Publishing industry of India has become just like any other industry, which runs on money, for money and by money, and maybe that is why the quality of Indian books is degrading as well. But who is to blame – The authors? The publishers? Or the readers? Let’s find out!
The journey of a book from folders in a laptop, to book-shelves in stores is a long one, and there is a lot more involved than a common man can even think of. Completing a book is merely getting 5% of the task done. Rest 95% is getting it edited, typeset, formatted, corrected, getting the cover designed, hunting a publisher, going through all the rejections, hiring an agent, waiting for the publisher to give you a timeline, and then waiting for your book to get printed. By the time a book hits the stores, the author himself forgets what his book is all about!
New authors think that they completed the book so half of the job is done. The real task begins after the rejections start to follow and you realize where you stand. Either you can resort for self-publishing, pitch some money and get your book published, or you can wait for traditional publishers to respond, which can even take as long as forever! The third task is hiring an agent who can get you into a publishing house, but even after that – you are on your own! If your book is romantic college fiction, the young-adult readers are going to love it, but the mature ones are going to call you a wannabe ‘Chetan Bhagat’. If your book is different from romance, like if it’s a thriller or a horror story well frankly, it’s going to be even tougher to make it visible. Majority readers want to read what majority publishing houses are already providing them – sugar coated romance, with sex brimming on top of it, doesn’t matter if the story has an iota of reality or not! Try writing something like a political drama, and you will be bashed again, and don’t even go for science-fiction. Brilliant sci-fi authors have been eating dust since their books hit the shelves. And that is the blatant truth of Indian book-writing industry.
Talking about publishing industry – well nobody has become a millionaire just after writing one book, and that’s another truth. Usually the royalty that a traditional publisher gives to the author is around 5-9% of the book MRP, and in self-publishing you can get around 10-15% (when your own money is involved) but even that isn’t enough. It means if your book is priced Rs 200, you get only Rs 30 if you self-published it, and Rs 10 if it came from a traditional publishing house. No, the publishers are not at fault. They need to cover the expenses of getting your book edited, typeset and finally printed. The paper and ink – cost them money! So, those who think that after writing one book they might not have to work ever in their lives, they are simply living in a fiction themselves. We have amazing authors who, even after getting the title of national bestsellers, are still doing their regular jobs, and haven’t left it to join writing-books full time, just for the same reason, that writing hasn’t started to pay their bills yet! Lifestyles are lavish, expenditures are too much, especially in metropolitan cities like Delhi or Mumbai. Petty royalties cannot do justice to your lifestyle! Even in a marriage, you cannot expect only the husband to work and the wife to sit idle – both the partners need to work, then how can you leave your regular job with a constantly flowing income, for something as uncertain as writing?
Yes miracles happen, and yes Chetan Bhagat and Amish Tripathi did become overnight superstars, you think. But in reality it took them both more than a few years to become ‘overnight’ superstars, ironically! Where Chetan Bhagat completely transformed the Indian literary market, Amish added to it by his introduction of mythological-fiction, and portrayal of Shiva as a human-being. Since them both, many authors have tried their hands at romance and mythology, and failed miserably. The fault is not of the authors, neither of the publishers, but you can say it’s more of a ‘luck-game’ here that favours some and leaves the rest. Readers are ultimately smitten with few popular names, and some aren’t even willing to read new authors.
I asked many of my friends why they buy all the books of only one particular author and the reply was ‘His first book was amazing!’ So, either you write one-amazing book (with lots of unrealistic scenarios, and unwanted sex) and you get a permanent readership, because the readers start expecting the same magic in your further books as well – or you try your hand at different genres and pray to all the Gods that your luck somehow favours you!
The reason ‘why’ authors are writing hopeless romance is simple – money! They have bills to pay and they are not wrong if they are trying to make a living out of it. It’s the readers who should be more accepting and give a chance to new ideas, new books and new genres, and if an author is trying something new – support him, buy his books and read him so that his writing is encouraged! If you won’t do it, it’s obvious that he will die out, and change his career. And later if you discuss the degrading quality of Indian novels at a tea-party in your friend’s house, remember that you are equally responsible for the degradation when you bought a famous Indian author’s college romance book ‘over’ a new author’s science fiction one!
As brutal the competition is in the writing industry, the publishing industry is even more merciless in India. With new publishing houses blooming in every nook and corner of the country, the choice is endless, but for a new author, it becomes impossible to decide where to go!
With new names, and humungous promises that new publishers make to popularize themselves, a new author is confused upon what to do?
The solution is – even getting a big-name won’t make you a national bestseller, so go for quality and not just a brand-name. The truth is that the biggies are more concerned towards the famous names, of course they give them good sales, so they are more focused and dedicated towards the authors whose books are sure to touch a national bestseller mark overnight. Rest, all authors are on their own once the book is published even by a top publishing house of India.
Nobody is going to tell you these things, because nobody likes to admit the truth these days, but this is what it is. I know it all because I have seen and experienced everything very closely, during and post, the production of my first book ‘Chained’. My second book, ‘Letters to Aaradhana’ is in the pipeline, co-authored with a noted author Subhasis Das. I wish all the readers here, and the upcoming authors, a very good luck for all their future endeavours. Just don’t lose hope and keep your eyes open all the time!