It’s no secret that the world is shrinking; globalization, social media, and widespread availability of the internet has made the exchange of information between distant locales easier and faster than ever before. But what effect does this brave new world have on publishing.
Author and Bangalore-based businessman Vasudev Murthy recounts his own publishing experiences and how this global market has allowed his works to take minds, and journies, of their own.
A Book’s Journey
By Vasudev Murthy
They say that every book finds its reader. In 2016, that could well mean someone in a tiny town in Brazil or in Seoul in Korea.
I live in Bangalore, a city in southern India. I write on a variety of subjects—Music, Crime, Humour, Management . . . I have a lot to say and I shall keep writing. I’ve been published by Rupa, Sage, Bloomsbury, HarperCollins, Poisoned Pen Press and a few more. I realize that I’ve been very fortunate.
But this is not about my fortune but the interesting experience of suddenly finding my books being read in far-away places. Much happens by serendipity as I shall show.
I wrote Sherlock Holmes in Japan in 2012-13. It was published by HarperCollins India and was then showcased by them at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Robert Rosenwald, the CEO of Poisoned Pen Press bumped into someone at the HarperCollins stall and decided to acquire the US rights. PPP renamed the book Sherlock Holmes, the Missing Years: Japan and did an additional round of editing and launched it in the US in March 2015 with a gorgeous cover.
Things became even more interesting. Shortly thereafter, HarperCollins sold the Portuguese language rights to Editora Vestigio in Brazil. It was translated with a great deal of finesse by Ana Oliviera and appears to have become very popular. The book’s production was quite wonderful and the cover design daring and different. What a pity I can’t read the language!
I developed a positive relationship with PPP (in distant Arizona) and worked with them on planning my next book. And soon, I signed a contract with PPP for Sherlock Holmes, the Missing Years: Timbuktu. The book was published in January 2016.
Meanwhile, a Korean publisher called Gamesman reached out to HarperCollins and acquired the Korean language rights. Their particular speciality is the sale of one e-chapter at a time; Korea has apparently adopted e-Books in a very big way. Along with that has come new business models which allows readers to decide on moving ahead chapter by chapter; that’s pressure on a writer to keep things interesting throughout or lose the reader!
A friend in Japan introduced a major publisher Kokusho-Kankokai to HarperCollins India which resulted in the sale of the Japanese language rights, something that I was hoping for at the back of my mind.
But what has all this taught me?
One: the world is truly shrinking. Deals are made faster than ever before and publishers are unafraid of placing their bets on a relatively unknown writer if the theme is compelling enough.
Two: the book you write has a life of its own. I can no longer control its destination and I have no way of knowing how true the translation is. It’s a risk worth taking. One never knows what may happen. For instance, a reader in Brazil made a video about it!
Three: your neighbour in Bangalore does not know who you are, except as the guy with the barking dogs, but people in tiny towns in Brazil and the US do and often write in. I find it slightly surreal. The books have made me an international citizen in a way.
Four: it’s very exhilarating working with publishers and editors overseas and seeing how they think. It’s enriching for the writing process. For example, Timbuktu needed a great deal of research. The publisher worked with me from concept to completion. That’s a wonderful example of how the writing process need not be solitary in this age, and can call upon well-wishers from across vast distances.
Five: speed and responsiveness is king. The quick exchange of information, photographs and graphics ensures that a book is out faster than ever before. That means both publishers and writers need to have a great sense of urgency. And communication needs to be crisp and clear.
Six: Marketing has changed. Book launches don’t happen for me because it’s not possible to travel vast distances. I have to support my publisher in whichever way they think best, which these days may include video interviews or blog submissions. I am fairly active on twitter and that does help.
Seven: you may write for a certain audience and include unusual cultural references; the reader is liberal and prepared to find out what you mean. However, there is an additional responsibility placed on us to be rigorous in our research or risk criticism. And what about the poor translator who must be so precise in conveying the syntax as well as the nuance?
This is the journey my book has taken. I hope you find it self-explanatory. Who knows how this picture will look after the Timbuktu book gathers steam?
Vasudev Murthy has authored books on a variety of subjects including music, crime, management and humor. His publishers include Sage, HarperCollins, Bloomsbury, Poisoned Pen Press, Editora Vestigio, Gamesman, LiFi, Kokusho-Kankokai and Rupa, and his book Sherlock Holmes in Japan (Harper Collins, India) has been translated into Portuguese, Korean and Japanese.
Vasudev lives in Bangalore, India where he runs a consulting firm. When he’s not knee deep in researching or writing his next book, he can be found teaching, conducting animal welfare seminars, playing the violin, or twisting his aging body into improbable yoga asanas. He has been rescued by six dogs who highly recommend his books as an excellent source of dietary fiber.