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  • Writer's pictureVadhan

Who are Indian Authors Competing With?

English writing Indian authors are growing in numbers. More specifically, the ones that write fiction. But does that mean their readership is growing? Not friends, family and wellwishers who pick up their books. I mean, for a want of a better word, an ‘unbiased reader’. Or is the Said unbiased reader simply buying only his favourite authors? Who are the English writing Indian authors completing with?

Let’s get some analysis done. India is the world’s second largest book market. How is this market divided? Mostly, it is text books used in schools. Then comes the non-fiction, which could be self help books, management, spiritual and the like. Between them, they occupy 75% of the market. Then there is fiction. Even in fiction it is shared between vernacular and English fiction writers.

Therefore, the English writing Indian authors of fiction occupy a minuscule part of the market. So, are they competing with the text books? Or non-fiction authors? Or with vernacular fiction? The answer, in my opinion, will have to be an emphatic No!

Each of these markets are clearly divided. A person who reads vernacular will not suddenly switch over to English fiction. He/ she will never be comfortable with it. I have colleagues who force themselves to read English fiction just to improve their English. And I am speaking of people working in organisations like the big four.

So, are English writing Indian authors competing with themselves? To an extent, yes. But, only to an extent. There are, say, five or six authors who are ruling the roost in India in the fiction genre. They were the early birds. The guys with the foresight. Or the ones who paved the road for commercial writing in this country. We have to be grateful to them at one level. They set the expectations.

But, in my opinion, they are not really the competition. The reason, there aren’t too many of them. A good author with competent writing skills and deep enough marketing budgets can successfully challenge the pioneers. There are ways to do that, but that’d be a different discussion for another day.

The real competition for English writing Indian authors are the international authors. The highly successful ones that sell a book every nine seconds on an average. The Indian reader would rather read those books. And why not? I do. In fact I recently read a fantasy novel that had me relishing every word of the rather massive book. Every word. Such was the skill of that wordsmith.

Our readers are our God and religion. And when our God and religion throws a favourable stance towards our international brethren, we are at a disadvantage. Many argue that Indian writers are ‘coming of age’, and the readership is ‘improving’. In my opinion, that’s neither here nor there. The real test is, can English writing Indian authors compete with international best selling authors book after book in THEIR market?

There are reasons we cannot do that. For one, the topics should interest international readers. But that isn’t really a challenge. If East European authors are worldwide best sellers (even after translation or when they write in English), there is no reason to think that Indian authors can fare any less. Then what really is the show stopper here. What should we do?

I can only offer an opinion. Starts with a Q and ends with a Y. All caps. Quality. We are a country of stories. I mean, 1600 languages, each with its own culture and each culture based on wonderful stories, we cannot fail. What we are failing at is presenting the stories.

The biggest possible hurdle facing an English writing Indian author today is self publishing. It is a curse upon us. A threat to our existence. Self-publishing leaves the entire editing process, quality, presentation and everything else to a novice writer, playing on his naïveté and vulnerabilities to spew out his greatest work of art without the appropriate pruning that it deserves.

There are other hurdles. A whole lot of them. If the lot of the Indian author as a whole should have any chances of growth and betterment, we must learn how to compete with the international authors and their quality of delivery. We must focus at out-beating the likes of Robert Ludlum, Lee Child, Stephen King and Dean R Koontz, R.R. Martin and P.G. Wodehouse. We need not all aspire to be a Shashi Tharoor, and we don’t have to be. What we should be is aware of our competition and equip ourselves to face it. That means, among other things, to improve the way we write.

Our publishing community should be ready to take chances with larger marketing budgets to challenge our international brethren both in India and in other markets. Can this be done? Yes, of course. Can we do it? I’ll leave you with that question.

Cheers,

Vadhan

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Vadhan

Author Of Best Selling Fantasy Books

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