“Let’s Think Of Democratisation Of Literature In A Post-Covid World”

says Neeta Gupta of Yatra Books in conversation with All About Book Publishing.

Neeta Gupta is the publisher at Yatra Books and a literary consultant with a special emphasis on translations. She is also the editor of Bharatiya Anuvad Parishad’s quarterly journal on translation, Anuvad. Yatra Books and Bharatiya Anuvad Parishad share strategic strengths and draw synergy and creativity from their complementary activities. She has been working towards creating publishing connectivities across different languages and cultures.

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As the name suggests, Yatra Books refers to the cross-cultural journeys through literary translation that empower the Indian reader and connect multi-vocal bhasha writing into a powerful national voice. “We focus on high quality translations in Hindi, English and other Indian languages for the internal market. In January 2018, Yatra Books launched a new imprint, Tethys, to expand its scope beyond translation and into relevant issues of international interest,” says Neeta Gupta of Yatra Books. “We publish five to six translation titles a year. And each book is a handmade creation.”

Amazing list of titles…

“We have over the years published over 400 titles in English, Hindi, Marathi and Urdu, as well as key collaborations with international institutions like Sciences PO in Paris, for the translation of Christophe Jaffrelot’s India Since 1950; Ramon Llull Institute, Barcelona, and TEDA (Turkish Culture Ministry) for a series of Catalan and Turkish translations into Hindi.

Some of these titles have been co-published in collaboration with Penguin India, Dorling Kindersley, Cambridge University Press India Ltd. and Westland-Amazon. Having been linked to a bigger publishing house in the past has given Yatra the advantages of working on a larger scale; while retaining an autonomous identity, has allowed for an independent voice,” she shares.

Multi languages…

“We are a multilingual publishing company specialising in translations, both linguistic and across cross-cultural space. We have over the years published in Hindi, English, Marathi, Urdu, Gujarati, Telugu, Bangla and Odia,” she adds.

On distribution channels…

“We use the general trade distribution networks, which include online and offline retail. But having said that it is very difficult for small independent publishers, with a very niche list like ours and what’s more, working in Indian languages, to find shelf space in bookstores in big cities,” says Neeta as a matter of fact.

Social media…a boon for indies…

“Social media has come as a saviour for small and indie presses. It has completely transformed the publishing landscape in Indian languages. While in the ‘olden days’, publishers depended on senior writers and critics, or even friends, to recommend new voices, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram has changed all that. Bold, new writing is emerging in Bangla, Telugu, Kannada, Hindi, Tamil amongst many others. Just a few years ago, a collection of Facebook posts by an iconic journalist became an overnight publishing sensation!” she adds.

Online bookshops….

“It’s very easy to paint online retailers as the villains, but truly if it wasn’t for the Flipkarts, or Amazons, or Ureads of this world – how could indie books ever hope to see the light of day! Given how crucial online bookselling will be in the post-covid world, it is impossible to ignore the distribution and outreach possible in a time when most workplaces are moving to an online format. There has been a boom in this industry even before the pandemic, but in the wake of the current situation, it is important to re-evaluate our own prioritisation of the ebook format to promote literatures in different languages,” shares Neeta.

Future is translations…

“Translations into Indian languages is increasingly becoming popular, especially when it comes to non-fiction, self-help, lifestyle and aspirational books. The success of translations into Indian languages can be gauged by the fact that the Dainik Jagran/ Nielsen bestseller listings have a separate category for translations. Popular authors like Amish Tripathi of Westland/Amazon have successfully been translated into every major Indian language with competitive sales figures running into tens of thousands of copies. Traditionally, a book is declared a bestseller in an Indian language if it sells over 5000 copies,” tells Neeta.

“In the last 5-10 years, one has seen a spurt in the number of Indian language translations into English as well. Many of the readers for these translations tend to be Indians, as well as South Asian diasporic readers, for whom reading these translations is like returning to their roots,” she adds.

On a concluding note…

“In the end, we may need to reflect on what the future holds. In a recent meeting with Indian language publishers from across the country, we discussed how technology undoubtedly provides a level playing field, enabling the democratization of literature across languages. However, the question on many our our minds is, ‘We are ready to adopt technology, but is technology ready for us?’ “concludes Neeta.

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