Monday, May 8, 2017

Book Fairs & Literary Festivals

A  news item in a daily quoted the President of South India Publishers Association saying that 80% of the visitors to the  book fair  held  in Chennai consisted of youth. According to the report 60% of the annual sales of small publishers come from such fairs. No wonder that such fairs are becoming popular even in smaller towns in India.

In the last few months I have attended Literary Festivals  in Bangalore &  Chennai.  I was pleasantly surprised to see the huge turnout of visitors, consisting mainly of youngsters in the age group 18-35. A large number of them were attending the three parallel sessions being held at the fairs. During the breaks there were long queues of youngsters waiting to get the books of their favorite authors signed by them.
I wondered what has triggered this great enthusiasm among the youth for books; disproving the theory that reading habits among the younger generation  is going down. I am inclined to give credit for this to the success of Mrs. Rowling and her Harry Potter series of Fantasy fiction and our own banker turned author and a youth icon- Chetan Bhagat.   Chetan  has literally re written  the way the publishing industry has been functioning in India.  For a long time a book was considered a big success if it sold 5000 to 10000 copies. But today the new age  authors like Chetan Bagat, Amish Tripathy, Ashwin Sanghi, etc are claiming  sales  of lakhs  copies for each of their books. It is interesting to learn that all the famous  authors of today  had their first manuscripts rejected by several publishers and had to resort to self- publishing their first book and market them using innovative  marketing strategies. Listening to many of these successful authors  at Literary Festivals, it is clear that if an author wants to be on the best seller list he has to market his book `shamelessly`. It is imperative that such authors must be active on social media.   Self publishing & Print on demand have brought about a sea change in the publishing industry. 

Another reason for the huge sale of books is the facility to order the books online and get them delivered at your door step- very often at a  discounted price! Amazon & Flipcart have been hugely responsible for this phenomenon and are very popular with the young generation who order everything-` from pin to elephant` including books, online.

No wonder that the number of Indian authors is growing by leaps and bounds. People from diverse fields, including school students are trying their hands  at writing.  Recently I attended a function organized by TIE in Chennai   at which books of 9 first time authors were released. They had participated  in a Book Authoring  workshop conducted by Kirubha Shanker  considered as the  Czar of social media.  The nine successful authors who had accepted the 100 day challenge of Kirubha included  an  8 year old girl and a 12 year old boy. I was also happy to note that 80% of the audience at the function consisted of youngsters who were keen to participate in such workshops.

Book Fairs, Literary Festivals and book authoring workshops are surely encouraging the youngsters to take to reading and writing seriously. What does it matter if they read books on their mobiles or tablets!

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