “I think if the gift excites them and they pick up the books, they are likely to read the stories and try out some of the activities. And that’s more than enough in the direction of helping them be more excited about reading! The gift is only an add-on; it can never be the mainstay. If the book is bad, no gift is going to make up for it.”

Read the entire article here.

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