Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Asli paperback writers

Nilanjana Roy, Chief editor, Westland/ Tranquebar writes in her column in Business Standard:
I asked one publisher who the average pulp fiction reader was. He admitted that most pulp fiction readers, especially in the languages of Hindi and Malayalam, were male. But he added, "College professors, site labourers, some housewives, young students, businessmen, salesmen, rickshaw-walas — everyone but you English-speaking types."

Pity the Anglicised, for they don't know what they're missing.
Indeed! Nilanjana also says:
There were whole worlds enclosed in these ridiculously cheap paperbacks, printed on either the thinnest or the most coarse paper one might get, that were unavailable to the English-speaking reader.
The Indian language speaker doesn't mind walking to the nearest corner shop to buy the "coarse" paper novel costing Rs. 10-15. The Anglophone wants something sophisticated, which will cost Rs. 200-500. It may be quite possible to create Rs. 10 paperback novels in English but distribution will become a nightmare.

In Tamil, for example, 25-30% will be the margin given to the agents, who in turn retain around 10% and pass the rest on to the shopkeeper. For a book priced Rs. 15, the retailer will mostly get Rs. 3, the agent Rs. 1.5, the author Rs. 1 - 1.5 (per copy), printing cost around Rs. 5-6 (at print runs above 10,000) and the publisher, the rest (Rs. 3 per copy sold!). Are the English publishers ready for this game? Even if they are, the distributors, even if offered 50%, will not touch it, for it is too cheap to deal with. Therein lies the problem.

This is why, real pulp will work only in the Indian languages and Anglophones will have to be content only with some translations once in a while.

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