As the Kolkata Book Festival rounds up another exemplary year, the Indian literary field is coming to terms with the revolutionary world of self-publishing and independent production in a way it has never done before.
Authors have squirmed themselves free of the shackles of sales agents, publishers, public relation experts and marketing plans to become their own self-appointed master-and it’s a movement that is rapidly gaining unprecedented attention and acclaim amongst readers and audiences across the world and in India.
Why is this? Presumably because the bravest independent authors are using their craft to write about issues that would make most sales agents uncomfortable but which people want to read about. What seems ‘risky’ ‘dangerous’ and a ‘poor sales return’ today can catch fire and become THE book to read tomorrow.
Independent publishing allows writers to discuss topics, issues, lines of thought and literary approaches that are free from largely circular conceptions of what writing should be: largely at the behest of those who have never written a book themselves.
What is more these writers are increasingly proving themselves adept as one man and one women publicity machines; with their fingers on the pulse of important topics that people want to read about, whether it is gender inequality, women’s rights, cultural differences, politics, religion, you name it. 2016 is the world of the furious and curious mind and marketing plans and corporate editorial meetings can’t plan, predict or accommodate them.
To a writer, self-publishing is an incredibly powerful and alluring concept. On the simplest level, it’s an intriguing solution to an age old problem: How do you get your words to a wide audience (ideally, while earning some money along the way)? On a more artistic level, it is a unique extension of the creative process. Beyond putting words on the page, the self-publisher actually controls every aspect of authoring — he or she creates the physical book and actively brings it to an audience. It’s a uniquely harmonious and satisfying melding of art and business.
This is more so in India where writers are a dime a dozen, competing within fields of thought that often overlap and buttress one another. How do you stand out from the crowd? The answer is to take the world into your own hands and let originality and skill guide you.
At the same time the independent publishing field often is scorned for producing inept, badly put together writing except when you realise the most talented people in the arts were at one time or another, independent self-publishers who wrote, sang, played about issues the mainstream were too perplexed to deal with. The cream will always rise to the top, that’s evolution in the literary world for you.
Now in a world where the blog is as powerful as ever, the literary world within India realises there is a hungry, talented and fiercely intelligent chasm of writers that have something to say and they won’t wait for notoriously slow chains of command to tell them when and how they can say it.
This is why the future of the literary world hinges on allowing this original thought to move with the times and to give a voice to these ‘writers on the edge’ as I like to call them.