I started publishing with just Rs 2,000 in hand; was fed up of journalism and I ventured into it as I loved books, wanted to be with books and wanted to hold books on to my chest.
It was a tough game; it is even today. And as I ventured into it I realised what a murky dog-eat-dog world it is. I am not ruing, thank you. In my initial days, I did vanity publishing, and I did cover some bit of the damages. But all these things did not help in the long run. The question of getting money from the intricate corridors of the distributors’ and bookstalls’ moneyboxes was not at all easy. And I eventually learnt that there is only one tribe that benefit from publishing: distributors.
Some thoughts on publishing, if you wish. I know that in a country like the
My answer is thus: Who says books do not sell well in
And does an Indian author writing in English have to taste success abroad first? Why the market is dominated by East meets West books, but the home-grown Indian books are hidden away in the back shelves? That is due to our colonial mentality; if we were the slaves of the British, now the neo-colonialists are the
It is also true that home-grown Indian writers in English cannot turn out much more than run of the mill masala stories or the same old, hackneyed Panchatantra tales retold for the umpteen hundredth time. Do Indian writers lack originality? What stops them? Yes, Indians are lazy. They do not think. They hardly polish their (so-called) talent or style. They do not imagine. The do not think, plainly. Also to be blamed are poor payments, the lalas of the trade, lack of funds for research... Look at the kind of money British or other writers are besotted for the research of their works. So, save our Ramachandra Guha, the best history books on
Writers like Hemingway were great storytellers, used language and literary techniques beautifully, created art with words and told great stories which resonated with the masses. Why do Indians cannot aspire to write such stories as well? Why not a combination of great artistic techniques, rich emotional, philosophical and other nuances, and also a great plot and narrative that people can understand and relate to? Hmmm, I do not fully agree with the viewpoint here. The best of the Indian writing is not in the English. A Vaikom Muhammad Basheer or a Sarat Chandra Chatterjee is any day equal to a Marquez or Umebrto Eco. They are not famous because they were not properly translated like their western counterparts. And the problem with us is that we did not rekindle our skills though we claim to have a rich and varied culture. It’s bullshit. We had. But what do we have today?
The case is that most Indian publishers, including multinational biggies, push the burden of marketing and publicity entirely upon the author. No matter how good a book may be, if it is not publicised, people will not know about it, and not buy and read it. How can a first-time Indian author compete with bestsellers without adequate support from the publisher?
A rich Malabar Hill lady sent me an unsolicited manuscript, written in ink on paper. The book sucked, so I put it in my favourite dustbin. Few weeks later, I got a call from the lady. Asking me whether I am publishing this book or not. I said, ‘Sorry’. She said, “Ok, can I have the manuscript back.” I said I junked it. “Ooops,” she said, “that was the only copy I had.” So? You did not even take a photocopy of it, I asked. She said: “No.”
— Asian Age /