Authors look forward to hybrid book fairs…
All About Book Publishing spoke to three established authors to know their views on the book fairs. Here are the excerpts.
AABP: In your opinion, how important are book fairs for authors? What do authors expect from the fair?
Anita: I believe the book fairs can offer an excellent opportunity to the authors to promote their books, a platform where they can directly connect with the readers. Being a professional writer is a tough proposition. Years of hard work of an author can just conclude in flak. I doubt that the amount of determination and tenacity that the authors need to sustain is required in any other profession. An author may end up earning just nothing from the published work. The truth is –– unless you sell a million copies of your book, you can remain a pauper without some other means of support. In such a scenario, the book fairs facilitate the authors to make their voices heard. But, it is not always efficacious.
Aabid: Indeed book fairs are important for an author because he comes in contact with his readers face to face. A golden opportunity to discover reasons of success or failures of his books. For me the book fair is like village fair. I live in Mumbai but never miss the opportunity to rush to Delhi for the simple reason, I expect to hug all my authors friends and meet publishers too. The additional advantage is- if your publisher is not picking your phone, not responding to your messages to pay royalty, not available to meet you, you can easily catch him here. For no publisher can escape you.
Mandira: The book fairs which are held all over the world are extremely important both for the authors, readers, as well as the publishers. For the authors as their works which are their treasures get exposed which is their primary aim. Readers and book lovers wait for the book fairs which delight the authors the most.
AABP: How successful are author events at such fairs?
Anita: Although the book fairs are great for the publishers to display their wide selection of books, I have witnessed the author sessions arranged by them receiving mixed responses. Unless the sessions are extremely engaging or held by famed personalities, they tend to fizzle out. This era of electronics has snatched away the attention span of people –– the audience can easily be bored.
Aabid: My personal experience says, if you know how to milk the cow, the author-events can be really fruitful. I mostly get very good coverage from print media as well as channels thanks to organisers.
Mandira: Authors look forward to the Author events where they can interact with the readers, meet the media, journalists and receive acclaim for their works be it, fiction, poetry or play. Authors primarily look for appreciation of their works and interaction, specially physical interactions make them happy and fulfilled. Reading your own story or poems at Author events at the Book fairs where thousands of book lovers attend is a very rewarding experience.
The book fairs which are held all over the world are extremely important both for the authors, readers, as well as the publishers. For the authors as their works which are their treasures get exposed which is their primary aim.
AABP: Any personal incident you would like to share.
Anita: Just like life, I have had bittersweet experiences at the book fairs. It was at the Delhi Book Fair a few years ago. There were many authors at the venue promoting their books. They were receiving good responses from the visitors till the word spread that author Chetan Bhagat had honoured the event with his visit. All of a sudden the bookstalls were empty, the authors left high and dry while the crowd rushed to mob the illustrious personality.
And then there was this heart-warming incident after my book Fluffy and Me was published. I had an interactive session planned for an evening at the New Delhi World Book Fair. The moment I reached it, the organizers introduced me to a teenager who had been waiting for me for the past five hours at the stall to get her book signed. I was so overwhelmed by the young admirer. But I was in for a greater surprise when I came to know the young girl had read my book ‘Fluffy and Me’ for astounding 31 times and knew most of it by heart. Such incidents turn out to be great incentives for the authors to persevere through rejections or denigrations, and continue to give their best.
Aabid: Make the best of the book fair. A few years back my publisher had decided to release my The Black Book in the book fair. The formal permission was taken from the relevant authority. The chief guest was finalized. Cards were printed. Media was informed. And just a couple of hours before the event, we were informed that the book release permission has been cancelled. No reason given. May be the original Hindi version had created controversy like Satanic Verses. In fact it was Satanic Verses, written decades before Salman Rushdie. Well, I had to cancel the event but welcomed the journos who had been invited. As I said, make the best of the book fair, the book release event was altered to “Meet the Press.” Believe it or not, my book got unexpected publicity and within a couple of days all copies were sold out.
Mandira: I remember primarily two book fairs, Delhi Book Fair and the New Delhi World Book Fair.,which I have participated. The Sahitiya Akademi and Indian Society of Authors held an Author event both on fiction and poetry readings, where I read my story Seminar, now published in my book Broken Wall and the audience could not understand whether it was a story or a poem. I have been an educator for more than twenty years. I remember in the last New Delhi World Book Fair held at Pragati Maidan, my old students attended the poetry event organised by Yuyutsu Sharma, the celebrated Himalayan Poet, and myself at Nepal Pavilion where the students were overwhelmed to see my new avatar.
AABP: Pandemic has made book fairs go online. How much are they successful?
Anita: As Covid 19 continues to impact life and the economy, including the publishing industry, the online book fairs are the valid replacement. It is fortunate that we live in an era of electronics. There was a time when traditional book fairs used to be big events for the families. It was a whole day affair –– jostling with the crowds, visiting various tastefully decorated stalls, meeting authors, and then trudging home in the evening with each member happily carrying bundles of stuff that would soon transport them to beautiful and imaginary worlds created by the authors. The footfall in each Delhi book fair used to be in lakhs per day.
Though the online book fairs have none of that festivity aura, yet they are a great substitute for traditional book fairs …podiums for the book lovers to get glimpses of their favourites from the wide diversity of titles on display. The authors get to interact with the readers, the readers are easily able to shortlist their bargains, multiple sessions can be attended which were not possible in the conventional ones.
Aabid: I don’t have facts and figures but I feel it’s really hard to succeed online. In simple words, the pleasure of holding a book in hand is missing.
Mandira: I primarily look for face-to-face interaction with my readers. But in unavoidable circumstances like these in the present world, that is a global village, online book fairs have become very successful. Online or virtual programmes reach wider audience as it is not possible for every book lover to meet the authors and attend the book fairs physically.
AABP: When it comes to book fairs – what is your choice – online vs offline or a mix of both. Why?
Anita: Indisputably a mix of both. The offline fairs had their own charm. When I visited a book fair, the crowds furnished the fact that reading habits were still thriving despite all the hullaballoo about the electronic era having massacred it. But I also noted that it was mostly families with little children tagging along which formed the largest group. The parents appeared eager to inculcate reading habits in their children. Perhaps, it was their vertex efforts to dissuade their children from getting hooked to electronic gadgets. And then the whole operation of visiting the book fair got added on to a picnic day with assortment of cafeterias and coffee bars burgeoning at the venue.
Yet, being worried about the future of our planet, I also support online fairs. They help save environmental contamination by reducing carbon imprints, are easily accessible, time saviours, convenient options and one can access the content of specific needs. In these pandemic stricken times, no doubt, they are the safest alternatives.
Aabid: Mix of both is a brilliant concept. The normal book fair will get the advantage of modern technology.
Mandira: A mix of both. Hybrid fairs and hybrid events are always welcome.
Born in Shimla in 1955, Anita Krishan spent the initial twenty-two years of her life in this pristine Himalayan town. In her long tenure as an educator, she has enriched the lives of countless students with the mystery of the narrative, before moving on to a full time career of writing. She also worked as the senior columnist at The Indian Economist, extending her perspectives on various political and social issues. A versatile writer, each of her literary works appertains to a different genre . . . from the joys and travails of life, to terrorism that has brought the world to its tenterhooks, to now the paranormal.
Aabid Surti is an octogenarian national award-winning author having a long list of accomplishments to his credit. Born on 5th May 1935 in Gujarat, Aabid Surti joined the J.J. School of Arts and trained in Fine Arts after his schooling. In 1958, he organised his first solo exhibition of watercolour landscapes in Nainital. He is also a screenwriter, playwright, artist and a cartoonist.
Mandira Ghosh is a poet and author of eminence. She has been awarded with prestigious Bharat Nirman and Woman Achiever Award by the Asian literary society, amongst others. She has been awarded with Senior Fellowship of Ministry of Culture Government of India and also is the Guest Editor, Special Indian edition the Seventh Quarry, Swansea Magazine from Wales , U.K. Presently she is the treasurer of the Poetry Society India and also in the Editorial Board of The Poetry Society India. She has authored, edited and transcreated eighteen books.