HarperCollins Posts

Literati – Of books and launches ( 5 April 2015)

Jaya Bhattacharji Rose(My monthly column, Literati, in the Hindu Literary Review was published online ( 4 April 2015) and will be in print ( 5 April 2015). Here is the url http://www.thehindu.com/books/books-columns/literati-of-books-and-launches/article7067754.ece. I am also c&p the text below. )

Last week I attended a book launch at the Rashtrapati Bhawan. A small distinguished

(L-R) Mrs Sumitra Mahajan, Speaker, Lok Sabha, Indian Parliament, HE Pranab Mukherjee, President of India and Mrs Meira Kumar, former Speaker of Lok Sabha

(L-R) Mrs Sumitra Mahajan, Speaker, Lok Sabha, Indian Parliament, HE Pranab Mukherjee, President of India and Mrs Meira Kumar, former Speaker of Lok Sabha

audience gathered in the Yellow Drawing Room to witness the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, launch former and first woman Lok Sabha Speaker, Meira Kumar’s Indian Parliamentary Democracy: Speaker’s Perspective in the presence of the current Speaker, Sumitra Mahajan, and senior-most Parliamentarian, L. K. Advani. This volume — published by the Lok Sabha Secretariat, New Delhi — contains selected speeches delivered by Kumar at various multilateral conferences and during bilateral visits to several nations in India and abroad during her tenure. It was a book launch that ran with precision, partially due to protocol but also in a large measure due to professionalism of the politicians. These people have known each other for decades, yet made the effort to spend some time reading the book, offering their personal perspective on the importance of speeches to negotiate issues of government policy and to strengthen Indian diplomacy. Listening to the frank conversation made a ‘dry’ book about the efficacy of parliamentary diplomacy as an evolving medium of communication among nations seem worth reading. It was an effective launch as it interested the audience in the book and was not just another occasion for a photo-opportunity.

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Book promotions are a two-pronged affair. One is a planned strategy to promote a book: an author tour, book launches (preferably with a celebrity launching it), circulating review copies, book trailers on YouTube, interviews and interactions on all media platforms, the author participating in literary festivals, writing articles discussing and describing the writing process threadbare … all in a very short span of time. With the explosion of social media platforms, the variety of ways in which books and authors can be promoted is staggering — podcasts of interviews and literary salons, online book clubs, using photograph-based websites such as Pinterest, Flickr, Instagram to showcase book covers and promote reading experiences.

Tie-ups

According to Publishers Weekly, “HarperCollins is working with Twitter Commerce, the social media platform’s effort to offer ‘native commerce’, or offering firms the ability to send out tweets with buy buttons embedded in them.” The new promotion allowed fans to purchase a hardcover edition of theInsurgent movie tie-in edition at a 35 per cent discount, direct from HarperCollins Publishers US, without leaving the social media site with a buy in-tweet available only on March 23, 2015. Both HarperCollins and Twitter sent out a series of promotional tweets directed at fans talking about the Veronica Roth book series and movie adaptation.

This is similar to a recent partnership between the Hachette Book Group and Gumroad, an e-commerce venture that enables creators to sell content via social media, to promote and sell Hachette titles via Twitter. In August 2014, Amazon ‘buy it now’ buttons were embedded in Washington Post articles about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, assuming impulse buying will propel sales, but these were quickly pulled down after a massive outcry on Twitter (http://mashable.com/2014/08/18/washington-post-amazon-buy-button/). Amazon and Washington Post are both owned by Jeff Bezos. All these publicity efforts by the publishers, authors and vendors are to boost sales.

The Buried GiantA second and crucial component of book promotional activity is the preview critic and book reviewer. A good review is fair and unbiased. For instance, Neil Gaiman’s review in The New York Times of Kazuo Ishiguro’s new and oddly fascinating novel, The Buried Giant, says it is “a novel that’s easy to admire, to respect and to enjoy, but difficult to love.” It is a balanced, constructive and informed critique by the superstar of contemporary mythographers of another exceptional storyteller.

With the democratisation of social media platforms too, bloggers (word and video) and online reviewers have made their mark. Many are professional and their opinion is valued tremendously. But there is a tiny core in the online community offering “book reviewing plans” to promote a book, by publishing reviews on specific websites, blogs and online vendors — for a price. Unfortunately these reviews gush hyperboles. The mistake often made is that a paid promotion needs to be positive. This does not sell a book; only honest and constructive engagement with the book does.

4 April 2015

JaipurBookMark speakers profiles

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JaipurBookMark is a B2B conference organised at Narain Niwas, Jaipur. It runs parallel with the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival on the 21 – 22 January 2015. The programme and registration details are available at: http://bit.ly/1KxRcZx 

Aditi Maheshwari holds Masters degrees in English literature (Hansraj College, Delhi University) and Business Management (Strathclyde Business School, Scotland) and a pre-doctoral/ M.Phil. degree in Social Sciences (Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai). She also holds a diploma in Public Relations and Advertising. She heads the Department of Copyrights and Translation at Vani Prakashan and is the Managing Trustee at Vani Foundation.

Ajit Baral, an alumnus of the International Writing Program-2011, Iowa University. Ajit Baral is the author of Lazy Conman and Other stories (Penguin, India), Interviews Across Time and Space (FinePrint). He is the co-editor of New Nepal, New Voices (Rupa, India) and the editor of First Love (in Nepali). He has contributed articles, book reviews and short prose pieces to national and international magazines, journals and book forms. He used to coordinate the literary supplement of Nagarik, Akshyar, the first stand-alone literary supplement in Nepal. He runs an independent bookstore, Bookworm and is the co-founder of a Kathmandu-based publishing house, FinePrint and the director of Nepal’s first-ever international literature festival, Nepal Literature Festival.

Alberto Manguel is a Canadian writer, translator, editor and critic, born in Buenos Aires in 1948. He lives in a small village in France, surrounded by more than 40,000 volumes. He has published several novels, including News From a Foreign Country Came, and All Men Are Liars, and non-fiction, including A History of Reading, The Library at Night and (together with Gianni Guadalupi) The Dictionary of Imaginary Places. He has received numerous international awards, among others the Order of Arts & Letters from France, and is doctor honoris causa of the universities of Liège and Anglia Ruskin, Cambridge.

Amish Tripathi’s Shiva Trilogy — The Immortals of Meluha (2010), The Secret of the Nagas (2011) and The Oath of the Vayuputras (2013) — quickly became the fastest selling book series in Indian history. His books have been translated into 14 Indian and International languages. Included by Forbes India in their Celebrity 100, he has also received the Society Young Achievers Award for literature, Radio One’s Indian of the Year award and PRCI’s Communicator of the Year award in 2013. Amish is a graduate of IIM-Calcutta and worked for 14 years in the financial services industry before turning to full-time writing. He lives in Mumbai with his wife Preeti and son Neel.

Prof. Apoorvanand teaches at the Department of Hindi, University of Delhi. He is a literary and cultural critic. He also writes on contemporary issues. He has been associated with various committees on school and university education. Presently he is the editor of Aalochana, a journal of criticism.

Arpita Das is a Publisher-Editor based in New Delhi. She owns the indie publishing house YODA PRESS and has recently co-founded the self-publishing start-up AuthorsUpFront. She is a believer in book culture and writes in her free time.

Ashwin Sanghi ranks among India’s highest selling English fiction authors. He has written several bestsellers (The Rozabal Line, Chanakya’s Chant, The Krishna Key). He has also recently co-written an international thriller with James Patterson that hit the New York Times bestsellers list. Included by Forbes India in their Celebrity 100 and winner of the Crossword Popular Choice Award, Ashwin lives in Mumbai.

Atiya Zaidi holds a post graduate degree in English Literature. She has done a Publishing course from Yale University. She is the Publisher with the largest national publisher, Ratna Sagar. She has 26 years of experience in writing and preparing books for children, her specialization being ELT (English Language Teaching) Material. She also creates course material for social sciences, primary Maths and primary Science. Atiya Zaidi has presented papers at international conferences, on ELT and learning methodology. She is on the faculty of two major publishing courses. She is a founder member of the FICCI Publishing Cell.

Prof. Avadhesh Kumar Singh (Ph D), has been Vice Chancellor, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Open University, Ahmedabad. Thereafter, he was Convener, Knowledge Consortium of Gujarat, Government of Gujarat. He has been Director, School of Translation Studies & Training, IGNOU, New Delhi and Director (i/c) Indian Sign Language & Research Centre (ISLRTC), Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment at IGNOU. His areas of interest include literatures in Indian languages, comparative poetics, contemporary literary theory and criticism, translation and interdisciplinary studies. He has published papers in various anthologies, national and international journals. He has worked on various UPSC, UGC, DEC and NAAC Committees. Since 1994, he has been Editor, Critical Practice, a biannual journal of literary and critical studies.

Bharti Sinha has a Post Graduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Mysore University. She is the MD of Bharti’s Center of Learning & Development which has 26 weekend workshops designed as a curtain raiser to various career opportunities.

Bikash D. Niyogi, a Commerce Graduate with Diploma in Marketing Management, has a wide and varied experience in trade and commerce, particularly in the fields of Printing and Publishing. He started the Publishing House Niyogi Books in the year 2005 with associate offices. Today Niyogi Books has over 250 titles to its credit and has won numerous awards from Federation of Indian Publishers and other International forums. He is also a member of Indo German Chamber of Commerce, Federation of Indian Publishers, All India Federation of Master Printers and the India International Centre, Press Club of India, Delhi State Booksellers & Publishers Association and Capexil, among others.

David Ryding is the Director of the Melbourne’s UNESCO City of Literature Office. Melbourne was designated a UNESCO City of Literature in 2008 in recognition of the city’s rich literary culture and diverse offering. The Melbourne City of Literature Office is responsible for celebrating and promoting this designation and everything literary Melbourne has to offer.
Prior to this he was the Executive Director of the NSW Writers’ Centre, Director of the Emerging Writers’ Festival and the Artistic Director for South Australian Theatre Company Mainstreet Theatre Company, a company dedicated to new Australian writing about Regional Australia.

Dipali Khanna is a civil servant with a distinguished career. She is presently Member Secretary, Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA), which is a CEO position and she has been in this role since August 2012. This is a research centre established to collate and preserve the various forms of art in India. Dipali has demonstrated a strong track record in the revival and setting up of institutions. In her present role, she has been responsible for comprehensively revamping IGNCA from an organization with low visibility to one that is on track to becoming a hub for content, resources, research and interaction in the field of art and cultural heritage.

Henry Rosenbloom is Scribe’s founder, publisher, and CEO. A son of Holocaust survivors, he was born in Paris, France, in 1947, was educated at the University of Melbourne — where he became the first full-time editor of the student newspaper, Farrago — and later worked in the Whitlam Labor government for Dr Moss Cass. The author of Politics and the Media (1976), he has been a book printer, freelance journalist, book reviewer, and occasional newspaper op-ed and feature writer. In 2010 he was presented with a George Robertson award for service to the publishing industry.

Ivor Indyk is the founder of the award-winning independent literary publisher Giramondo Publishing, and Whitlam Professor in the Writing and Society Research Group at the University of Western Sydney. A critic, essayist and reviewer as well as a publisher, he has written a monograph on David Malouf for Oxford University Press, and essays on many aspects of Australian literature, art, architecture and literary publishing. Giramondo publishes poetry, fiction and non-fiction by Australian and overseas authors. Important Australian authors published by Giramondo include Alexis Wright (winner of the Miles Franklin Award), Brian Castro, Gerald Murnane, Nicholas Jose, Judith Beveridge, Jennifer Maiden, Robert Gray, Gig Ryan and Antigone Kefala.

Karthika V.K. is publisher and chief editor of HarperCollins Publishers India. She started her career in publishing at Penguin Books India in 1996 and moved to Harper in 2006 to head the publishing programme in India. She has published several major including Anita Nair, Anuja Chauhan, Manu Joseph, Hartosh Singh Bal, Rana Dasgupta, S Hussain Zaidi, Sarnath Banerjee, Amruta Patil, Vishwajyoti Ghosh, Karthika Nair and Booker-prize winner Aravind Adiga, among others. At HarperCollins she oversees a publishing programme that includes a vibrant poetry and graphic fiction (and non-fiction) list apart from a strong literary imprint in Fourth Estate and Harper Sport, the only imprint in India that’s dedicated to sport books.

Kate McCormack’s first position was with an Australian educational publishing company. From Australia she moved to London where she worked for Foyles Bookshop, then as an assistant agent with The Sayle Literary Agency and after that took a job in rights with Virgin Books. She then travelled to India where she did some work with Tara Books. She has been with the Penguin Australia rights department for close to eight years now and was recently promoted to Rights Manager.

M. A. Sikandar is presently the Director of the National Book Trust, India. He has varied managerial, teaching & research experience in various Government departments and the University of Delhi. He also serves as Member in the project advisory committee of National Translation Mission, Grant-in-Aid Committee of Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore, Advisory Committee for Central Hindi Directorate (Ministry of HRD), Advisory Committee Indian Literature Aborad, Sahitya Akademi, Advisory Board for Junior Science Section, TERI Publication. Dr Sikandar is also the Fair Director of the New Delhi World Book Fair. He has been conferred with the Award for Excellence – Production of Books globally by the Afro Asian Book Council (2014).

Manas Saikia has been with the Book Industry since he joined OUP as a 19 year old novice representative. He has handled every aspect of publishing, from editing to selling, from finance to distribution. Since 1985 he has been the face of Cambridge University Press in India. He was awarded an Honorary M.A. by The University of Cambridge. After an early retirement, Manas has started a distribution organization called “FEEL Books Pvt. Ltd.” who represent the distinguished German Publisher – De Gruyter among others. In 2014 he and another publishing veteran, Ravi Singh of Penguin fame, have joined hands to create a new Publisher – “Speaking Tiger”.

Manasi Subramaniam is Commissioning Editor and Rights Manager at HarperCollins Publishers India

Manisha Chaudhry is a writer, translator, editor and publisher. She started her career in publishing with Kali for Women, India’s first feminist publishing house. She has also worked in the development sector as a consultant on issues of gender and primary education. Her English translation of Ailan Gali Zinda Hai by Chandrakanta published by Zubaan as A Street in Srinagar was shortlisted for the DSC prize for South Asian Literature in 2012. She works with Pratham Books as the Editorial Head. She was Founder Trustee of Bookaroo Trust which runs a children’s literature festival and is advisor to the Kahani and Samanvay festivals of literature.

Meredith Curnow is the Knopf, Vintage publisher at Random House Australia. Writers published include Don Watson, Gail Jones, Frank Moorhouse, Deborah Forster, David Malouf, Tom Keneally, Nick Earls, Kate Forsyth, Philipp Meyer and Stephen Dando-Collins. Before that, she was the director of the Sydney Writers’ Festival, from the re-launch as a freestanding event in 1998 until 2002. She spent five years at the Australian Publishers Association working with the export development committee, the trade publishing committee and the small publishers committee. Meredith chairs the APA / Australia Council committee for the Residential Editorial Program and is on the Editorial Advisory Board, Writing and Society Research Centre, University of Western Sydney.

Mohua Mitra Senior Editor at Niyogi Books, Delhi, she has an inherent love for creative writing and translations. A former journalist, she worked with Business Standard and The Telegraph (ABP Group Publications, Kolkata) as feature writer and arts and music reviewer before moving on to creative & editorial consultancy and books & journals publishing as founder-partner of Inkpot in Kolkata (2003-2009), with a former journalist friend. She is happy grappling with the twists and turns of authors and manuscripts, particularly translations of indigenous writing from eastern and north-eastern India. Mohua lives in Delhi with her two children.

Naresh Khanna worked in the print industry in the U.S. and India till 1979, and since as a consultant to leading printers, publishers, and large international organizations in India, Bangladesh and Nepal. Active in the movement to use computers for Indian language typesetting since 1976, he founded Indian Printer and Publisher a trade monthly in April 1979 and Packaging South Asia, another monthly in 2007. He started IppStar in 2001 and researched and wrote its Indian Print Industry Survey in 2004. IppStar began a country-wide survey of the Indian book publishing industry in January 2014. Author of Miracle of Democracy in India, 1977, Interprint Publications, New Delhi.
Nicholson Baker is the author of ten novels and five works of nonfiction, including The Mezzanine, Vox, Human Smoke, and The Anthologist. He has received a National Book Critics Circle award, a Herman Hesse Prize, and the Katherine Anne Porter Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives with his family in Maine.

Nicolas Idier is the Head of the Book Office at the Institut Français en Inde since September 2014, after having held the same position in Beijing at the Embassy of France in China during the last four years. A specialist in history and a Doctor of the Université Paris-Sorbonne, Nicolas Idier is also a fiction and non-fiction author.

Niyam Bhushan is an independent media, publishing, and IT professional, as well as one of India’s leading designers. He has worked as a consultant with Adobe of Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, PageMaker, Xerox and Acrobat. Niyam has consulted with DK India, as also with Living Media for Scientific American as well as Prevention magazine. He is currently exploring how to adapt Pratham Books titles into digital formats including eBooks. He has been a Contributing Editor to Hindustan Times, Mint newspaper, Former Editor of PCWorld magazine, Editor-in-Chief and CEO of Chip magazine, and Contributing Editor to LinuxForYou magazine. He comes from a family background in publishing and writing.

Oliver Møystad is Senior Adviser in NORLA (Norwegian Literature Abroad), working with translation support and the promotion of Norwegian literature abroad. Before joining NORLA in 2008, Møystad has worked for many years in Norwegian publishing as an editor and as a literary agent. He also translates from English, German and Spanish. He has a degree in Business Administration and a BA in Humanities.

Prasoon Joshi is a National Award winning Indian songwriter, screenwriter and advertising copywriter. He has built mega brands, won the prestigious National Award twice, garnered glory at international awards, and has been Chairman of the Jury at Cannes as well as on the jury of the Dadasaheb Phalke award. His work– be it mainstream brands like Coca Cola or socially relevant campaigns like Malnutrition or writing for feature films like Taare Zameen Par, Rang De Basanti or the recent Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (for which he has written the story, screenplay, dialogue as well as lyrics)– finds a deep social and mass connect.

Rajiv Mehta is Amazon’s Country Manager of Kindle in India and is responsible for all aspects of the Kindle business across India. Prior to joining Amazon.com in November 2014, Rajiv Mehta was Senior Vice President of Samsung America where he was responsible for the entire pre- and post-sales Operations. Before joining Samsung, Rajiv Mehta worked as Vice President, B2B Sales and Business Development at Sears Home Services and held several positions at Motorola where he was last regional Director and Business Development for EMEA and Asia Pacific. Rajiv Mehta is a graduate of University of Florida – Warrington College of Business.

Ralph Möllers In 1986, Ralph became an editor for computer book publisher Markt & Technik in Munich. In 1988, he teamed up with Iris Bellinghausen to found Systhema Verlag, one of Germany’s first multimedia publishers. Möllers left the company and took over as head of the multimedia publisher Navigo. In 1997, he founded his third publishing house Terzio, which publishes innovative children’s media. Book2look is an online marketing tool that Möllers & Bellinghausen has developed in a joint venture with the Mumbai based WITS Interactive Pvt. Ltd. and that is now internationally distributed by Nielsen Book Data.

Renu Kaul Verma is the founder director of Vitasta Publishing Private Limited and specializes both in fiction and non-fiction. A former journalist, she has worked with major Indian dailies such as the Indian Express and the Hindustan Time. She also publishes a monthly newspaper focused on Indian publishing industry, called BOOK LINK and is associated with a literary e-journal called Earthen Lamp Journal. She has published best-sellers such as Narendra Modi The GameChanger, Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi: An inside job, Café Latte, Four Aleys, India’s Biggest Cover-up, No Secrets, Flight of Hilsa, From the streets of Kathmandu, No Country for Women, Brahmacharya Gandhi & His Women Associates, My God is a Woman, A Naxal Story, Shakti, Line of Control and Constitutional Controversies.

Renuka Chatterjee started out as a journalist with the Times of India in the late ‘80s, and helped launch The Saturday Times, the country’s first colour magazine weekend supplement. She switched to publishing in 1992 as Associate Editor with Penguin Books. After Penguin, she has been editor-in-chief of HarperCollins India and subsequently, Roli Books and Westland Ltd. In 2013 she started her own literary agency, The Boxwallah, for promoting quality fiction and non-fiction. She is currently Consulting Editor with Speaking Tiger.

Rick Simonson has worked at The Elliott Bay Book Company, an internationally recognized Seattle bookshop, since 1976. He is senior book buyer there and founded an author reading series that presents writers from around the world in 1984. He is on governing or advisory boards with Copper Canyon Press, the University of Washington Press, and Seagull Books. He has been a jury member for the DSC South Asian Literature Prize and the US’s National Book Award. He has spoken on bookselling and publishing at festivals and conferences in the U.S., Beijing, Sharjah, and Jaipur – which he has been attending since 2010.

Sandip Sen Writer, journalist Sandip Sen is the author of Neta Babu, Subsidy : Roundup 2000 to 2014 a book that charts the journey of the Indian economy during the last decade leading to the sharp fall of the Indian Rupee during the summer of 2013. He is currently an Editor at the 35-year old publication The Indian Printer and Publisher. A business analyst and energy sector specialist, he has been writing freelance for The Economic Times, The Financial Express and The Hindu Business Line. He also writes a risk management blog at ET named What happens if? and an environment blog Ecothrust at Blogspot and is also known by his Twitter handle @ecothrust.

Satti Khanna is Associate Professor at Duke University, USA, where he teaches Indian Cinema and Modern Hindi Literature. He has a special interest in the aesthetic experience induced by works of art. He interprets the lives and works of contemporary Indian writers through a series of documentary films and translations, of which the most recent is his translation of Vinod Kumar Shukla’s Khilega to Dekhenge (Once It Flowers, HarperCollins, 2014).

Dr Shantanu Ganguly, has served several reputed organizations in and around Delhi such as University of Delhi (DU), Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI), and National Productivity Council (NPC), Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Lucknow and TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute). He served as Academic Counselors to several institutions such as IGNOU, VMOU to develop their course modules. He also served as Associate Editors for several reputed national journals and newsletters. He is the Organising Secretary of the most prestigious International Conference on Digital Libraries (ICDL). He is also recipient of most prestigious awards – Bonnie Hilditch International Librarian Award for Science and Technology – 2010, conferred by Special Library Association, USA and Roll of Honour, and conferred by TERI for his outstanding contribution in the profession.

Shona Martyn has been the Publishing Director of HarperCollins Australia and New Zealand for 15 years. She previously worked for Random House and Transworld Publishers. Shona started her working life as a newspaper journalist and was the winner of the Journalist of the Year award in her native New Zealand before working in the UK and Australia. She was subsequently the Arts Editor of Vogue Australia, the editor of Good Weekend and the founding editor of HQ magazine before her move to book publishing. In her role at HarperCollins, she oversees all adult fiction and non-fiction publishing.

Sirish Rao is a writer, festival producer and publishing professional. He is the Co-Founder and Artistic Director of the annual Indian Summer Festival in Vancouver, an omnivorous festival of arts, culture and ideas. Sirish has authored twenty books, from commentaries on popular culture to children’s books, to retellings of Greek plays for the Paul Getty Museum. His books have been translated into seventeen languages and won several international awards. Sirish is the former Director of the award-winning Tara Books and is currently an Adjunct Professor in the Publishing Department at Simon Fraser University where he teaches a course in international publishing.

Shubhada Rao is the Chief Economist at YES BANK. Shubhada brings with her over 25 years of experience in academia and industry wherein she has pioneered research design geared to facilitate business decisions. Shubhada has also worked with Kotak Institutional Equities, Bank of Baroda, CRISIL Advisory Services and Times Bank. Shubhada is an active member of the Economics Committees of Industry Associations and is a member of CII National Economic Policy Council, New Delhi, Co-Chair of Economics Committee at ASSOCHAM and a member of the Monetary Policy Group – Indian Banks’ Association (IBA). She had also served as Chairman of Economics Committee of Bombay Chamber of Commerce & Industry between 2009-11

Terri-Ann White has spent her working life around books and ideas: as a bookseller, writer, teacher and workshop presenter, editor, festival organizer and now publisher. The one driving constant is her passion for the unique voice in writing, and the preparedness to be evangelical in its promotion. She is currently Director of UWA Publishing in Perth, Western Australia.

Urvashi Butalia is the founder and CEO at Zubaan books. She co-founded Kali for Women in 1984 and Zubaan in 2003. Along with over 35 years of experience in feminist and independent publishing, she also has several works to her credit, key among which is her path-breaking study of Partition, The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India which won several awards. She has also taught publishing for over 20 years and is on the advisory boards of a number of national and international organisations. She has received awards such as the Pandora award for women’s publishing, the French Chevalier des Artes et des Lettres, the Nikkei Asia Award for Culture and the Padma Shree, the highest civilian honour awarded by the Indian government.

Ute Reimer-Boehner has been working at the Goethe-Institut across the globe since 17 years. Currently she is the director of Information and Library Services South Asia at the Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan. Goethe-Institut organises and promotes a wide spectrum of cultural events with the aim of presenting German culture. The department of library and information services cooperates with institutions, publishing houses and libraries in India and fosters the translation of German literature as well as the professional exchange with Germany.

Dr Venu Vasudevan is currently serving as the Director General of National Museum and Vice Chancellor of National Museum Institute, under the Ministry of Culture. Till recently, he was also Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Culture. In his brief tenure in the National Museum, Dr Venu, has been instrumental in reviving the Museum. Under his leadership, galleries have reopened, displays have improved and facilities upgraded. He has also played a key role in designing and rolling out the ‘Incredible India’ campaign. He played a key role in organising the Kochi Biennale, an international art event. He is active in theatre, and performs with his group ‘ Abhinaya’.

Vera Michalski-Hoffmann Born in Basel, Switzerland, in a family with Swiss, Russian and Austrian roots, Vera spent her childhood in France, studied in Spain and has a degree in Political science from the Graduate institute of International Studies in Geneva. She established the Jan Michalski (named after her late husband) foundation for Literature and Writing to actively support literary activities in different countries. She is now the publisher of the Libella group that comprises the following imprints: In France : Buchet/Chastel, Phébus, Le temps apprivoisé, les Cahiers dessinés, Libretto. In Switzerland : Noir sur Blanc, with a new line called Notabilia, Editions Favre. And in Poland: Oficyna Literacka Noir sur Blanc.

Vishal Anand is Chief Product Officer at NewsHunt. His career spans between US, Japan and India where he has led product & engineering teams that have shipped large-scale consumer software products. He currently heads NewsHunt, and derives happiness in bringing never before available Indian literature in hands Indian mobile users.

Wendy Were After running three successful writers’ festivals at the Perth International Arts Festival, Wendy was the Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Sydney Writers’ Festival. She has also been a Business Advisor with the Creative Industries Innovation Centre and the CEO at the iconic West Australian Music (WAM. The Sydney Morning Herald listed Wendy in the top 100 of the most influential people in Sydney in 2008. In 2009 she was listed in Artshub’s top 15 arts power players in Australia. Wendy is a member of the WA regional arts panel for the Churchill Fellowship; a Council Member of Voiceless, the animal protection institute; and a patron of the Fairbridge Folk Festival.

“Idris” by Anita Nair, book review ( 6 December 2014, The Hindu)

Idris( My review of Anita Nair’s Idris was published in the online edition of the Hindu Literary Review on 6 December 2014. Here is the url: http://www.thehindu.com/features/lit-for-life/journeys-galore/article6667608.ece . It will be published in the print edition on 7 December 2014. This novel has been shortlisted for the Hindu Lit Awards 2014 as well. The winner will be announced in January 2015.)

He knew the folly of having friends. Friendship was a responsibility; it demanded making an effort to nurture relations and never asking why. It meant expectations and subsequent disappointments. A lone traveller needed no friends; what he needed to cultivate were acquaintances. (p.21)

Idris Maymoon Samataar Guleed is from Dikhil, a small place between Abyssinia and Somalia. He is a middleman who facilitates trade in anything — textiles, camels, spices, pearls, diamonds — but draws the line at the lucrative business of slaves. He arrives in Kozhikode, on the Malabar Coast, on the persuasion of a Yemeni merchant to attend the biggest cattle fair in the world—Vaniamkulam chanda. He gets separated from the Yemeni group and decides to wait the night out by a pond in a home. As it happens, it belongs to a Nair. He meets Kuttimalu, mother of his son, Vattoli Kandavar Menavan. When the boy is born, the midwife reminds the family the infant is the image of Kuttimalu’s grandfather. Otherwise Kandavar — who was as black as the night like his father — and his mother are in danger of losing their caste and being excommunicated.

Ten years later, in 1659, Idris returns to Kozhikode to witness the Mamangam festival at Thirunavaya. At the Mamangam, the Chaver Pada or Suicide Squad wants to ambush the bodyguards of Aswathi Thirunal, the new Zamorin. Unknown to the Chavers, Kandavar is following them since he wants to join them since he is eager to participate like his older cousin, Kesavan, a Chaver and trained at Kalari. Idris spots the boy hiding behind a tree and prevents him from proceeding further. He realises that Kandavar is his son andwhisks him away from the place, but not before they witness Kesavan (Kandavar’s cousin) being dismembered. Discovering he has a son Idris readily accepts Chandu Nair’s offer to be their guest and show Kandavar “how to think of other things, rather than grooming himself for certain death 12years from now”.

Idris takes his son under his wing. At Nair’s behest, Idris enrolls Kandavar in a different Chaver to the one the family traditionally went to—to prevent his head from being filled with “stuffed with nonsense like honour and pride in death”. But Idris gets restless and wants to proceed with his voyage. Persuaded by the Nair clan, he takes his son along too. They travel to Serendippo, contemplate trading in silk since the Dutch pay a good price for it, go pearl diving at Tharangambadi, but the ultimate aim is to reach Golconda diamond mines. Idris is curious about the “stones that turned men into hyenas…ready to lie and betray; worse, to kill and plunder”. It takes them over a year to travel and explore before returning home to Kozhikode.

In Keeper of the Light, the first of a trilogy, the recurring themes of Anita Nair’s fiction —gender and caste — are explored once more with competence. The rigid caste structures are challenged by the existence of the “family” of Idris, Kuttimalu and Kandavar. The objectification and identity of a woman in relation to the presence of a man in their life, even in Kerala’s matriarchal society, are challenged in the story, leave a powerful impression. The four women —Kuttimalu, Margarida (a child prostitute), Madinat al-Yasmin (a widow) and Thilothamma (a wealthy farmer) — are all seen briefly, usually as Idris’s lovers, yet they are strong and independent women. As Thilothama says “Women should be like trees. Growing towards the light, shaped by the wind…” Even Kuttimalu’s Brahmin teacher “… didn’t think education was to be decided by gender; it was the mind that he sought to fill.” A sentiment that echoes Anita Nair’s firm belief in promoting literacy irrespective of gender, as exemplified in her officiating as a guru at a Vidyarambham ceremony at Bangalore on Vijayadasami day.

Literary fiction can be challenging to read. Its complexity comes from the sophisticated, layered, and nuanced writing. In Idris, the reader’s patience is tested as one has to grapple with a bewildering storyline in the opening pages, not made any easier by the liberal sprinkling of Malayalam words. Also some issues such as the rivalry between the Zamorin and Chavers is never explained. Yet Idris is a pleasure to read.

Anita Nair Idris: Keeper of the Light Fourth Estate, HarperCollins, Hb. Rs. 599.

6 December 2014

Modern day travelogues

Modern day travelogues

Punjabi ParmesanTravel writing has always had a special place in literature. Readers have been fascinated by stories of other places, cultures, people. In the past it was understandable when there were text-heavy descriptions of people, dresses, cities, architecture, food, vegetation and terrain. But today? To read modern-day travelogues when it is the “image age”, the most popular news feeds on social media platforms are photographs. It is akin to being immersed in a National Geographic-like environment 24×7. There are websites such as Flickr, Pinterest, Mashable, Tumblr, and YouTube, wonderful repositories of images and movie clips uploaded by institutions, media firms and individuals. So to read three books — Pallavi Aiyar’s Punjabi Parmesan: Dispatches from Europe in Crisis, Rana Dasgupta’s Capital: A Portrait of Twenty-First Century Delhi and Sam Miller’s A Strange Kind of Paradise: India Through Foreign Eyes — was an intriguing experience. Except for Sam Miller’s book that is peppered with black and white images laid within the text, the other two books are straightforward narratives. I would deem them as travelogues written in the “classical tradition” of relying solely upon the narrator/author taking the reader along a personal journey through a country/city different to the land of their birth. They make for a sharp perspective, intelligent analysis and just a sufficient mish-mash of history with a commentary on current social, political and economic developments, without really becoming dry anthropological studies. The writing style in all three books is lucid and easy.

Pallavi Aiyar’s Punjabi Parmesan is a fascinating account of her travels through Europe from 2009 onward–at a time of economic gloom. It is part-memoir, part-journalism and part-analysis ( mostly economic) of what plagues Europe. It has anecdotes, plenty of statistics and footnotes, accounts of the meetings, conferences she was able to attend as journalist and have conversations with influential policy makers and politicians. After spending a few years in Beijing she moved to Brussels, so is able to draw astute observations about the decline in Europe. Having been a foreign correspondent for over a decade, reporting from China, Europe and South East Asia, mostly on business stories from the “frontline” of action, she has an insightful understanding of the depressing scenario in Europe. It is a book worth reading.

Rana Dasgupta, CapitalRana Dasgupta’s Capital is about Delhi, the capital of India. Delhi has been settled for centuries, but became the capital of British India in 1911. The first wave of migrants who formed the character of modern Delhi came soon after the country became Independent in 1947. Over the years Delhi grew but at a moderately slow pace. Twenty years after post-liberalisation ( 1991), Delhi transformed so rapidly that the old world, old rhythms and culture became quietly invisible. Delhi continued to be a melting pot of immigrants. It became a city synonymous with wealth, material goods, luxury and uncivil behaviour, bordering on crassness. It is a city of networking and networked individuals. Rana Dasgupta’s book is a meander through the city. He meets a lot of people — the nouveau riche, the first wave of migrant settlers post-1947, members of the old city families who bemoan the decline of tehzeeb in the city. Capital is a commentary on Delhi of the twenty-first century, a city that is unrecognisable to the many who have been born and brought up here. Rana Dasgupta moved to the city recently — over a decade ago–but this brings a clarity to his narrative that a Delhiwallah may or may not agree with. It certainly is a narrative that will resonate with many across the globe since this is the version many want to hear — the new vibrant India, Shining India, the India where the good days ( “acche din”) are apparent. There is “prosperity”, clean broad streets, everything and anything can be had at the right price here. It is a perspective. Unfortunately the complexity of Delhi, the layers it has, the co-existence of poor and rich, the stories that the middle classes have to share are impossible to encapsulate in a book of 400-odd pages. It is a readable book that captures a moment in the city’s long history. It will be remembered, discussed, critiqued, and will remain for a long time to come in the literature associated with Delhi. (The cover design by Aditya Pande is stupendous! )

Sam Miller A Strange Kind of Paradise by Sam Miller is a gentle walk through the history of India, mostly written as a memoir. William Dalrymple’s blurb for the book is apt —a “love letter to India”. When India was celebrating its fiftieth year of Independence there was a deluge of books and anthologies reflecting, discussing the history of India. To read Sam Miller’s book is to get a delightful and idiosyncratic understanding of this large landmass known as India, a puzzle few have been able to fathom. The author is not perturbed by doing a history of the things he truly likes about the country or that he has been intrigued by conversations he probably had. To his credit he has done the legwork as expected of a professional journalist and discovered people, regions, histories, spaces, cities for himself. For instance he states he is an “aficionado of cemetries and of tombs”, but discovered “many Indian are scared of cemetries — except when they house the tombs of ancient emperors and their consorts. They often find my desire to visit graveyards a little strange, as if I were a necrophile or had a perverse desire to disturb the ghosts of the dead.”( p.232) A fascinating observation since it is true — cemeteries are strangely peaceful oasis of calm. If you say that out aloud in India, people will look at you in a strange manner.

Anjan Sundaram, CongoModern-day travelogues are many, available in print and digital. Two recent examples stand out. Anjan Sundaram’s Stringer: A Reporter’s Journey into Congo about his time in the African country. Fabulous stuff! Very reminiscent of Joseph Conrad’s writing ( especially his diaries) written in Africa. And the other is a recent essay that physicist and well-known speculative fiction writer, Vandana Singh wrote on her blog, “Alternate Visions: Some Musings on Diversity in SF” ( http://vandanasingh.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/alternate-visions-some-musings-on-diversity-in-sf/ ). It is a long and brilliant essay about her writing but also a though-provoking musing about diversity, different cultural experiences and writing — elements that are at the core of travel writing, have always been and continue to be.

6 July 2014 

Pallavi Aiyar Punjabi Parmesan: Dispatches from a Europe in Crisis Hamish Hamilton, an imprint of Penguin Books, New Delhi, 2013. Hb. pp. 320 Rs. 599

Rana Dasgupta Capital: A Portrait of Twenty-First Century Delhi Fourth Estate, an imprint of HarperCollins, New Delhi, 2014. Hb. pp. 460 Rs. 799

Sam Miller A Strange Kind of Paradise: India Through Foreign Eyes Hamish Hamilton, an imprint of Penguin Books, New Delhi, 2014. Hb. pp. 430 Rs. 599 

Literati – “A look at the world of books, publishing and writers” ( 2 June 2014)

Literati – “A look at the world of books, publishing and writers” ( 2 June 2014)

Jaya Bhattacharji Rose My monthly column, Literati, in the Hindu Literary Review was published online ( 31 May 2014) and in print ( 1 June 2014). Here is the url http://www.thehindu.com/books/literary-review/literati/article6069748.ece?textsize=small&test=2 . I am also c&p the text below. 

In translation

I am reading a terrific cluster of books — Rakhshanda Jalil’s A Literary History of the Progressive Writer’s Movement in Urdu (OUP); A Rebel and her Cause: The life of Dr Rashid Jahan, (Women Unlimited); and two simultaneous publications of the English translation of Angaarey — nine stories and a play put together in Urdu by Sajjad Zahir in 1932 (Rupa Publications and Penguin Books). Angaarey includes contributions by PWM members such as Ahmed Ali, Rashid Jahan and Mahmuduzzafar. As Nadira Babbar, Sajjad Zahir’s daughter says in her introduction to the Rupa edition: “The young group of writers of Angaarey challenged not just social orthodoxy but also traditional literary narratives and techniques. In an attempt to represent the individual mind and its struggle, they ushered in the narrative technique known as the stream of consciousness which was then new to the contemporary literary scene and continues to be significant in literature even today. …they saw art as a means of social reform.” She says that her father did not consider the writing of Angaarey and the subsequent problems they faced as any kind of hardship or sacrifice; rather “it provided them with the opportunity of expressing truths simply felt and clearly articulated.” It is curious that at a time when publishers worry about the future of the industry, there are two translations of the same book from two different publishers.

Translations are a way to discover a new socio-cultural and literary landscape. Last month, the English translation of Joel Dicker’s debut novel The Harry Quebert Affair (MacLehose Press), which has created one of the biggest stirs in publishing, was released. A gripping thriller, originally in French, it has sold over two million copies in other languages. A look at some other notable translations published recently:

Mikhail Shashkin’s disturbing but very readable Maidenhair (Open Letter), translated from Russian by Marian Schwartz, about asylum-seekers in Switzerland.

Juan Pablo Villalobos’s Quesadillas (And Other Stories) translated from Spanish by Rosalind Harvey is about 1980s Mexico.

Roberto Bolano’s The Insufferable Gaucho (Picador), a collection of short stories, translated from Spanish by Chris Andrews.

There is a range of European writers to be discovered in English translation on the Seagull Books list, Indian regional language writers from Sahitya Akademi, NBT, Penguin Books India, OUP, HarperCollins, Zubaan, Hachette, Navayana, Stree Samya, and Yatra Books.

Oxford University Press’s Indian Writing programme and the Oxford Novellas series are broader in their scope including works translated from Dogri and Konkani and looking at scripts from Bhili and Tulu.

Translations allow writers of the original language to be comfortable in their own idiom, socio-political milieu without carrying the baggage of other literary discourses. Translated literature is of interest to scholars for its cultural and literary value and, as Mini Krishnan, Series Editor, Oxford Novellas, writes, “the distinctive way they carry the memories and histories of those who use them”. Making the rich content available is what takes precedence. Within this context, debates about the ethics of publishing a translation such as J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1926 prose translation of Beowulf (HarperCollins), 88 years later, seem to be largely ignored though Tolkein described it as being “hardly to my liking”.

***

Linguistic maps available at http://www.muturzikin.com/ show the vast number of languages that exist apart from English. In the seven states of northeast of India alone there are 42 documented languages. Reports such as http://w3techs.com/technologies/overview/content_language/ all indicate that content languages (all though with strong literary traditions) such as Hindi, Marathi, Sanskrit, Punjabi and even Irish are used by less than one per cent of websites. Google India estimates that the next 300 million users from India won’t use English. It isn’t surprising then to discover that Google announced the acquisition of Word Lens, an app which can translate a number of different languages in real time. For now users can translate between English and Portuguese, German, Italian, French, Russian, and Spanish. Indian languages may be underrepresented on the Internet but, with digital media support and the rapid acceptance of unicode, an encoding which supports Indic fonts, translations will become easier. Soon apps such as Word Lens may expand to include other languages, probably even circumventing the need of publishers to translate texts.

Child sexuality

Child sexuality

Dark Room, Pankaj Butalia“A discussion of childhood sexuality is further complicated by our definitions of the very term, childhood. When does it end? Is a sixteen-year-old a child? The contemporary world brackets adolescence within childhood rather than as a phase of preparation for adulthood. By attaching adolescence to childhood we absorb into childhood a time which is sexually potent and where sexual energies are more overtly manifested, setting up a disciplinary framework shaped by a specific ordering of our social codes. Contrast this, for example, with the sexual practices of many tribal communities, which build into their social and celebratory practices a way of recognising and sanctioning sexuality among the young.” p. xxx, “Introduction” by Dr Shalini Advani, Dark Room

Dr Advani, in her powerful introduction, “Childhood Sexuality: History, Memory, Mythology” to Pankaj Butalia’s Dark Room: Child Sexuality in India dwells upon the silences that govern sexuality in children. All though research shows that children as young as four year olds are curious about their bodies. In fact in an essay published by Lauren A., discussing her experiences as an undergraduate student who is also a sex-worker, mentions that “when I was 5 years old and beginning to discover the wonders of my body, my mother, completely horrified.” ( http://m.xojane.com/sex/duke-university-freshman-porn-star?utm_medium=facebook ) At least Lauren A. is truthful about her experience. In 2010, Tehelka published an article about sexuality amongst urban schoolchildren. http://www.tehelka.com/sex-lies-homework/

Pankaj Butalia’s Dark Room: Child Sexuality in India is one of the first publications of its kind in India that hopes to open this conversation outside of the specialized, academic circles. It needs to be discussed, work has to be done in the family domain since most of the perpetrators of child sexual abuse are known to the victim and inevitably related. This collection of eleven stories, he says, “is a modest effort to put together intimate accounts of sexual episodes from childhood”. But he does recognise that ” For adults, it is …a delicate balance that has to be negotiated. On one hand, parents need to give their children space and not inhibit the natural progression they need to make in the development of their sexuality. On the other hand, they need to be extremely careful that their children do not transcend boundaries of what could be called age-appropriate behaviour.” It is a courageous attempt to put this volume together since many of the people interviewed preferred to remain anonymous; yet it is a book to be read.

The Bad TouchThere are many stories about children and sexuality, most of the time it is focused upon child sexual abuse. There are many CSA (Child Sexual Abuse) survivors who are beginning to write and share their experiences. Organisations like RAHI (Recovering and Healing from Incest), based in New Delhi, are doing phenomenal work in this area. Payal Shah Karwa has recently published a collection of true stories called The Bad Touch that includes contributions from Harish Iyer and filmmaker Anurag Kashayap.  Everyone else chose to write under pseudonyms. It is a disturbing and traumatic book to read. There is an incredible amount of pain shared. What horrifies one is the manner in which children are preyed upon and sexually abused. Recently Woody Allen and Mia Farrow’s daughter, wrote an open letter about the sexual abuse she had suffered as a young child. http://kristof.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/02/01/an-open-letter-from-dylan-farrow/?module=BlogPost-Title&version=Blog%20Main&contentCollection=Opinion&action=Click&pgtype=Blogs&region=Body . There will be innumerable stories like these, but it is crucial that they are shared. It is the creation of common pool of knowledge and awareness. 

A couple of years ago NDTV had a programme on CSA. It was a brilliant conversation on the topic of CSA. More importantly it focused upon boys and girls, otherwise much of the conversation seems to focus upon girls. Whereas boys are equally vulnerable. Unfortunately I am unable to locate the link to it.

Last year too, a short clip on CSA went viral on Facebook. It was brilliantly made. Once again I am unable to locate the link.

Let's Talk About SexMany times the best way to teach children about sexuality and help them in protecting themselves is via literature. Walker Books has three titles, classified according to age ( 4+, 7+ and 10+) called Let’s Talk About Sex. These are useful introductions to children and even an excellent guide for parents/educators in giving the child sufficient information appropriate for their age.  Years ago, I also read a lovely picture book by Sohaila Abdulali on good touch and bad touch. Unfortunately it is not available in print. Otherwise it would be a wonderful resource tool to have. Finally, Ponytale Books published Lighthouse in the Storm, a collection of 24 stories written by members of the AWIC Book Therapy Project. In it there is a story by Ken Spillman, ” A bubble of shared knowing”, a chilling story about sexual abuse.Lighthouse in the Storm

Pankaj Butalia Dark Room :Child Sexuality in India HarperCollins Publishers India, New Delhi, 2013. Pb. pp. 180 Rs. 350

Payal Shah Karwa The Bad Touch Hay House India, New Delhi, 2014. Pb. pp. 208 Rs. 299.

Lighthouse in the Storm AWIC, Ponytale Books, New Delhi, 2012. Pb.pp. 230 Rs. 225

24 Feb 2014 

PubSpeak, “Rules Of Publishing: Be On The Move”There has to be serendipity in publishing. It is the smarter way of keeping the ecosystem alive,

PubSpeak, “Rules Of Publishing: Be On The Move”There has to be serendipity in publishing. It is the smarter way of keeping the ecosystem alive,

Jaya Bhattacharji Rose ( The latest edition of my column, PubSpeak, has been uploaded on BusinessWorld online today. The link is http://www.businessworld.in/news/economy/rules-of-publishing-be-on-the-move/1246485/page-1.html. I am also c&p the text below. )

Bloomberg journalist Brad Stone’s ‘The Everything Store’ is about Jeff Bezos and his baby, Amazon. After the book was published, Bezos distanced himself from the book. Significantly his wife, MacKenzie Bezos, gave the book a one-star rating on Amazon saying it contains “numerous factual inaccuracies” and is “full of techniques which stretch the boundaries of non-fiction”. The book is based on a number of interviews that Stone conducted with Bezos, his staff and ex-colleagues to get a sense of the firm. What is very clear after reading the book is that Amazon is significant because it has the advantage of being a first mover, it is a game-changer, certainly for publishing.

There are three points worth considering:

1. Bezos was the first to exploit the potential of the internet and collaborate with start ups with new ideas. For instance, his acquisition of a firm that specialised in digital books, with the .mobi format, resulted in his insistence on making the files uploaded on Kindle to be DRM protected.

2. He knew that sales ranks would be like a drug to authors, so he insisted that it change whenever a new order came in: thus influencing the gradual shift in publishing houses laying more emphasis on marketing and promotional activities than on editing and commissioning. (Whereas it cannot be an either/or situation, it has to be a combination.)

3. Finally Bezos’s famous analogy of comparison that publishing firms are like gazelles and Amazon is a cheetah. This belief was integral to his strategy in agency pricing. He had to persuade publishers to give him the digital files to the books they published. (It required time since many publishers discovered that they did not have the rights to the digital formats from the authors.) He was convinced marking the books at such a low price was rational since there were no printing and warehousing costs involved — a misconception that has come to be associated with the entire system of publishing. But Amazon is able to achieve much of this due to the ‘technological moat’ it has dug for itself, that is, of low margins. It ensures that with the creative vision Bezos and his team have they are able to expand their business into uncharted domains, effectively keeping competition out.

At BookMark, the B2B space for publishing professionals at the Jaipur Literature Festival there were a number of fascinating conversations about the business. Most significantly the resistance in original publishing to digital and the disruption it would cause in the publishing ecosystem was no longer making news. The presence of technology to facilitate, produce and disseminate books is now an accepted norm. It is here to stay. It was interesting to see how the industry was responding to the rapid changes taking place in the environment, necessitating a rapid pace of evolution by adapting and adopting new methods.

Take Penguin Random House CEO John Makinson’s comment at the event, for instance. The coming together of Penguin and Random House was a “strategically delivered merger” since it was the only combination that changed the game, said Makinson. He was confident that the industry would consolidate itself in a bit of time. At a time when the global industry is reeling from the massive presence of Amazon, the formation of Penguin Random House catapults it to the first position with 25 per cent share of the global market. In October 2013, Jüergen Boos, Director, Frankfurt Book Fair, at the opening of the fair, warned that companies like Amazon, Apple and Google were “logistics magicians but are not publishers”. It stands to reason since online recommendations are purchase based and not behavioural. It does not tell you what people want to read since much of the online purchases are for gifts.

There has to be serendipity in publishing. It is the smarter way of keeping the ecosystem alive, creating newer readers and shifting away slightly from being only a writer’s space.

The overwhelming presence of Amazon, Google, and the iBook store of Apple and closer to home, Flipkart, has resulted in the “disturbing dominance of content” as John Makinson put it. It is inevitable that online retail platforms will require large volumes to remain sustainable. They are not discerning and curate content as booksellers are known to do with their stocks. So, it is fairly common to find on these websites second hand, and out-of-print books, or those titles that belong to backlists but are not readily available. In fact, Paul Yamazaki of City Light Booksellers and this year jury member, DSC South Asian Literature prize  is clear that he will retain titles on his shelves that are worth recommending, not necessary that it is the latest title creating waves in the media. City Light Books, is a landmark independent bookstore and publisher that specialises in world literature, the arts, and progressive politics. It was established by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin and synonymous with the ‘beatniks’.

Of late, publishers have been a worried lot since their traditional forms of publishing are not giving them the benefits they have been used to; in addition the sales of ebooks have plateaued, falling far short of the forecasts. The reliance on frontlists is making publishers an anxious lot since author brands only work for a limited time and within a given framework. For instance, commercial fiction authors are a brand unto themselves, a specific market who only read the specific author, but do not guarantee sales with every title. Ever since publishing houses were established they relied on a formula of 80:20 where 20 per cent was reserved for experimentation or the mid-lists, to discover and nurture new writers, which sometimes became the bedrock of the future for the firm. This is now happening less and less. Instead it is easier to offer authors a contract once they have proven themselves in the market. Many new voices are being discovered via the self-publishing route and traditional firms recognising the business potential of this are offering self-publishing services. This is in trade publishing. But even in academic publishing, technological advances and the presence of agents such as Apple, Google and Amazon have had an impact. For instance, material in a digital form for classroom and assisted teaching, teacher resource material and even the rent-a-textbook model, like Coursemart, have proved to be successful.

Among some of the other responses to the changing environment were that established businesses know the only way forward is to recognise that their expertise is limited; collaborations with new ideas or new startups is the only way to keep the business afloat; exploring a subscription service to deliver books/content to users/customers as indicated by the tie-up between Scribd and HarperCollins; looking to create a market beyond English-language readers (since it is a limited market), moving beyond viewing English as a functional, operational and legal language, translating content and creating a base of readers in the mother tongues to increase readership. The fact is that when markets are volatile and competing forces are at play and with 40 per cent of the population online it is not easy to forecast what will happen in the near future, save that a certain amount of realignments will happen through mergers and acquisitions, new systems will evolve and it will be survival of the fittest — big or small, who knows for now!

6 Feb 2014 

On translations in India, 2013. Published in DNA, 20 Dec 2013

On translations in India, 2013. Published in DNA, 20 Dec 2013

DNA, translations(My article on translations in 2013, trends and changes has been published this morning in DNA, 20 Dec 2013. I cannot find the link online but here is a clipping of it sent via email to me.  I am also c&p the text below. )

Cobalt Blue2013 was a positive year for publishing, certainly for translations that were visible. Translations were on the DSC Prize South Asian Literature 2014 shortlist that mainly focuses on general fiction in English, not in a separate category— Anand’s Book of Destruction (Translated from Malayalam by Chetana Sachidanandan) and Benyamin’s Goat Days (Translated from Malayalam by Joseph Koyippalli). Other translations that left an impression upon literary conversations of the year are — Shamsur Rahman’s The Mirror of Beauty ( translated from Urdu by the author); Habib Tanvir’s Memoir ( translated by Mahmood Farooqui); Sunanda Sankar’s A Life Long Ago ( translated from Bengali by Anchita Ghatak) and Sachin Kundalkar’s Cobalt Blue (translated from Marathi by Jerry Pinto); Ajay Navaria’s Unclaimed Terrain (Translated from Hindi by Laura Brueck); Uday Prakash’s The Walls of Delhi (translated from Hindi by Jason Grunebaum); Syed Rafiq Husain’s The Mirror of Wonders ( translated from Urdu by Saleem Kidwai); Malarvan’s War Journey: Diary of a Tamil Tiger ( translated by M Malathy); Mohinder Singh Sarna’s Savage Harvest: Stories of Partition ( translated from Punjabi by Navtej Sarna); Prabha Khaitan A Life Apart ( translated from Hindi by Ira Pande) and an anthology of New Urdu Writings: From India & Pakistan ( edited by Rakhshanda Jalil). In fact Penguin India’s best fiction title for the year was The Mirror of Beauty, according to Managing Editor, Sivapriya. She adds, “At Penguin we are developing a focused translations list that spans contemporary texts and modern classics and older classics.”

HarperCollins has an imprint dedicated to translations from Indian literature—Harper Perennial. Minakshi Thakur, Sr. Commissioning Editor says that “The translation market grew marginally in terms of value in 2013, but in terms of numbers it grew considerably. Harper did 10 translations as opposed to the 5 or 6 we were doing every year until 2012, from 2014 we’ll do about 12 titles every year.” Kannan Sundaram, Publisher, Kalachuvadu “Translations from Indian languages to English, from one Indian language to others and from world languages to Indian languages is definitely on the rise. Personally I have sold more translation rights and published more translations this year than before. Good Indian language authors are in demand like never before.” This assessment is corroborated by Aditi Maheshwari, Publisher, Vani Prakashan who says that “When we decided to do translations some twenty years ago, it was a very new phenomenon. We did translations from English to Hindi, Indian languages to Hindi and international languages to Hindi (without English as a medium).”

Another interesting aspect of translations too has successful publishing collaborations like that of making short fiction by Ayfer Tunc, Turkish writer and editor of Orhan Pamuk, The Aziz Bey Incident and other stories. It has been translated into Tamil and Hindi, but the English edition of this book is not available in India, all though it was released at the London Book Fair 2013. According to Thomas Abraham, CEO, Hachette, “the books sell well enough without being blockbusters —they were conceived with mid- range sales of 3k-5k like all translations are, and most of the time they tend to deliver that.”

“Keeping The Word”, PubSpeak, Dec 2013

“Keeping The Word”, PubSpeak, Dec 2013

( PubSpeak in December 2013 is about trust deficit. It has been published originally in BusinessWorld online. Here is the url: http://www.businessworld.in/news/books/columns/keeping-the-word/1175440/page-1.html I am also c&p the text below. 4 Dec 2013
PubSpeak, Jaya

Publishing industry too has its share of tales where people have not honoured their word or fulfilled contracts. Jaya Bhattacharji Rose writes of ways to prevent these

Some time ago, I received a message on Facebook from a distraught illustrator. The illustrator had been commissioned by a prominent publishing house to create paintings for a book cover design of a forthcoming young adult novel. The cover had been through three draft designs and had been approved by everyone including the author. At the final stage, some design changes were asked for. The illustrator was not happy. Nevertheless, in complete faith, the illustrator decided to submit high resolution files of the altered paintings since the project was nearing completion. But the relationship came apart (and legal recourse had to be taken to) because the art director of the publishing house refused to honour the contract, withholding part of the payment due on the grounds that the design had been created inhouse. But there is barely any difference other than the shade of colour and the size of the images if you compare the designs submitted by the illustrator with those that were done inhouse. Since then, the first illustrator has refused to work with the publisher.

Twenty years after the publication of ‘A Suitable Boy’, fans of Vikram Seth were waiting in anticipation for the sequel – A Suitable Girl. Unfortunately Seth did not deliver the manuscript in time to Hamish Hamilton. Soon after the merger of Penguin Books and Random House was official in July 2013, this book was one of the earliest casualties. The author was asked by the publishers to return the $1.7 million advance for a two-book deal, including the paperback rights of ‘A Suitable Boy’, bought off Orion publishing. According to media reports the new group — Penguin Random House — is expected to cut costs as it tries to compete better with new forms of publishing and competition from online rivals such as Amazon. Fortunately for the author, his original publisher Orion, stepped in and is committed to publishing A Suitable Girl in Autumn 2016.

Disturbing Trend
The world of publishing is full of such stories — some tamer than others. People yearning to be published, some having been published, some selling better than others, some getting noticed critically more than the others, many satisfied with what they have achieved, yet there is a constant subterranean rumble of unpleasant anecdotes. Many of the stories, often open knowledge to ‘those in the know’, deal with plagiarism, contracts not being honoured, copyright violations, disappointment about advances, dissatisfaction about contracts drawn or negotiations about rights hitting nasty patches, sales and marketing executives not fulfilling orders, bookstores not adequately stocked, at times even missing titles that have been shortlisted for literary prizes.A popular topic of conversation is the efficiency of vendor management systems and authors stealing ideas from each other. The stories are about professional relationships being affected, relationships that are forged, nurtured and sustained by humans. These, in turn, affect the commissioning potential of editors and the formation and evolution of lists and imprints, the emergence of new ideas and creative collaborations and more importantly the growth of the business of publishing.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, to “publish” is defined as “prepare and issue (a book, journal or piece of music) for public sale. Print in a book or journal so as to make generally known.” A “publisher” is a company or person that prepares and issues books, journals, or music for sale. In traditional forms of publishing, that is, the printed form, specialist knowledge of the processes involved including sales, marketing and distribution was essential. Many of the books published were and are inevitably born out of a conversation (or a “gentleman’s agreement”) that a commissioning editor has with the author (or the content creator, as the ‘author’ could even be another publisher or an organisation, and not necessarily an individual). It is after a series of negotiations based on trust that the business details of the arrangement are thrashed out and subsequently enshrined in a written and signed contract. These are then preserved and referred to for the time that the firm has the license to publish the book(s).

For many authors/illustrators this is a smooth process and continues to be so. From the moment authors are signed on, they begin to be a little more aware of their rights, wanting clarity on the royalty statements, visibility and easy availability of the book in all formats and kinds of stores. Publishers too want professionalism from the content creator and other collaborators on the project. Similarly bookstore owners/online retailers/customers want quick fulfillment of their orders. Readers want satisfaction from the books that they read.

So, What Next?
Every October, publishers from around the world flock to the publishers’ mecca, the Frankfurt Book Fair, for a week of intense conversations and meetings. This time the news emerging from the Frankfurt was about the most innovative and viable method of connecting books with readers, these were mostly reserved for the digital domain. Some examples of digital-only imprints are HarperCollins India’sHarper21; Italy’s RCS Libri’s Rizzoli Lab, dedicated to experiments in digital; Indireads presenting modern South Asian literature in digital friendly formats.; HarperCollins established HarperTeen Impulse; Random House launched Loveswept, Hydra, Alibi, and Flirt; Harlequin has Carina Press and Bloomsbury has Bloomsbury Spark.

Another tactic is to create blogs on publishers’ websites where most host curators prefer to focus only on their books and authors. The Melville House publishing house’s blog has to be one of the richest in its generosity of sharing accounts, stories and opinions related to books and not necessarily confined to its own lists.

Today, with social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, content creators (authors, illustrators) can have conversations directly with other publishing professionals. A democratisation of the system that is challenging established business models of publishing. A notable result has been the rapidity with which self-publishing has become an attractive proposition — primarily because the author is in control of producing his book in all formats, can track the distribution and sales and is responsible for the promotion of the book. With the number of authors opting for this form of publishing it is no surprise that even traditional publishers are offering self-publishing services as an option.

Through this wonderful burst of creative energy and proliferation of platforms for publishing, two facts stand out. First, these innovations are obvious responses to the changing environment of publishing. Second, given how complex the book market is becoming, with new channels of news dissemination and distribution, publishers are being innovative in accessing readers and customers. But these new business models of outreach will only be successful if publishing professionals do not keep their word and the growing “trust deficit” in the publishing eco-system is not addressed immediately.

Stuart Diamond writing in his bestseller ‘Getting More’ says “Trust is a feeling of security that the other person will protect you. …The major component of trust is honesty—being straight with people. Trust does not mean that both sides agree with each other, or are always pleasant to each other. …Trust is something that develops slowly, over time. It is an emotional commitment to one another based on mutual respect, ethics, and good feeling. …lack of trust has a cost.”

These challenges exist in all industries but it is slightly different for publishing which relies upon human relationships and creativity for growing the business organically. For it to be a sustainable business model, there has to be bedrock of trust among all stakeholders, irrespective of the format they choose to publish in.

The writer is an international publishing consultant and columnist

@JBhattacharji

“Looking for Jesus, the man” ( An interview with Reza Aslan, the Hindu, 16 Nov 2013)

“Looking for Jesus, the man” ( An interview with Reza Aslan, the Hindu, 16 Nov 2013)

I was asked by the Hindu to interview Reza Aslan. Earlier this year he published Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. It was released in India by HarperCollins in Sept 2013. The interview that was conducted via email has been published online on 16 Nov 2013 and in the paper edition on 17 Nov 2013. Here is the url http://www.thehindu.com/features/magazine/looking-for-jesus-the-man/article5357812.ece?homepage=true . I am c&p the text below. ) 

Reza AslanDr. Reza Aslan on why he wrote his new book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.

Dr. Reza Aslan, an internationally acclaimed writer and scholar of religions, is the author ofZealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, which was in the news a few months ago and also reached the number one slot on The New York Times Bestseller List.

He is the founder of AslanMedia.com, an online journal and co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of BoomGen Studios, an entertainment brand for creative content from and about the Greater Middle East. His first book No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, was translated into 13 languages. His other works include How to Win a Cosmic War(published in paperback as Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in a Globalized Age) and Tablet and Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East and Muslims and Jews in America: Commonalties, Contentions, and Complexities.

Excerpts from an interview:

How long did it take you to write this book?

I have been researching for more than two decades, ever since I began my academic work on the New Testament as an undergraduate at Santa Clara University in California. Of course the quest for the historical Jesus has been going on for 200 years. Countless scholars and academics have written about the Jesus of history. The methodology for that is more or less written in stone by this point. I have distilled these two centuries of debate and analysis and rendered it in an appealing and accessible way for a general audience.

What was the target audience you had in mind?

I wanted to give those who worship Jesus as God a different perspective of him as a man. Of course, Christians believe that Jesus was both God and man, yet they rarely understand the implications of that belief. If Jesus was also a man, it means he lived in a specific time and place, and that time and place shaped who he was. This book is an introduction to that time and place. But I also wanted to write to a non-Christian audience to help explain why, 2000 years later, this man and his teachings and actions are still so significant.

Has your upbringing influenced your thinking?

My upbringing taught me to take faith seriously, to respect it and not denigrate it, even when I am questioning some of the most fundamental tenets of that faith.

What was the most surprising thing that you discovered?

I suppose the most surprising thing about Jesus and his time was just how many other messiahs there were around the first century, many of whom were far more popular and far more successful in their lifetime than Jesus was.

What is the difference, if any, between the men who claimed to be messiahs in Jesus’ time and the many god men (across religions) today?

I suppose if you believe that all religious experience is a matter of the psyche, then there is not much of a difference.

In the “Author’s Note, you state that you “have chosen not to delve too deeply into the so-called Gnostic gospels… they do not shed much light on the historical Jesus himself”. But did not the Gnostic gospels actually reveal much more about the man we know as Christ, including that he probably belonged to the Essene sect? So would not a close reading have helped you “reclaim” the historical Jesus before he became synonymous with Christianity?

The Gnostic Gospels were written in the second and third centuries. While they shed light on the enormous diversity of Christianity in the years following the death of Jesus, they do not give us much information about the historical Jesus himself. Neither does the Gospel of John, which by the way was written between 100 and 120 A.D. These texts are simply too late to be of much use to those looking for the Jesus of history.

The Jews attached great importance to writing things down. Yet the testaments were written only some 70 years after Jesus’ death. Muhammad knew the importance of writing things down, yet the Quran ended up being a careful reconstruction of his words. In your opinion, why isn’t there a Book of Jesus?

Mostly because nobody could have written it. Jesus and his disciples were Galilean peasants. None of them could read or write.

Was your choice of Christ as a subject a natural result of being a scholar of religion or did it have something to do with the number of books on the topic, including Philip Pullman’s The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ and Colm Toibin’s The Testament of Mary?

I think Jesus has always been an interesting character and always will be. While some argue that there has been a sudden flood of books about Jesus recently, the truth is that such books have been appearing every few years for some time.

Do you think that the days when men could start major world religions are over?

On the contrary, take Mormonism, which is only 150 years old and already a major world religion. I think the same could be said about Scientology one day. Religions are born all the time. Who knows which one will be seen as “great” one day?

Reza Aslan Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth Harper Element, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers India, Delhi, 2013. Hb. pp. 300. Rs. 499