India’s Independent Publishers
Two years ago, BLAFT, a Chennai-based publishing house, brought out The Blaft anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction in English in the hope that it will find a new audience for masala stories. The book became a hit, selling 7,500 copies, and proved Eric Schumacher right. Small is beautiful and, in the case of printed word, lucrative.
As anniversaries go, the second is usually not a major milestone, except when you are unmarried. But in the publishing world, it does call for celebration, especially if the publishing house is independent, specialises in pulp fiction translated from a regional language, has a fan-following and has encouraged others to join the trend. “We never thought it would be so successful,’’ says Kaveri Lalchand of BLAFT. “In the past two years, we have brought out 11 books. Now that people have realised that we are not just a one-book wonder, we are getting invites to literary fests, too.”
Divya Dubey started Gyaana four months ago when the Jaipur Literary Festival was on. She skipped the festival to fly solo in the publishing world. “I have always been involved in publishing, but I wasn’t getting to do what I really wanted to. So, when I had saved money enough to branch out on my own, I decided to start Gyaana,” says Dubey, 33. Lalchand and Dubey are part of a growing tribe of homegrown publishers with no foreign link, who have ventured into a rather risky business of fiction, filling the gap left by big publishing houses.
Bhopal-based publishing house Manjul, which translated bestsellers like Harry Potter to Hindi, is planning an English fiction imprint, Amaryllis.
Going beyond its niche—history, art and culture—Niyogi Books jumped on the fiction bandwagon last year and now plans to publish at least 20 books of fiction a year. “There are lots of good publishers in India,’’ says Bikash D. Niyogi, managing director, Niyogi Books, which has published large in-depth coffee table books. “But there are lots of new writers, too, and we hope to give them a chance.”
Newer writers find it easier to deal with these desi companies than the big fat foreign birds in Indian publishing. Saurbh Katyal, a first time writer, sent his manuscript last year to the usual suspects. “I received no response from big publishing houses,’’ he says. He then contacted Dubey through Linkedin, a networking site; she reverted in four days. “I liked her enthusiasm and decided to publish with her despite getting an offer from a major publishing house later,” says Katyal, an entrepreneur.
Personal attention, the chance to script a better story and, finally, choosing a book that really matters are the fringe benefits of going with a relatively small publishing house. “It is not as if the authors we get are rejects of big publishing houses. We just have better opportunity to work with authors. I can actually get writers to rework their whole script, if need be,” says Dubey. “It is also about quality.”
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