Publishing Posts

Press Release: Appointment of Prasun Chatterjee, Editorial Director, Pan Macmillan India

Pan Macmillan India announces the appointment of Prasun Chatterjee as Editorial Director

Prasun Chatterjee sets to join Pan Macmillan Publishing India Private Limited as its Editorial Director this September. With over 12 years’ experience in the industry, Prasun brings in a rich editorial experience, having worked with publishing houses like Oxford University Press and Pearson.

Prasun started his career in publishing in 2005 as an Editor for history books at Oxford University Press India. His last assignment was as Senior Commissioning Editor at Oxford University Press where he acquired a diverse portfolio of books in areas such as history, politics, religion, and philosophy. During his two five-year terms with Oxford University Press, he has worked with some of the renowned scholars across disciplines.

Among the many writers Prasun has published are Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib, Richard Eaton, Ashis Nandy and Sudhir Kakar. In 2015, several of his commissioned works received national and international recognition at major conferences, including awards at the American Historical Association, Association for Asian Studies, and the Indian History Congress.

As an Editorial Director, Prasun will be responsible for the imprints under Pan Macmillan India, including Picador India, Pan and Macmillan. He will be working closely with Jeremy Trevathan, Publisher, Pan Macmillan UK, to shape the Editorial list. Reporting to Rajdeep Mukherjee, Managing Director, Pan Macmillan Publishing India Private Limited, Prasun starts with the company on 15th September, 2017.

Prasun Chatterjee said: ‘I find this shift symbolic of the increasing convergence between academic and non-fiction publishing; two streams which will draw upon each other even more closely in the coming years. From the works of V.S. Naipaul to Ramachandra Guha and the books by Patrick French to Pankaj Mishra, the range of non-fiction from Pan Macmillan has the timelessness and quality of a mature publishing programme. I would like to contribute to this list of distinguished, yet accessible writing.’

Jeremy Trevathan said: ‘I’m delighted to welcome Prasun into the Pan Macmillan fold. Our local publishing in India, across both fiction and non-fiction, is key to our international strategies for growth going forward. As the distinctions between academic and commercial publishing continues to blend, Prasun brings a wealth of experience and a strategic thinking to our publishing in the sub-continent.’

29 August 2017 

Marvel books

Marvel comics were launched in America in 1939. According to Wikipedia:

Martin Goodman, a pulp magazine publisher who had started with a Western pulp in 1933, was expanding into the emerging—and by then already highly popular—new medium of comic books. Launching his new line from his existing company’s offices at 330 West 42nd Street, New York City, he officially held the titles of editor, managing editor, and business manager, with Abraham Goodman officially listed as publisher.

Timely’s first publication, Marvel Comics #1 (cover dated Oct. 1939), included the first appearance of Carl Burgos’ android superhero the Human Torch, and the first appearances of Bill Everett’s anti-hero Namor the Sub-Mariner, among other features. The issue was a great success, with it and a second printing the following month selling, combined, nearly 900,000 copies. While its contents came from an outside packager, Funnies, Inc., Timely had its own staff in place by the following year. The company’s first true editor, writer-artist Joe Simon, teamed with emerging industry’s notable artist Jack Kirby to create one of the first patriotically themed superhero, Captain America, in Captain America Comics #1 (March 1941). It, too, proved a hit, with sales of nearly one million. Goodman formed Timely Comics, Inc., beginning with comics cover-dated April 1941 or Spring 1941.

While no other Timely character would achieve the success of these three characters, some notable heroes—many of which continue to appear in modern-day retcon appearances and flashbacks—include the Whizzer, Miss America, the Destroyer, the original Vision, and the Angel. Timely also published one of humor cartoonist Basil Wolverton’s best-known features, “Powerhouse Pepper”, as well as a line of children’s funny-animal comics featuring popular characters like Super Rabbit and the duo Ziggy Pig and Silly Seal.

Goodman hired his wife’s cousin,  Stanley Lieber, as a general office assistant in 1939.  When editor Simon left the company in late 1941,  Goodman made Lieber—by then writing pseudonymously as “Stan Lee”—interim editor of the comics line, a position Lee kept for decades except for three years during his military service in World War II. Lee wrote extensively for Timely, contributing to a number of different titles.

Goodman’s business strategy involved having his various magazines and comic books published by a number of corporations all operating out of the same office and with the same staff.  One of these shell companies through which Timely Comics was published was named Marvel Comics by at least Marvel Mystery Comics #55 (May 1944). As well, some comics’ covers, such as All Surprise Comics #12 (Winter 1946–47), were labeled “A Marvel Magazine” many years before Goodman would formally adopt the name in 1961. 

For nearly eight decades Marvel comics have survived despite financial turbulence, been at the cutting edge of testing new publishing models, experimented in mediums and continued telling stories with superheros that have gripped the imaginations of young and old alike. With the booming popularity of films many of the superheroes came alive on the screen — Iron Man, Superman, Fantastic Four, X-Men, Wolverine, Captain America, and Hulk to name a few.  On August 31, 2009, The Walt Disney Company announced a deal to acquire Marvel Comics’ parent corporation, Marvel Entertainment, for $4 billion. As of the start of September 2015, films based on Marvel’s properties represent the highest-grossing U.S. franchise, having grossed over $7.7 billion  as part of a worldwide gross of over $18 billion.

Marvel books published by Scholastic, Summer 2017

The last decade has seen the explosion of digital and print mediums and recently of the two experiences coming together. It helps in creating an immersion which is absolute for die-hard fans of the Marvel superheroes. Scholastic, a publishing firm specialising in children’s literature predating the formation of Marvel Comics, has been over the years releasing a range of print products to meet this demand. Take for instance the recently released film Guardians of the Galaxy 2  ( April 2017) where popular actors have done voiceovers for the characters. ( Vin Diesel is the voice for Baby Groot!) Scholastic to coincide with the film published a range of books around the Guardians of Galaxy characters. These include “the movie storybook”, a novel “inspired by the film”, colouring and activity book and a sticker activity book. What is absolutely incredible is how smoothly the publicity team has created a range of successful publishing collateral targetting different age groups of readers. Children are immediately drawn to the books and are kept happily entertained for hours. Along with this a revised hardback edition of Marvel Super Hero Encyclopedia was released. Even though it is priced slightly on the higher side for the local Indian market it has proved to be a bestseller, notching up healthy sales. ( This, despite parents and schools, advising children not to buy such “useless” books!) What is a particularly charming aspect of these stories is that though the super heros are gender-defined and their physical forms are some illustrator’s fantasy of the ideal body shape, the characters appeal is gender neutral. Thankfully, irrespective of the gender of the reader, all children ( and adults) gravitate towards the books. Here is a link posted on Facebook by Seale Ballenger, Publicity Director, Disney Publishing Worldwide ( 29 June 2014) of the legendary Stan Lee speaking about the importance of writing stories for younger readers:

Stan Lee talking about the importance of writing for young readers at ALA 2014

Posted by Seale Ballenger on Saturday, June 28, 2014

Frankly the fascination of these Marvel books is obvious and worth recommending. They keep children happily engaged and away from electronic babysitting while opening up an imaginative world away from their daily routines. It is like going down a worm hole on an adventure with bizarre characters.

27 June 2017 

“Create, Copyright and Disrupt”

23 April is celebrated as World Book and Copyright Day. According to UNESCO  “23 April is a symbolic date for world literature. It is on this date in 1616 that Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all died. It is also the date of birth or death of other prominent authors, such as Maurice Druon, Haldor K.Laxness, Vladimir Nabokov, Josep Pla and Manuel Mejía Vallejo. It was a natural choice for UNESCO’s General Conference, held in Paris in 1995, to pay a world-wide tribute to books and authors on this date, encouraging everyone, and in particular young people, to discover the pleasure of reading and gain a renewed respect for the irreplaceable contributions of those, who have furthered the social and cultural progress of humanity.”

It is befitting to mention Create, Copyright and Disrupt: India’s Intellectual Property Dilemmas by Prashant Reddy T. and Sumathi Chandrashekharan. The title itself a play on the slogan “Create, Protect, Innovate” that has been adopted by IP agencies and IP conferences worldwide. It gives a good overview on the patent history in India particularly for the pharmaceutical industry, the impact of the Berne Convention the publishing industry in India to the recent amendment to the Copyright Act ( 2012) brought about at the insistence of ex-Parliamentarian and prominent lyricist Javed Akhtar and finally the Geographical Indications of Goods Act [Registeration and Protection] Act, 1999 illustrated with the famous Neem and Basmati rice  cases.  The essays are written lucidly with a view to being accessed by the lay person and not necessarily mired in legal speak.

This is a good manual to have handy to understand how IPR works particularly since it revolves around the discussion and recognition of copyright as being a right to reproduce the work, communicate the work to the public or to the right to incorporate the work in another format such as a sound recording. This is dependant on recognising the author’s intellectual capital and compensating them adequately for it through licensing fees, time period of which varies from nation to nation. There are variations to this in the issue of first ownership of the copyrights particularly in the case of music and lyrics where the creator has been in the employment of the firm and been compensated for the work done. IPR conversations are critical since they link the creativity of a human mind to that of a right, the protection of whose onus falls upon the State, thereby ensuring the author/creator can earn some money of it. And it gains more significance when so much information is available digitally and where content is viewed as the oil of twenty-first century!

Prashant Reddy T. and Sumathi Chandrashekharan Create, Copyright and Disrupt: India’s Intellectual Property Dilemmas ( Foreword by Shamnad Basheer) Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2017. Hb. pp. 372 Rs. 850 

23 April 2017 

“The Communist Manifesto” and its publishing history

While browsing through the fine collection of titles of Penguin Little Black Classics I was interested to note that title 20 was The Communist Manifesto ( 1948). Of the entire collection which is a magnificent sweep of literature through the ages and different nations it is curious to see the manifesto included. It was probably included for its impact globally as it is amongst the most widely read and disseminated texts worldwide even a 170 years after it was first published. In fact Leftword Books published a collection of essays on the manifesto called A World To Win  (1999). One of the essays is on the publishing history of the manifesto in India ( available at this link  for free download with the publisher’s permission). It is a fascinating account of how the manifesto was first published in British India. The first Indian translator of the Manifesto had an interesting career. Soumyendranath was the grand nephew of Rabindranath Tagore. It is fitting that the Manifesto got published first in Bengali, Urdu, Marathi, and Tamil, as it is in the centres where these languages predominate that the Communist movement first struck roots. The early Communist groups were based in Calcutta, Bombay, Lahore and Madras. Later it was translated into Malayalam, Gujarati, Oriya, Hindi and Punjabi. In the fifties and later, the Manifesto was published regularly in different Indian languages by Progress Publishers, Moscow.

 

No wonder Penguin Random House included The Communist Manifesto in its Little Black Classics series.

27 February 2017 

 

 

An Interview with Shandana Minhas of the New, Karachi-based Mongrel Books

( My interview with Shandana Minhas was published on the literary website, Bookwitty. )  

Award-winning writer Shandana Minhas and her husband, journalist and playwright Imran Yusuf recently founded Mongrel Books, a small press based in Karachi. Their first title, The Mongrel Book of Voices, Volume 1, Breakups was published in January 2017. It consists of different forms around the theme of breakups, very broadly interpreted, with work by 21 writers from 9 countries. It’s available in bookstores across Pakistan, and there is a Kindle edition too. Three more titles are to be published later this year.

Shandana Minhas’s first novel, Tunnel Vision, was nominated for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the second, Survival Tips for Lunatics, won the Karachi Literature Festival Fiction Prize. Daddy’s Boy is her third novel. She has also written for stage, screen, Op-Ed pages, and is an honorary fellow of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. Her short fiction has appeared in The Indian Quarterly and Griffith Review. Imran Yusuf’s play Stumped won the first NAPA playwriting award in Pakistan and was staged in Delhi and Kolkata as well. He has also had readings in theatres in London.

An Interview with Shandana Minhas of the New, Karachi-based Mongrel Books - Image 1

Following is an interview with Shandana Minhas:

Why did you decide to found Mongrel Books? How did you choose the name?

We thought shelves in Pakistan had room for, and need of, books that might not otherwise make it to the market. And books that are affordable too. For instance, I am currently reading Michel Houellebecq’s novel Submission, which Imran bought from the local chain bookstore for Rs 2095. Which means that was the only book we could buy that month. Even second hand books in ‘old book stores’ now cost between 250-650 rupees. That’s the price range we would like to stay within.

I have always called myself a mongrel, in terms of being a little bit of this and a little bit of that. My father is Muslim, my mother is Christian and I’m not even going to start on the ethnic mix. We also had a lot of mongrels around the house when we were growing up, in Karachi, we’d spend all day on the streets and bring them home with us. When we were deciding on a name it was the first choice for us. There were others though. What made up my mind to stick with Mongrel was somebody I was brainstorming with telling me I shouldn’t call it Mongrel because a lot of Pakistanis didn’t like dogs and I would alienate potential customers. I heard a lot of that when I was a kid too, of course, when there were so many dogs around. ‘The angels won’t come to your house’ or ‘You can’t pray with them around’. I still say ‘Excellent!’ Seriously, the term reminds us of a kinder time, of a less homogenous or monolithic culture.

What is its focus? What are your first books about?

Mongrel Books’ focus in fiction is good story telling, and in non-fiction work that challenges or enriches contemporary ways of looking and seeing.

Will you be publishing only in English? Or in translation as well?

We will publish original work in English as well as translations into English. Pakistan itself has a vast reservoir of stories in Sindhi, Punjabi, Hindko, Seraiki and other languages, and we hope to build relationships with translators to bring some of those to people who might not otherwise know them.

What are the new projects you are working on?

We are set to publish a comedy of errors set in space, a first novel from talented Pakistani sci-fi writer Sidra F. Sheikh. And a non-fiction title from journalist Kamal Siddiqi, The Other Pakistanis, which bears anecdotal witness to the lives of non-Muslims here. Then there is another first novel about corporate life in Karachi from a highly original, unsettling writer who prefers to remain mysterious till the pages – and the bodies –cool. For next year, I’m collaborating with gifted illustrator Aziza Ahmad on a collection of graphic short stories, In Laws from Space and other tales of Domestic Woe, there is a novel and a short story collection from the reading pile I’ve got my beady eyes on, and fiction that children here can actually relate to as well. And of course we plan to do the second volume of The Mongrel Book of Voices.

Does your having previously published fiction in India have anything to do with launching a publishing house in Pakistan?

Peripherally, yes. Indian publishing is excellent; skilled, curious, open and vast. That vastness…there is a fine line between being embraced and being swallowed. Apart from a respite from the strangeness of being intellectually intimate with somebody you will never meet – your editor, your publisher, your agent, there is a practicality to local publishing for local writers as well. Distance, visa regimes, arbitration options and banking laws are not friends to Pakistani writers being published across the border. Even something as simple as receiving your royalties can become a Kafkaesque nightmare. For example, I still haven’t received a payment I was due in 2014.

What is the Pakistani readership like? Is there sufficient book hunger for local books in English?

All I can offer you is what has been offered to me, in spoken words. There is no centralized data collection. The circulation of Urdu digests featuring a steady diet of misogynistic moralizing to upwardly mobile women is in the hundreds of thousands. The number of people who go to the Karachi International Book fair – where sales actually happen – has climbed every year and might now be half a million, and though a lot of stalls there sell what might politely be dubbed literature of a religious persuasion, children’s books do well too, as do cookbooks – ring binding and all – and cheap editions of novels considered to be classics. Cookbooks, pulp piety, platonic romances, children’s books, nostalgia…it seems, then, that Pakistanis are hungry readers but they just might not have the most balanced diet.

…it seems, then, that Pakistanis are hungry readers but they just might not have the most balanced diet.

But figures are much lower for English titles. In chain bookstores, state-of-the-nation non-fiction sells the most. One bookseller tells me English language fiction only has to sell five hundred copies to be considered a bestseller. An internationally visible title from conglomerate publishing will have no trouble getting pre-orders. Other figures I have been given for what constitutes a bestseller in the English language in Pakistan are eight hundred and fifty and three thousand. Pricing does little to diminish the perception that English is just the language for the narcissistic preoccupations of a parasitic elite rather than, say, the language of a minority whose holy book might be the King James Bible. The more upmarket demographic happily invests thousands in the latest coffee table exceptionalism – Our ruins! Our textiles! Our jewellery! Our truck art! Our haemorrhoids!

So far, most books were routed through India but will having a local publishing program make a difference to the price points?

Absolutely. And that might have all kinds of interesting knock on effects. Like most other places in the world, here too there is an increasing gap between the haves and the have nots. If we persist in the perpetuation of a world where our children can’t eat, wear or drive the same things, or go to the same schools, maybe they can at least read the same books?

If we persist in the perpetuation of a world where our children can’t eat, wear or drive the same things, or go to the same schools, maybe they can at least read the same books?

 


What are your plans for the future?

The plan for the immediate future is financial survival, the acquisition of knowledge about the nuts and bolts of publishing, and Jedi level time management. It would be premature for us to project further than that.

Today in global publishing there is stress on ensuring free speech and it is not muzzled in any way. What are the pros and cons of publishing in Pakistan?

I note with sadness that the second question would not be prefaced by the first if Mongrel Books was, say, an Estonian press. But there are real dangers, and there is real loss. This makes the need for stories greater. Human beings, as far better writers than me have noted recently, think in stories, learn how to live and how to love from stories, which is why the control of storytelling seems to be a matter of such concern to fundamentalists. So it is a bittersweet truth that, as a pro, we know that what we do here matters.

The cons of publishing in Pakistan are the cons of running a small business in any developing economy. Our most pressing concerns are childcare for the working mother, sourcing quality paper, shoddy printing jobs, the ethics of unregulated labor practices in the binding industry, or that big academic publishers snap up and hoard what paper does come in its warehouses, uninterrupted electricity supply, and the bank manager having no internet access when we need to make international payments. So to temper any impulse to simply label us as yet another example of ‘defying the Taliban’ – something we see being used to market everything from T-shirts to bad filmmaking – please note that the only thing we are currently defying is common sense.

Will you be publishing in traditional print format or embracing ebooks and digital features such as audio, augmented reality etc.?

We will be publishing in traditional print format as well as e-books. As for augmenting reality, I will simply say that I still do not own or know how to use a smartphone. (But my partner does.)

Pakistani authors writing in English are very prominent internationally. Why do you think no other publishing house apart from OUP [Oxford University Press] has set roots locally to encourage literary talent?

OUP in Pakistan is primarily an academic publisher looking to engineer its own access to the cash cow of state curriculums, so its risk aversion makes business sense. The only reason we are actually even mentioning it in a conversation about literary talent is because in recent years it has muddied the waters by pitching its self-marketing fairs in Karachi and Islamabad as ‘literature festivals’, effectively capitalizing on lucrative sponsorship from imperialist powers struggling to maintain influence amongst suddenly speaking subalterns. Other older publishers seem comfortable with the grooves they are in, textbooks and backlists. And there are issues like piracy, lack of transparency in accounting and royalties keeping writers away too. An increasing amount are choosing to self-publish.

What is the history of independent publishing in Pakistan? Is there space for it now?

I can’t answer that. I don’t think anyone can! There is no way to tell what is going on or what has been going on in terms of publishing, beyond the surface of it, because as I mentioned earlier there has been no centralized data collection. And booksellers here still play things very close to the chest.

An Interview with Publisher Michael Bhaskar on the Power of Curation

My interview with Michael Bhaskar, co-founder, Canelo was published in literary website Bookwitty on 24 January 2017. I am c&p the text below. ) 

Michael Bhaskar, co-founder and publishing director at Canelo, is known for being at the cutting edge of digital and traditional forms. Very active on Twitter with his perceptive comments on publishing, Bhaskar’s first book was the prize-winning monograph, The Content Machine. In his second book, Curation, he puts forth forceful arguments about the merits of curating content, especially to add value to businesses. His research focuses on the way digital technology is transforming the business and cultural context for publishing and other industries.

Bhaskar has been a British Council Young Creative Entrepreneur, a Frankfurt Book Fair Fellow and is currently a Visiting Researcher at the Oxford Brookes International Centre for Publishing.

Following are edited excerpts of an interview with Bhaskar:

Is there only one definition of “curation” as borrowed from art circles or after your research would you have a modern definition for the term?

Curation is interesting as the word, in English at least, has evolved. It came from the Latin ‘curare’ which meant to be take care of but eventually morphed into putting on and looking after museum and art gallery exhibitions. Then something interesting happened: about twenty years ago, with the web starting to become mainstream, the word curation suddenly started being applied to all kinds of things. Now we use it all over the place. The definition I use, and the definition I think most people intuitively understand, is that curation means ‘selecting and arranging to add value’. That, for me, is the modern understanding of the term.

How does curation, primarily a social skill, convert into financial capital?

I wouldn’t say curation is a social skill… for me it’s also about expertise, understanding, talent. The reason it’s so valuable today is that we are overloaded in so many contexts. Supply more just doesn’t work as a strategy. For example, just releasing another song or a book won’t work without some curation to make sure it finds its audience. Whenever you have a saturated market then, curation becomes invaluable to making sure it carries on functioning.

It is said content is the oil of the 21st century. How do you monetize curatorial abilities? The evidence in your book shows how companies, particularly Netflix, have benefitted tremendously but how can individuals?

There is no easy answer to this. I like to say that curation itself isn’t a business model but is baked into a business model. So Netflix wouldn’t work without curation, but it doesn’t get paid for it; it gets paid or providing people with the things to watch. The curation is kind of folded into the business model. The same is true if, for example, you run a shop. You get paid when people buy something, but the better curated your shop the more likely that is.

How is curation applicable to publishing? Are curatorial skills and the ability to discover dependent on the medium like digital or print matter?

We have far too many books in the world – one million new English language titles released every year. So publishers should be (and are) defined by what they say no to, by the choices that they make, by the careful, considered and highly curated nature of their lists. To me it’s this curatorial element that is central to publishing of all kinds and is only becoming more important.

With human behavioural patterns on the Internet changing rapidly and in the process transforming various social media platforms, the arguments about big data vs small data are gaining momentum. In this scenario how can the concept of curation be still important?

I actually think curation spans big and small data, human selections and automated systems: curation for me is broad and diffuse rather than narrow. So if you look at any of the systems and arguments you mention, they tend to come down to ways of selecting and arranging information, media and even people in various ways. Curation is at the heart of it! Almost every decision and project in digital media has the concept of curation at the heart of it – just look for example at the discussion of Facebook and the US election.

Is human touch / intervention important for curation or can it be left to machines and algorithms?

The truth is we need both. There is this tendency in the tech world to think technology will just take over. It won’t. We value that personal, idiosyncratic touch. We want to know about things precisely because they come from an individual. Yet in the age of big data this isn’t enough – to sift through millions of songs or newspaper articles, you need an algorithm. So the future isn’t about one or another but blends of both.

If curation adds value to a business why don’t we see more posts in firms for such a role?

A few reasons: one, because as I mentioned, it’s baked into the business model. So a buyer, or an editor, or a merchandiser, or an information architect, or a holiday planner, or a DJ: all of these roles are curators but we don’t call them that. Secondly I think we are seeing more such roles being created every day – all the big tech companies have been on a hiring binge for people in these roles over the past year.

Isn’t the ability to curate or access curated material exclusively a middle class phenomenon?

Partly. It’s true to say that it impacts on more affluent people more than less. But that doesn’t mean it’s not spreading because it is. Anyone with access to the Internet is experiencing these trends. Yes, there are a lot of people in the world without access – but fewer with every passing year. So while much of this curation is relevant only to the better off, the direct of travel is that is becoming more significant everywhere.

Doesn’t curation of information have inbuilt biases that may in the long term perpetuate prejudices?

It can do, which is why we need a strong distinction between good and bad curation. Good curation is that which breaks us out of prejudices and goes beyond filter bubbles, bad curation just confirms it. We need to become literate about the kinds of curation going on out there and watch for it closely.

You are at the cutting edge of curatorial abilities in publishing. What do you think lies ahead in publishing? Will business models transform?

I’d like to think the work we are doing at Canelo, the digital publisher I co-founded, indicates the direction of travel. We are a digital publisher, but carefully curated; we take the best of the old world of publishing but combine it with an embrace of new technology and methods; we have a completely redrawn contracts for authors, which we think are much fairer. We believe in digital but we also believe in writers and words. It’s this kind of mixing of the old and the new, the tried and tested with the innovative that I think is the future of publishing.

Michael Bhaskar Curation Piatkus, an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group, Hachette, 2016. Pb. pp. 354. Rs 499 

24 January 2017 

Jaya’s newsletter 6 ( 7 Jan 2017)

Happy New Year!

January is an extremely busy month in terms of literary events. There are back-to-back literary festivals, book fairs, book launches and more. There have been some exciting announcements such as Amazon India launching Kindle in 5 regional languages. The annual NBT World Book Fair is now held 7-15 January and will showcase India’s cultural heritage. India is a significant book market. So it is no surprise that once again the Australian Council for the Arts is bringing a team of publishers to India for B2B interactions in January 2017.  Later this week the Hindu Lit Fest happens in Chennai, followed by Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival 2017 and Jaipur Literature Festival celebrates its tenth anniversary. Here is a preview.

As always the Costa Book Awards were announced at the beginning of the new year. And Etisalat Prize released its shortlist.

And for those based in Delhi, I will be in conversation with the wonderful novelist Chitra Bannerjee Divakurni about her latest novel, Before We Visit the Goddess. It is at 6:30pm on Monday, 16 January 2017, India International Centre, New Delhi.

Publishing Jobs and Appointments 

  • Sameer Mahale has joined Penguin Random House India as General Manager, Sales. He was earlier at HarperCollins
  • Manasi Subramanian moves to PRH India as Senior Commissioning Editor responsible for acquiring literary fiction and nonfiction.
  • There is a vacancy for Publisher, Scholastic India, Delhi. The person has to have minimum 6-8 years of experience in children’s and young adult literature. Please send resume to Neeraj Jain, Managing Director ( njain@scholastic.co.in ).

New arrivals ( Dec – early Jan)

  • Eric Bulson Little Magazine, World Form Columbia University Press
  • Narayan Rao Text and Tradition in South India Permanent Black
  • Emma Dawson Verghese Genre Fiction of New India Routledge India
  • Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers The Bestseller Code Allen Lane
  • Keith Houston The Book Norton
  • Prashant Reddy T. and Sumathi Chandrashekharan Create, Copy, Disrupt: India’s Intellectual Property Dilemmas ( with a foreword by Dr. Shamnad Basheer) OUP
  • Romila Thapar Indian Society and the Secular Three Essays Collective
  • William Dalrymple and Anita Anand Kohinoor Juggernaut
  • Jan Brandt Against the World ( transl. Katy Derbyshire) Seagull Books
  • Hannah Kent The Good People Picador
  • Maha Khan Philips The Curse of Mohenjadaro PanMacmillan India
  • Sarvat Hasin This Wide Night Hamish Hamilton
  • Ryan Lobo Mr Iyer Goes to War Bloomsbury
  • Laksmi Pamuntjak Amba Speaking Tiger Books
  • Sanchit Gupta The Tree with a Thousand Apples Niyogi Books
  • Andrei Sinyavsky Strolls with Pushkin ( transl by Catharine Theimer Nepomnyashchy & Slava I. Yastremski ) Columbia University Press
  • Armando Lucas Correa The German Girl Simon & Schuster
  • Martin Cruz Smith The Girl from Venice Simon & Schuster
  • Kate Furnivall The Liberation Simon & Schuster
  • Jeffrey Self Drag Teen PUSH
  • Lucy Sutcliffe Girl Hearts Girl Scholastic
  • Yona Zeldis McDonough Bicycle Spy Scholastic Press
  • Elizabeth Laird Welcome to Nowhere Macmillan Childrens Books

Interesting links

  1. Graphic novels radically rooted in Indian market
  2. The Great AI Awakening How Google used artificial intelligence to transform Google Translate, one of its more popular services — and how machine learning is poised to reinvent computing itself. ( An excellent article!)
  3. Andrew Wylie’s Global Approach to Agenting
  4. Vijay Prashad on “The essentials of socialist writing
  5. Juggernaut turns a page” A profile of the publishing house on
  6. On Meville House blogs an interview with a bookstore which closed down: An Interview with BookCourt’s Zack Zook
  7. Alt-right Milo Yiannopoulos’s cynical book deal with Simon & Schuster.
  8. Profile of sci-fi author, Ken Liu, bridging America and China
  9. Guwahati gets its first braille library
  10. In 2016, Hindi Literature Became the Voice of the Marginalised
  11. The nonfiction of my feminism by Amrita Narayanan
  12. Interview with Daisy Rockwell, Author, Artist and a Hindi-Urdu Translator
  13. Interview with Namita Gokhale on her new novel, Things to Leave Behind.
  14. Harvard discovers a few of its library books are bound in human flesh ( 2014)
  15. Photo album of Madras Literary Society ( estd. 1812) by Vikram Raghavan
  16. Most Women In Publishing Don’t Have The Luxury Of Being Unlikeable 

7 January 2017 

Jaya’s newsletter – 1

( As of this week I will be publishing a weekly newsletter on publishing and book news — international and local across languages. So if there is anything that you would like to alert me to please write: jayabhattacharjirose1 at gmail dot com )

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October is always a very busy month for publishers since the Frankfurt Book Fair is held — the mecca of publishing. So many announcements and deals are made.
  • cinestateWill Evans, Founder, Deep Vellum Publishing announced the launch of Cinestate, a cross-media company. Cinestate is looking to acquire rights to stories for literary translation and also to works that will appeal to a mass audience in multiple media, including print, digital, audiobooks, and film. ( http://bit.ly/2eTEkkX )
  • Ananth Padmanabhan, CEO, HarperCollins India wrote a guest editorial for Publishing Perspectives: “A call to protect freedom of expression and copyright in India” ( http://bit.ly/2dYV0tM) In a landmark judgement on 16 September 2016 Justice Endlaw of the Delhi High Court ruled on the “DU photocopy case”. It is being watched worldwide as a siginificant case study of copyright laws and its interpretation of “educational use” since it is argued that it will impact all forms of reproduction. The judgement and related resource material have been uploaded on SpicyIP, a blog on intellectual property (IP) and innovation law and policy, managed by IP exerts and lawyers. (http://bit.ly/2eTGotj )
The week gone by has been very exciting. Full of news.
  • karthikaIndian trade publishing is abuzz with the resignation of Karthika VK, Publisher, Harper Collins India. She had been at the post for more than a decade. (http://bit.ly/2dYM1ZF )
  • Significant appointments: Dharini Bhaskar, Publisher, Simon & Schuster India and Naveen Choudhary, Head of Marketing – Global Academic Business for India.
  • Prajwal Parajuly, has been appointed to the jury of the 2017 International Dylan Thomas Prize. dylan-prize(http://bit.ly/2eKypzU )
  • Internationally there is grief at the sudden demise of legendary literary agent, Carole Blake, Blake & Friedmann Agency. ( http://bit.ly/2dKymad) .
FBF is significant too since around this time there are innumerable literary prizes announced. Some notable announcements are:
  • The Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to Bob Dylan “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.( http://bit.ly/2f9n3sX ) Bob Dylan is yet to acknowledge the award. (http://bit.ly/2dYQvzq). If he chooses to reject it as Jean Paul-Sartre (1964) the Nobel committee will continue to recognise him as the awardee.
  • paul-beattyThe Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2016 ( £50,000) was awarded to Paul Beatty for his satirical novel The Sellout. ( http://bit.ly/2dGYDWG) It is the first time an American has won. Also indie publishers Oneworld have created history for having won the award in two consecutive years. Last year their author Marlon James won. Only Faber has won this award previously back-to-back in the eighties for Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey (1988) and The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (1989). The morning after the award was announced Oneworld placed an order for 170k more copies of The Sellout of which 10,000 are being reserved for India. It is being distributed by PanMacmillan India. ( http://bit.ly/2eI1tdy )
  • The Nigeria Prize for Literature ( $100,000) was awarded to novelist Abubakar Adam Ibrahim abubakar-ibrahimfor Season of Crimson BlossomsThe Nigeria Prize for Literature rotates yearly amongst four literary genres: prose fiction, poetry, drama and children’s literature. ( https://www.facebook.com/nigeriaprizeforliterature/posts/1244773285544573 )
  • thien-jpg-size-custom-crop-1086x724Madeleine Thien wins 2016 Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction (http://bit.ly/2ePd2xE)
  • A new literary prize for a non-existent book has been announced. ( http://bit.ly/2exG0DW )The winner of the Nine Dots Prize, announced Friday, will be awarded $100,000 (£82,000). The new award hopes to inspire innovative thinking about social science issues and is open to all authors, regardless of whether they have been published or not, from around the globe. The winner of the Nine Dots Prize will be announced in May 2017 and their book will be published in May 2018.The $100,000 prize is funded by the Kadas Prize Foundation, an English charity that seeks to stimulate research around the social sciences.

Book launches: On 25 October 2016 the annual Roli Books exhibition was inaugurated at Bikaner House, New Delhi. (26 Oct – 9 Nov 2016) It is on the Mewar Ramayana, the finest surviving illustrated manuscript. The book was launched by Jerry Losty and Sumedha Verma. Pramod Kapoor of Roli Books spent more than five years putting together this splendid book. mewar-ramayana

Jaya recommends: This list is based on the books I have acquired recently.
  • James Gleick Time Travel ( Harper)
  • Kio Stark When Strangers Meet ( TED, Simon and Schuster)
  • Kit de Waal My Name is Leon ( Viking, an imprint of Penguin)
  • (Eds.) Tutun Mukherjee and Niladri R. Chatterjee Nari Bhav: Androgyny and Female Impersonation in India ( Niyogi Books)
  • Vikas Khanna Essence of Seasoning ( Easy-to-make recipes that border on fusion cuisine.)
The following books are for children and would make excellent Diwali gifts too! amir-khusrau-puffin-india
  • Ankit Chadha Amir Khusrau: The Man in Riddles ( A stunning edition by Puffin India)
  • Juhi Sinha Festival Storybook ( Four stories on festivals, Scholastic India)
  • The Big Book of India Festival Puzzles ( Scholastic India)
Extras: 
  • “Algorithms could save book publishing but ruin novels” ( Wired, 16 Sept 2016,  http://bit.ly/2eTDFRZ)
  • A wonderful profile of literary translator and editor, Words without Borders, Susan Harris: http://bit.ly/2f9PSFO
  • “Flag hoisting in Chinnoor” A translation of the Tamil short story Chinnooril Kodiyetram written in 1968 by Saarvaagan, republished in Frontline, 28 Oct 2016. Translated by Subashree Krishnaswamy ( http://bit.ly/2eTw85o )
  • “The House of Fergiani: a Libyan publishing family’s commitment to literature and the liberating power of books” On Darf Publishers ( The National, 15 Oct 2015, http://bit.ly/2dOg9DA )

27 Oct 2016 

PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE AND DISNEY INDIA BRING DISNEY’S ICONIC STORIES AND CHARACTERS CLOSER TO INDIAN CHILDREN

 

Penguin & Disney

 

 

PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE AND DISNEY INDIA BRING

DISNEY’S ICONIC STORIES AND CHARACTERS CLOSER TO INDIAN CHILDREN

 

PRHMarch 08, 2016, Delhi: Penguin Random House and Disney India’s Consumer Products Disney Indiabusiness today announced the launch of Disney books. Penguin Random House will now hold the rights in India for publishing Disney’s iconic Mickey & Friends characters as well as – Aladdin, Peter Pan, Pinocchio, Dumbo and the cast of The Jungle Book.

Published under the Puffin imprint and aimed at young readers, the fully-illustrated books will include readers, storybooks, colouring & activity as well as novelty books.

The first series of titles will be available to consumers March 14, 2016 onwards and will include Dumbo and Aladdin colouring books, Jungle Book, Dumbo and Peter Pan Treasured Classic editions, Peter Pan and Dumbo storybooks and readers Mickey’s Round Up, Donald’s Special Delivery, Minnie’s Rainbow, Minnie Red Riding Hood and Mickey Mouse Flies the Christmas Mail.

“Puffin India has long published some of India’s finest writing for children with generations brought up on books from authors including Ruskin Bond, Sudha Murty and Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. We are delighted to now be working with Disney India to bring their well-loved characters to readers with a specific range of Indian publishing”, said Gaurav Shrinagesh, CEO, Penguin Random House in India.

“Disney is synonymous with storytelling. We all have grown up reading Disney stories and are familiar with Disney characters and classics such as Mickey & Friends, Aladdin, Pinocchio and many more. We are happy to be working with Puffin India to launch a series of Disney books for the new generation of readers in the country,” said Abhishek Maheshwari, VP & Head, Consumer Products, Disney India

 

For further details, please contact:

Caroline Newbury | Penguin Random House | cnewbury@penguinrandomhouse.in

Namita Jadhav | Disney India | namita.jadhav@disney.com

Richa Anand | Disney India | richa.anand@disney.com

 

About Penguin Random House:

Headquartered in New York City Penguin Random House is the international home to nearly 250 publishing imprints, with operations in 20 countries across five continents, publishing 70,000 digital and 15,000 print titles annually and with more than 100,000 eBooks available worldwide. We publish more than 70 Nobel Prize laureates and hundreds of the world’s most widely read authors.

Penguin Random House in India is part of The Penguin Random House Group worldwide. As India’s longest established international publishing company, we are the proud publishers of many of India and the subcontinent’s finest writers and publishing talent. Our authors have won prizes including the Nobel Prize, the Magsaysay Award, the Jnanpith Award, the Sahitya Akademi Award, Pulitzer Prize, Man Booker Prize, Man Booker International Prize, Commonwealth Writers Award, Shakti Bhatt Prize and the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature.

In addition to our Indian publishing program, we also make available over 30,000 of Penguin Random House’s international titles to our readers across India and the subcontinent every year.

Penguin Random House is committed to expanding our role as a cultural institution that serves society not only with the books we publish and investments we make in new ideas, creativity, and diverse voices, but also our belief in the power of books to connect and change lives. Together, our mission is to foster a universal passion for reading by partnering with authors to help create stories and communicate ideas that inform, entertain, and inspire, and to connect them with readers everywhere and across print and digital platforms.

About Puffin India:

Puffin Books India is the children’s imprint of Penguin Books India. Started in 1939, today Puffin is one of the largest, most diverse and successful children’s brands both in India and abroad. With an award-winning range of best-selling titles, Puffin’s ever expanding publishing list spans picture books, fiction, poetry and non-fiction. With a winning combination of literary classics and appealing commercial fiction, Puffin remains a children’s books innovator and perennial reader favourite.

Some of Puffin India’s finest writers include Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, Ruskin Bond, Sudha Murty, R.K. Narayan, Anita Desai, Satyajit Ray, Devdutt Pattanaik, Jerry Pinto, Payal Kapadia, Anita Nair, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Subroto Bagchi, Derek O’ Brien, Paro Anand, Subhadra Sen Gupta, Ranjit Lal.

About Disney India’s Consumer Products Business:

Disney is the largest retail character licensor in the world with US$45 billion in character merchandising retail sales globally in 2013. The Consumer Products business includes: Toys; Fashion & Home; Food, Health & Beauty (FHB); Consumer Electronics; Stationery; Publishing and Retail Sales and Marketing. The Consumer Products business plays a critical role in providing Indian consumers a chance to bring a piece of the Disney magic home through a wide range of creative and locally appealing merchandise.

 

Today, Disney-branded products are available across a million retail locations in India. Disney-branded products are present in close to 500 retail touch points including hypermarkets with more than 3,000 SKUs across categories. Working with over 150 licensees across categories, Disney India’s Consumer Products retail branding, such as the unique Disney-branded corners in prominent retail outlets including Hamley’s and Big Bazaar, continue to reach more and more consumers across the country. Disney-branded products are available across all the key online portals with branded pages on Amazon and Flipkart and with strategic presence in portals like Myntra, Jabong, Snapdeal and more.

About Disney Publishing Worldwide:

Disney Publishing Worldwide (DPW) is the world’s largest publisher of children’s books, magazines, and apps, igniting imagination through storytelling in ever-inventive ways. DPW creates and publishes books and magazines both vertically in-house and through an extensive worldwide licensing structure. As a leader in digital products, DPW creates best-selling eBook titles and best-in-class original apps. DPW is also committed to the educational development of children around the world through Disney Learning, which includes Disney Imagicademy, as well as Disney English and other Disney-themed learning products. Headquartered in Glendale, California, DPW publishes books, magazines and digital products in 85 countries in 75 languages. For more information, visit www.disneypublishing.com.

Caroline Newbury

VP Marketing and Corporate Communications

Random House India

Penguin Random House

 

7th Floor, Infinity Tower – C

DLF Cyber City, Gurgaon 122002, Haryana

P +91 124 4785600

F + 91 124 4785606

Literati – “Readers return to book fairs” ( January 2016)

jaya_bhattacharji-300x300My column, Literati, has been published online on 16 January 2016 and will be published in print in the Hindu Sunday Magazine on 17 January 2016. I am c&p the text below. Here is the original url: http://www.thehindu.com/books/literary-review/jaya-bhattacharji-rose-on-how-readers-are-returning-to-book-fairs/article8113687.ece 

Publishers across languages were taken aback by the phenomenally positive response at this year’s World Book Fair

“Because I have time to spare, and for the first time in my life nobody expects anything of me. I don’t have to prove anything. I’m not rushing everywhere; each day is a gift I enjoy to the fullest.”

                                                                                                                                           Isabel Allende’s The Japanese Lover

Isabel Allende’s latest novel, The Japanese Lover, ( Simon & Schuster) is a breathtakingly elegant novel, full of quiet grace, about ageing, love, and friendships across generations. There is violence in the story, plenty of it. It is impossible to escape it. Allende writes about her Jewish protagonist Alma Belasco who flees from Nazism in Poland as a young child, the setting up of camps for Japanese families in America after Pearl Harbour, and the devious rings of online child pornography, which Irina Bazili, a refugee from a Moldovan village, experienced. Yet, surprisingly, The Japanese Lover radiates peace. It is written by a 73-year-old novelist who is herself no stranger to violence, having fled Chile during General Pinochet’s coup. As in Toni Morrison’s stupendous God Help the Child, ( Penguin Random House) these two writers come to terms with the fact that there are hardships, but it is important to treasure life one day at a time.

It is this spirit that across during the World Book Fair this year. The fair was brought forward by a month since the country of honour, China, had requested it. Many Indian publishers were apprehensive about the move as they were not very sure about the impact it would have on sales. Yet publishers across languages have been taken aback by the phenomenally positive response.

Piyush Kumar, Publisher, Prabhat Prakashan, whose family has been selling Hindi books for many decades, was astounded by the response. He noted with happy astonishment, “After the crowds left on Sunday evening, our stall looked as if it had been looted. My father who started this business has never seen such record sales.” Across publishers and languages, everyone is reporting unprecedentedly brisk and healthy sales.

At the CEOSpeak on 10 January, organised by FICCI and NBT, Le Yucheng, the Chinese Ambassador, stressed that “books matter in bilateral exchanges”. The presentations focused on translations, digitisation, volume printing and paper trade. But the shocking rates offered by Indian publishers to translators needs to be addressed before such bilateral publishing programmes can be explored.

For instance, the range varies from no payment to an absurd 0.25 paise per word (which has no value given that the denomination is no in circulation) to an acceptable sharing of the author’s royalties. The Translators Association of UK recommends that translators be paid between £80 and £90 per 1000 words but it is still an uphill task to ensure that publishers pay this fee.

Talking of healthy sales, some reasons publishers gave for the phenomenon was that readers are now shunning online stores because of the fluctuating discount structures, the improved connectivity to the fair with the Metro, the fair being organised at the beginning of the month before household budgets are exhausted., the excellent weather, Delhi schools being shut to implement the odd-even traffic rule, and the discernible long-term impact of government programmes like ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan’ that have encouraged literacy and reading.

The size of the Indian publishing industry is estimated at Rs. 260.7 billion (2013-14) with a CAGR of 20.4 per cent. Manisha Chowdhury of Pratham Books remarked, “India is a country of more than 780 documented languages, 66 scripts, only 22 scheduled languages and we have lost 250 languages in 50 years. Sixty per cent of books published are for education. Children’s books are at 30 per cent. We do have a book hunger in this country where there is only one book available for every 20 children. Publishing for children is important only for textbooks whereas every child’s childhood should find a reflection in their literature.”

Having said that, at the book fair, children and adults were seen buying all kinds of books or attending conversations at Author’s Corners with equal enthusiasm. Online conversations like this, “M not into reading but my son is … nd he is after my lyf for wbf .. nd finally gng tmrw” are popping up often on social media newsfeeds. As a publisher said to me, “The glitz and glamour in Delhi is a mirage; people in this city are poor too, so those who come to the fair today may be on a budget, but they come to spend.” They live life to the fullest.

16 January 2016