Trend Small-scale publishing houses in the city are bringing out books by the dozen, finds Nita Sathyendran
E ver fancied seeing your name in print as a published author or poet? If the answer is yes, then this is the time to turn that dream into reality. Thanks to a plethora of publishers in the city, several writers and poets have been able to get their works published. In addition to established publishers such as DC Books, Current Books, Prabath Book House and Poorna Publications, there are around 15 or so small-scale publishing houses, mostly one-man operations, which thrive in the city today.
“There is a growing but definite market for locally published books, especially during the last decade or so. Most of the books published are in Malayalam and most of the publication houses promote local talent,” says M. Rajeev Kumar, who runs Paridhi Publications, one of the oldest and most prolific publication houses in the city. A programming executive at All India Radio, Rajeev Kumar started Paridhi in 1984 with the “aim of helping new writers gain a foothold in publishing.”
It's an aim echoed by many a publisher in the city. “Yes, the Indian publishing industry is growing by leaps and bounds. But it is still very difficult for newcomers, to get their works published. That's where small publishing houses come into play,” adds P. Ravindran Nayar, a former journalist with UNI, who started Folio Books in mid-2008, after he himself faced similar “publisher issues” when he wanted to publish his son's book.
Generally, apart from translations into Malayalam of well-known books, most of the publishers do not release works by literary giants. “Established authors don't really need us small fry, do they? There are plenty of people in the city who want to be published authors and many of them approach us having heard by word of mouth the quality of work that we provide,” says Baby John, who started Maluben Books in 1994.
Nowadays most of these small ‘publication houses' count books published in the hundreds! Take Paridhi, for example. Since its inception, and especially over the past 10 years, Paridhi has published over 500 books on a variety of subjects – treatises, prose, poetry and novels – by a variety of authors “ranging from two dramas by an 84-year-old [N. Bahuleyan] to a book of poetry titled Halloween Nights , written by a seven-year-old [Unnimaya].” In fact, Paridhi is well on its way to set a record – at least a local one – by publishing 100 books this year!
More or less prolific, with over 300 books to its credit is Maithri Books, which has been active in the scene for the past 15 years. It is run by Lal Salaam and his wife, Maya, and publishes under its label “serious” tomes on history, Dalit politics and social justice, Left ideology, and so on, for which subjects they claim “there is a niche market – intellectuals, politicians, students, and so on.”
Similarly Sign Books, set up in 2005 by a group of friends, has over a 100 titles to their credit, most of which are intellectual, political, cultural or analytical works. “To stand out on the shelf we try to ensure all round quality of production, one that can rival that of any established publisher,” says Bobby Thomas, managing partner of Sign Books.
A fair majority of these publications fall under the category of vanity publishing – industry lingo for self-publishing – and these enterprises are a haven for them. “Truth be told, vanity publishing is mostly books on poetry, for which the market is very limited,” says Lal, who has a separate label – Evergreen – for vanity publishing.
Univocally, the publishers say that their biggest challenge and the major worry is the actual marketing and selling of books. “Most of us do not have the financial means to pull off an extensive marketing strategy and so are forced to rely on distributors who charge a bomb as commission or resort to door-to-door sales to sell our wares. Nearly all stalls/book shops here have a sale-or-return policy,” rue Rajeev Kumar and Lal. To cut distribution costs, most of the publishers have gone tech-savvy, with many of their titles available online.