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English-language Fiction Publishing in India*


Jaya Bhattacharji Rose


Today, when you enter a bookshop or browse online stores and libraries for books or open the book review sections, there is such a huge variety of books being published that it feels like a deluge. It is impossible to keep pace with the reading or even the conversations. It is only a small proportion of these books that get reviewed/mentioned or included as author interviews in newspapers, weeklies and Sunday literary supplements. Otherwise, a lot of the discussions about contemporary Indian fiction in English have moved online, whether it is on blogs, e-literary magazines or facebook groups around a specific book/author/event or those interested in discussing fiction. This robust growth of fiction is evident by the confidence shown by publishers in buying rights for the local market. According to an article in the Economic Times, the publisher had reportedly paid Rs. 55 lakh for author Amitav Ghosh's Ibis trilogy. Priya Kapoor, Director, Roli Books says that 90 per cent of unsolicited submissions are fiction manuscripts though the category only constitutes 5 to 6 per cent of their list. According to Thomas Abraham, MD, Hachette India,3 it is estimated that the total volume of trade or consumer publishing in India is ‘estimated to be between Rs 1000-1200 cr. There is definitely no data for category numbers. Fiction would be too broad a category. The general and commercial segment will see a high growth. Literary fiction will be flatter. Crime and thriller depends on how many books the top 10 brands have any given year. But on a very rough average, industry growth is generally accepted as being between 12 per cent and 15 per cent, but would depend on what sort of publisher one was. So fiction can quite easily be pegged at 10-12 per cent.' The size and potential of book market in India According to a readership survey conducted by the weekly news magazine Tehelka in January 2010, only 42 per cent of India's book-buyers are habitual readers. Yet, India is the sixth-largest books producer in the world and the third-largest producer of English-language books in the world after the US and the UK in terms of volume, publishing approximately 100,000 titles a year. Alongside these statistics there exists a thriving middle class; increasing amounts of disposable income coupled with a disposition to read for pleasure rather than to clear an examination (a notice-able shift in recent years); the continuing aspiration of most Indians ...


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