“New writers are changing the landscape of Malayalam publishing”

shares Ravi DeeCee of DC Books, in conversation with Varsha Verma, who believes that Indian
language publishing represent the cultural ethos of India.

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Ravi DeeCee
Ravi DeeCee

“There is lot of good writing happening and Malayalam has lot of new writers coming up, which at times become instant bestsellers. The industry is definitely growing and bestsellers are getting more popular as the numbers are increasing. Earlier, we were selling 5000 copies of bestsellers which has now gone up to 10,000 and even 25,000 for few books. This is a good trend,” shares Ravi DeeCee of DC Books.

“Publishers are experimenting with new authors, new subjects and storylines and these have been well accepted in the market. There are lot of new topics in nonfiction which are popular too but fiction sells more in Malayalam language,” he shares.

On readership…
“Digital is a big thing in India but it will still take some time to find roots in rural areas. Here, rural libraries have a strong role to play. If every Panchayat can have local libraries, it will give a big boost to increase readership,” shares Ravi.

Another important point that Ravi mentions is that 95% of the books published should be sold to readers and only 5% to libraries. “Then only readership will increase,” he says. “When I joined publishing in 1991, I realised 80% of my books were going to libraries, which was a dangerous sign as if the government stops the library funding, it will be a big problem. Gradually, we shifted focus and in four years, we changed to 50:50 model, then 80:20 model in 10 years time and now 90:10 model.”

On Meesha, the controversial fiction novel… 
Meesha (meaning moustache) is a recent bestseller, written by S Harish. The novel landed into a controversy for depicting Hindu women visiting temples in a derogatory light. “The book was being serialised but that was also stopped by fanatic group but we published the book as we believed in the freedom of expression. There was an uproar in the social media on release of the book and a case was filed as well. For a day or two, we had 150 policemen deployed at our office. We had around 400 cops across Kerala protecting our stores and others. Even today, we have two cops deployed at my home. But, the Supreme Court dismissed a plea seeking a ban on the ‘Meesha.’ The court said that the “craftsmanship of a writer deserves to be respected.”That became a landmark decision and all the publishers and legal firms working in interest of publishers supported me in this trying time. That judgement was actually required by the industry,” shares Ravi.

On Association with Sharjah International Book Fair
Ravi DeeCee shares, “We started participating at Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) 10 years back. We applied for a stall there as we thought there is a huge Indian diaspora out there. Infact, there are so many Keralites in Sharjah that their population is second only to Arabs. There was a huge crowd at our stand as Indians thronged to it to get books of their choice. Infact, people thought that we are giving out some freebies for which there is such a huge crowd!”

“When Ahmed Al Ameri joined the Sharjah Book Fair Authority, he asked me if they can do India as a focus country at Sharjah International Book Fair. We contacted all the Indian authorities but they turned down the proposal. So, we started inviting Indian publishers to Sharjah International Book Fair and that became a huge success as we took not just the Malayalam publishers, but also English publishers to the show. Since then, we have continued to be associated with them as event partners. They also have another event partner from UK,” shares Ravi.

“We have 44 stalls at Sharjah International Book Fair, of which 6-8 stalls are DC Books while the rest are taken by bigwigs like Rupa, Penguin, HarperCollins to name a few. We sell the stalls to them and manage their stalls and sell their books at the fair. We have 25-30 people from India, while another 15-20 people are hired locally to manage these stalls,” he adds.

As an added attraction, Ravi also brings Indian authors to the Sharjah International Book Fair. “Lily Singh is a very famous author there and we took her to the fair. Now, SIBF has grown into one of the largest book fairs in terms of the footfalls,” he shares.

On sales…
“Physical books are picking up in a very big way and online sales are growing too. Brick-and-mortar shops have their own charm as people like to spend their evenings there,” he shares. “Infact, DC Books has 11.54% market share in India, second only to Penguin Random House, which actually calls for a celebration. By 2020, 9 out of 10 people would be using digital platform on languages and I think language publishing has a long way to go, especially in the field of audiobooks. Diversity of content matters and if you have the right content, you are the king,” he concludes.

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