Licensing gives wider reach to books

Licensing allows Indian publishers to showcase their books and buy books from lesser-known countries, many even non- English speaking.


Karadi Tales is an independent children’s publishing house based in Chennai, focusing primarily on picture books and audiobooks. It was started in 1996 with an intent to create a space for Indian culture in the world of children’s publishing, by a group of writers, educators and musicians. Here, Shobha Viswanath, Co-founder and Publishing Director of Karadi Tales Company shares her views on licensing in children’s publishing.

AABP: Licensing of children’s books has always been popular. Why do you think this is so?

Shobha: There are many reasons for this. For one, some countries may not have a mature children’s publishing segment. And the best way to service the needs of children’s reading is to licence books from other countries.

In India, it initially started with simply importing the books from other countries like Russia and the UK. Even after the arrival of CBT and NBT, it was only in the mid-nineties that a few independent children’s publishing houses came into establishment.

Two, in educational publishing, one has always licensed children’s content – the production quality and the research that came from foreign publishers were leagues ahead of what we in India produced. Encyclopaedias and books on science were books that were most licensed from foreign publishers.

Today, we are happy to say that the licensing trend is so different. The world has become a smaller place. With international book fairs opening their doors and countries establishing incentives to buy books from them, licensing has allowed publishers in India to showcase their books and also buy books from lesser-known countries – many even non- English speaking.

And this leads us to the third reason, now publishers also tend to think in a more creative manner when it comes to books for children, so the books have stunning art, interesting formats, captivating stories – all of which introduce children to diverse literature and art from around the world.

AABP: Could you tell us a little about how licensing works in publishing?

Shobha: There are a few big rights book fairs that occur during the year. The most notable are the Frankfurt Book Fair, and the Bologna Book Fair, the latter of which is only for children’s books. Publishers from all around the world gather at these fairs and present their titles to other publishers. Appointments are made beforehand. Once a publisher expresses interest in one of our books, we send them the PDF. When they confirm they’d like to go ahead, we draw up a contract with them specifying the territory in which they can sell, what language they can sell in, how long the term of the contract is, etc. We also have agents who are constantly on the lookout for publishers who would be interested in our titles.

AABP: What is the market share of licensed books in children’s books category?

Shobha: While the market share of licenced foreign children’s books in India used to be rather high, there is much evidence today of the growing shelf space by original children’s books by Indian publishers.

AABP: Which licensed products is your publishing house offering?

Shobha: The rights of all our picture books, audiobooks, and chapter books are on offer to other publishers (unless a publisher is interested in a title that has already sold rights in their territory)!

But other than books, we have also have licensed our animated content and audio to OTT platforms within India and outside. We also have licensed our content to Airlines as inflight entertainment for children and to television channels.

AABP: What is the scope of these licensed products?

Shobha: Selling the rights to our books is wonderful because it widens the reach of our publishing house, our books, our authors, and our illustrators. It reaches a whole new audience and introduces children from around the world to our culture through our stories.

AABP: What factors do you keep in mind while buying licenses?

Shobha: When buying rights, it is important to keep in mind what will work for your country’s market, in our case, the Indian market. Some international publishers bring out books with very avant-garde art or abstract themes, we’ve found these do not work so well for us. We look for books that have beautiful art and that cover interesting topics and themes. We also like looking at folktales from around the world.

AABP: How has digital evolution changed the market when it comes to licencing books?

Shobha: With digital content, the playing field has become bigger. As of now it has not affected the right sales of children’s physical books significantly, especially books for younger readers. But I can see it changing. The pandemic has veered even younger readers to the digital space and we have to wait and watch to see if this is a permanent change or otherwise.

Co-founder and Publishing Director of Karadi Tales Company, Shobha Viswanath has been responsible for steering the direction of the publishing house. She has also authored over twenty books, been translated into multiple languages such as Korean and German.

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