As part of our #BookChatter conversations on reading, writing and publishing, we spoke to Trisha Niyogi and Rashmi Menon about Publishing Trends in India.
Our Podcast Guests
Trisha Niyogi is the Chief Operating Officer and Director at Niyogi Books, an independent publishing house based out of New Delhi. She is an adviser to multiple organizations, which include Heritageshaala, Purple Pencil Project as well as a diversity and inclusion platform, Belongg. She also works with Lajja Diaries, a platform for women to voice their experience with abuse.
Niyogi Books is an internationally acclaimed publishing house, which was established in 2004, and has more than 500 titles on art, architecture, history, culture, spirituality and memoirs.
Rashmi Menon is the Managing Editor at Amaryllis, which is an imprint of Manjul Publishing House. In 2018, Rashmi was chosen by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany to represent India on their Visitors Programme, which focuses on information exchange, and the creation of networks between international publishers. Rashmi enjoys helping new authors develop a book idea.
Manjul Publishing House, is an independent book publishing company established in 1999 and based in Bhopal.
Manjul has created a niche market for high-quality Indian language translations of international bestsellers, and runs successful publishing programmes in major Indian languages.
Amaryllis is the literary fiction and non-fiction imprint of Manjul Publishing House, bringing the best in writing from across the globe.
1. The pandemic has affected every industry. Has it impacted the way books are read and bought? What are the challenges for publishing houses at present?
Rashmi: We can start with the good ways. Ebook sales have ready increased. And the bad ways are that customers are not going to book stores. On the other hand, people who mainly read the vernacular, have started reading ebooks.
Stores are struggling, the number of customers have come down, the cash flow is not good.
Trisha: Footfall in book stores gave gone down because book stores have an ecosystem of discovering new books But during the pandemic people have moved to online platforms.
However the essence of an independent bookstore is being threatened. For our society to grow, we need these bookstores. They are the hubs of culture and great conversations.
Another thing is that within publishing houses, though we have evolved to understand the internet, the lack of human interaction also affected creativity and work.
Distribution has been a concern. Because books are not going to bookstores. It is said a person needs to see a product for atleast 7 times before he can consider buying it.
At Niyogi books, the illustrated books do not have ebook versions. Going to bookstores is an experience we are missing put on.
Rashmi: Before the pandemic, we were sending books to academic institutions, and that segment is completely missing now.
Trisha: Print media has reduced the number of pages dedicated to books so while there is still visibility, discovery has gone down.
2. It has become very easy to be published these days. With the proliferation of self publishing platforms, has traditional publishing taken a hit?
Trisha: Arrival of ebooks has not affected the sales of print books. In fact, ebooks help with the sales of print books. Self publishing may be easier but it has improved the status of traditional publishing houses. Publishers are now known for their curation. Indie books are also a way of discovering new talent for traditional publishers.
Rashmi: Traditional publishers bring that extra muscle power to market and distribute a book.
3. In what ways is the publishing industry evolving? Are new formats or different genres being explored to bolster profits?
Rashmi: Evolving involves the embracing of the digital as far as marketing is concerned. Amazon, promotions through Kindle, through online Litfest all are new formats.
There's is a publishing house for each genre and they are thriving.
Trisha: Publishing has changed drastically in a very short period of time, in months. There are movements within the industry over the years. Many people revolutionised translation in India,not just from Indian languages to English but also from one Indian language to other Indian languages. Katha played a role in bringing translated works to children.
Translations are actually doing much better. There is also a growing need and desire for graphic novels. Audio books have become an important aspect of publishing. It's interesting how we capture the mind of the reader not just through the written word but through different formats. This includes our senses, through auditory and sensory experiences.
To create a Braille book, you don't need copyright clearance. So people are taking up these activities and projects.
Rashmi: Manjul has taken the English language international best sellers and translated them to indian languages. The books in the mind body soul genre are doing extremely well. Marathi and Malayalam are very mature markets and have taken up all these translations of international titles.
4. Is there a growth in niche markets? Is there an attempt to bring in uniquely Indian voices?
Trisha: Our publishing houses are known for bri going in Indian voices. There is a deliberate attempt to focus on voices which have not been heard.
No book is niche. It is the market which is niche. There's an illustrated book called Chai, it's talks about its history, consumption and it's a very popular book. It's an experiment on a genre in a different format. We consciously give importance to women's voices, dalit literature and on different subjects like forgotten people in history. Another book is a tale of a river and the people around it. This stuff might look niche but they have a capability to grow beyond the niche.
Rashmi: Despite being independent and comparatively small publishing houses, we take that risk to take up subject that may not be considered very popular. There's always a mix of books with guaranteed commercial success that enables us to take a risk of bringing forth other beautiful voices.
Trisha: We worked on a book 'The Voices of a Lost Horizon' and we worked on it for 8 years. These are stories and songs from the Great Andamanese tribe. We have documented these voices along with audio visual elements embedded in the book through QR codes. It's to make sure that there is context in the form of real voices and sounds.
5. While accepting submissions from authors, how do you decide which scripts to take forward? Is the decision based on the newness of the subject matter, its usefulness or its marketing potential?
Rashmi: It's a bit of trends, of what works well and that's the call we have to take. Also, a nice synopsis a polite covering letter and a disposition to work as a team are some of the things we look at.
Trisha: We look at a manuscript at how it is organised, at the cover letter, at the synopsis and if it is proof read.
Content, Connect and Context are the 3 Cs we look at before accepting a MS. Every publishing house also has a portfolio and a direction. Don't be disheartened if your manuscript is not accepted. It just may not be the right time for that publisher.
We ask for synopsis and a sample chapter. If we like what we have read, only then we request the full manuscript.
Also, give the publisher some time. Wait to hear back. Don't be in a hurry to get published.
Write and don't rush to be published. There are many digital platforms that you can write for and then work on the feedback.
For more #BookChatter live sessions, head over to our Facebook page.
We also spoke to Sharanya Manivannan about Nurturing Writing Talent. You can listen to the conversation here.
Another conversation with Neil D'Silva covers many aspects of Reviving Reading Culture. Listen to it here.