‘As Niyogi Books embarked on its publishing journey, it has had its share of detractions and detours, however, the ultimate goal of making ‘Fine Publishing Within Reach’ never faltered’ Trisha
Bookaholicanonymous is extremely privileged to present this exclusive conversation with Trisha De Niyogi of Niyogi Books. As this publishing house completes 13 years in publishing, she talks about what inspires them, about publishing in general and future endeavors of Niyogi Books.
Trisha De Niyogi is currently heading the business development, strategic planning and marketing division at Niyogi Books. As a lead for strategic planning and business development, her goal is to drive a portfolio diversification in alignment to the company’s long-term strategy. She began her career in publishing with SAGE Publications and has come a long way since then. During her years of education, she has also worked in various projects in product development, marketing and advertising with several multinationals including PepsiCo, Toshiba, EY and Tesco-Trent.
Trisha holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics (Delhi University), Masters’ degree in Economics (University of Warwick) and Business Management degree, with specialization in Marketing (Symbiosis International University).
As Niyogi Books has completes 13 years in publishing, please recount some of the highlights of this eventful journey?
The last thirteen years have been a fabulous journey of discovery for us. There were undoubtedly moments on mountaintops and then there were moments of deep valleys. But, when Columbus set out on his journey in search of India, little did he know he would discover West Indies. Similarly, as we embarked on our publishing journey, we have had our share of detractions and detours, however, our ultimate goal of making ‘Fine Publishing Within Reach’ never faltered. In this journey, the most satiating moments were the moments of great motivation, some of which, I will elaborate below:
Birth of the first child: The launch of our first book titled So Many Journeys authored by Padma Shri Geeta Chandran & Rajiv Chandran, was perhaps the most memorable moment in our journey. This book not only marked the beginning of the journey, it was also a great learning process. Immersed deeply into the printing industry, the challenge was to create a book, and not just any book, but a large format illustrated book, from scratch. From spending days at the author’s bedroom conceptualising the book, by Mr and Mrs Niyogi, to working closely with the editors and designers, this mini-journey as it may seem now, was a life-changing process.
It also wouldn’t be wrong to say, we found wonderful patrons, who gave us our first book and a lifetime of support.
Child goes international: We were quite surprised when we got a congratulatory call early one morning. It was a special occasion for us not just in your private pursuits but also for the patriots in us. Mapping India by Manoshi Lahiri became the first large format book, from India, to be featured in the Times magazine.
A momentous moment we have taken inspiration from time and again, in the last several years.
Recognition in the outside world: After the initial hiccups, we had learnt immensely from our mistakes and as we progressed into the international book market, it was heartening to be considered not just the best in the country, but also to be adjudged as the best in the world. Our bestselling title Chai: The Experience of Indian Tea was recognised as the best tea book award at the International Gourmand Award. It was first time in many years that India had actually won the prize again.
First collaborative effort: In this new age of comparative advantage and collaborations, our first co-publishing project with the Museum Rietberg marked a beginning of another journey.
There have been many firsts and many mini-journeys have commenced simultaneously in the span of thirteen years. Now as we move on to our fourteenth year, we decided to pigeonhole our diverse offerings in three new imprints:
· Olive Turtle: For Original English Fiction Writing
· Thornbird: For Translations
· Paper Missiles: For non-fiction writing
The launch of these new imprints, would be the fifth highlight I would like to mention in our journey apart from the several other big and small events which have only propelled us forward.
Celebrating the occasion you have started 3 new imprints. Tell us about them.
Rumi said, “As you start walking out on the way, the way appears.” And so this year, as we take another leap ahead, diversifying into newer paths and announcing the launch of our three new imprints, we are quite sure; the road ahead will keep presenting itself to us. With these imprints, even though we will see a significant shift in size, form and genre, from our original offerings, we have consciously tried to uphold our values and make our books and their content accessible and available to more people who wish to read.
The first imprint, for our original English titles, is Olive Turtle. With this imprint, we intend to catapult the readers to a world where they will live and breathe in the days to come. Haruki Murakami said, “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” Thus, the joy of discovering new voices and creativity budding around in the Indian subcontinent and the world beyond is a reason to look forward to.
In the last couple of years, we have seen translation gaining critical mass. When we started publishing translations from various languages to English, a couple of years back, we had envisaged a greater appreciation for such work. Today, as we launch our imprint Thornbird, we intend to take our translation series a notch above. Through this imprint, we intend to bring into limelight the incredible plethora of literature in the other Indian as well as foreign languages, which have the ability to bewitch every reader and cast a magic spell.
Last but not the least; Paper Missile is our imprint for non-fiction titles. Perhaps our nomenclature is a bit of a maverick, but what we want to suggest is that we plan our non-fiction books to be hard-hitting and create a buzz around the speculative thoughts running in the polity of our country.
Who are the major authors that Niyogi Books is proud of? And which are the authors/book that have sold the most?
At Niyogi Books, every book we publish is considered as an individual unit and thus gets personalised time and attention at every level. Even though, we have several prominent names in our house, we are extremely proud of the fact that at least 40 per cent of our authors are first time authors. Now, if you ask me about our ‘major’ authors, I would first like to mention Geeta & Rajiv Chandran, who gave us our first book and thereafter eminent personalities in their respected fields, having worked with us on more than one project: Robert Elgood, BN Goswamy, Jaya Jailty, Anna Dallapiccola, Peter Van Ham, Rahul Jain, Rajiv Mehrotra, Sethu Madhavan, Keki Daruwalla, Lata Mangeshkar, and many more.
I would also like to mention some of our first time authors, who have done extremely well and continue to do so, Sanchit Gupta; A Tree With Thousand Apples, Jvalant Sampath, The Tenth Unknown; Sudipto Das, The Aryabhata Clan & The Ekkos Clan; Nilanjan P Choudhury, The Case of Secretive Sister and most recently Arnab Nandy, On the Road to Tarascon.
In 2018 what can we look forward to from Niyogi Books?
In 2018, as we had mentioned on the 12th of January, 2018 at the launch of our three imprints, we will focusing on expanding our list of titles in the three new imprints, not curtailing any effort in producing and marketing our Niyogi Books original offerings. We have several ambitious projects in the pipeline; we hope they materialise by the end of this year. Having said that, some of our forthcoming titles for the year are:
Nostalgia for Eternity by Leonid Plotkin
The culmination of five years’ travel with Indian pilgrims, Nostalgia for Eternity takes the reader into the depths of millennia-old spiritual and mystic traditions. It is a stunning visual poem about the timeless human search for transcendence and ultimate truth.
Translated literally from Greek, ‘nostalgia’ means homesickness; spiritually, it is the universal longing for existential peace and completeness—for a final resolution of all life’s conflicts and contradictions. ‘The truth is one,’ taught India’s ancient gurus, ‘the sages call it by many names.’ With breadth and insight unmatched by any other publication, Nostalgia for Eternity illustrates the world of pilgrims seeking that transcendent truth and illuminates the different paths that they travel. Through evocative, complex images we enter the secretive realm of Tantric worshippers of the Mother Goddess; and we walk with Sufi pilgrims across the deserts of Rajasthan. Meditative, richly layered photographs reveal the inner world of Bengali Bauls—mystics who worship the human being; and of Sidis—descendants of African saints whose religion merges African ancestor worship with Sufism. Richly annotated text reveals to the reader the deeper symbolic and mythological significance of the Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic, and syncretic practices explored in the book.
Nostalgia for Eternity is an extended visual meditation on the highest human aspirations: to know the nature of one’s true self and to understand one’s place in the cosmos.
The Bourbons and Begums of Bhopal: The Forgotten History by Indira Iyengar
Magdaline Bourbon was a descendant of Jean Philippe de Bourbon, who arrived in India in the 1560s and was appointed a senior official by the Mughal Emperor Akbar, at his court in Delhi. Regarded as a son of the Bourbon royal family of France, Jean Philippe de Bourbon was known as the Raja of Shergarh and established a dynasty in India. In the 1760s the family moved to Bhopal and played a crucial role in supporting the ruling Begums of the state.
The Bourbons’ bravery, administrative acumen and sound advice helped in the development of Bhopal, where their deeds are still remembered. The harmonious coexistence of different communities in Bhopal during the rule of the Begums, is also a valuable historical memory worth remembering.
In this historical account with a personal flavour, Indira Iyengar, the daughter of Magdaline Bourbon, records her mother’s memories, traces the fascinating history of the Bourbons of Bhopal and reminds us of life in a romantic and swashbuckling time.
Monsoon Feelings Edited by Imke Rajamani, Margrit Pernau and Katherine Schofield
Monsoon Feelings is a collection of well-researched, insightful essays discussing the various aspects of monsoon in the Indian subcontinent edited by Imke Rajamani, Margrit Pernau and Katherine Schofield.
‘This book arose from a conference held at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin in June 2015, in which experts on Indian art, architecture, literature, religion, music, film, medicine, and history came together to explore the concept of monsoon feelings from different times and cultural contexts within South Asia.’ Replete with vibrant illustrations, the book investigates the particularly rich, diverse, and changing history of monsoon feelings from the twelfth century to the present. The essays range from monsoon feelings in different genres of poetry, monsoon paintings, garden architecture in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, exploration of political implications of monsoon feelings in two popular Hindi films, to the perception of monsoon in Unani medical writings. The monsoon feelings of a thumri performer conclude the series thus throwing light on how the monsoon is not just a seasonal weather condition but also a lived social and cultural phenomenon.
Samboli! Beware by Lakshman
It is at once a story of an untouchable Dalit boy coming of age, and a reflection on the social conditions of the community which is struggling to find its dignity and social justice. Interestingly unlike other Dalit autobiographies set in remote villages with socially well-defined and self-contained spaces, the events narrated in Samboli are set in the outskirts of the city, making incursions to the city now and then.
Lakshman’s Samboli! Is yet another addition to the growing body of Dalit autobiographies, which, in their content and form, have developed into a distinct genre of ‘self-writing’.
What are you planning for this year’s Jaipur Lit Fest? What will be the highlights?
Like every year, we are looking forward to participating in the Jaipur Book Mark, which is a B2B platform and focusing on all aspect of the publishing sector in and around the world. JBM is fast emerging as a nerve centre for the South Asian publishing industry and is indeed a focal point where books mean business. However, it must be noted that the publishing is still a cottage industry in India and is yet to get the status of a full-fledged industry, thus a dire need for all the stakeholders to come together and work together.
Some of our prominent authors at the Jaipur Literature Festival are: Sethu Madhavan (Saga of Muziris), Pilar Maria Guerreri (Maps of Delhi), B.N. Goswamy and others.
As a publisher of large format illustrated books, we safely believe we have another some time to see an eBook version of these kinds of books to become prevalent because of several factors like high cost of conversion, protection of IPR etcetera. However, as a publisher of fiction, non-fiction and translation, it is mandatory for us to be on both the format –physical as well as eBook. Even though, for us the eBook sales is still insignificant in terms of our physical books sales and the markets seems bearish for the digital formats, still it is imperative because of almost mutually exclusive readership.
What is your criterion for selecting a manuscript?
We consider three major points while considering a manuscript for publication:
· Connect and the
Content is paramount. When we first read a manuscript we look for substance in the manuscript. By substance, we mean, how are we contributing to the society and literature at large. The author can pick up any raging issue or take into account history, psychology, philosophy, culture, scientific discoveries and tradition or any such topic and weave a book around it. For example, one of our recently published titles ‘Without Prejudice’, we touch upon the plight of the Mumbai Bar Dancers after the ban and the myths shrouding them.
The second most important point is context. It is important to be able to set a context to the matter in hand, without which the reader might not enjoy reading the book at hand.
Third point is the relatability of the book. If the reader is unable to connect to your book, the word of mouth around your book will be negligible and thus commercially and unwise choice.
Last but not the least, the author should have a command over the language which weaves content, context as well as the connect element together and makes a book good.
Bookaholicanonymous wishes Niyogi Books and Trisha all the success they deserve...for taking up this difficult journey and coming out a winner. Keep going...keep doing this tremendous job!
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