Sterling Publishers
Vol. 2 No. 2 January 2008
ONE TO ONE - Interview with Mr. Ashok Chopra
BOOK REVIEW
FORTHCOMING EVENTS
Siyahi to organise Literary Festival from 21st – 22nd January 2008
The 9th National Convention of Indian Publishers
Professional Publishing in Asia 2008 from 31st Jan – 1st Feb 2008
An Intensive Course on Copy Editing and Proofreading 4th-11th June 2008
NEWS ITEMS
Italian participant’s comment on the 20th Condensed Course for Publishing Professionals
Reliance Retail to acquire IBD
Reliance starts TimeOut Retail Outlet
Amazon is mystery buyer of Rowling’s first handwritten book
Kolkata Book Fair at Park Circus
NEWS FROM PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS
IRRO
NEWS FROM SOUTH ASIA
Ekta Books celebrates Silver Jubilee
Tejeshwar Singh (1945-2007): Sage of Publishing

Dear Publishing Professionals,

I was invited by National Book Trust to give a talk in their Book Publishing training course in Patna from 3rd to 15th December 2007. They fixed my talk, which coincided with the opening of the annual Patna Book Fair on 7th December 2007. I was able to attend the opening of the fair, which was well organised by Shri H. K. Gulati, N. K. Jha and Amit Jha. The Chief Minister, Mr Nitish Kumar inaugurated the fair. He addressed the youth of Bihar and asked them to come forward and play an important role in the development of the State. He announced the allocation of 20 crores for the High and Middle Schools for the purchase of books at the Book Fair. A welcome step, and I wish other Chief Ministers of various states would follow too. Shri H. K. Gulati also announced that next year they would organise the Patna International Book Fair and the Chief Minister assured all help for the same.

Tejeshwar Singh, whom I interviewed in our January 2007 issue, suddenly left this mortal world on 15th December 2007 at his Mussourie house. He was hale and hearty but the sudden heart attack took him away. He believed that publishing is the art of dissemination of thoughts and content. He was a versatile personality, having various interests: a news reader in Delhi Doordarshan, an actor in Jalwa, a theatre actor and a loving father to his daughters. For the complete interview visit www.ibpindia.org

This month I interviewed Mr Ashok Chopra, journalist, editor-publisher, literary columnist and reviewer, and presently Chief Executive and Managing Director of Hay House Publishers. A well-known name in the Indian publishing scene, he has arguably occupied some of the hottest seats of the Indian book trade – Chief Executive of HarperCollins India, Executive Director and Publisher of the India Today Book Club and Books Today, Publishing Director of UBS, Vice President of Macmillan India and Executive Editor of Vikas Publishing House besides being on the Board of some of the leading educational institutions.


“A good book is like good sex. It should drain you emotionally and mentally. It’s something you can go back to again and again and still enjoy it.” —Ashok Chopra

Q. I have always wondered as to why are you so elusive... you don’t attend social evenings, one never sees you even at any publishing event, no book launches or federation meetings. In fact, I had to try before you agreed to this
talk. Is it some sort of cultivated image or just, as somebody said “snobbery”?
A.
(smiles) I know Khushwant said that but it’s nothing of the sort. I am just a poor manager of time. There are only 24 hours in a day and I try and fit in the maximum as per my priorities.

Q. You started as a journalist then what made you get into publishing?
A.
I had no choice. I got thrown out when I was with the Indian Express. And just then Narendra Kumar gave me a break in Vikas Publishing House. It was a very eventful and exciting phase of my life and I enjoyed every moment of it. I fell in love and that affair is still carrying on. It’s been an unending romance. Sheer nasha!

Q. You are perhaps the only one I know who has started the maximum number of big publishing houses and projects in India. Can you tell us something about them?
A.
There isn’t much to say. It’s all history. Why think about yesterday? Let’s talk about today.

Q. Why? Is there any regret somewhere?
A.
Oh no. Not at all! Look at those projects today and where they are? Macmillan in the north, the UBS publishing list, The Book Club? Look at HarperCollins? How well it is doing today. Ask them and they will tell you what healthy a state it was in when I took over and when I left. It’s all there on record. Of course, this was not only my work. I have always been lucky to have a great set of colleagues and each one of them have contributed immensely. But, one just can’t sit and keep thinking about what I did in the past. There is so much to do today.

Q. What about the Film Comics project you had started with the Hindustan Times?
A.
It was a disaster. It failed miserably. But, I have no regrets. At least, I tried it. It’s better to try and risk failure than not try and ensure it.

Q. I remember that you were the one who started the concept of corporate houses sponsoring books and bringing in socially relevant advertising into books. Can you share your experience with us?
A.
Yes, I did work on a number of big projects with many corporate houses way back in the eighties—Tata, Nestle, Samsung, Hindustan Times, Sriram Group, Godrej to name a few. It helped create a larger print run – and as you know, larger the print run lower is the unit cost. So books were priced low and sales jumped. The authors too earned well. Similarly, the idea of bringing in ads – all socially relevant like anti-smoking and publishing them on the end-papers of books was something that brought down the investments hugely, and we were able to put in that money into advertising and publicity. Remember the large hoardings that were put up in the metros for Nani A. Palkhivala’s We the Nation and what a bestseller it became? I don’t think anything like that was ever tried before or after.

Q. So why not do it again?
A.
No, you can’t. One does not go backwards in life. You have to move on. Come up with newer ideas. That was relevant and affordable at that time. Now, one has to do something different, something more radical. There is a huge book buying population in small towns of India. One has to reach those……

Q. It is said that Khushwant Singh and Nani Palkhivala have been your godfathers. Is that true?
A.
Palkhivala was certainly my godfather. But Khushwant Singh is my GOD, whom I worship every morning. Both played a very silent but vital role in my life and for making me what I am today.

Q. And in the book trade Om Arora is your best friend?
A.
Who said that? Om is not a friend. He is an elder family member – an elder brother, a humsaya, very protective towards me – who, over the years, has always been there for me, though I can’t say I have been there for him ever. He is the one I turn to for everything and anything. He is a badshah, who lives life king-size. I have learnt from him how to live, and live well!

Q. You have worked for some of the top names like Kuldeep Nayar, K.K. Birla, Aroon Purie, Narendra Kumar, C. M. Chawla and S. G. Wasani. How would you rate them?
A.
I hardly knew K. K. Birla as I must have met him half a dozen times and that too at very formal meetings. As for the others, I have very good relations with all of them even today. From Narendra Kumar I learnt what is hard work, S. G. Wasani, whom I admire immensely, taught me the business of running a publishing house, and Aroon was undoubtedly the best boss I have ever had.

Q. How would you explain that?
A.
One never ever felt that I was working under him or for him. Instead, he always made me feel that I was working WITH him. That was the huge difference. Reid Tracy at Hay House is the same. Moreover, even when I made a mistake, particularly during my stint with HarperCollins, Aroon defended me and guided me. Doesn’t that speak for itself?

Q. You have published and interacted with many authors, writers and poets. Whom would you choose as the best to work with?
A.
How can I pick and choose for each one of them has been very special in his or her own way, whether it was the top-selling author or a first time one.

Q. You are being diplomatic?
A.
No that’s the honest truth. Let’s not forget that while dealing with an author you are dealing with a creative mind. At times, even with a genius. You have to handle them carefully and, more important, with lots of respect. True, they have their little eccentricities. But, I for one enjoy them and that in turn helps me handle them better.

Q. I learnt that you have signed some of the best selling Indian names for Hay House. Can you tell us which are the big names and something about their projects?
A.
I can only give you the names of those that have been officially announced, as the rest is somewhat of a guarded secret at present. To name a few, we have signed works of the Dalai Lama, Shobha De, Rajiv Mehrotra, Rohini Singh, and Madhu Tandan’s extraordinary book on Dreams for the International market while for the Indian market we have I. K. Gujral’s memoirs, and The Empire of the Sikhs: The Life and Times of Maharaja Ranjit Singh on which Patwant Singh and Jyoti Rai have been working day and night for many years. I have read the first draft and I can say without doubt that it is a very valuable addition to the history of that period. So, it’s exciting times ahead for Hay House.

Q. Everyone was a bit surprised with your decision to join Hay House, a totally unknown name in India, particularly when you had other good offers.
A.
No, at that stage I had only one other offer. Everything came later including an offer from S. G. Wasani. But by then I had already said yes to Reid and there was no way that I was going to go back on my word. And it has turned out to be a very good decision. Hay House is a superb group to be a part of, with a great publishing philosophy.

Q. It is rare that publishers find mention in the autobiographies of authors. But many of them have written very warmly about you ranging from K. A. Abbas to Balwant Gargi to M. V. Kamath. And Shobha De devoted four pages on you in her autobiography.
A.
Shobha De has always been very generous with her words. We have had a great working relationship and I am really looking forward to working with her on the new projects.

Q. How does it feel to publish the works of Rohini Singh, your wife?
A.
Like that of any other author. But let me clarify that it was not me who gave her a break. The entire credit for that must go to Rajan Mehra. He discovered her and she did the maximum number of books for him, first under the Rupa imprint and then under HarperCollins. Later Pelican in the U.S. signed her internationally. I came into the picture years later, in fact, last of all. It’s just that I got the cream, with her book Foolproof Cookbook for Brides, Bachelors and Those Who Hate Cooking becoming one of the highest selling cookery titles.

Q. How would you describe a good book?
A.
A good book is like good sex. It should drain you emotionally and mentally. It’s something you can go back to again and again and still enjoy it.

Q. Finally, I know it is a top secret, but can you give me some idea of the book that you are writing, for which you have been given this “large” advance by a well-known Western publisher?
A.
(smiles uncomfortably) I didn’t even know I could write.


A Not So Short Story
• Publisher: Oxford Bookstore • pages: 24 • Paperback

Normally, I check my mail in the evening; so as usual when I was about to leave for the weekend, I got an envelope from Oxford Bookstore. “Another catalogue,” I thought to myself, but when I opened it a surprise was waiting for me. There in the envelope lay an elegant black and red coloured book with an equally trendy title – A Not So Short Story (Oxford Bookstore).

In Priti Paul’s view “a brochure that better describes our store’s philosophy, booklist and activities,” but a treasure for a publisher, an art collection for an artist and a booklet which you cannot keep aside without reading or enjoying the visuals that stimulate ones mind, body and soul.

I carried the book home with me, and on Sunday morning around 4 am had a great time enjoying the beauty, layout and the content of the same.

Oxford Bookstore started as a sidewalk in 1920 in the ‘city of joy’ and got a fresh lease of life when Mr Jit Paul, of the Apeejay Group, bought it over in order to make a posh restaurant in 1983. But he later changed his mind; “books provide food for thought and I consider this very important,” he said. Now Oxford with 7 branches in cities like Kolkata, Mumbai, Bangalore (2), Goa, Chennai, and New Delhi has books for every age, right from a 12-month to an 80-year old. They made their stores a place where you go to spend time amongst books, a place where you are encouraged to read, carry, or simply browse, a place where you meet and exchange ideas with other like-minded people, a place where you take a pause from the outside world to revive the spirit and replenish the soul. Along with this, every store has Cha Bars located within, where you can have a hot cup of tea or coffee and to that add some food for thought with a choice of delicious savouries, snacks and sweet nothings. Apart from this, the bookstore is not just about reading, it is also inspiring other people to write, which is why you will find beautiful stationery and writing material available in each store.

In September 1999, they were among the first few to start online bookselling and put the Oxford Bookstore also on the web, making it not only a brick and mortar model but also a click and mortar model which has now become www.oxfordbookstore.com.

They plan to have superstores in all the metros making one-stop shops for everything to do with reading, having a wider selection of books in English and regional languages so that more people can experience the joy of reading. Well done!

Siyahi to organise Literary Festival from 21st – 22nd January 2008 Siyahi, a literary consultancy based in Jaipur is organising a literary festival which has as its theme, ‘Translating Bharat: Language, Globalisation and the Right to be Read’ and the festival will be on from 21st to 22nd January 2008. Mita Kapur is organising the festival and a number of leading authors will participate in this. The details of the programme can be surfed at www.siyahi.in

The 9th National Convention of Indian Publishers The Federation of Indian Publishers is organising the 9th National Convention of Indian Publishers, which will be held on 31st January and 1st February 2008, at India Islamic Cultural Center, Lodhi Road, New Delhi. The Convention will be devoted to National Integration through inter-lingual publishing. Other topics that will be covered are: Role of media in promotion of inter-lingual books, Problems of translation in inter-lingual publishing, Library movement and purchase of books, Indian language publishing and sale of rights, and Role of Government in developing inter-lingual publishing.

Professional Publishing in Asia 2008 from 31st Jan – 1st Feb 2008 Frankfurt Book Fair in collaboration with National Book Trust is organising an International STM and Educational Publishing Conference – PPA 2008 from 31st January to 1st February at India Habitat Center, New Delhi.

In the upcoming conference Professional Publishing in Asia in New Delhi, you will learn about many attractive opportunities in the sub-continent for both Indian and non-Indian publishers. Strategically scheduled just before the 18th New Delhi World Book Fair, the conference takes place from 31st January to 1st February 2008.

The participation fee is US$ 950 for foreign participants and Rs 5000+ service tax for Indian delegates. For details visit www.book-fair.com


An Intensive Course on Copy Editing and Proofreading 4th-11th June 2008 Institute of Book Publishing will be organising an 8-day Intensive Course on Copy Editing and Proofreading from 4th June to 11th June 2008. It will be held at the India International Center. Dr Sunaina Kumar, Professor of English (Editing), IGNOU will be the Course Director. The participants from publishing houses, fresh graduates, and postgraduates will be enrolled in the same. The course fee will be Rs 9500/- for Indian participants and US$ 400 for foreign participants. For details write to mail@ibpindia.org This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Italian participant’s comment on the 20th Condensed Course for Publishing Professionals
“First of all, as I already told you, I want to underline the very high level of all the lectures; on the whole, the course went beyond all my expectations. I really enjoyed it and I would advise anybody interested in publishing to attend it. Besides, the venue of the course is very pleasant (and the food is also very good!) and the city itself is exciting and full of interesting places to visit – all things that can represent a valuable asset to foreign participants” - Lucia Bombaci

Reliance Retail to acquire IBD
Reliance Retail Ltd., is close to finalising a deal to acquire India Book Distributors (Bombay) Ltd., or IBD, one of the largest book distributors in the country, to give a boost to its fledging book retailing venture, according to business associates of IBD who are familiar with the matter, but who did not wish to be identified because talks between the two companies are still on.

The deal, if it materialises, will give the retailer a national foothold in the book distribution business and serve as the perfect backward integration for its new book-retailing venture.


Reliance starts TimeOut Retail Outlet
Reliance’s book-retailing venture rolled out in Bangalore on 10th December. Branded Reliance TimeOut, the outlet also sells music, stationery, toys and gifts. Reliance TimeOut has more than 30,000 titles sourced from national and international publishers. The company’s next TimeOut store will be in Gurgaon. This will be a 40,000 sq. ft. outlet in a mall and will open for business shortly. Stores in Coimbatore, Bhopal, Ahmedabad and Mumbai will follow this, the Reliance executive said.

Amazon is mystery buyer of Rowling’s first handwritten book
Online retailer Amazon revealed on 14th December that it was the mystery buyer of British author J. K. Rowling’s first book since the phenomenally successful Harry Potter series.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard was sold at an auction at Sotheby’s to art dealers on behalf of an unidentified client for £1.95 million, 40 times its expected price.

All proceeds from the sale of the handwritten single volume will go to Rowling’s charity, Children’s Voice, which helps vulnerable children across Europe.


Kolkata Book Fair at Park Circus
The Kolkata Book Fair would be held at the Park Circus from 30th Jan-10th Feb 2008. The Publishers and Booksellers Guild (PBG) and the Kolkata Municipal Corporation would organise the fair jointly. Twenty-two countries will participate in the fair; USA will be the theme country and Scotland the guest of honour. Bad news awaits the participants as PBG has decided to do away with nearly 20 percent of the stalls due to space constraints. PBG said they will have only 500 stalls as they would have to leave enough space due to safety rules.


IRRO
Mr Asoke K. Ghose of Prentice Hall of India has been re-elected unanimously as chairman of the Indian Reprographic Rights Organisation at the AGM held on 11th December 2007. The other office bearers are: Vice-Chairman - Shri Rajendra Awasthy, Secretary General - Shri Anand Bhushan, Treasurer - Shri Shakti Malik and Executive Committee Members - Shri Upendra Kumar, Shri Rama Kant Joshi, Shri Ram Prakash Gupta, Shri Debajyoti Datta, Shri Ravi Deecee, Shri Anil Mehta, and Shri R. C. Govil.


Ekta Books celebrates Silver Jubilee
Ekta Books Pvt. Ltd., Kathmandu celebrated their Silver Jubilee by organising a party on 15th December at Hotel de l’Annapurna, Kathmandu.

Ekta Books was established on 22 November 1982 at Thapathali, Kathmandu, Nepal. It is a continuation of Hyssop Book House, which was established in Patan, Lalitpur under the able leadership of Mr R. C. Timothy. Ekta Books is a pioneer business house of educational materials. It is one of the biggest publishing houses in Nepal and has a large distribution network. Ekta Books takes pride in having the largest Educational Showroom in Nepal. It deals with almost all the leading publishers of the world. Ekta Book House is its sister concern in Siliguri, India.


Tejeshwar Singh (1945-2007): Sage of Publishing

A versatile personality, Tejeshwar Singh could not contain his versatility in doing just one thing his entire life and hence the various roles. From news reading on National television, which was just a “time-pass” for him, to being an actor in the movie Jalwa and from Managing Editor in Macmillan to finally being the founder of Sage India. He was a committed publisher and always ready for challenges. Under his able guidance Sage came into existence in India and went from strength to strength and last year he sold his stakes after completing 60 years. He was a professional in every sense of the word and of a species that is fast vanishing. A man of many colours and a great sense of humour, the news of his untimely demise was extremely shocking and he will be deeply missed.


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