Sterling Publishers
Vol. 7-12 July - Nov 2011
ONE TO ONE with Saugata Mukherjee, Publisher, Pan Macmillan and Picador India
  Sharjah Book Fair & Professionals Programme November 2011
  Forthcoming Events
  Statistical data : Iceland- Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair
Dear Publishing Professionals,  

Time passes swiftly. I completed my term as Chairman, Capexil Book, Publications & Printing panel on 30th September. I enjoyed each day and achieved whatever I had wanted to. I tried to put life into the Capexil Book Division by organising 2 RBSM *, 10 BSM*, participation in 23 International Book Fairs, exhibitions etc. It was a satisfying term & I wish the new Chairman Mr. Ramesh K Mittal all the best.

I know I have been very irregular in bringing out Publishing Today; from monthly it became bimonthly and then quarterly. I hope I will be able to bring it out regularly in future.

Publishing and Bookselling are changing very rapidly. From print to digital and sales from bookshops to online sales.

One could notice this change in the Frankfurt Book Fair in particular and also in the Indian Book Industry, in general. Education from K 1-12 is also changing.

One has to change with the changing times, and be a part of the change.

I am sure you are changing as well.

Recently I got a newsclipping that Amazon is entering publishing in a big way and approching authors agressively. I think there is nothing new in their approach. Many booksellers and wholesalers have entered publishing, as the key to sucess in publishing is marketing. Amozon has mastered the art of selling online with its base in USA, UK, Germany and now also starting in India in the coming months.

* RBSM - Reverse Buyer-Seller Meet
* BSM - Buyer-Seller Meet


with Saugata Mukherjee, Publisher, Pan Macmillan and Picador India in conversation with S.K.Ghai

Q. What made you join Harper Collins as a copy editor while doing MA MPhil in 2000?

Ans. While I was studying for my MPhil in JNU, I got an offer from both a newspaper and Harper Collins (HC) for a copy editor’s job. I decided to join a publishing house (HC). I was excited that I was going to work with books and be paid for reading them! My entry to publishing was not planned at all – it was sheer chance that I came into publishing.

Q. Share your experience at Harper Collins.

Ans. I joined as a Copy Editor, at the junior most level in the editorial department. But it was an enriching experience. Worked with some great authors, also got a chance to go through the slushpile – something most newcomers into the industry need to do! There was so much to do. I had my hands full with copyediting but also started getting a chance to talk about commissioning titles. It was a great learning curve for me. My first boss, Renuka Chatterjee, was very supportive.

Q. How did you get an offer from A M Heath & Co. UK?

Ans. After my stint at HC, I had gone back to academics but always kept a slim publishing window open. I had applied to A M Heath – all of this happened because an author friend of mine in the UK asked me to apply for the position. I did so with her encouragement, and it worked! Heath appointed me as an Associate Agent.

Q. Your memorable experiences at A M Heath & Co.

Ans. I got an offer to work in UK which I accepted. Here I was reading, assessing the manuscripts and recommending them for publication. It was a boom time for writers from South Asia – it was the post God of Small Things era. I got an opportunity to assess a number of proposals from South Asian writers which widened my outlook and gave me a sharp eye to catch the right proposal. I read known and unknown authors which helped me in knowing the current trends as well.
Here I was approached by Mr R K Mehra, my earlier boss at HC, to join him in Rupa as an Acquisitions Editor to which I agreed and came back to a publishing house.

Q. You have worked with Publishers & Literary Agents, who do you like better?

Ans. Definitely with a publisher which is possibly why I have spent more time there! Also in a publishing house one can go through the entire cycle of acquiring a book to actually publishing it and making it work in the market – which is greatly exciting. In a literary agency the focus is more on finding the right place for the book – I think the responsibility is lesser in many ways though the relationship with the author and keeping it intact takes up a major share of work there. Frankly the challenges in a publishing house and in a literary agency are quite different.

Q. Your memorable catch at Rupa as an acquisitions editor?

Ans. At Rupa my boss was Mr R K Mehra and I enjoyed working with him. In fact while I was working with A M Heath, he invited me to work at Rupa. I did lots of acquisitions for Rupa during that period. Ramesh Menon’s Mahabharata was an exciting project that I acquired and edited. It is in two volumes, fast selling, expensive and I believe is being reprinted time and again. I think it is a permanent/ everlasting book and will continue to sell for a long time despite being bulky and pricey.

Q. Do you enjoy working day in day out with authors?

Ans. Yes, it gives me an opportunity to liaise with creative minds, develop healthy relationships, mutually beneficial to both sides and it also widens my horizon as a publisher.

Q. How was your second term at HC?

Ans. HC was quite small when I joined but in the 5 years I worked there, it grew at a phenomenal pace to become the second biggest trade publisher in the country. Personally, it was a hugely satisfying stint – I commissioned and published many books and was supported all through by my bosses VK Karthika and PM Sukumar. It was good to grow with a company that was eager to prove itself. It was also deeply satisfying to see so many of my books doing well in the market.

Q. With which well known authors you have worked & your experience?

Ans. Worked with many authors in my stint at HC and I think it’d be unfair to mention just a handful of them. I had great rapport with all of them and I continue to work with some of them even as I set up a new list for Pan Macmillan India.

Q. Which has been your most satisfying professional relationship?

Ans. In publishing most of your professional relationships actually turn out differently – they become quite close and dear friends. Most of my authors are very good friends with me and I cherish the relationship I have with them. I think it’s only fair to say that all relationships I have developed over the years in publishing are very satisfying.

Q. I understand, if correctly, that Macmillan is an umbrella organization for the group and other imprints work independently.

Ans. Right! Macmillan is an umbrella organisation and Pan Macmillan (PM) comes under that. Earlier we were mainly distributing the UK list in India and publishing very few books under Picador (all of which was commissioned in the UK) but now we are a new company - Pan Macmillan India – where we will not only distribute Pan Macmillan UK titles but develop our own original list. We will be publishing under three imprints - Pan, Macmillan and Picador. In Pan we will develop commercial, mass-market fast-moving paperbacks, Macmillan - trade non-fiction, business books and in Picador - literary fiction and non-fiction.

Q. PM works in 70 countries with 41 offices. How does it collaborate?

Ans. Every year in Frankfurt we have a meeting of group publishers which is chaired by Mr Stefan von Holtzsbrinck, owner of the Holtzsbrinck Group of which Macmillan is a part. Here all the publishers of their imprints (from the world over) give a presentation of their forthcoming highlights which unite the group and we are able to develop personal relationships among ourselves.

Q. You are a multilingual MNC and you can sell rights between yourself. Does this happen or you look outside?

Ans. We look outside and between ourselves also. As you know very well not all books work in all territories so one needs to be flexible in approach.

Q. How would you describe a good book?

Ans. A good book is original in thought, plot and structure and makes you curious to read more. It needs to be readable on one hand and original on the other.

Q. Your views on globalization & its impact on Indian publishing?

Ans. We can’t run away from it. It is here. We can’t sit on our laurels and should adapt to the changes, more so now than ever before. We should become more professional, be a part of the change that is imminent rather than be resistant to it.

Q. Do you think print publishing will die or perish with the onslaught of digital publishing in the next five years?

Ans. Printed book is never going to perish. The digital book may outnumber the printed book in sales as its reach is more and is directly proportional with internet penetration. It is indeed easy to procure without moving out from your place. No wastage of commuting time and is available 24x7. No large or prominently located physical place needed, avoiding huge market rents.

Q. What is your opinion regarding royalties on printed book verses digital book.

Ans. There should be more royalty on a digital book rather than on a printed book and it should be on a net receipt. It’s only natural that the royalties should be more in digital books than printed ones primarily because of the medium in which it is published.

Q. What are your hobbies?

Ans. I run in the morning. I like listening to Hindustani classical music and am also a great fan of world music. I also love playing with my son who has turned three years old. Playing with Vivaan is a great stress buster! Also I read out to him – I have read more kids books than ever before in the last couple of years!

Q. What are your views on the copyright amendments for which the bill is under consideration in the Parliament?

Ans. Absolutely rubbish. This will encourage India to be the dumping ground of the west. Moreover, publishers will not give rights to Indian publishers for the latest editions fearing that the territories restrictions will not be honoured.

Q. You have won many honours/ fellowships/awards, which one has been dear to your heart?

Ans. I was awarded Paul Hamlyn fellowship for Publishing Executive and was chosen for the Jerusalem International Fellowship Programme 2007. I was also awarded the Frankfurt Editorial Fellowship 2007.
I was surprised when I received an email that I have been chosen in the VIP programme of publishers organized by the Australian Arts Council, one can’t apply for this fellowship one needs to be chosen by the Arts Council. I was invited to Sydney Writers Festival in 2009. There I learnt that I was the youngest VIP to be selected. It gave me an opportunity to network and make friends with international writers and industry professionals.

Q. How would you rate the Social Responsibility of a publisher?

Ans. It is a big responsibility that publishers shoulder. And I too believe in publishing socially relevant works. We need to be careful about what we publish because the written word has a lot of import. While publishing is all about being creative and allowing new voices to be heard, one needs to be careful too about the content that goes to print.


Sharjah Book Fair & Professional Programme November 2011

Sharjah, the state third in United Arab Emirates in area, population and financial resources after Abu Dhabi and Dubai hosted it’s first professional programme to coincide with the 30th Sharjah Book Fair from 16 to 26 Nov, 2011 on 14 & 15 Nov. It is certainly not third in it’s approach to empower people with education and reading habits, perhaps the leading one as it first started Sharjah Book Fair in 1982.

The programme started with the Welcome lunch at Sharjah Chamber of Commerce followed by three sessions on Distribution in the Middle East, Arab Literature and Translation and Sharjah and it’s place in the UAE from a historical perspective. On the first day, I was the only Indian Publisher. I attended the first session on Distribution & Marketing in Middle East. It was chaired by Mr Kuo-Yu Liang of Diamond Books Distributors, USA and out of the three panelists only two came. Mr Narain Jashanmal of Jashanmal, UAE and Mr Bachar Chebaro, Arab Scientific Publishers, Lebanon, Beirut. Both the speakers explained the present distribution network and how it is working. I really liked both the presentations. There were about 70 participants from Arabic countries, UK, USA, Malaysia and other neighbouring countries. The day ended with a desert dinner beautifully arranged for all the participants. During the dinner there was camel ride, photograph sessions in the local dress and mehandi for female participants.

The Publishers Association, UK and specially Ms Emma House helped them to organise this programme. There was a large contigent of authors, publishers and literary agents from the UK. We had a good time at the photography session followed by a group photograph. The next day the programme started at the expo centre - book fair venue with the welcome and talk on Introduction to SIBF translation grant by Mr Ahmed Al Amri, the Director of SIBF. He explained the working of US$ 300,000 translation fund. After the preliminaries, 72 tables for all the participants were arranged where we sat as per our number which were pre allotted to us. I was joined by Ravi D C and his team and now we were two publishers from India. Ms Emma House gave us the appointments chart but basically we had to go & discuss with others. Previous night networking helped a lot to establish relationships and discuss business. Everybody was interested to select some titles of a fellow publisher to apply for the grant. The procedure for getting the grant is to fill a form giving the buyer-sellers consent and details of the title selected. Now we have to send the provisional agreement along with the printed book or manuscript to the Department of Culture & Information, Government of Sharjah by 26 Feb. 2012 and once they approve the proposal one can start the translation. The grant is to be used only for translation and no other purpose. The applicants can only be those who attended the programme. Anybody found using the grant otherwise will have to return the funds.
The programme carried on with lunch interval and tea, coffee any time till 5 pm. Some publishers were signing the forms even after that. The day ended with a dinner at Sharjah Islamic Art Museum. The participants were also taken around the Museum in groups and they tried to explain some interesting facts about the art and culture of Islam.
I think it is a pioneering effort which will go a long way to encourage translations into Arabic language and vice versa.
The authorities have promised to organise this programme every year, so it will not remain only a selling fair but will also develop into a fair for buying and selling of Rights as well.
The book fair started on the 16th around 10am which was inaugurated by the Sheikh Sultan bin Mohamed AL- Qasimi, ruler of the state. The book fair has been elegantly planned, with clear signs and stalls provided with clean shelves and furniture: very well laid out indeed.
This year India was the country of focus. This was hardly known to anybody till a few days back. A folder was also distributed. The Indian stalls were decorated with Indian Flag cutouts. The Sheikh Sultan cut the ribbon to the Indian stalls but never entered the stalls may be due to time constraint. As our stall was at the entrance so I presented the Sheikh with two of our latest publications. The fair is in five halls, Hall no 1 for the International participants for mainly English language books and Hall 2,3,4 and 5 for Arabic books.
I visited Sharjah Book Fair after a gap of around 15 years and saw a lot of positive change towards better.I have visited many international book fairs around the world but only here I saw people buying the books in trolleys. I hope to participate in the Sharjah Book Fair regularly.
I was really impressed with the progress and skyline of the city. I visited University City in Sharjah: an excellently planned campus , with tastefully developed landscape and the location of 8 universities including the American University. I have visited many campuses around the world but I think this one as it is one of the best. My friend Dawood Salabhai took me around the city in spite of being tied up in organising his stall at the book fair.
The book fair had been well advertised by hoardings and media coverage. There was hardly a street which did not display the advertisement of the fair: so it is bound to be a success, I hope.
There are a number of events planned during the coming days with book releases, authors speaking from their writings and a special children's section devoted to their activities. I came back on 17th morning. The hotel car which was supposed to drop me at the airport, lost the way, so finally I ended up taking a taxi and reached the airport after one and half hours enjoying the early morning drive. Thank God I could catch the flight finally.
S.K.Ghai,21st November 2011



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