Indian Writing in English and the Indian Market: A Questionnaire
1. Has there been a perceptible charge in the market for Indian Writing in English within India in recent years?
Definitely. People are more open to reading works by Indians writing in English.
2. How do you date this change within the Indian market for Indian Writing in English – year, decade ?
From the late nineties, probably, when Indians, living in India, began getting global recognition for their writing. Suddenly there was a realisation that Indians living in India were writing, and writing very well, in English.
3. What is the nature/focus of this change?
a) Quantitative – Print runs are still about the same as they used to be; publishers want to see if a book is successful before increasing the print run. Chetan Bhagat’s One Night @ the Call Centre, for instance, has gone into its sixteenth reprint since it was launched in October last year.
b) Qualitative - Which genres / kinds of writing have been affected most i.e. fiction, drama, poetry, discursive writing.
I don’t think any particular genre has been affected. Across the border, Indians are writing more in English.
4. How do you account for this change ?
a) Trickle-down effect of a boom in Indian Writing in English in the Western Market.
b) Globalisation / Liberalisation, and world -wide interest in India as a consequence.
c) Rapid growth of a English reading public in recent times.
d) Production of writing in English in India which matches the calibre of writing in English from other countries.
All I would think. The popularity of Indian English writing abroad definitely brought a lot of attention to what was going in our own literary circles. And the market we’re looking at does now consist largely of Indians who were brought up speaking and studying in English. That is the language they’re most comfortable with. Also, as you’ve said, the readers look at books produced in India and see that they look as good as the ones from the West, and they’re better priced.
5. Are the books in this category that are being showcased now necessarily different from the books that are being and have been showcased in the Western markets as Indian Writing in English?
I think so. The West is unfortunately still interested in the immigrant’s story, of an exoticised India. The market here is now ready for the next step: stories about India and Indians as we are today.
6. What, if anything, does the growth of an Indian market for Indian Writing in English tell us about literacy patterns / leisure patterns of the English educated classes in our country?
The largest readership still is for non-fiction writing in India. I think that shows that we like reading when it helps/informs. Fiction is still to grow here.
7. How far do factors such as media coverage/media promotion impact upon the growth of this market?
Very much. There are so many books in the market now, there has to be something to make your stand out. However, the best PR you can have — and this is true worldwide— is word of mouth. If there’s a buzz about a book, created by people who’ve read it and loved it, it’s bound to sell well.
8. Who (to whom/for whom) is this writing being targeted at?
It depends on the genre, of course. And where you send your books to be reviewed depends on who you think will want to read the book. But while the reading public is perhaps reading more, publishers should also now look at creating / developing a reading habit among people.
9. Does the English translation market / English originals market have a common target audience?
I think so. With the generation that is most comfortable speaking in English, there is a sense of loss, of not being able to read in one’s mother tongue. Language translations fulfil this.
10. Are books produced for the Indian market inhibited in any way from being marketed outside of India? Are there any trade laws which operate in this regard?
No, there aren’t.
11. Can a common thematic/orientation/stylistic be identified as a hallmark of this writing?
Not really. I think Indian writers are now experimenting across genres.
12. Do you see the emergence of this writing as a temporary / abiding phenomenon
An abiding phenomenon, definitely. Look at the number of publishers wanting to operate in India. There’s tremendous potential in the market, and this has been recognised.
13. Factors such as piracy / pricing as determining factors for this market.
Pricing is definitely a determining factor. And low pricing will affect piracy. If you can get the original for Rs 95/-, why would you buy a pirated version?