Publishers’ Exchange: connecting Indian language publishers

-Nine Perumal Murugan titles to be translated directly from Tamil into Marathi

Just six months back, Publishers’ Exchange was formalised by Indian language publishers to meet weekly via Zoom calls, learn from one another and keep each other updated on global best practices. One of their objectives has also been to acquire translation rights from each other’s catalogues and the first contract has been signed between well-known Tamil and Marathi publishers.

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In April 2020, a group of Indian language publishers from across the country came together to understand and tackle challenges of publishing and distribution in a post-COVID world. The idea behind “Publishers’ Exchange” was to meet via weekly Zoom calls, learn from one another and keep each other updated on global best practices. This was a first-of-its-kind platform of publishers representing different languages. Before this, most professional guilds and bodies were only looking at local issues in their regions.

The exchange welcomes publishers, authors, editors, translators, graphic designers and service providers who work closely with the publishing industry, especially those working with Indian languages, including, but not limited to, Hindi, Marathi, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Odia, Assamese and Bengali. This is the place for exchanging ideas, rights, resources and networking.

Issues discussed…

“Our first discussion included diverse publishers and literary professionals from around the country, such as Kannan Sundaram from Kalachuvadu in Nagercoil; Ravi Deecee from DC Books in Kerala; Meera Johri from Rajpal and Sons; Tridib Chatterjee and Esha Chatterjee representing the Kolkata Publishers and Booksellers’ Guild (headed by Tridib Chatterjee) and Patra Bharati (their Bangla publishing house); Aditi Maheshwari Goyal from Vani Prakashan; Sharad Ashtekar from Madhushree Publications; Bhaskar Dutta-Baruah from Lawyer’s Book Stall in Guwahati; Manish Dhariwal from markmybook.com; and Urmila Gupta, an independent translator and editor,” tells Neeta Gupta, Publisher, Yatra Books, who has been the force behind this unique initiative.

Talking more about the issues discussed, Neeta shares, “Our readership is region-specific and markets are defined by language. Indian language publishers usually handle their own distribution. And yet it is very difficult for a Tamil publisher, for instance, to ensure that their entire catalogue is available to cosmopolitan Tamil readers in New Delhi. Even though all the titles are uploaded on online retail sites, the discoverability of Indian language books remains a problem.”

Besides, while most English language publishers and international publishers face no issue adopting technology, Indian language publishing is yet to resolve the issue of fonts. “Many Kindle devices do not support the Assamese and Bangla fonts on their e-readers,” she tells.

Over the last 6 months, the Publishers’ Exchange has tackled issues ranging from ebook conversions to onboarding on online retail platforms to audio books and physical book distribution channels to accessing rural markets to planning virtual book fairs and participating in global opportunities for Indian publishers. One of their objectives has also been to acquire translation rights from each other’s catalogues.

Translations…from one Indian language to another

“Our first major breakthrough has been the recent announcement by Kannan Sundaram, Publisher, Kalachuvadu Publications, Winner of the ‘Publishing Next’ Publisher of the Year Award 2018, that Marathi publisher, and his long-time friend, Sunil Mehta of Mehta Publishing House has bought the Marathi rights for nine titles by renowned Tamil writer and one of India’s leading literary voices, Perumal Murugan. We are so proud that this platform has enabled meaningful connections like this one, and hope to see many more collaborations emerging from our weekly conversations!” says Neeta.

On this occasion, publisher Kannan Sundaram said that, “One of the proposals put forward at the Publishers’ Exchange was the need to exchange rights between Indian language publishers. Sunil is an old friend and I knew he was interested in Perumal Murugan’s works. It is an additional pleasure that the translations will be made directly from the Tamil original,” he adds.

According to Sunil Mehta, the head of Mehta Publishing House in Pune, “The Tamil books that have been translated into Marathi so far were through English. This new collaboration of Mehta Publishing and Kalachuvadu Publications will open up a fresh dialogue between the two rich Indian languages, Tamil and Marathi. Perumal Murugan is a well-known name for Marathi readers and we feel honoured to introduce his titles to them. We cannot thank Publishers’ Exchange and Neeta Gupta enough for opening up this new platform to us. This initiative will definitely give a boost to translation between Indian languages without using English as a bridge language. It will also open up new opportunities for Indian language translators.”

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