On Writers and Publishers

“Writers and publishers must find new ways of retailing their wares,” said Amit Chaudhuri, author of the novel ‘Immortals’, short listed for the DSC Literature Award to be announced in Jaipur Book Festival next year in January 2011.

He is not the first man to say so. Time and again, many have quoted the same thing at numerous times, not necessarily by writers and publishers.

But does it happen so?

English book publishers are seen making efforts in this direction. The authors are encouraged to do the exercise by touring across world giving interviews. Many authors may not like it, I’ve a feeling. There are no examples that all the time tall erstwhile authors have done so. One may say, times have changed so one has to do it in accordance with the mutual requirements of the writers, media and publishers.

A budding author, may he be writing in English, realizes how difficult it is to get published than writing when he is in the process of bringing out his first book. I’ve seen such attempts and the agony reflections on the faces of the debut writers in the capital states of some southern states.

The agony behind the fascia of joy on the face of a first time writer at the publishing ceremony is no less than that of Charlie Chaplin.

Andrzej Wajda, Honorary Oscar Award winner (2000), a Polish director said long ago that the novel is already dead. Though exactly the situation is not so serious, it’s an ordeal to get published.

The naïve writers’ publishing days are almost over. One has to hire a platoon of professionals in the field, charging for different processes at different levels involved from preliminary reading to marketing, thereby making the writer pay from his own pocket without any chances of fame and money.

Is it not concealed self-publishing or pseudo publishing? Or being one among the zanana in the Mughal times?

This exercise is futile because self-published books are not eligible for any awards, except for a specialized character devoted to self-published awards, all over the world. The reason is valid as all the trash like that appearing on the web would divert to them crushing their judging machinery.

Due to such a maze I hold the opinion that at least the Indian institutions awarding such honours should invite unpublished manuscripts with strict rules. To seek the published work from established publication houses reduces their burden. What about the hidden talent out of the circumference of publishing?

Part 2
The three day Marathi Sahitya Sammelan is commemorated as an annual mega event in the form of conclave is its outward appearance. Taking place in different towns of Maharashtra and at times in other states, each year lakhs of readers attend it. The curiosity to see and hear writers is the main attraction, though writers are slowly losing their sheen. They have lost it because of concurrent appearance on small screens too and habit to expose their short wit often. The readers gather in such a large number though, is surprising.

The arguments, discussions, dirty linen washing, political invasions, exhibition of arrogance, day long poetry reciting conducted by the burnt out poets with their own redundant stock take place while the honorary president of the Sahitya Sammelan expressing his thoughts is given its due prominence.

“The Marathi Sahitya Sammelan” is one of its kinds in the entire country and now other languages are following the suite.

So let it be for a day or a few more, the writers have their glamour.

Books worth millions of rupees are sold in these three days based on emotional factor more than anything else. A crying community of publishers makes money at this time.

People buy books. What a lovely scene! But do the publishers give a wide thought or care?

If the price of a book is say 200 rupees, buyer is given a little discount of around ten percent or rarely more than that. After publishing the book the publisher offers discount to the retail seller multiple times more than that without any guarantee of sale or time stipulated for that, thereby waiting for realizing of his expenditure for a longer time, lessening his profit. Why shouldn’t he give the same discount to the reader who visits his stall straightaway that would help increase the returns? The reason is built-in myopia.

It’s here where the Amit Chaudhuri appeal gets stuck.

The writers and the farmers are no different. Both take crops. They can’t sell it directly as of now. The farmers have to sell it at wholesale market through the agents who earn exorbitant commission without any investment and the perils of cultivating. It further goes to retailers. They take their pound of flesh. And finally the buyer has to pay for the middlemen suckers.

The same is true with books. The writer is waiting for his returns. The publisher (if he has invested the money) has to wait for the retailer’s mercy till he pays the money. Instead of that he can at such times sell the books to the readers directly offering the same discounts he would have offered to the retail book shops the payments of which may come after uncertain time. I’m talking in terms of small time regional retailing and not the internationally reputed publishers here.

Aborted thinking, plundering the buyer on spot for a meager gain, and lack of tendency to grow are alike in mindsets of them.

And the writer has no solace till then like a tomato grower.

You can imagine what would happen to a self-publishing writer.

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