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Not fiction, but biographies and memoirs were the good reads of 2018

By December 31, 2018No Comments

Source : The Free Press Journal-Weekend

While fiction overall saw a slump in 2018, thrillers saw themselves on bestselling lists; but surprisingly biographies and memoirs were a runaway success, discovers PREEJA ARAVIND

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language And next year’s words await another voice.”

— TS Eliot, Four Quartets

What Eliot said all those years ago rings true every time a year comes to an end. Language is best presented in words put together between covers of books. And 2018 saw a lot of them being published. From first-time authors to veteran ones, there was a lot to read.

With the Indian book market being the sixth largest in the world, and an average of 1.8 million titles being published every year in member countries of International Publishers Association, it comes as no surprise that books are not fading out of popularity. However, some trends developed, and rearranged this past year. Some titles worked, some flopped — but one thing that publishers agreed was that the readers are much more discerning of the content.



“Fiction has seen a slump, but biographies and autobiographies, and current affairs books saw an overall increase,” said Kapeesh Mehra, managing director of Rupa Publications. Another rising trend seen has been the upswing of period dramas, mythological fiction, as well as alternate history (historical fiction) books.

Red River Press, a new venture dedicated to publishing poetry, had a great 2018. Dibyajyoti Sarma, founder of Red River said 2018 was surprisingly eventful for him and his publishing house. “It (2018) was our second year and by and large it was good. The word in the market is that poetry doesn’t sell. So, we started small, bringing out limited number of copies. To our surprise, we ended up selling more copies than we expected. Lesson learnt: In poetry business, the key is personal engagement, the poet connecting with the readers.”


According to author Richa Lakhera, 2018 also saw a rise in books on feminism and women power finding a lot of traction. Lakhera’s Hungry Gods, which was published early this year, also won her a film deal. It was a year of debuts with almost every month a new author or poet being published — either by a known publishing house, or independent publication. “Red River published several new poets this year. Among them, Amit Ranjan’s Find Me Leonard Cohen, I’m Almost Thirty and Jhilmil Breckenridge’s Reclamation Song did very well,” informed Sarma.

Vinaya Bhagat, who made her debut with her thriller Trickster in February, said: “It has been an exciting journey being a debut author. It’s heartening to receive continued appreciation from readers and reviewers across multiple platforms about Trickster being a refreshingly original and layered thriller with a gripping plot.”

Lakhera had a slightly different take on that. “The author and writer in me are at loggerheads. Playing the author with all its glitter glam lit fests attendance is all dress up. It’s make-believe, completely opposite to being a writer. Being a writer, unfortunately, doesn’t involve any glitter. It’s a long, lonely, exhausting process—lot of it being cranky moping, incredible amount of balancing the beast called time (especially, if you have a day job as a journalist in a news channel). It has been a very exhausting year; but I like it. Satisfying, too, in terms of reviews, feedback and of course the film deal.”



Neel Mullick, who is getting himself an end-of-year gift with his Dark Blossoms being published by Rupa Publications, said: “Now that my first novel is out at the end of the year, all I can do is look back with immense gratification at the publication process. And from that perspective, it’s been the best year ever.”

While the authors and publishers are happy, the numbers make it an even happier occasion. Publishing industry insiders estimate that the annual sales in this year was anywhere in the Rs 2,000 – 2,500 crore range. Even though readership is dwindling, steadily, sales of existing titles are increasing, making it a balancing act. “The market is in a churn and there are a lot of contradictions. The publishers are seeing double-digit growth, but the educational and text books are seeing better sales,” said a publisher from a leading Delhi-based publishing house.

According to Mehra, Rupa had a ‘rewarding’ year. And by the extension, content really was king. “Our key titles — Newsman by Rajdeep Sardesai, Shades of Truth by Kapil Sibal and Rural Manifesto by Varun Gandhi— showed us that that our content selection at Rupa was accepted and therefore appreciated by the market,” Mehra explained.

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