Sudha Murty is one of Penguin Random House’s bestselling novelists and her books are eagerly awaited by her devoted fans. But this time the fans will have to buy Murty’s latest offering either as an audio or an e-book.
The printing presses are firmly locked down and the editorial and marketing teams are working from home but the publishing industry is looking for new and innovative ways to reach out to readers – who have more time on their hands than usual. So, today, on World Book Day Penguin Random House’s launching Murty and hoping for an online super-hit (she’s the wife of Infosys founder N. R. Narayanamurthy and a multi-millionaire in her own right). Also, the publishing giant recently launched its first e-bookstore with a curated list of over 400 titles.
Penguin Random House is trying to keep moving swiftly even if bookstores are shutdown. In early April it came out with The Coronavirus, an e-book on the hottest topic of the moment.
Because of the restrictions in retail and disrupted supply chain, we are releasing some select titles in e-book and audiobook formats and have a schedule ready for the next three months
Nandan Jha, SVP Product & Sales, Penguin Random House India
“Because of the restrictions in retail and disrupted supply chain, we are releasing some select titles in e-book and audiobook formats and have a schedule ready for the next three months,” says Nandan Jha, SVP Product & Sales, Penguin Random House India. He adds: “We are releasing 10-12 books in e-book format ahead of their print edition release during April-May.
We are now publishing books as e-books first, which will be followed by print editions when the markets open. Taslima Nasreen, Om Swami and V. Krishnswamy's book on P V Sindhu are the first three books that have gone out e-first. We are trying to make these books available at attractive prices
Akriti Tyagi, Head-Marketing, HarperCollins Publishers India
Other publishing houses are also going online in an effort to keep sales moving and the public turning the e-pages. Take HarperCollins, for instance. “We are now publishing books as e-books first, which will be followed by print editions when the markets open. Taslima Nasreen, Om Swami and V. Krishnswamy's book on P V Sindhu are the first three books that have gone out e-first. We are trying to make these books available at attractive prices,” says Akriti Tyagi, Head-Marketing, HarperCollins Publishers India. Tyagi adds that e-book sales have gone up by 75 per cent during the lockdown. “The e-books bestseller list indicates sales across most genres,” she says.
We will continue publishing according to our schedule. But if bookshops aren't open and Flipkart and Amazon are not able to deliver print books, then they will first be available as digital
Chiki Sarkar, publisher, Juggernaut Books
Juggernaut is not only launching e-books but has also made its app free for download and the e-books are available for free on the app. “We will continue publishing according to our schedule. But if bookshops aren't open and Flipkart and Amazon are not able to deliver print books, then they will first be available as digital,” says Chiki Sarkar, publisher, Juggernaut Books. “We have made the app free. Our active users on the app, e-book downloads and installs have grown over 100 per cent,” she adds.
Juggernaut has also launched a month-long virtual lit fest called #readinstead with author talks, conversations, workshops and readings by well known actors. The fest is on till May 1. All videos are posted on Juggernaut’s YouTube channel.
Publishers are going the extra mile with innovative campaigns to keep readers engaged during the lockdown. “Quarantine, isolation and working from home has given our readers more time to read and we’re using our digital channels to present our readers with a wide variety of content. Currently we are running #ReadForReslience in association with Jaipur Literature Festival. We also ran a campaign where 15 authors came together to spin a yarn,” says Niti Kumar, senior vice president, digital, marketing and communications, Penguin Random House India.
HarperCollins has launched a campaign called #WriteWithChitra where bestselling author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni will write the first chapter and budding writers can submit the subsequent chapters. The crowd-sourced novel will then be published.
But going online doesn’t work for everyone. Trisha Niyogi, COO of Niyogi Books says that they will launch some titles in e-book format in May but they work on a large number of illustrated books which lose their appeal as e-books. “We have had to rework our schedule and most projects have been pushed to August-September,” she says.
Still Niyogi Books’ s is hoping to attract readers’ attention with its campaign Poetry by Midnight that’s on till May 15 on all its social media platforms. “We invite people from different walks of life to read their favourite poem,” says Niyogi.
They also have a weekly campaign called Time Machine which has sessions on history as well as the future. The campaign will run for 52 weeks, on Sunday at noon. “I am not looking at short-term goals. If you are investing in a campaign you might as well run it for the long-term,” says Niyogi.
Also, since the lockdown, several virtual platforms have come up. Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) has launched a virtual festival called Brave New World, Oxford Bookstores have started video recordings of readings by authors. Mohini Gupta, founder of Mother Tongue Twisters platform has started Translation Thursdays, where she does Zoom sessions with translators. “It’s as if suddenly, all marketing and promotion has shifted to a virtual world! We are making maximum use of all these platforms, to promote our books,” says Renuka Chatterjee, VP (Publishing), Speaking Tiger.
There is no doubt that the publishing industry has an uphill task ahead of it. Niyogi says it’s difficult to comprehend the kind of losses the industry may face in the coming months. “It’s too early to calculate the full impact,” she says, adding that in the long-run, everyone will need to innovate and experiment.