India's Rs 80 billion book publishing industry is riding a wave of success thanks to innovative marketing strategies like blog discussions, e-mail to readers and preview booklets to promote new titles.
"In the last two years the industry has grown manifold. From an unorganised cottage industry, it is slowly turning into a strategy-driven organised sector," said Shobhit Arya, chief of Wisdom Tree Publishing house.
"Nowadays book publishers are resorting to blogs to discuss and promote newly launched titles. We have done it earlier and are in touch with a couple of bloggers to do the same for our future titles," Arya told.
Leisure coffee table reading, plush-reading galleries at book stores, increased participation of Indian publishers at international book fairs and e-books are all proving to be trade tricks to boost sales, he said.
Shakti Mallik, president of the Federation of Indian Publishers, said the Indian publishing industry was now "worth Rs 80 billion and it is growing by over 15 per cent every year".
Exports now comprise a healthy Rs 4.6 billion compared to the paltry Rs 330 millions in 1991, he said.
Tejeswar Singh, managing director of Sage Publications, said that in order to give a personal touch his firm sent e-mail to readers.
"E-mail and phone calls sometimes work wonder for business. Readers feel for your publication and you get a loyal customer. Indian publishers have certainly come of age and are inventing new ways to woo readers," Singh said. Sage sells around 300,000 books per year.
In the last two years, book publishing and promotional events in India have become trendier—gala book launch events, more reader-publisher interactions and, most recently, preview booklets of upcoming titles.
Arya said they have printed 20,000 copies of preview booklets for their forthcoming book When you are sinking, become a Submarine by Pavan Choudhary, who is reported to give self-help tips to snooker champion Pankaj Advani and shooting ace Gagan Narang. These booklets contain summaries of selected chapters, some photographs and a brief overview about the author.
"After distributing preview booklets at select stores in major cities we received a three-fold increase in orders. We are also planning to open temporary counters at corporate houses as a new marketing initiative," he added.
Wisdom Tree has sold over 250,000 copies of books in the past one year—an increase of over 20 per cent.
The National Book Trust (NBT) recently led a delegation of Indian publishers to the Beijing Book Fair with an eye on growth. Chinese publishers showed keen interest in books related to IT, management, medicine, yoga, jewellery and even Bollywood, an official of the autonomous government body said.
"It's a clear indication of our (Indian publishers) initial breakthrough into the Chinese market," said an NBT official.
According to Tejeswar Singh, Indian books published in vernacular languages are making inroads into neighbouring countries.
"While a lot of Urdu literature is entering Bangladesh, several titles written in south Indian languages, especially Malayalam, are heading to Gulf countries," he said.
English translations of Indian books are also being accepted in foreign countries.
Of the total titles produced in India, 45 per cent are in English, making India the third largest producer of books in the language after US and Britain.
Singh said the expansion of their Indian operations by foreign players like Pearson, Penguin and McMillan had also helped the industry.
Leading book retailers are equally happy with the rising sales.
"Books are now being packaged to suit the needs of readers. It's growing as a lifestyle business," said Sandip Dutta, owner of BookCafe, a leading chain of bookstores in India.
"All our stores are inside Café Coffee Day parlours and this gives people an opportunity to read as a leisure activity. Knowledge through refreshment is our mantra," said Dutta, who runs 30 bookstores across nine states.
Among Wisdom Tree's bestsellers is Yoga For Weight Loss by Bharat Thakur that sold over 20,000 copies and went in for reprint seven times, while Sage is banking on the success of The Next Afghanistan by Hiranmay Karlekar, which sold over 2,000 copies in the last one year and has gone for a reprint.