The ‘Printed Book’ is indeed a ‘Revolution’

A fairly good exposure to academia turned out to be a major inspiration for venturing into the realm of publishing. Books had always been there, only to become more and more engaging with passing time. From a curious undergraduate student absorbed into the epistemology of history to a research scholar hopping from one library to another in frantic search for books had somewhere made me hope that books, after all, would remain with me and I so much wished to see that true.

An ardent fervour emerging out of such ‘hope’ brought me to Seagull School to learn and discover more about books. I joined the Editing course to satiate my preoccupation with texts but on attending the first few classes, I realized to my surprise that there is more to a book than just the written word. With wonderful teachers enlightening us on its myriad aspects that previously didn’t exist in my discourse, I literally began to feel like a microbe in the sea of wisdom.

When the alarm clock rings in the chilly winter morning suddenly shaking me up from slumber, all I can think of is to rush to the school and eagerly wait for the class to begin. On one such provocative session on a Friday morning, we got introduced to Ronnie Gupta who was about to share with us the mechanics behind the production of a physical book. While he was explaining how several pages are made out of a ‘plate’ and the processes that eventually follow like stitching of the book to embossing the cover, I was not only awestruck by the immense knowhow and incredible hard work that go into manufacturing a book but was also astounded by my uninformed predicament that never made me think of any of these despite my avowed liaisons with books. So when we were leaving for our much-anticipated trip to the printing press, I was already in a daze, wondering what more lay ahead!

The trip to the printers suddenly appeared like a fascinating excursion given the fact that I had never seen a printing press in my life. The car headed towards the destination and as it passed through the lanes and by-lanes, I felt like a tourist in my own city marvelling at its quintessence all over again. On entering the press which obviously seemed like a giant manoeuvre, we saw the multiple sequential processes involved printing a book. We took off our shoes while going inside a few of the chambers and glanced around to see the gigantic machines at work. The overwhelming exposure was further enriched when Ronnie would explicitly elucidate the massive modus operandi. These days, books are stitched and glued by machines, as we all saw but there used to be time, when these were done manually, making the process all the more difficult and tedious. Astonishingly, the press revealed that books too, are guillotined; definitely not to obliterate them but to trim their edges. I, on the other hand, all this while, could only identify the guillotine with the tumultuous turn of history in late 18th century France, amidst the gory massacre of the Reign of Terror!

We spent about an hour at the press witnessing the ultimate stage of transformation of a manuscript into a book. In fact, it is amusing to recall how we all were taken by awe to see sheets getting cut into pages in an instant. We instinctively took out our cell phones to capture the moment which appeared no less than a wonder!

While on my way back, it felt as if I have had a revelation. The exposure to the phenomenon of printing aroused a nostalgic wave, taking me back to my undergraduate days when numerous classes were spent in knowing Johann Gutenberg, a man coming up with the first printed word from the Bible in the 15th century. The event that would become history, took place in a far-away city called Mainz, located in a place that was yet to become Germany. I was not prescient enough to realize that while standing in a 21st-century modern press, the thought of Gutenberg’s Bible would actually give goosebumps!

Sunanda Chatterjee

Sales and Marketing: A Necessary Detour in the Publishing Journey.

Dear Sales and Marketing Team,

My name is Dry Eyes. I came to being thanks to the vivid imagination and excellent writing skills of Ms Genevieve Greene and should be on the bookshelves by December 2015. Within me is the story of 23-year-old Esther who has never shed a single drop of tear—due to some clinical condition—and her struggle with it. You can also find attached, my cover—serene, blue eyes on a black background that look straight into the readers’ eyes.

Ms Greene, my author, is the force behind other works such as A Case of the Shrinking Nose, Nail Biting: An Art. Yes, she does have a certain fascination for the body. She is an excellent chick-lit author . . . one of the best in her field. Laura Weisberger, the author of the iconic book The Devil Wears Prada describes Greene’s work as bold, humourous, unabashed and un-put-down-able. Everything that a chick-lit novel needs to be.

My publishers and author have unanimously reached the decision that I shall be published as a hardback and paperback simultaneously, which I think is a wise decision. Let’s accept it; I do belong to a genre that is not cared for by many. Paperback will ensure higher sales.

This brings me to the point of pricing i.e. the amount I shall be available for in the bookstores. My cost of production, I believe, was about Rs 25 per hardback and Rs 20 per paperback. Therefore, I should be priced at about Rs 225 for the hardback and Rs 180 for the paperback.

Well . . . now that the groundwork has been laid, let’s discuss the promotion plans. I know you have an extensive list of reviewers and bloggers whom you can send out my copies to. I would like to attach to this list a list of my own. You can find it as yet another attachment to this mail.

Another promotional strategy I recommend is book reading. Ms Greene is an excellent orator. And what better way to bring me alive than the author reading it out herself? You can select a few bookstores in London that record exceptionally high sales in my genre and Ms Greene can have readings in those stores.

Meanwhile, if you hear of any lit fest around the time of my launch that will be discussing the chick-lit genre then do let Ms Greene know. I’m sure, finding her a spot on the panel would help you promote me better and increase my sales.

Also, people find Ms Greene extremely pretty. You might want to consider uploading an interview with her on YouTube, Facebook and other social media.

That’s about it for now. All I ask you to do is make me as visible to the public as you can. Create all the buzz you can. And keep me alive in the public’s memory for as long as you can.

Warm regards,

Dry Eyes.


Alas! A book cannot speak for itself in spite of being made up of infinite words, emotions and expressions. It is, after all, an inanimate object. Unfortunately or fortunately, the publishers job doesnt stop at designing, editing, typesetting and printing a book. S/he has to inform the marketing team about the same things Dry Eyes did—new titles, author notes, synopsis and the various promotional and publicity strategies that can be adopted for the book. Although, I suspect they have to do this with PowerPoint presentations; simple e-mails dont seem to go down well with marketing gurus and salesmen.

Radhika Shenoy

Design With a Difference

As budding editors and designers, or both (yes that happens), we were only two classes old at the Seagull School and it felt great to judge books by their covers, and not be judged for it. Wednesday’s design roundtable brought on the fabulous learning and unlearning: about how design comes about, and makes it to our favourite book covers.

As part of the discussion, everyone from the core team at Seagull showed us their favourite book covers, sharing stories about the experiences of working on those books and, sometimes, how the outside of it drew them to what was inside. During the course of the discussion, every preconceived notion and idea about design lay dismantled. With every gorgeous book cover came the stories and struggles associated with the art of merging content with befitting images, to eventually create something that enables the reader to instantly connect the two. It was particularly fascinating to know how Sunandini created most of the incredible designs, simply with the help of the information provided on the blurb. The magic of these designs lay in the fact that as a reader, I could either marvel at how well they fit in together, or look at one of those images, and want to know the story behind it.

One of the most fascinating books we talked about was a classic by Roland Barthes called Incidents; its new English translation was published by Seagull, with photographs appearing alongside the text. The photographs were taken at locations ranging from Morocco to Varanasi, and became symbiotic with Barthes’s iconic essays. It was very interesting to note how broadening of horizons and perspectives could enable contrasts to exist alongside each other, almost giving them new meaning in the process. Some of the photographs did not come from the same geographic landscape as the essays, but the sheer universality of the written content and the images made it possible for one to give a new lease of life to the other. A photo that looks exactly like a place described, a feeling that finds expression in the written word. We learnt that as editors and designers, it was also imperative to not be overwhelmed by the work at hand, in terms of its stature, or its voice. It is essential to lend your uniqueness to the job, with an individualism that stays with it for posterity. Until I started school at Seagull, I used to believe that being a specialist in design had to do with artsy skills, coupled with design-school expertise. Since I couldn’t draw or paint to save my life, I was almost certain that I would not be able to engage with it, more than just appreciating art. However, as we sat and talked about design and all that inspires it, we realized it comes from who we are, and what we do, everyday. Art and design did not belong to a separate impenetrable zone; it was everywhere, from the interiors of our homes to the colours in our outfits. Of course, there existed an interface that made it easy to express one’s aesthetic ideas, especially when it comes to design but most importantly, it came from being alive to and aware of the beautiful things around us. As I left class, I found myself thinking that though words gave me the comfort of the familiar, I could maybe sometime dabble in design. Book-design and editing complemented each other; neither was an isolated art. As an editor, nothing would make me happier than seeing a book literally go from cover to cover in all its glory. With motifs, colours and collages.

The design roundtable opened up a lot of doors, to imagine and question but, most importantly, it led us to notice a window that was open all along. Truly, it was about learning that there’s still a lot left to learn.


Aastha Sharma