The sudden boom these days in the publishing trade in India has supposedly come about post-Chetan Bhagat, thanks to the birth of a new genre of fiction. Call it young adult fiction, college romance or Bollywood-style, these titles are being churned out faster than popcorn and sold at ‘affordable’ prices. Mostly, they’re aimed at university students.
Surprisingly enough, the same target audience never finds a Rs 300 pizza ‘ridiculously expensive’ while a Rs 1,000 pair of jeans is ‘quite reasonable’. But talk about a good book available for ‘200 bucks’ and you’ll see incredulity written all over their faces.
These new books have been selling about 40,000-50,000 copies. A bestselling Salman Rushdie sells about half number in India. This young adult fiction trend seems to have altered not just the definition of books, but of writing as well. An aspiring author recently mentioned that his manuscript was turned down by an agent not because his English was bad but because it was ‘too good’. The language wasn’t poetic or ornate; it was simply correct. “Too good to sell,” his agent had reportedly told him.
Some editorial service agencies have been receiving similar requests: ‘Edit this manuscript the way you need to, but do leave some rough edges in there. Don’t turn it into a book that
reads too well.’ Some publishers have even adopted the stance that it’s perfectly acceptable to not bother with editing such titles, since Indian readers aren’t discerning anyway. Their argument is that we are not trying to teach the readers English; we’re simply offering them a story they can relate to.
In other words, anybody can be a writer. And as long as they sell, nobody’s complaining. If this trend is to continue, publishers may as well simply turn into printers.
Divya Dubey is publisher, Gyaana Books. The views expressed by the author are personal