“Let a thousand voices bloom!”

opines Meera Johri, partner, Rajpal & Sons, who feels that it is important to let all voices be heard, whether they are bestselling authors or debutants.

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A partner at Rajpal & Sons, Meera Johri is an MBA from the Faculty of Management Studies, University of Delhi. Rajpal has one of the widest range of books across genres like literature, fiction, autobiographies, dictionaries and reference books, children books, books on self-help and self development, and books on philosophy and spirituality. More recently, they won the first Romain Rolland Book Prize for ‘Main Gumshuda.’ As a follow up of that,four of their books have been recommended by the French Book Office for publication in France. These include Kashmirnama by Ashok Kumar Panday, Algoze ki Dhun Parby Divya Vijay, Mallika by Manisha Kulshreshtha and Zindagi 50 50 by Bhagwant Anmol.

“We are in the 107th year and I am the third generation publisher. This publishing house was started by my grandfather Mahashay Rajpal in Lahore. He was a visionary publisher and even at that time, he was publishing in four languages — Hindi, Urdu, English and Gurmukhi. Urdu was the official language of the country at that time and being an Arya Samaji,he wanted to promote Hindi. Even at that time, he had the courage to publish a book on abortion, when people did not even mention family planning. He believed in doing quality work and took keen interest in all stages of publishing. The books were printed in one of the best press in Allahabad. My father joined the business when he was still in college and started publishing literature and textbooks. In 1947, when the partition happened,my father left behind the store full of books and all the assets they had built and came to India. Here, he laid the foundation of Rajpal & Sons,” shares Meera.

Rajpal & Sons boasts of literary authors like Mahahadevi Verma, Dinkar, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, to name a few. “Under the Nayee kahanee andolan, we found authors like Kamleshwar, Rajendra Yadav., etc,” she adds.

Born lucky…

Meera thinks herself lucky to grow up in a family full of books.“Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s birthday was always celebrated at my parents’ house, infact it was a tradition to have his birthday at our house. To listen to him reciting poetry was always a treasure. Amrit Lal Nagar and Shiv Mangal Singh were also regulars at our house. So, I grew up surrounded by poets and authors,” she reminisces.

After doing MBA, Meera worked as a marketing consultant for about 15 -20 years but the lure of books tugged her all the way. “Later, my father needed someone to step in and so I joined him and today, I can proudly say that I have been into publishing for the last two decades,” she shares. “Initially I was taking care of marketing but as my father withdrew, I got into editorial too. I feel marketing and editorial go hand in hand because each book is different. Once you realise you have a good script, you also start thinking as to how to market it. “

Changes in the industry…

“The biggest change in the publishing industry has been technology, which has changed the way a manuscript is received, a book is produced and the way it is marketed. But what has not changed is I think the essence of publishing — reading a manuscript and choosing one to be published. That is a human process,” tells Meera. “I feel the manuscript has its own voice. A book has to have a story and the story needs to be told well.”

“In Hindi language books, the biggest challenge was distribution But with the internet and online platforms, I think the distribution challenge has been overcome. We are able to reach more readers. The digital medium has helped to spread languages. A lot of people now use Hindi or their mother tongues communicating over the mobiles which is very encouraging,” she adds.

The statistics…

“We are publishing about 50-70 titles a year. We are doing translations from English, French, Spanish and Korean into Hindi. We have a lot of classic Hindi literature, which continues to sell well. Then, there are new authors who are happy to get published with us,” tells Meera.

On women in publishing…

“As a woman in publishing, I never felt it was a burden or impediment. The editorial segment tends to be dominated by women, but one area where women are very few is the selling/distribution. In Hindi language, we have always had a lot of women writers. As a woman, I tend to be partial to woman writers as they not only have to overcome the struggle of being a writer but a woman too. At the end it’s the merit of the manuscript. We are publishing a lot of women authors and a lot of first time women authors too,” tells Meera.

Being a trade publisher…

“When you are in trade books, you have to cater to a very wide audience because everyone has different likes and dislikes. It’s not like educational books, which have a captive market. If we are able to make a dent in the household who budgets to read books for leisure, I think that is amazing,” opines Meera.

Promote love for reading…

“Government should promote and encourage book reading by financing different projects like operation black board, grants for purchase of book and library grants, a bigger budget for education, an endeavour to make libraries vibrant, etc,” tells Meera, who is unperturbed by children reading on screen. “As long as they read a book, the medium does not matter.”

The legacy continues…

“I feel very privileged and blessed in doing what I enjoy doing because I enjoy creating books. Let a thousand voices bloom,” signs off Meera.

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