Friday, August 12, 2011

Indian Writers No Longer Knock Foreign Doors: Big Fat Indian Publishers Here

Sarat Chandra Chattopadhay or say Munsi Premchand were born in the wrong era, as it seems. Devdas, the famous tale of infamous protagonist was written by Sarat Chandra in 1917, and in 2002, after almost a century later, the novel was portrayed on the silver screen, of course in a gross distorted manner. In the present time, writers are conscious, not for the plot, storytelling or say subject, but aware of futuristic movie they see based on their literature. Even more conscious are publishers, as they have suddenly discovered the untapped market of book reading and transformed them from a tight fisted circle to a big fat money supplying machine, even before the actual work. For the past few months, they have been punting dizzily on manuscripts by untried Indian authors, coughing up millions in advance royalties. Even the hype is so high, literary agents seek publishers from West, demanding fat checks for not so fat literature.

Take Palash Mehrotra, for instance. The young schoolmaster aspired to become a writer. He searched for literary agency and sent them his book proposal. He caught a fat literary agency in UK, AP Watt, who replied him with three publishers – Rupa, Penguin and Harper Collins. Rupa, after a bidding war won the publishing right of Mehrotra’s as yet unwritten book on a generation straddling two worlds: socialist India and global India. ‘The Butterfly Generation’ fetched him a handsome 10,000 pounds. He left his job as a teacher and full time devoted time to writing.

Book auctions are now very much a part of publishing trade in India. India still doesn’t have big publishing houses, and as the matter of fact, Indian writers are quite popular in global scenario, thanks to Bookers, Pulitzer and other prizes. The attitude has changed. Instead of waiting for some alms from literary agents, Indian publishers are now throwing dollars in a bid to grab the attention of literary agents and to be taken seriously by the global publishing fraternity.

The scenario has changed. Indian writers now don’t have to run after publishers with their manuscripts in a begging bowl. Book auctions in the capital city are grabbing advances for local writers from a diminutive few thousands to lakhs. Take example of a first time writer Karan Bajaj who presented his debut novel, ‘Keep Off the Grass’, to a literary agent, Osian’s Renuka Chatterjee. His advance rose to paltry sum to Rs. 1 Lakh.

The apartheid between local authors and Diasporas has been changing fast in Indian market. The Diaspora style of storytelling is becoming old, Indian readers do not want to read the books through the eyes of the diaspora.

The high advances trend work in two ways: some of them doll out unrealistic large advances. And in another where the publisher’s neck on the lines and the royalty depends on the selling of the book.

Top Indian Writers’ Paychecks

Advance received: Rs. 44 lakhs
Genre: An epic trilogy combining the drama of individuals lives with history’s big themes

Aravind Adiga | THE WHITE TIGER
Advance received: Rs. 14 lakh
Genre: Fiction, a slim novel about India’s globalization in the form of a letter from a village-born driver to China’s premier

Nandan Nilekani | IMAGING INDIA
Advance received: Rs. 14 Lakhs
Genre: Non fiction, A blueprint for India pinpointing the ideas that have shaped us over the last 60 years.

Advance received: Rs. 22 Lakh
Genre: Fiction, About a journalist who attracts the ire of the government on account of his outspoken politics

Advance received: Rs 15 lakh
Genre: Memoir, Kiss-and-tell story of Dev Anand’s many loves

New Indian Writer’s Paycheck

Advance received: Rs.8 Lakh
Non fiction: Part memoir, part travelogue, the book is about two Indias and the urban young today

Shrabani Basu | VICOTORIA & ABDUL
Advanced received: Rs. 6.3 Lakh
Non fiction: The story of Queen Victoria’s close relationship with her Indian servant, Abdul Kareem

Tony S’Souza | THE KONKANS
Advance received: Rs. 3-4 Lakh
Fiction: A romantic comedy and family saga incorporating Konkan history and moving ahead to their life in the US


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