Anybody notice how the publishing industry hasn't stopped growing in the last three years? As Thomas Abraham, CEO, Penguin India puts it, "Every day publishing hous es here take three steps forward and two steps back, but we're still growing.
"There are many new commercial writers who've made a niche for themselves in the industry And serious readers are also experimenting with new writers." And this is no random growth we're talking about.
<b1>Between the covers
Publishers are unrolling one aggressive marketing strategy after another. Says Pramod Kapoor of Roli Books, "Profit is in the details. You need to decide beforehand how much to spend on the first edition of a book, how many reprints to go for and so on.
He adds, "There are some books that have a long shelf life. For these you just print a certain number of copies for a year and later order reprints".
Early on, Roli decided to focus on India-based subjects. Says Kapoor, "Now, we believe people come to us because of the character we have evolved."
Agents of change
Abraham points out that literary agents are new players on the scene but it's not certain if they are here to stay Niyogi . Books specialises in coffee-table books about India. And their trump card has been middlemen-distributors.
Says Bikash Niyogi, "For a publisher, a book is like a product, it has to be advertised Our market is out side India, so we facilitate buying through distributors as well as websites like www.amazon.com."
All that aggressive marketing translates into strong sales figures. Says Abraham, "A few years ago, Shobha De would sell 20,000 to 25,000 copies and Vikram Seth 10,000 to 15,000. But now, the figures have gone up to 60,000 for De's hardcover book. Big brands have become bigger."
He also points out that retail bookstore chains like Landmark, Crossword and Oxford, which are expanding at "breakneck pace", are also responsible for the dramatic growth in volumes at publishing houses.
Also, the age of specialisation quickly gave birth to genre-specific publishing houses. So you have Phantomville Publishers, who publish only graphic novels, Zubaan Books that only do feminist tomes and Wisdom Tree, which focuses on how-tos.
Says Anindya Roy, editor-director, Phantomville, "We - Sarnath Banerjee and I - started doing graphic novels because there weren't many publishing houses that were willing to publish such books."
While Roy's venture is three years old, Urvashi Butalia's Zubaan has been around for 23 years. "But sales have increased only in the last few years. Readers have only just begun to explore." In time to come Going forward, Kapoor would like to improve on past books.
Niyogi says genre-specific books will only gain a stronger foothold - cof fee table books in particular, since they address cultural and historical issues and cut across generations.