• Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Interview with Trisha De Niyogi, Publisher, Niyogi Books

Discover insights from Trisha De Niyogi, Publisher at Niyogi Books, on Indian publishing, copyright, social reform, and mental well-being.
on Apr 22, 2024
Interview with Trisha De Niyogi, Publisher, Niyogi Books | Frontlist

Trisha De Niyogi is the Chief Operating Officer and Director at Niyogi Books, an independent publishing house based out of New Delhi, India. In her current role, one of the things she focuses on is business development. While on one hand she has started new lists of fiction, non-fiction and translated books taking literature, art, architecture, history and culture from the Orient to the rest of the globe, on the other, she has been acquiring high quality content from around the world for the Indian subcontinent’s readership as well keeping in mind that publishing must be an inclusive process. It also tries to accommodate voices from both urban and rural India and also from the marginalized section of the society like the dalits, the oppressed and the religious and caste exploitation.

She was a fellow at the Istanbul fellowship Program 2020. She has also been a regular speaker at several forums and literature festivals on publishing and she writes occasional columns on Indian publishing in varied journals and newspapers.

An avid reader, music aficionado and a cultural aesthete, she is a multi-faceted artist from Delhi, who is trained in Bharatnatyam and plays the piano. Filled with energy & an ardent desire to bring change, her other professional interests focus on the ‘education sector’ & the ‘cultural heritage of India’, wherein she aims to bring about social reform and contribute in policy making. She is an adviser to multiple organizations, including Heritage & Education organization called Heritageshaala and an Indian Literature initiative called Purple Pencil Project

Trisha holds degrees in Mathematics, Economics and Business Administration.

Frontlist: Niyogi Books is renowned for its diverse range of literature, encompassing various genres and voices. How does the company approach the selection and acquisition of content to ensure that it represents the rich cultural tapestry of India while also catering to the global readership?

Trisha: Since the inception of the publishing house, our objective has been to represent the Indian subcontinent to the world through highly researched large-format illustrated books on art, architecture, history, heritage, culture, and more. Over the years, we have diversified into other genres, sticking to the same vision of representing the subcontinent at the global level.

We have more than 700 titles on our active list, and it humbles us every day to know that we have not even attained the minimum benchmark of what can be called a mildly representative sample set. But then we know a strong vision of an organization drives us to educate and update ourselves actively.

Be it the rarefied market of large-format books, the mass market of fiction, or the ever-growing readership of children's books, our first step is to keep ourselves updated. Editors, marketing personnel, and sales personnel regularly meet to cross-verify hunches and learnings, and we have found this very useful in filling in the gaps.

For example, currently, I know we are actively seeking a good manuscript for a new book on the Ajanta & Ellora Caves or an illustrated book on the six schools of Assamese Paintings. We constantly try to reach out to scholars, who often lead us and guide us to great researchers and research happening not just in India but in Indology departments across the world.

In fact, I must confess that we have always been inspired, supported, and guided by our authors and other intellectuals with whom we have yet to work. So, a big thank you to all of them.

Frontlist: World Book and Copyright Day serve as important reminders of the significance of literature and the protection of intellectual property rights. As the Chief Operating Officer of Niyogi Books, how does the company uphold copyright laws and advocate for the rights of authors and publishers in an era of digital piracy and content sharing?

Trisha: In Niyogi Books, we recognize the importance of upholding copyright laws as well as advocating for the rights of authors specially in the face of digital piracy and content sharing. And the first step is to understand what copyrights are, what are the legal protections which can be taken and even how to identify and address instances of infringement. But, before digital piracy, let’s talk about physically piracy which was and still is rampant and should not be ignored in the light of digital. We had introduced holograms on the copyright page. Hence, if you see any Niyogi Books titles without the hologram, it is safe to assume that the book might not be original. However, when it comes to digital piracy, we too are victims of such activities. While we constantly talk about respecting a copyright of the author or the creator by purchasing or borrowing a book from a library rather than accessing pirated content and its role fostering creativity and innovation, we are collaborating with other organizations to try and fight it. We strive to ensure that creators are fairly compensated for their work and that literature continues to thrive in the digital age.

Frontlist: How do you see the Indian publishing industry evolving in response to changing readership trends, technological advancements, and shifting socio-political dynamics?

Trisha: In today’s day and age, Indian publishing Industry will evolve as are other industries and it must. If we are unable to remain nimble and flexible, we will be relegated to the past and become obsolete. Having said that, I have heard many times ‘aajkal padta kaun hain!’ and yet we see the children book market growing leaps and bounds, new specialized publishing houses coming up and new bookstores opening up. Yes, I agree we must keep up with the changing times and the world of publishing is constantly doing so. With the new creator’s award, we cannot deny the role of storytelling and in extension stories play in our lives. While, today, non-fiction sells more as compared to fiction, but non-fiction today is also written in a very story-like style. Today, it is called ‘narrative non-fiction’. 

While mythology and history are two trending genres today – even in fiction, I see sci-fi picking up pace in the near future. Technological advances will not only dominate on how we perform our daily tasks, but it will also see them entering storylines. Publishing never thrives in a vacuum, and you will be interested to know that demand and supply of books tend to be as responsive as the stock market. 

I hope NEP boosts publishing and its demand in regional languages, which will in turn definitely impact English language publishing with regards to research as well as writing and we are hopeful that we will have even more stories to share to India and the world.

Frontlist: Given your expertise in the education sector and cultural heritage of India, how do you envision leveraging literature and publishing as tools for social reform and policy advocacy?

Trisha: Leveraging literature and publishing as tools for social reform and policy advocacy in India requires a multi-faceted approach that integrates education, cultural heritage, and community engagement. On one hand, encouragement of publishing and promotion of literature not only raises awareness about social issues and promotes empathy and understand among readers, it also is great in developing soft skills which could lead to altering many mundane decisions.

Here I give you an example how the mutual love for Ghalib altered the fate of a case – an article which was published in the Wire. There are many such judgements which have literary references, which make these judgements accessible to non-lawyers and lay readers like me.

In our publishing house, we have tried to include books which could become a part of literary activism as well. Diverse voices and inclusivity, is not something we practice only with the commissioning of the written word but also in our day-to-day lives - both in and off the workplace.

Publishing of diverse experiences and perspectives of Indian society, including marginalized and underrepresented voices – could be called a form of literary activism. Having said that we also encourage our authors to using their public platform and influence to advocate for social change beyond their written work and we are constantly in the process of furthering their voices and leveraging our own capabilities to bring about changes over the years.

Frontlist: Mental health is a topic of increasing importance in today's fast-paced world. How do you prioritize mental well-being amidst your demanding schedule, and what advice do you have for others in the industry who may be struggling with stress and burnout?

Trisha: It is something I acquired over the years. In my twenties, I wanted to do everything at the same time, which would burn me out faster than it should have. I tried planning everything out on a notebook on a daily basis. While, my efficiency increased, I still felt restless for things not done and time running out, till one day my father told me, "It's better to have a small, secured advantage than the possibility of a bigger one."

My father always had a great appetite for taking risks – but calculated risks, which is perhaps, why this particular statement did not go down with me instantly. But, then in due course of time I realized how little success and incremental growths are very important in the grand scheme of plans. It was over the years of practice that I today I can say I have a lot going in my head, but stress occasionally. And when I am stressed I push myself for a good workout.

These are very inexpensive and doable ways of dealing with stress, in my opinion. Playing a sport regularly or developing a solution-oriented approach to problems could help to. If you can solve a problem find solutions, when there is no solution why stress over it, find an alternative – of course this all pertains to our daily lives and not extreme situations.

Frontlist: What advice do you have for aspiring authors regarding protecting their intellectual property and navigating as World Book and Copyright Day is approaching?

Trisha: Read and sign contracts and keep records.

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