Today, we want to further introduce you to the world of children’s books. Our GBO friend Jaya Bhattacharji Rose who is an international publishing consultant will tell us more about Children’s and Young adult fiction. How do these genres work in India, what are the challenges the publisher faces?
Above that, we are very excited to announce the final programme for our Jumpstart conference 2012! And we are publishing the second part of Manasi Subramaniam’s report on children’s Book publishing in South Asia.
So again come join us in learning more about the children’s Book Industry!
Enjoy the read!
Best wishes from the GBO Team
Children’s and YA literature
50% of India’s population is below twenty-five. Yet, children’s literature defined as predominantly trade literature meant for children and young adults as a distinct genre is a recent phenomenon in India. (Although non-fiction sells well too.) Traditionally, children have been brought up on a vast repertoire of storytelling based upon oral tales, folk tales and mythology. So, to have access to literature in the written form is a relatively new concept. Having said this, publishing for children and young adults is booming. It is estimated that it is worth Rs 400 crores or nearly US$ 90 million per annum.
The variety in the lists is commendable, given that India is multi-lingual though the lingua franca continues to be English. The market is not homogenous. Readers are comfortable with reading in more than one language. Publishers are competing with each other for a miniscule space, though translated into numbers it may seem attractive—the population is large and even a small percentage would mean substantial unit sales. The consumer profile varies from a family that has to survive on less than US$ 1 per day to millionaires. For most Indians, the emphasis is on education and not on reading for pleasure. Changing this mindset is taking time, but it is now perceptible. Another factor that has contributed to the growth and interest in children’s literature is the transition from joint families to nuclear families, so parents need books for their children, to fill in the vacuum of elders who would normally have told children stories. Also, more families are double-income which means that there is some disposable income available for books. Children and teenagers too have greater exposure to books through various platforms—book exhibitions and direct marketing initiatives in schools like those by Scholastic; book clubs that circulate regular newsletters; book weeks that are organised by schools where authors are invited, there are regular interactions like Q&A, storytelling sessions, dramatizations of the stories and author-in-residence programmes; and storytelling nights that are organised in all cities and towns or initiatives like Paro Anand’s Literature in Action. Within this context, it is no surprise then that the sale of children’s books in brick and mortar bookstores is estimated to be 35% of total book sales. Surprisingly, this genre contributes only 5% or less towards sales in online retail stores. Most publishers are recording annual leaps in sales. Much of this behaviour can be attributed to a fashionable trend or a bestseller, but there is no doubt that readers are creating and behaving like a community.
Online social communities like Facebook, Twitter, blogging, fan fiction sites are creating a demand as “friends”, cutting across geographical boundaries, young readers discuss and post links, join discussion groups or follow their favourite authors and engage in impulse buying. This generation wants their demands met immediately and with easy and immediate access to information, they do not have much patience. According to authors, publishers, editors, distributors and importers, reading has definitely increased in the past few years. E-books are available but nothing can beat the sensuous appeal of reading a book, touching the pages, experiencing the thrill of holding a book, turning the pages, smelling the ink on paper, caressing the illustrations, fiddling with the dust jackets or admiring the cover design. Even parents admit that their children are reading much more than they did five years ago. Last year at Bookaroo, I saw 10 and 11-year-olds showing off manuscripts that they had written. It is exactly for these reasons that a forum like Jumpstart is significant where there is a cross pollination of ideas and experiences to foster and nurture the future of this genre amongst professionals. Paro Anand sums it up well. “Networking opportunities for creators of children’s and YA literature for themselves, is what makes Jumpstart unique.”
Jaya Bhattacharji Rose is an international publishing consultant.
Jaya Bhattacharji Rose is an independent international publishing consultant. She has a column on publishing in Businessworld online and a literary column in Books & More. Associated with Indian publishing since the early 1990s, her responsibilities have included guest editing the special Children’s and YA Literature of The Book Review, and producing the first comprehensive report on the Indian Book Market for the Publisher’s Association, UK. Her articles, interviews and book reviews have also appeared in Bookbrunch, Frontline, The Book Review, DNA, Outlook, The Hindu, Hindustan Times, LOGOS, Businessworld, Brunch, and The Muse. As a Literary Director with Siyahi, she helps identify and guide the next generation of writing talent.
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