Publishing industry in India is not just surviving, it is thriving: Meghna Pant

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Meghna Pant briefly discussed the publishing industry of India in an interview with The Hindu. She also talks about how do bestseller lists and awards affect sales? She said that most bestsellers today follow a cut and paste formula — write in simple language, devise fast-paced narratives with plenty of emotions and drama, identify a specific market, target the customer, keep the price point of the book between ₹99 and ₹150, market well, and, most importantly, track the product. Indians today are reading the bestselling books, not the best books. The bestseller label can’t be the only criterion for buying a book. Check the author’s writing credentials, see how many awards they’ve won, if they’ve been published abroad.

She interacted with publishers, authors, industry stalwarts and stakeholders to understand the publishing while researching her book, “How to Get Published in India”. There is a major concern that publishers are feeling the pressure to put out more books each year, but this has skewed the supply-demand ratio. But here, Meghna Pant explains that according to the India Book Market Report (2016), India is the sixth-largest publisher in the world overall and the second-largest publisher in the world for English-language books. Indians read around 2.1 books a week. According to World Culture Score Index, Indians spend more time reading than their counterparts globally. So, supply-demand is not an issue; smaller publishers are cropping up almost everywhere. A good book will find a good audience no matter who the publisher is.

In this digital era, publishers are facing a hard time because e-book sales still haven’t surpassed physical sales and audiobooks haven’t taken off the way experts predicted, so how important is it for publishers to embrace technological advancements. Pant answered this question with facts that 90% of all books published in India sell less than 2,000 copies a year. A paltry 9% sell between 2,000 to 10,000 copies and less than 1% sell more than 10,000 copies. The number sounds ridiculous, but we are a population of almost a billion and a half. A book is typically considered a bestseller when it crosses the coveted 10,000 marks within a year of publication. Despite technological advances, digital revenue is still only 3-4% of the total sales.

Lastly, she discussed the future of the publishing industry. She quoted, “Authors are fighting for the reader’s attention not only with other authors but also with Pokémon and Taylor Swift and WhatsApp. We are questioning whether people are even reading any more. We are wondering whether the rise of commercial fiction has beckoned the end of literary fiction. There’s so much flux.” Later she concluded that the Indian publishing industry has a successful growing future. She said that today we have three generations of English-speaking Indians, who are hungry to read. They are particularly hungry to read in English. This trend will continue to grow. With every new generation, we will see a bigger readership market. She also talked about new-age content consumption platforms.

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