Gordon Graham Posts

“The Cottage by the Highway and Other Essays on Publishing: 25 Years of Logos” Edited by Angus Phillips

The cheapening of information has been accompanied by the decline of copyright, the symbol of the writer’s ownership and instrument of his and the publisher’s protection. Readers are no longer wooed so much as assayed. This should give them more power. However, the increase in volume and accessibility of words has led to a decline in the art of readership. Millions of readers are oblivious to both their power and their responsibility. We need a movement for more responsible readership.

Reader Responsiblity is not dependent on education or intellect. Everyone reads, and everyone can exercise responsibility according to his will and capacity. Responsible reading it in the endthe only way to filter the best out of the computer-generated mass of information, to discipline distorted reporting, careless reasoning, special pleading, tendentious arguments and vulgar expression, all of which are more common in communications today than they were twenty or thirty years ago.

In simpler terms, there is a need to increase quality and reduce quantity. The reader has power to influence this.

Gordon Graham “The Responsible Reader”, Logos 21/3-4, 2010, 9-12

Gordon Graham and his wife, May 2008. Taken at their home in Marlow when I went to stay with them at their invitation.

Logos is a highly reputed journal on publishing that was begun by the legendary publisher, Gordon Graham. He had founded the Logos journal in 1990, upon his retirement from Butterworths where he had served as Chairman and Chief Executive since 1974. Before this Gordon Graham worked at McGraw-Hill, as International Sales Manager in New York, and later ran the company’s book business in Europe and the Middle East. But he had also done a long stint in India with the company. Gordon Graham ran the journal successfully for many years. He had some of the best publishing professionals of the world contribute articles, interviews and book reviews. He had a vision to create an excellent platform where ideas and experiences about the publishing world could be shared and discussed. He began this initiative in the days before email and smartphones were even dreamed of! He would commission articles from contributers via snail mail. Later when dial-up modems began to make their presence felt, he would write the commissioning letters which then his secretary would type and send via email. Publishing is a business that builds upon the creative energies and enthusiasm of many individuals but requires at the same time meticulous multi-tasking to ensure that all the scheduled tasks are being completed on time. Gordon Graham was a fine example of an exemplary publisher, a gentleman publisher, whose knowledge and experience of the industry would sit lightly. He was ever so gracious about meeting new entrants to publishing and always willing to lend an ear to their opinions. He was passionate about the industry even though he was most familiar with the academic form of publishing. He was very clued in about the different kinds of publishing in various parts of the world. All of this was remarkable given that he had accrued this knowledge on the basis of his travels, his conversations, his experience and his vast and diverse reading. A few minutes of conversation with Gordon Graham was pure delight. With this insight in the industry he had the vision to create this extraordinary journal. By the time of his retirement he was already an established publishing legend but to create a journal from scratch required hard work and determination. He made it happen. Today Logos is a journal on the publishing industry which is a fantastic repository of information, case studies, views and opinions. It is the gold standard among journals in terms of the rigour and peer review that goes into maintaining the standard of contributions. During his lifetime, Gordon Graham handed the journal over to Brill, a publishing house that had been at the time in existence for nearly two centuries. Brill is an academic publishing firm with a formidable catalogue of journals as well. So this was a perfect match in terms of strengths and expertise. By the time Logos became a part of the Brill stable, the furious debate about print vs digital had begun in publishing. Gordon Graham vision ensured the journal’s survival in the very capable hands of the editor Angus Phillips and support of Brill.

To celebrate the twenty-fifth year anniversary, a special edition, a book of selected essays on publishing were put together. It is a collection of essays worth its weight in gold. Publishing histories of successful firms or rise of authors at the best of time are tricky to document as these are mostly not documented in the moment of time. So to cobble together histories of iconic firms such as the Paul Hamlyn, Thames & Hudson, or Weidenfeld & Nicholson is a remarkable achievement which these essayists have achieved. There is a fine balance of the personal with the professional. While the histories are engrossing; it is also the realisation that certain principles of publishing do not change — it is technology which does. But through the ages everyone is preoccupied with the marketplace and assessing what readers desire. This is a concern that is of paramount importance. And this is exactly why The Cottage by the Highway is fascinating since none of the essays selected veer too far away from the central idea that publishing is a business. It is not always said explicitly but it understood. At the same time there is no denying the buzz one gets being a part of this industry. It is fun. It is exciting. It is challenging. It is creative. It is dependant upon one’s interpersonal skills. It is an ecosystem consisting of publishers, editors, writers, booksellers, distributors, agents, translators, book designers etc. Ultimately it is the coming together of experience, skills combined with business acumen to recognise where the gaps lie in the market and be prepared to put in the hard work required. For every book is akin to a designed product. It requires patience, vision and hard work for every book published.

The Cottage by the Highway is a treasure trove of publishing wisdom. It is applicable across geographies and book markets. It is much in keeping with the vision of Gordon Graham — of cross-pollination of information and experiences while attempting to document critical stages of publishing. A tiny detail that most publishing professionals forget or are too busy to do for themselves or their institutions. Read The Cottage by the Highway. And if you are a publishing professional or aspiring to be one, learn from it. It is absolutely fantastic!

18 February 2020

BRILL launches in India

L-R: Peter Coebergh, CEO, BRILL; Jaya Bhattacharji Rose, International Publishing Consultant; Vincent Oeters, Marketing Manager EMEA & India, BRILL

On 29 August 2018 the Dutch international academic publisher BRILL announced its arrival in India with an exclusive dinner thrown for publishing professionals, academics and librarians.  It is a listed company for more than 122 years in the Netherlands.

According to the Peter Coebergh, CEO, who made a short presentation at the event, BRILL was established on 17 May 1683 by Jordaan Luchtmans, who was registered as a bookseller by the Leiden booksellers guild. At the time company was called Luchtman and specialised in Biblical studies. Theology, oriental languages and ethnography. In 1848 the business passed from the Luchtman family to that of E. J. Brill, an ex-Luchtman employee. His ability to typeset non-Latin alphabets such as Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish, Persian, Greek, Aramiac, Javanese etc helped his business expand. The logo represents the Greek Gods of Wisdom (Pallas) and of Trade ( Hermes), underlining what BRILL believes in as a company.

BRILL specialises in HSS ( Humanities and Social Sciences) and Law, adding Educational Sciences relatively recently. It publishes approximately 300 journals,  1400 new books and manages 120 online databases every year.

There are 4 main product types:

  1. Journals
  2. Databases
  3. Books and references
  4. Primary source materials– original texts around which BRILL usually builds publishing programmes, often requiring significant investments.

L-R: Vincent Oeters, Peter Coebergh, Anish Bhambal and David Elek

For the launch in Delhi,  BRILL was represented by Peter Coerbergh, CEO; Vincent Oeters, Marketing Manager EMEA & India; David Elek, Sales Account Manager, Cyprus, Turkey, Middle East, India and Africa. The India Representative is Anish Bhambal ( sales-india at brill dot com ).  The significance of the announcement is apparent that the first overseas trip Peter Coebergh made after being appointed as CEO of BRILL was to India. As he said, the company may have taken 335 years to set roots in India but now they are here BRILL wants to engage with author community for our books and journals. Also engage with Indian publishing houses in ways to collaborate, all the while recognising the price-sensitive market that India is!

LOGOS: Journal of the World Publishing Community, a prestigious publishing journal is one of the many journals BRILL publishes. LOGOS was launched by Gordon Graham, former Chairman of Butterworths and a few years ago handed over to BRILL to manage.  The current editor-in-chief is Angus Philips.  I have contributed to the journal on a few occasions as well.

Logos is a forum for opinion and the latest research from the world of publishing. The journal is international in scope and invites contributions on authorship, readers, book publishing, librarianship, and bookselling. Articles about the related fields of journals and magazines are also welcome, as are contributions about digital developments such as blogging and multimedia. Submissions are invited from both professionals and academics, and research articles are subject to peer review. It also publishes book reviews.

An English-language scholarly journal, published quarterly since 1990, Logos provides a platform for communication between publishing professionals, librarians, authors, scholars, and those in allied professions. It features articles from and about the publishing world, illustrating the unity, commonality, and conflicting interests of those who write, edit, manufacture, publish, disseminate, preserve, study, and read published works. Logos is international and intercultural, bridging gaps between academia and business, the developing and developed worlds, printed and digital media. The constituency comprises professional publishers and booksellers, both trade and academic; publishing studies, book history, new media and communications scholars, researchers and students; consultants, analysts, managers, and owners of publishing businesses; library managers and information professionals; as well as editors, typographers, and designers operating within the publishing industry.

BRILL is a welcome addition to the academic publishing community in India.

2 September 2018 

 

Literati – “Storytelling” ( 6 Dec 2014, The Hindu)


Jaya Bhattacharji Rose( My monthly column, Literati, in the Hindu Literary Review was published online ( 6 December 2014) and will be in print ( 7 December 2014). Here is the url http://www.thehindu.com/books/literary-review/literati-a-look-at-the-world-of-books-publishing-and-writers/article6667631.ece . I am also c&p the text below. )

Watching Ameen Haque of The Storywallahs perform at the Kahani Tree, Bookaroo, was a treat. He wove stories, poetry and music together and had the audience singing and laughing along with him. In the short interaction, the children were introduced to the radical idea that crying is perfectly normal for boys and grown men.

Telling tales

Even when adults communicate, it is inevitably through stories. We call it conversation. Break up the conversation and analyse it. It is anecdotal, replete with stories and vignettes. The impact of a well-told story is immeasurable. Similarly a book allows a quiet engagement between the author and a reader. Books make you see the world afresh. It works for all age groups.

This relationship between books and young readers was apparent at an event organised by SCWBI India in partnership with Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan and the Bookaroo Childrens’ Literature Festival. The topic was “LSD: Love, Sex and Darkness in Books for Children” and the participants were educationist Dr. Shalini Advani, author Samina Mishra, illustrator Priya Kuriyan, and publisher Sayoni Basu.

“Should children’s books only deal with happy things? What about death, violence and sexuality? What about darkness and ugliness?” These were some of the questions raised.

Dr. Advani pointed out that adults tend to be more uncomfortable than children. “For adults, our role is to drag these issues out into the clear light of day. To normalise them as a part of the circle of life so that children — who think about them anyway — learn healthy ways of talking about them and thinking about them. It’s not happy worlds that young people seek. So it is not about whether a book has death or perfidious adults or parental divorce or pain. But more about how it is done — young people don’t like to be lectured to or even gently educated.”

Some recently YA books — Talking of Muskaan by Himanjali Sankar about a teen who may be a lesbian;Smitten by Ranjit Lal about a teen who is molested by a family member and Jobless Clueless Reckless by Revathi Suresh about a pregnant teen — have tackled these tricky topics.

***

Fiction relies upon storytelling to represent experiences, although its impact depends on the author’s magic with words. At times the storytelling has visible weaknesses but the reader persists, usually out of curiosity about a new topic. For instance, Sonora Jha’s Foreign (farmer suicides in Vidarbha); Pia Padukone’s Where Earth Meets Water (9/11 and the 2004 tsumani), Gaiutra Bahadur’s Coolie Woman(indentured labourers on sugar plantations in British Guiana), Mira Jacob’s The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing (Syrian Christian family in New Mexico), and Robert Allison’s The Letter Bearer (WWII, amnesia).

Inclusive fiction

Exquisite storytelling and its impact is apparent by the recent online conversation between Amitav Ghosh and Raghu Karnad regarding Flanagan’s 2014 ManBooker Prize-winning novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North. The two Indian writers discussed the inclusive capacity of historical fiction and the “duty” of a novelist but also gave insightful comments about a moment in history that had been made accessible through contemporary fiction.

The legendary publisher Gordon Graham puts it prophetically in a 1980 essay reprinted in As I was Saying: Essays on the International Book Business, “Creative composition in the electronic age will not happen at the moment when the author and the publisher decide it is releasable.” It will happen with the active participation of the reader. A statement that holds true 35 years later.

Irrespective of age groups and formats, the importance of storytelling can never be negated since it is an important module of communication and transmission of information, requiring the active participation of all stakeholders.

Update ( 6 December 2014):

In the paragraph listing the debut writers I should have clarified that it is not only fiction, but also nonfiction by relies upon the art of storytelling. Hence I have included Gaiutra Bahadur. My original list was much longer than was finally published.

6 December 2014 

One to One: Jaya Bhattacharji Rose, Vol. No. 7, No. 8 & 9, Jul – Aug 2013

One to One: Jaya Bhattacharji Rose, Vol. No. 7, No. 8 & 9, Jul – Aug 2013

PubSpeak, JayaMr S.K. Ghai, Managing Director, Sterling Publishers (P) Ltd is responsible for the Institute of Book Publishing and Publishing Today, A monthly of the book industry and its professionals. In Vol. No. 7, No. 8 & 9, Jul – Aug 2013 ( http://www.ibpindia.org/p/Publishing-Today-July-August-2013 ) he interviewed me. This is what he wrote in his introduction: “For One to One I have interviewed Jaya Bhattacharji Rose, International publishing and literary consultant, there are a very few professionals who write on publishing regularly and she is one of them and having a regular column in Business World. She is quite active on social media and had over 250,000 visitors in less than a year.” I am c&p the interview below. 

4 Sept 2013 

SKG You have been interviewing publishers, authors; is it the first time that you are being interviewed? 
JBR No. Not at all. Some of the interviews that come to mind are by Samit Basu in 2006  (http://samitbasu.com/2006/07/03/jaya-bhattacharji-interview/) and by Anupama Krishnakumar in 2012 (http://www.sparkthemagazine.com/?p=4379).SKG When, how and why did you choose publishing as a career?
JBR I cannot even recall when I fell in love with books. But I wanted to delve in to publishing from as long as I can remember.SKG You were once selected in the editorial team of Penguin, but you decided not to join. Any reason? 
JBP Yes I was. This was immediately after I had completed my BA (Hons) English from Jesus and Mary College. David Davidar had interviewed me, Renuka Chatterjee called offering me the job. But I refused since I decided to pursue my MA (English) at St. Stephen’s College.SKG You prefer to be freelancer as compared to being in a regular job. Any reason?
JBR I prefer being a freelancer since it allows me to balance my time between professional commitments and bringing up my daughter Sarah Rose. Plus the independence it brings allows me the freedom to comment on the industry, without any bias. It can be challenging at times, but I certainly prefer it.SKG I remember meeting you briefly at Zubaan. How long did you work there and any memorable experiences or incidents that you would like to share?
JBR I joined Zubaan the day it rose from the ashes of Kali for Women. I was there for more than 4 years, but those were the formative years. It was during this time that the significant books like Baby Halder’s A Life Less Ordinary, Anil Menon’s The Beast with a Million Feet and Kunzang Choden’s The Circle of Karma were published. I enjoyed working on various projects. Some that come to mind immediately are creating a mini author website for Kunzang Choden. It was done at a time when such intiatives were still rare. (http://www.zubaanbooks.com/circleofkarma/) I also helped in the branding of Zubaan by circulating monthly newsletters, creating a database, conceptualising and  launching the official website (zubaanbooks.com); inheriting the womenwriting.com website from the British Council and revamping it (http://www.womenswriting.com/WomensWriting/AboutProject.asp); curating the visual history of the women’s movement in India via posters called PosterWomen (http://posterwomen.org/Posterwomen/ ) ; helping out with the Words of Women series at the India Habitat Centre and lots more. It was definitely a packed and exciting schedule.There are so many memories to share, but difficult to choose one.SKG You also worked for Routledge and then Puffin for a short while – any special memories ? 
JBR I worked as Editorial Manager, South Asia, Journals for Routledge, Taylor and Francis and as a Consultant Editor, Puffin Books India. Both the assignments were very different to each other. The journals assignment was an eye opener since it taught me a great deal about academic publishing, especially the methodical manner in which journals are published.Whereas with Puffin Books the joy of working with children’s and YA literature was thrilling. It is a genre that I have worked with ever since the 1990s, from the time I was asked to be the Guest Editor for the Special issue of The Book Review. It was an issue published every November. I expanded the focus to include literature from South Asia and got publishers to send in review copies from abroad. All this was done before the internet and emailing was possible. I remember even getting the third volume of Harry Potter. It was mailed from London and arrived a couple of weeks after it was released. Yet the review copy reached me a few months before it was released in India. A far cry from when the last volume in the series was released. It had a simultaneous release in India and UK.SKG You have interviewed many publishers – national and international CEO’s like Naveen Kishore-Seagull, Liz Calder-Bloomsbury, Peter Booth- Wiley. Any unique experience you would like to share?
JBR With every publishing professional I meet whether from India or abroad, I enjoy my interactions. It is learning, sharing of experiences and understanding how the business works. Many times I continue to be astounded at how the basics of the business remain the same. It is only the technology of production and communication that changes. Of the three you mentioned I learned a great deal about translations from Naveen Kishore; from Liz Calder what it takes to be a woman publisher, setting up Women in Publishing, co-fouding Bloomsbury Publishing, how her firm discovered J K Rowling, establishing the Paraty festival in Brazil etc; with Peter-Booth Wiley it was discovering how a successful family business operates and continues to be ahead in the game of publishing. He is the sixth generation of the Wiley family who is managing the business, 200 years after it was founded.SKG When you assess and recommend manuscripts to publishers, what are the points you generally highlight? 
JBR It really depends upon the genre and style of writing. It is very difficult to comment in general terms. But I think it has to be a fine balance between what is a good story/narrative and whether it will work in the market.SKG Your comments on the recent amendments to the copyright act?
JBR The recent amendments to the copyright act were mostly in favour of the music industry except for the clause about the use of photographs and images. The parallel imports clause too that was causing much concern in India has now been referred to a Parliamentary committee for review.SKG Your comments on the highlights/missing points in the recently formulated India’s National Book Promotion Policy? 
JBR I wrote about this in my column. Here is the link: http://www.jayabhattacharjirose.com/jaya/2013/08/01/national-book-promotion-policy-where-are-we-nov-2011/SKG What are your views on India’s digital publishing and how do you think they can monetize ? 
JBR I don’t think anyone really has a clear answer to this. Digital publishing, IMHO, should be seen as a unifying factor in publishing. It allows publishers to streamline operations and access various markets that hitherto were inaccessible. Monetization will happen depending upon the publisher’s requirement and an understanding of the market. For now there is a lot of experimentation in the business models of publishing particularly in academic publishing. Trade publishers are as yet to figure out what works for them. If the latter had a system of impact factors as is in journal publishing, probably they would be able to strategically explore and execute alternative streams of revenue generation.SKG You review books regularly. What are your comments on ‹The art of book reviewing›?
JBR Read, read, read. Review books without any biases, but with knowledge, honesty and fairness. All criticism must be constructive, whether positive or negative. Also never damn a book however annoying it may have been to read. The book is an author’s baby. Be kind. And if it has been a pleasure to read, be balanced in your assessment rather than packing your review with hyperbole.SKG Many publishing professionals have godfathers in the industry; do you have one or consider some one who helped/guided you? 
JBR Hmm. I am not sure if I have had a godfather. Mentors certainly. Many of them women. I have always been passionate about publishing. But I was fortunate to have been given opportunities to explore publishing by Uma Iyengar and Chandra Chari of The Book Review; Urvashi Butalia of Zubaan; Ritu Menon of Women Unlimited; and Gordon Graham, former Chairman, Butterworth Publishers and Founding Editor, Logos.SKG Where you would like to be after five years?
JBR A successful international publishing and literary consultant and columnist.SKG You know the publishing industry inside out. How do you see the future of book publishing given the current scenario of digital verses print? 
JBR I do not see it as a digital versus print game in the publishing industry. I see the entry of digital technology as a game changer that will encourage publishing to evolve to the next level. Initially it will be viewed as a disruptive element since the traditional modes of production, publication and dissemination have been working very well for generations. But to survive in the future, it is important to adopt and adapt.The future of book publishing is not bleak especially for those professionals who are smart about taking up challenges and capitalising upon opportunities. But today there is no scope for complacency. Unfortunately the truth is that to commission, create and produce high quality books you need to have time and be methodical about it. It is a process that cannot be hurried. Yet the consumption patterns of readers are changing so rapidly that publishers need to strike a balance between the two arms of business — commissioning/editorial and marketing/selling. There are many ways to do so. Most importantly exploring new opportunities for revenue generation. It will come from selling the books in innovative ways, accessing new markets but also focusing on good, reliable content, ensuring that the long tail of business continues. Also never forgetting that the core of the business of publishing are the authors. So it is important to manage author relations, irrespective of their being on the A, B or C lists.SKG You are very active on social media networks- Facebook , Twitter, LinkedIn and writing blogs. How useful do you find social media what would be your suggestions for young publishing professionals? 
JBR Social Media is an integral part of one’s life now. In order to access, network with like-minded professionals you need to know how to use these platforms. I use them only professionally. But it requires strategy and learning every single day.I started a blog sometime ago focused on publishing and literature. On 27 Aug 2012, I installed a visitor counter. Today, 9 Aug 2013, it shows 2,61,563 visitors. All of these are real digital footprints since I have a SPAM blocker. I am told that it is an “extremely impressive” count.My advice for young publishing professionals is to be passionate about publishing, always be alert and receptive to new ideas, think out of the box, do a bit of homework every single day and definitely use and explore the social media platforms. But by merely plonking stuff on to a platform, without understanding and updating it, will be insufficient. You have to challenge your limits.SKG What are your hobbies? 
JBR Cooking/Baking, listening to music – it used to be gardening, painting and playing with my dogs, but no more. No time for the first two and I no longer keep dogs. And I have to add, reading. I actually love it.SKG How would you describe a good book? 
JBR Fiction or non-fiction – it has to be one that sustains the reader’s interest till the very end. It cannot be a book where the author polishes the first fifty pages and then forgets about the rest.SKG Apart from manuscripts, do you get the time to read & what do you like to read?
JBR I make the time. Carpe diem is my motto. My reading is eclectic. It can range from periodicals, short stories, fiction, non-fiction, young adult and even picture books. Anything and everything to do with words.SKG In fiction, what makes a bestseller? 
JBR Tough question. Does anyone really have an answer to it? If it is the Rs 100 novel or commercial fiction that is extremely popular today in India, then I would attribute it to the conversational style of English used by the authors. The readers are able to comprehend and understand and respond well to the content. But it is not a given that a consumer of a Rs 100 novel can be termed as a “Reader”, one who reads substantially, not necessarily voraciously. For literary fiction it is the quality of the work, the complexity that lies in the treatment of the story. Similarly other genres like translations, science-fiction, children’s literature, YA literature, thrillers, etc will have their own peculiar characteristics that help in determining its viability in the market. Probably the standard for all would be the content should be good, the treatment by the author/translator above par. Technicalities like editing, production quality, distribution, price points also play a crucial aspect in the rapid consumption of the book. If it is a “good” book but unavailable and unaffordable, the whole point of investing time and patience in producing it will be defeated.

ONE TO ONE with Jaya Bhattacharji RoseInternational publishing and literary consultant who also has a monthly column, “PubSpeak” , in BusinessWorld online. Her blog http://www.jayabhattacharjirose.com/jaya/ has had over 2,50,000 visitors in the 11 months since the visitor counter was uploaded.