How publishers beat Covid blues in 2021!
The Covid blues reset all equations everywhere, including in publishing. Still, publishers say they learned to put their heads down in 2021 and focus on the details following the traumatic experience the previous year and were able to bring out a super line-up of books.
Chiki Sarkar, the Publisher of Juggernaut, found the second wave of Covid, like everyone else, wholly traumatic.
“On the professional front, work picked up brilliantly in the second half of the year (2021) with Juggernaut having two no 1 bestsellers and publishing brilliant writers like Manu Pillai, Adrian Levy, Cathy Scott Clark and Chandrashekhar Dasgupta,” she told PTI.
For Ananth Padmanabhan, CEO of HarperCollins India, 2021 was a significant year in many ways.
“It was our best publishing year, though. HarperCollins was awarded Publisher of the Year 2021 at Tata Lit Live – for having published some of the best books across a wide range of genres. Kavitha Iyer won the Best Book Non-Fiction for ‘Landscapes of Loss’ at Tata Lit Live, and Anukrti Upadhyay won the Susheela Devi Literature Award 2021 for Best Book Fiction.
“At the Atta Galatta Bangalore Literature Festival we won the Best YA Writing prize for ‘Saira Zariwala is Afraid’ by Shabnam Minwalla. Ramachandra Guha bagged the prestigious Howard Milton Award for his book ‘The Commonwealth Of Cricket’ and ‘No Presents Please: Mumbai Stories’, a collection of short stories by Jayant Kaikini translated from Kannada by Tejaswini Niranjana, won the American Literary Translators Association’s National Translation Award for 2021 for prose,” he says.
“Finally Mayur Suvarna won the Best Narrator Award at the India Voice Fest 21 for the audio book version of Mukund Rajan’s memoir ‘The Brand Custodian’ produced by HarperCollins,” he adds.
“Our digital marketing has been cutting and industry leading and our newsletter Harper Broadcast won the 2021 Gold for Email Marketing from M3 – Masters of Modern Marketing. In November, HarperCollins also moved into new offices in Gurgaon to begin a hybrid work model,” Padmanabhan says.
According to him, what is most gratifying is that Indian readers are buying a lot more books than before the pandemic and sales of children’s books are at an all-time high.
“It was a milestone year in many ways,” he asserts.
Sumanta Datta, managing director of Oxford University Press (India), says the pandemic reset all equations everywhere, including educational publishing. Still, Oxford University Press (OUP) continued to focus on supporting the future of learning, as the pandemic moved digital learning in education ahead by years.
“We reviewed and aligned most of our existing titles to the National Education Policy (NEP) framework, and we now have 142 new titles that align with NEP 2020. We are also preparing to make further amendments to our titles once the revised National Curriculum Framework is released.
“At OUP India, we have focused our efforts on strengthening our blended learning products and in trying to help as many teachers, educators, parents, and students as possible to adapt to the ‘new normal’,” says Datta.
“We have conducted over 1100 workshops and trainings for teachers since January 2021, reaching more than 100,000 teachers across India. In 2021, we also launched an eBook library model with a bouquet of 200 eBooks across sectors including exam preparation titles such as IELTS,” he adds.
According to Westland Publisher Karthika VK, publishing, in general, was a tough time in 2021, with disruptions in daily work and especially with remote working.
“However, we also produced some of our best work during this time, in non-fiction and fiction, adult and children’s, in English, Hindi, and in translation. 2020 was a shock and several months were lost to lockdowns but by 2021, we had learned to put our heads down and focus on the details – edits, design, production – and the sales and marketing teams kept the momentum going even at the most difficult times, working closely with our authors to ensure maximum coverage and reach,” she says.
“We also focused on building deeper connections with book stores. So, looking back, especially at the reviews and the attention our books have received in the past year, it has been quite an extraordinary one. Among the highlights were ‘Delhi: A Soliloquy’ winning the JCB prize, ‘Queeristan’ winning the CK Prahalad Business Book award and Indian Icon winning the Gaja Business Book award,” Karthika says.
Summing up 2021, Poulomi Chatterjee, editor-in-chief and Publisher of Hachette Book Publishing India Pvt. Ltd says it was an excellent year for all of Hachette’s local and international publishing lists.
“In India, we’ve published a super line-up of books that have received excellent reviews and readers’ feedback, award nominations and sold well too – Indra Nooyi’s ‘My Life in Full’, Hari Pulakkat’s ‘Space Life Matter’, Mridula Ramesh’s ‘Watershed’, V R Ferose and C K Meena’s ‘The Invisible Majority’, Anuradha Roy’s ‘The Earthspinner’, Meera Rajagopalan’s ‘The Eminently Forgettable Life of Mrs Pankajam’, the second volume of ‘The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction’, among many others,” she says.
Chatterjee says most of 2020 was “spent adjusting to the rapid and constant changes we were bombarded by on almost every front. It was a year of great learning and helped us prepare in practical ways to continue to be productive, and keep schedules and business going, through the most unpredictable circumstances”.
“At the same time it also made us more empathetic I feel and helped steel our resolve to maintain normalcy in ways both small and big. This year communication has been smoother across teams in wfh situations; we’ve also been able to successfully realign our publishing lists and budgets almost on a weekly basis and publish our books and authors well in a particularly challenging market,” she says.
Priya Kapoor, editorial director of Roli Books, says many books initially scheduled to be published in 2020 were moved to 2021.
“As a result, we had a great line up of books. However, the devastating second wave that ripped through the country abruptly put an end to our plans. It took us a few months to get back on our feet, but I am proud to share that we were able to publish nearly 30 books in a year of great loss for many team members,” she says.
“Many of them have been shortlisted for prestigious awards and have been on bestselling lists. The list is diverse in subjects and formats while maintaining high quality in content and design,” she adds.
Roli Books ended the year with a host of production and design awards given by the Federation of Indian Publishers. The book “Pandemonium: The Great Indian Banking Tragedy” by Tamal Bandyopadhyay won the Best Business Book of the Year at the Tata Lit Live Award.
Trisha Niyogi, Publisher of Niyogi Books, says even though the first half of 2021was turbulent, “we saw the market recovering from the month of August. The infrastructure we started building in terms of digitalisation and collaborative activities in 2020, ensured that we were better prepared for 2021”.
Article Proofread & Published by Gauri Malhotra.