‘Coming of Age’

Responses by Deeya Nayar, Senior Editor, Tulika Publishers
to questions from Shraddha Shirodkar for the article in DNA, Mumbai, May 2013

Shraddha: Do you think Indian children’s books have achieved a success that is greater than or on par with Western books for children?

Deeya: We’re still on our way. The West has a much longer tradition of specialised publishing for children.

S: Do you see a trend over the years (positive or negative)?

D: There’s been a trend towards books that children in India can identify with – in terms of themes, settings, names… Also, perhaps, a more pan-Indian kind of children’s literature, as different from regional like there used to be.

S: Is it the case that publishers in India are not really interested in publishing Indian children’s books? Do they not find it lucrative enough as compared to books for grown-ups?

D: On the contrary, more and more publishers are now getting into children’s books. There is certainly a big market, and they’re testing the waters. However, there are very few who are interested in more specialised areas such as picture books and non-fiction. These are more intensive genres, and they have to possibly see if the time invested is worthwhile for them in terms of financial return.

S: In your line of work, do you see a shortage in the number of writers, illustrators or even subjects to write on? In other words, can we say that children in India are spoilt for choice when it comes to reading Indian books?

D: It’s certainly true that more and more writers and illustrators are showing interest in children’s books, but it depends on what publishers are looking for. At Tulika, we need to work with them – writers as well as illustrators – very closely, to get the results we do. It’s not easy. There isn’t any ready pool, in that sense. There are just a handful who are really that experienced, talented, or professional.

S: Are Indian authors, illustrators, publishing companies at any disadvantage compared to their Western counterparts?

D: The main disadvantage for all three is that marketing of children’s books here is nothing like it is in the West – so there’s less visibility and less sales. When Tulika started about 17 years ago it was a lot worse, and we really had to create this market of buyers for our kind of books – that is, Indian books, which had a certain quality of production and couldn’t therefore be priced at something like Rs 10 because we were not a Trust or funded NGO. Again, in India we don’t have that kind of library culture that’s there in the UK and USA, where a certain number of books is automatically picked up by them. It’s getting better, though. The other important disadvantage is the lack of editorial talent for specialised children’s books.

S: Do you think global phenomena such as the Harry Potter books are responsible for even Indian children to be more inclined towards Western books?

D: Western as in English language books have always been popular here – Enid Blyton before, Harry Potter now. India is said to be the largest market for English language books, for adult books too. We like what is Western, anyway, for many things, not just books!

S: Overseas authors have tapped into the minds of readers by churning out books on vampires, wolves, etc. and the publishers are cashing in on this trend… Why don’t we see trends like those in India?

D: We’ll get there! We’re now in the sci-fi phase that was a craze in the West before vampires and wolves took over. Also, like I said before, publishing in India is in comparison quite nascent, it’s all beginning to happen, so homegrown trends will take some time.

S: How does the future look like for Indian children’s books?

D: Bright! There will be a churning, new talent, new trends…

Read the article at http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report-coming-of-age-1832875