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World Book Day 2018: The making of a paperback

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On the eve of World Book Day, Disha Prashant takes you behind the books — the writing and publishing aspect of what we call a paperback

Dreaming of a paradise where you have made a career out of writing? Take a few deep breaths, flex your fingers and be ready to walk two paths. Writing is not just about exploring and creating an altogether different world within the world, it is also a test of patience and dedication. Writing a book is no child’s play; it is a carefully honed craft you need to commit to, to make any mark.

For an author, writing a book might be akin to creating a child — it is, after all, the heart and brain of the writer. Publishing a book, on the other hand, is like trying to find a pearl after gazillion dives into the depths of the ocean called manuscripts. Tomorrow is World Book and Copyright Day and we talk to some of those diligent people who have had to ensure that we get the best of literature in our hands.


The craft of writing

Author of eight bestsellers, and acclaimed writer, Preeti Shenoy believes that one needs to understand, research and analyse the craft of writing before committing to penning a book. “Writing is an art. To write a book, one needs to be a voracious reader of varied genres to understand writing styles, how stories flow, scenes and places are present — and so on. To become good at writing, one needs proper training, along with meticulous research on the subject,” she comments on becoming an author.

But she is a bit wary of the quality of writing today. “We can sense a deterioration in quality of writing in recent times. One needs to concentrate and develop the flow of the story. Nowadays there are exclusive courses offered in the field of creative writing, which can lend a helping hand for amateur writers,” she suggests.

Perhaps it is also the cause why Indian writers are yet to make any significant inroads in any of the more prominent sub-genres. Ashwin Sanghi, who has an assembly of bestselling titles under his belt, has this to say for sub-genres, “The process has barely scratched the surface. Satyajit Ray gave us Feluda’s adventures in the mid-60s. It’s sad that we allowed ourselves to cede space to foreign authors in the field of mysteries, adventures, thrillers and suspense. By now we should have had our own homegrown versions of Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Sherlock Holmes, and Hercule Poirot. We should have had our own Mills & Boon. There are genres such as science-fiction, horror and paranormal those lay almost bare. The bestseller lists consist of the usual suspects — mythology and romance.”

New on the block

But that does not take away from those who have made a mark on readers. Amit Sharma’s latest title is creating quite a buzz, and his ‘secret to success’ is “repeated improvisation of the draft” and the role of “beta reader” in this process. “I thoroughly believe in the philosophy that one needs to read a lot in order to write something. It is important to analyse the way a book has been written: the smallest elements should be studied, and one must start working on their story,” he says.

According to Mishra, a beta reader is “the median between” the author and the publisher. “The job of a beta reader is to read the draft, look for logical and grammatical mistakes, understanding the development of characters and provide constructive inputs. It is important to seek a third person’s opinion about your writing, as it helps getting a fair idea on the areas which need to be improved or improvised,” he explains.

Between the covers

Before a book lands in your hands and touches your soul, a lot goes into its making. Publishing houses are where the wheat is separated from the chaff. Working in the world of publishing is no cakewalk; it involves hours of brainstorming with the authors, knowing the pulse of the reader, analysing marketing statistics — and all this while keeping up with the rapidly changing concepts in publishing and its workings.

Trisha Niyogi of Niyogi Books believes that a good book is a perfect marriage between matter and manner. “As an independent publisher, we categorise books not after publishing but before deciding whether to publish or not. We would not usually publish a novel just because it is a good romance or love story. We insist that the story must be blessed in a proper theme. This is our method of categorisation.”

“Given the fact that it is getting tougher by the day to attract a reader’s attention, it has become imperative to implement innovative marketing strategies as well as product creation. Relentless campaigning—online and offline—along with publicising the theme in the context of present day issues are just a few methods to do so. One of the major changes in the publishing world has been the onset of the digital age. Technology has led to significant changes in the way we research, edit, design, distribute and even market our books. Social media is also playing a huge role in giving visibility to content as well as content creators,” she informs about the changes within the industry itself.

Creating the buzz

Diya Kar, who works with the publishing team at HarperCollins, says the key to a good book is the author-publisher relationship. “A publisher needs to believe in the author’s work in order to be able to champion it. This belief is transmitted to other departments crucial in the making of the book: design, sales and marketing. The publisher needs to be completely wedded to the idea behind the book and its vision,” Hazra explains.

With the amelioration of technology, authors and writers have found another means of getting to the audience — by the way of self-publishing, gives the author freedom to be published without a third-party involvement. But when it comes to bringing a book to a reader’s notice and make it a bestseller, marketing has a key role to play.

Marketing expert Aman Arora believes in that doctrine. “To create a buzz about a book, we need to create an intrigue about it, which will help in hooking the reader’s attention. Social media also plays a key role in marketing a book,” he says.

Arora says romance will always be a mass-selling genre. “Romance is here to stay as people can easily relate to it. However, readers today are also taking interest in other genres, thanks to social media and other book-oriented platforms.”

But all this does not take away the hard work needed to actually write the words first. Whether it is about becoming a bestselling author or becoming part of a publishing team, you need to get into the skin of the job. As Sanghi puts it, “Be prepared for criticism and rejection; and never be dejected by it.”