Have local authors here given up on publishers to promote their work? Perhaps that’s why three authors and a translator looked for options beyond the publisher while discussing how to market Bengali books.
“Publishers here did not plan for changing times. They do not understand that they have to reach the new generation in new ways,” said author-journalist Gautam Bhattacharya, who was handed a measly royalty cheque for his first book. Since then he himself takes the initiative to publicise his works.
But as moderator Anindya Chattopadhyay quipped, Bengali authors see virtue in penury, shrinking away from the limelight. Poet Subodh Sarkar, who joined from the audience, pointed out that he was criticised for attending public events. “The attitude is: ‘Follow what Bibhutibhushan or Jibanananda did.’ They kept to themselves. The latter died of starvation,” he said.
Poet Joya Mitra said authors in the West could afford to remain in the background, letting their work reach the reader through the publisher. “Marquez never went out much. Alice Walker took six years to write a book.” Translator Arunava Sinha added: “Jhumpa Lahiri has said it would take her six months to recover her serenity after attending the succession of literary meets. But here authors can’t afford to be shy.”
The mantra that emerged? A book needs a buzz. Create it yourself.