• Monday, August 08, 2022

The collapse of Westland brought despair in Indian authors

on Feb 08, 2022

The sudden demise of Westland, one of the largest English-language trade publishers, has come as a massive shock in the Indian publishing industry. It was acquired by Amazon back in 2016 and it was great news for all Indian authors and readers. It started life as Affiliated East-West Press, a distributor of books, back in 1962. Westland had worked with top bestsellers like Amish Tripathi, Chetan Bhagat, and more such authors and helped them grow their physical and digital book business in India. However, after more than five years, on 1st February 2022, Padmanabhan broke the news of the company closing down its operations, stating that this was a difficult decision, and Westland had been honored to publish the work it did. The abrupt move of shutting down the company brought authors with questions. 

While some writers received a call from editors who broke the news to them and assured them that their work would be safe in their hands, they were all notified through email on February 1 that Westland would be closing its doors on March 31. Some books' sales would finish on February 28th, while newer books' sales would stop on March 31st.

“Publishing is built on relationships and books happen because of them. There is damage to the ecosystem when you shut a publication; it shrinks,” stated Nisha Susan, who published her book, The Women Who Forgot To Invent Facebook and Other Stories, with Westland. “Even if you have a proposal, editor, and publisher, if you change the publisher, the same book will be a very different book.”
Hence, the news had brought huge despair to authors and it even crumbled the publishing ecosystem which led to growing losses.
Changes in preferences by readers brought a lot of turbulence in the top author’s career. This means that many of the authors the publisher bet big on, started witnessing flagging sales. Bhagat and Tripathi, particularly, witnessed a precipitous decline in relative popularity, according to multiple industry sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. While Bhagat still makes the bestseller lists, his sales volumes have fallen dramatically from their peak, when his books have sold more than a million copies.
All authors affiliated with Westland or were planning to do so, are struggling currently. Authors who have had their books published a few years ago or in the last two months, and those who are set to be published within the next few months will be the most affected. Roy’s upcoming book Black River was to be published by Westland at the end of summer, and rights will return to her on March 31 if an acquisition does not happen. But since the situation is still evolving, she said she will not rush to find a new publisher right now but wait to see what happens.
Meanwhile, as many took to social media to lament the loss of Westland, several of them, including independent bookstores, used the medium to encourage readers to make their purchases before the books stop printing.
Ashoka University library, for example, planned to purchase 119 literature titles from Westland Books. “In fiction and poetry, both in English and translation, many of these books in the Westland catalog aren't necessarily big sellers, but are instances of fine, sensitive writing,” Saikat Majumdar, head of the creative writing department said. “This news is especially disastrous for new, emerging and ‘midlist’ writers – those who are not necessarily in the big news (who will find other publishers easily), but who have something important and valuable to say nonetheless.”

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