The Business of Books: Master Class with Aditi Maheshwari-Goyal

Here I was hoping to become an editor—pursuing a course in publishing, trying to run as far as possible from marketing (which I had studied as an undergrad). Here I was making conscious efforts to remove myself from what seemed like an oil spill in the ocean—detrimental, polluted and superficial—and Aditi speaks to us about the efforts that went into creating an integrated marketing scheme for Vani Prakashan. Aditi Maheshwari-Goyal is the director of the Copyrights and Translation Department at Vani Prakashan, one of the leading publishers of Hindi literature that has metamorphosed as a platform where cultures and languages unite.

She emphasized on the need to create value, to create a readership for the books, without being gimmicky. She shared many fascinating experiences with us. One of them was how she had attempted to directly sell copies of a book she knew was beautifully written and produced, and yet was ridiculously difficult to get bookstores to commit to it. In another, she spoke of their successful collaboration with Oxford Bookstore to promote Hindi literature and organize literary discussions and seminars. Aditi gave us an insider’s perspective on the Indian publishing milieu and helped us understand how difficult and disorganized distribution networks can be, the near monopoly of those English-language publishers and the vagaries of language politics. In the same breath, she explains the importance of maintaining great relationships within the book publishing community and how it helps to grow together as an industry.

I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said the session was an epiphany of sorts—to note the importance of relevant content in terms of marketing especially for a book to get the attention it deserves; and how, more often than not, vernacular publishers grow horizontally—I believe I have come full circle and now, ironically, embrace marketing. The class helped me understand how publishing in vernacular can give voice to people from diverse social, economic and educational backgrounds; how it makes literature more accessible, not only by articulating their stories but also to make it known, inform the world of readers—so that good literature may not only survive but, rather, thrive. I would like to read in Hindi and Bengali too—I can ‘read’—but I am so overwhelmed by all the books around that I feel I must read in English first (I was indeed ignorant of the language I speak at home).

As the session ended, I was left to reflect on Aditi’s words and question: Why isn’t there an Indian Book Office, a cultural institute that promotes indigenous literature and publishing like the French or the German? Why am I so anglicized? Even though I am interested in literature, I am not half as informed about translations from and writings in vernacular, as I’d like to be—why?

I have now realized that I must engage with literature more deeply and not just escape into it.

Udisha Agarwal

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