The 8th Publishing Next conference in Goa

Revisiting the basic tenets of the publishing process

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Ritu Menon, publisher, Women Unlimited and Indira Chandrasekhar, publisher, Tulika Books
Ritu Menon, publisher, Women Unlimited and Indira Chandrasekhar, publisher, Tulika Books

The 8th Publishing Next conference was held in Goa, at the Goa Science Centre, Miramar, from 19 to 22 September 2019. Spread over 4 days, the conference brought together publishers from all over the country. This year, the focus was on the basic aspects of the publishing process.

Among those who spoke at the conference included recognized names in the publishing and book retailing sectors. The mood for the conference was set by two engaging sessions on editing; one on the editing process itself, conducted by Ritu Menon, publisher, Women Unlimited and Indira Chandrasekhar, publisher, Tulika Books. Another session on how an author and editor engage during the making of a book, conducted by the author Jerry Pinto, and the editor of his many books, Ravi Singh, publisher, Speaking Tiger.

Jerry Pinto, an author, a poet, and a journalist
Jerry Pinto, an author, a poet, and a journalist

The audience consisted of publishers, editors, academics, translators, and booksellers who gained insights about the intricacy and importance of the role of an editor in shaping a good book, a theme revisited often during the entire conference.

The theme was readdressed when self-publishing was discussed on the second day of the conference in a panel moderated by Manish Purohit, owner, AuthorsUpfront, and on the last day when translations were discussed in a panel moderated by Manisha Chaudhry, publisher, Manan Books.

During the panel discussions on translations, Kabani Chandran, a translator and author of Malayalam reiterated that publishers of books in the Indian languages ought to pay as much attention to editing as publishers of English books often do. There was a lament, however, that in many publishing houses, editing is now being outsourced to freelancers.

Other aspects of the publishing process were also recalled during the conference. A panel discussion on book retailing was moderated by Meethil Momaya, co-owner, Trilogy Library and Bookstore, while a panel discussion on collaborations between publishers was moderated by Arpita Singh, publisher, Yoda Press. There were masterclasses on book production by Sudhanva Deshpande of Leftword Books, and Amit Chavan of Repro India and another on book marketing by Niti Kumar and Vaishnavi Singh, both of Penguin Random House India ensuring that small and new publishers at the conference understood the entire publishing process from manuscript to bookshelf. A panel discussion on the sustainability of small publishing houses, moderated by Vinutha Mallya, editor and journalist and a workshop on contracts conducted by Vinutha Mallya and Karthika VK, publisher, Westland Publications was also conducted.

Kabani Chandran, a translator and author of Malayalam and Karthika VK, publisher, Westland Publications
Kabani Chandran, a translator and author of Malayalam and Karthika VK, publisher, Westland Publications

Similarly, there were sessions on book reviews by Rihan Nijab of The Hindu Business Line, and Shireen Quadri of the Punch Magazine and a panel discussion on the importance of bibliodiversity, moderated by Ritu Menon.

The 6th edition of the Publishing Next Industry Awards were also presented during the conference. The Printed Book of the Year Award (English) was won by A
Respectable Woman, published by Zubaan while the same Award for the Indian
languages was won by M F Husain – Kala ka Karmyogi, published by Niyogi Books. The coveted Publisher of the Year Award was won by the independent children’s publisher, Duckbill Books, awarded for ‘engaging with relevant topics, to which children of our time need exposure; for consciously moving away from the pedantic model in children’s publishing, and helping create models in children’s minds that promote an ability to differentiate various kinds of information; for clearly defined publishing aims; for choices in terms of content and approach that are very well aligned; and for the twin effort to both anchor in the familiar, and extend into new areas.’

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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– Naresh Khanna

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