Sterling Publishers
Vol. 5 No. 3 & 4 February - March 2011
ONE TO ONE with Ritu Menon
Managing Director, Women Unlimited
  Sonny Mehta- The London Book Fair Lifetime Achievement Award 2011
  Pearson buys controlling stake in TutorVista
  Aitken Alexander Associates (AAA) British Literary Agency comes to India
Dear Publishing Professionals,  

On this Republic Day the Government of India honoured two of our publishing colleagues Urvashi Butalia and Ritu Menon jointly with Padma Shri Awards. I congratulate them and wish these ladies more honours in future. They have worked together for twenty years for the spread of feminine literature in India and the world. In the earlier years our following book industry professionals have been honoured with these awards.

Padma Bhushan Shri D.C. Kizhakemuri (D. C. Books) 1999. He is the only one honoured with this award all others have been awarded Padma Shri so far.

Shri Shyam Lal Gupta ( S. Chand ) 1969, Shri Shanti Lal Jain (Motilal Banarasidas) 1992, Shri Dina Nath Malhotra (Hind Pocket Books) 2000, Shri Gyan Chand Jain (BPB Publications) 2002 and Shri Tekkatte Narayan Shanbag (Strand Books) 2003. Shri Ravi Dayal (2007) posthumously. Please update me if i have skipped any body's name.

I have interviewed Urvashi Butalia for One to One in May 2007 and interviewed Ritu Menon after the announcement of the award.

The copyright amendments are with the parliament and we do not know whether these will be passed in this budget session or postponed to the next session. Different professionals have different views I have covered some of them in the following pages. The basic issues are:

* The proposed amendments allows free import of copyrighted works from other countries.

* A copy of a work published in any country outside India with the permission of the author and imported from that country into India shall not be deemed to be an infringing copy.

I have been subscribing clipping service from the last few years but now 60% to 70% clippings are on ebooks, online services or on digital publishing earlier days it were on book reviews, bookfairs or book releases. They say coming events cast their shadows before so the digital publishing is here to stay and will increase with the passage of time.

Anant Pai of Amar Chitra Katha passed away at the age of 82. He was fondly called Uncle Pai by the children. His contribution of bringing fascinating treasure trove of Indian mythology to the attention of children in the form of comics will be remembered for eternity.


with Ritu Menon, Managing Director, Women Unlimited in conversation with S.K.Ghai
Congratulations to you on being awarded the Padma Shri Award - an honour and recognition of the continued efforts that you have put in towards the cause of gender studies and publishing.

Q. How did you feel on getting the news about the award?

Ans. I never expected it, but was happy that the cause for which we have been working for the last 27 years has been recognized by the Government of India.

Q. How did you come into publishing?

Ans. I did my Masters in Literature from Vassar College, in New York, in 1969. I was looking for an opening but there were not many options for someone with a literature degree. I joined Doubleday, a large trade publisher in New York, the same year, in their market research division. This was one of the happiest accidents in my life because I’ve remained in publishjng ever since!

Q. How did the thought of women’s publishing come to you?

Ans. I came back to India in 1972 and joined Orient Longman where I worked with Dr. Sujit Mukherjee and Raja Rameshwar Rao. I left in 1974 and joined Vikas Publishing House and worked there till 1984. At Vikas I started the feminist imprint, Shakti, in 1982 and we published quite a few titles. Bikram Garewal, our common friend, introduced me to Urvashi Butalia who was then working with Oxford University Press. She later went to London where she worked with Zed Books; and some time in 1983 Bikram told me she was planning to return, to set up a publishing outfit here. I wrote to her to say I was very interested to hear about this, she wrote back saying, that’s wonderful, so we decided to leave our jobs and start Kali for Women. Our focus was on women, of course, from a feminist perspective, and our strong links with the women’s movement I think contributed to the success of our publishing. We were able to break even in the first 2-3 years. We were also connected to the international women’s movement which helped us a lot in marketing our books and copublishing in various countries.

Q. You are known for taking up the cause of women authors, any particular reason?

Ans. Well, most research on issues from a feminist perspective was being done by women but was not being given much importance, so we thought we should provide a forum for it, as well as for material from the women’s movement. We also commissioned anthologies, multi-author books, translations from different languages biographies, autobiographies, and general interest non-fiction.

Q. When and why did you break up with Urvashi Butalia?

Ans. We had worked together for 20 years and during this time we found that our styles of operating were quite different. In 2003 we decided amicably to work independently, with the understanding that we would continue the work of Kali, which we are doing, sometimes even co-publishing under a joint imprint with Kali.

Q. What are the main things you look at in a manuscript before accepting?

Ans. The first criterion is that it has to have a gender perspective and analysis. It should also present new research on issues — environment, religion, development, health, media, violence, fundamentalism, and so on – and of course it should be well written and presented.

Q. You are a writer and a publisher. Which role do you enjoy the most?

Ans. Very difficult to say, I like both, it’s a happy conjunction. One reinforces the other and I think both benefit.

Q. You are successful in marketing subsidiary rights internationally. What is the key?

Ans. Well, a couple of things. One is our links with women’s movements across the world; this is a network that spreads the word, which is very important; plus an old association with trade and university presses. By now they know what they can expect from us, they are assured of a certain quality. Plus most of what we publish is original research, often path-breaking. That helps, too.

Q. How would you describe a good book?

Ans. A good book is one which endures, one that changes the way you think.

Q. What are your views on digital publishing?

Ans. It will affect print publishing but not in the near future, at least not in India, in the social sciences and humanities. Maybe in STM it will be more evident, but it’s still in its infancy here.

Q. What are your views on globalisation in publishing?

Ans. Well, I think globalisation has hampered the growth of independent publishing and bookselling, worldwide, and when the independents are hard-pressed then midlist authors feel the crunch. It’s not good for diversity, what’s threatened with globalization is bibliodiversity, voices on the margins, voices of dissent.

Q. Apart from looking & reading manuscripts, do you read & what is your favourite subject?

Ans. I love non-fiction, biographies, travel writing, books of current interest, political trends. And thrillers!

Q. Are you writing any book now?

Ans. Yes, I am writing a biography of Nayantara Sahgal.

Q. What makes your day - a big order or a good manuscript?

Ans. Reading a piece of writing that is just right.

Q. How do you market your books?

Ans. Not well enough, marketing/promotion is always inadequate.

Q. How many new books do you publish in a year?

Ans. We publish 12–15 titles (new and reprint) in a year.

Q. What is Maiden Voices?

Ans. It is one of our series by adolescent girls but we have published very little so far.

Q. What is the International Alliance of Independent Publishers (AIP) and for how long have you been connected with it?

Ans. The AIP was set up in 2002 in France, and has publishers from five language networks – French, Arabic, English, Spanish and Portuguese. The idea is to provide an alternative to multinational corporate publishing, internationally, by disseminating what is published by independent publishers more widely through collaborations and co-publishing projects. The AIP can help with publicity and promotion, and with small grants. Its aim is to work for an alternate globalisation, one of independent publishing.


Sonny Mehta - The London Book Fair Lifetime Achievement Award 2011
The London Book Fair has announced that the eighth annual Lifetime Achievement Award in International Publishing, sponsored by SBS Worldwide and in association with the Publishers Association, will be awarded to Sonny Mehta, Editor-in-Chief of Alfred A. Knopf Publishers, one of the world’s most distinguished publishers. He studied at Lawrence School, Sonawar Himachal Pradesh and is the son-in-law of Biju Pathnaik, former CM of Orissa.
Sonny Mehta’s contribution to English language publishing is immense. He began his illustrious publishing career in London, where he co-founded Paladin Books and was Editorial Director of Pan Books, before moving to New York to head Alfred A. Knopf in 1987. Long the publisher of such renowned writers as Thomas Mann, Willa Cather, John Hersey, Andre Gide, Albert Camus, John Updike, and Julia Child, Knopf is also the publisher for Toni Morrison, V.S. Naipaul, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Kazuo Ishiguro, Michael Ondatjee, Orhan Pamuk, Cormac McCarthy, Haruki Murakami, Peter Carey and Bill Clinton. Together, authors published by Knopf have won 24 Nobel Prizes, and they have also been leading recipients of Pulitzer Prizes, National Book Awards, and other important honours.
Sonny is well known for moving in with Douglas Adams to make sure he finished his book So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish. He is also famous for buying Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho after Simon & Schuster refused to publish it at the eleventh hour.

Sonny Mehta said: “I am honoured to accept this award from the organisers of The London Book Fair and flattered to be following in the footsteps of such distinguished past recipients. As I see it, my job has always been to champion the work of the authors I publish. And so, on this occasion, I would like to sincerely thank all the writers who have become such an important part of my life, both personally and professionally. Some of them are highly acclaimed and widely read; some, alas, have not yet found the readerships they deserve. But regardless of their appearance on any best-seller list or their selection for any award, these writers are a true inspiration. I consider myself fortunate indeed to be their publisher.”
The Lifetime Achievement Award recognises an individual who has made a truly significant mark in the sphere of global publishing. It is open to publishers, agents, editors, scouts and anyone else involved in international publishing from any country in the world, and has previously been awarded to Lord Weidenfield, Weidenfield and Nicolson, Christopher MacLehose, now of MacLehose Press, John Lyon of Little, Brown (posthumously), Lynette Owen of Pearson Education, Peter Mayer of The Overlook Press/ DuckworthPublishers, Drenka Willen, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,and last year to Antoine Gallimard, Éditions Gallimard.
Gail Hochman, President, Association of Authors’ Representatives and LBF Advisory Board Member, The London Book Fair Advisory Board, said: “Knopf has long been a leader in publishing books of lasting quality, and at its helm Sonny Mehta has been steadily an international tastemaker, innovative publisher, and believer in the power of the written word. Sonny has managed to hold to the highest standards of literary excellence and continues successfully to sell these books into an increasingly challenging market. He remains a world leader in identifying and promoting literary talent and we are proud to be awarding to him The London Book Fair Lifetime Achievement Award for 2011.”
LBF Newsletter 8th March

Pearson buys controlling stake in TutorVista
Pearson has paid $127m for a controlling stake in educational technology company TutorVista.
The Bangalore-based company supplies digital content to around 3,300 classrooms across India and provides online tutoring to approximately 10,000 students per month. It also operates a network of 60 centres across southern India that deliver English language coaching courses for university entrance exams as well as services to primary and secondary schools.

Pearson said the acquisition supports its goals of building companies in fast-growing markets. It said: “TutorVista will be integrated into our education business in India and will enhance our presence in the school market in India and in tutoring across the globe in schools and higher education.”
The publisher said it expects a return on investment in 2012, its first full year since acquisition.
Pearson CEO Marjorie Scardino said: “TutorVista is an innovative and effective education company that we have worked with and respected for several years. This acquisition - which we believe is the largest transaction in education in India by any company - signals our excitement about the vitality of India’s education sector.”
TutorVista was founded in 2005 by Krishnan Ganesh. Pearson acquired a minority stake in the business in June 2009 and this transaction brings its equity investment in the company up to approximately $139m.

Aitken Alexander Associates (AAA) British Literary Agency comes to india
Aitken Alexander Associates (AAA) has represented literary heavyweights such as Germaine Greer, Shiva Naipaul, Paul Theroux, JD Salinger, Harper Lee, and Aatish Taseer and is the first British literary agency to come to India. They have appointed Shruti Debi, who has earlier worked with Picador India as a senior agent and director of India operations.


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