Tuesday, April 23, 2019
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Meghna Pant on the Indian publishing industry

In a country where a new bestseller appears every week and MBAs dominate the writing scene, it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish facts from fiction. Issues such as the lack of consolidation of sales data, faulty distribution channels, e-commerce boom and fluctuating profit margins are just a few of the obstacles facing publishers.

When looking for innovative ways to develop and nurture a wider readership, it is clear that industry needs urgent intervention. In the exploration of her new book How to be published in IndiaMeghna Pant talked to publishers, authors, industry insiders, and stakeholders to understand the world of hush-hush publishing. Excerpts from an interview:

The industry has a number of problems because of the lack of accurate sales data and defective distribution channels. How do you think these affect the publishers?

Publishing is a business like any other, and most people do not know that the margins of a publisher are quite low.

You must pay authors, distributors, retailers, printers, editors, designers, employees, and so on. They also find ways to deal with roadblocks, such as the dwindling interest of readers in genres like literary fiction.

From publishing new genres to finding new voices, trusting in established names, selling film and television rights, and finding professional suppliers, publishers are reinventing the wheel in many ways.

Publishers feel the pressure to release more books every year, which has distorted the supply-demand ratio. Do you consider this model to be sustainable or are smaller publishers affected?


Authors fight with Pokémon and Taylor Swift: Meghna Pant


Loud India Book Market Report (2016), India is the sixth largest publisher in the world and the second largest in the world for English language books. That's huge! The textbook-led sector is a $ 6.76 billion sector that will grow by a staggering 19.3% by 2020 (Nielsen Report, 2016). This means that nearly 250 books are published daily. 55% of the sales are in English, 35% in Hindi and the rest in regional books. 65% of sales in English are from Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. In contrast to popular perception, Indians read an average of 2.1 books per week. According to World Culture Score IndexThe Indians spend more time reading than their peers around the world.

I do not believe that the demand for demand is a problem. Smaller publishers appear almost everywhere. A good book will find a good audience, no matter who the publisher is.

There is a big problem with data consolidation in the publishing area. At best, the numbers are usually approximate. Why does this problem persist?

As in most Indian industries, there is a lack of controls. Hopefully things will become more transparent over time. Until then, authors have no choice but to trust their publishers when it comes to sales or availability of books or other important data.

How do bestseller lists and awards affect sales?

Nowadays, most bestsellers follow a cut-and-paste formula: Write in simple language, develop fast-paced narratives with lots of emotion and drama, identify a particular market, target the customer, keep the price of the book between £ 99 and $ 150, market good and, above all, track the product.

It is quite worrying that literature in India has become that formula. Authors benefit from trends like the campus

Authors fight with Pokémon and Taylor Swift: Meghna Pant

Novels, mythology or self-help, and no one is pushing the envelope. When nothing new is said or written, books have no transformative or evocative power. It will focus on writing good books and selling bad books. In this way, the bestselling phenomenon damages writing. It focuses on playing the system. Indians today read the bestselling books, not the best books. The bestseller label can not be the only criterion for buying a book. Check the author's writing permissions and see how many awards he has won when published abroad.

How important is it for publishers to embrace technological advances, considering that selling e-books has not yet surpassed physical sales and audiobooks have not given up on what experts have predicted?

Let's look at some numbers: 90% of all books published in India sell less than 2,000 copies a year. The sparse 9% sell between 2,000 and 10,000 copies and – hold your breath – less than 1% sell more than 10,000 copies. The number sounds ridiculous, but we have almost one and a half billion inhabitants. A book is usually considered a bestseller if it exceeds the coveted 10,000 mark within one year of publication. Despite technological advances, digital sales account for only 3-4% of total sales. The answer lies in the facts.

What is the future of publishing? Will it grow, plateau, or will we see the sinking?

Whether you write mythological fiction, thrillers or self-help books, it's never been a better or worse time to become an author. Why? Because it's easy to get published but hard to sell. Authors fight for the reader's attention not only with other authors, but also with Pokémon and Taylor Swift and WhatsApp. We wonder if people are still reading. We wonder if the rise of commercial fiction has led to the end of literary fiction. There is so much flow.

Are these changes the death knell for the release? Today we have three generations of English-speaking Indians who are hungry to read. They are especially hungry to read in English. This trend will continue to grow. With each new generation there will be a wider readership market. Moreover, the closed ranks of the literary world have opened. A person can publish a book within minutes thanks to the self-publishing feature. The Indian industry not only survives, but flourishes.

In your opinion, how do the consumer platforms help with new content?

TV shows and web channels are looking for interesting books. If you think that the book is commercially suitable as a TV show or web series, contact the author or publisher. If you think the book is not commercially viable, but the author can add value to your show, ask the author to become part of the writing team without buying the book rights. Fortunately, new age content creators are looking for good content, which means that publishers can pay off directly. It's a win-win situation for everyone: author, publisher, reader, platform and audience.

The interviewer operates an agency for literary management and a podcast, "Girls Who Lit".

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