“There is a bright future for language publishing in India”

says Sunil Anil Mehta, MD of Mehta Publishing House, Pune in conversation with All About Book Publising.

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Established in 1976 by Anil Mehta, Mehta Publishing House is one of the largest publishers of Marathi books – original & translated in India. Their author list includes renowned Marathi authors such as VS Khandekar, Ranjit Desai, Anand Yadav, Vishwas Patil, Shivaji Sawant, VP Kale, Shankar Patil, DM Mirasdar, Vyankatesh Madgulkar, Shanta Shelke and VS Walimbe. They have published Marathi translations of many famous foreign authors such as Robin Cook, Michel Crichton, Mario Puzo, Alister Mclean, John Grisham, Irving Wallace, Dan Brown, Jeffry Archer, Fredrick Forsyth, Lee Child, Earl Stanley Gardner, Brad Thor etc. They have also published Marathi translations of books by personalities such as Sudha Murty, Taslima Nasrin, Osho, Kiran Bedi, S.L.Bhairappa, Gulzar, His Holiness Dalai Lama, Malala Yusufzai, Nadia Murad, A P J Abdul Kalam, Sachin Tendulkar to name a few.

So, what has been the motivation to be in the language publishing space? “Actually it is the passion which drives us. We publish primarily in Marathi language,but we do have some English titles as well,” tells Sunil Anil Mehta, MD of Mehta Publishing House, Pune.

On titles and print runs…

“We publish approximately 150 titles every year and have more than 3000 titles in the backlist.Since POD technology is now available, now-a-days print runs are as per the demand of the book may be 200-400 copies at a time,” tells Sunil.

Sale & purchase of translation rights …

“The sale of translation rights is not really much. Earlier, we had sold rights of few of our titles for Malyalam, Hindi and Gujrathi. In the last one year, we have sold rights of 6 bestselling Marathi titles for English to Amazon and Harpercollins,” tells Sunil.

On asking about which countries they buy rights from, Sunil replies that they buy rights from all over the world but the major countries include UK and USA.

Bestsellers…

“Our fiction titles sell more than other genres. For original Marathi book, we consider book sale of 3000+ in a year as bestseller. And thereafter the book sales gains momentum. Some of our Indian bestsellers include Yayati by VS Khandekar (4 lakh+ copies), Swami by Ranjit Desai (3Lakh+ copies), Vapurza by VP Kale (5 lakh+ copies), Sambhaji by Vishwas Patil (1 lakh+ copies) and Zombi by Anad Yadav (75,000+ copies).

Besides, some of their translated books in Marathi which have done very well include Wise & Otherwise by Sudha Murty (1 lakh+ copies); Not Without My Daughter by Betty Mehmoody (50,000+ copies); Lajja by Taslima Nasrin (25,000+ copies); The Magic Of Thinking Big by Dr. David J. Schwartz (25,000+ copies); and Parv by SLBhairappa (15,000+ copies).

“Our titles Nath ha Maza and Natrang have been adopted into Marathi feature films. And our title Swami was adopted into a Marathi TV serial long time ago,” he adds.

Challenges faced…

“The biggest challenge we face is GST payment on royalties. Another very big challenge is book piracy. Also decreased funding to govt. libraries is affecting business adversely,” tells Sunil.

Market…

“Domestic market is definitely broadening. Export market is slow and mainly in E-book form but due to POD, we expect export market to grow in future,” shares Sunil.

“The number of book distributors is decreasing but there is definite increase in online booksellers. Currently, sales are more from retail space rather than online channels but sales from online channels is also increasing,” he adds.

“Supply booksellers are also increasing. The need of time is that individual publisher must have chain of bookshops or 4-5 publishers should collectively set up bookshops even at Taluka places,” he adds.

Readership profile…

“Anyone from age group 6-7 years onwards is our reader. It depends on genre of the book. After IT boom in India, money started rolling in the hands of young population and people started realizing the value of the content. Writings by authors such as Sudha Murty, Kiran Bedi, Chetan Bhagat etc. has inspired young readers to buy and read books,” tells Sunil.

On reading habits…

“Reading habits keep changing. Liking for genre keeps on changing. There is also a social influence. In last 10 years, people liked self-help type of books. But in the recent past, the liking has changed towards mythology / historical books,” tells Sunil.

On asking about inculcating reading habits in children, Sunil replies, “The readers’ movement should be extended so as to attract the youth and readers. ‘Book a book for every home’, ‘a library at every house’, ‘no bouquet, but books please’, etc. are some slogans which will surely attract readers. We must circulate and spread the importance of books so that reading habits of new generation get enhanced. Activities such as reading sessions in school, story-telling sessions and author meets with students should be encouraged.”

Important fairs…

“Two yearly book fairs most important for Marathi literature are ‘Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan’ and ‘Satara Granthmohotsav’, where we participate regularly. Apart from this, we also participate in many fairs held at various Taluka places in Maharashtra. We have also visited book fairs at Frankfurt, London, Delhi, Kolkata,” tells Sunil.

Importance of social for book marketing…

“Social media channels like Whatsapp, Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, Blogs, publisher websites play a very important role in books promotion. All these social media tools are cost effective, we can focus on target audience and reach to demographically larger audience from our office place. Good data collection, data categorization is a must for reaching out to target audience through social media,” he shares.

On future of Indian language publishing in India…

“We certainly see a very bright future for language publishing in India, especially with new technology such as POD printing, E books, Audio books,” shares Sunil. “Adaptation of stories/books in form of a feature film, web series, TV serial also create interest about the book amongst the audience. Recent example is a film Panipat or a TV serial Sambhaji.”

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