Go reclaim your readers says Ruski

Ruskin Bond said in an interview, “India could soon be facing a predicament of having more writers than readers”.

The use of “Predicament” tells us the Padma Bhushan awardee foresees a difficult, unpleasant or embarrassing situation for the publishing industry which may impact the book sales. Watching him talk would have provided the opportunity to factor in his tonality along with the non-verbal cues to make a comprehensive sense of what the iconic writer meant when he said what he said.

This post is not so much about agreeing or disagreeing with his statement, as it is about my interpretation of the “Why” and “What” of the entire interview. Being the grand old man of Indian literature, he is at a vantage point to review the Indian literary scenario and hence not many will share the same perspective.

As hinted, I will not consider this comment in isolation but review it in conjunction with others from the same interview. He also stated "Publishing has come of age and more and more writers are making a good living out of it... But, I think with so many people writing now, there is a danger of having more writers than readers."

It is a legitimate concern directed towards the publishing houses with a clear advice that if they do not take the responsibility for quality of books they publish, they are at the danger of losing out on the readers. Do not just let anyone be a writer just because publishing is easy, do it based on the literary merits of the writers. 

Go reclaim your readers is the message!

I am not implying that Indian writers should not get the opportunity to publish their works but promote only those who meets the criteria.

There is a phenomenon in Bollywood where a super-duper hit movie is turned into a multi-million dollar franchise business. Every now and then, a complete nonsensical movie makes it big at the box office and we see them churning out even more nonsensical versions of the same. I wouldn’t care much if movie lovers knowingly sacrifice their valuable time watching those or a few young directors try to replicate such successes. All who think they can fly their cars or jump over a few blocks of buildings - Good luck to them!

However, the implications are radically different when writers with poor literary skills churn out one lousy novel after the other. This has negative impact on the society from every perspective. If someone get inspired by works, they have selected the wrong example and if they try to emulate their success… it is a bigger disaster!

It is Lose-Lose Situation for everyone.

I am not the only lone who resents this, there many more who share the feeling. I suggest that you follow this link to “Quora”, to review their reaction to the question “Why are novels by bestselling Indian authors so horrible?”

You will be amazed!

I am quite certain the same question arose in the mind of Mr. Bond many a times which lead to his advice, "Confidence in the language is a must. You should have something to say and be able to research on it well. Clarity is key."

The publishing house should take the responsibility to uphold the quality and look beyond earnings. If this is not checked now, we will be mere spectators as the reading habits of younger generations spiral southwards to oblivion.

…….and then there will be no readers!

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  1. I agree with your views on the so called best sellers in India. Even one of the so called best sellers had a lot of silly grammatical mistakes.

    Another thing that the traditional publishers and authors are worried about is, perhaps, the self publishing industry, which is eating into their pie.

  2. This sector is getting ridiculously driven by quantity while quality is taking the backseat. Self publishing is hitting the big players e-book probably everyone.

  3. I completely agree with you on all points. Few additional remarks from my side. Publishers cannot be blamed for taking their own profit into account, after all they are running a business. Hence, it is quite understandable if they are reluctant to publish a newcomer's work. But if this initial barrier is overcome, there is a drastic improvement in the quality of the work especially in terms of editing. However, as mentioned, it is indeed difficult to overcome this problem and new writers who are impatient to get their work published would take the route of self-publishing.

    I have been reviewing books for different Indian and foreign publishers and can easily identify with Bond's assertion. Youth are considering literature as a career option to make easy money and attain fame especially after the success of Chetan Bhagat and JK Rowling. But even a good quality work requires enormous effort, time and patience to produce, and cannot be done overnight. Here lies the problem. And you rightly say at the beginning of this article -- the readers are easily turned off by such sub-standard works whereas the works of Jane Austen and Tolstoy remain bestsellers even after more than hundred years.

    If you throw a glance at the novels by Indian writers available on Amazon, you would notice that there is lot in common among them -- in terms of theme (mythological, romance, thriller) and even cover design!

    Amit Misra

    1. Thanks Amit for your thoughts and views.
      I read read two and a half of Bhagat's creation and couldn't let myself to continue.
      J K Rowling is a different class altogether and her creations have the power to transport kids and some adults to a parallel reality.
      I will never use the two names in a single sentence!
      Never noticed the similarity in theme and cover design before .. I shall look for it now.
      I believe the short story scene is a bit different. I have read some short stories by amateur authors that I thought were very good.
      Many thanks for stopping by.

  4. Everyone today is a celebrated author, thanks to the ease of self publishing. Writers are indeed dime a dozen!
    This post somehow took me to my personal favourite of Ruskin.. The room with a view 😍

  5. I have a feeling that people love to read the language they could connect with and they are behind making your phrase "dime dozen" a reality.
    Not many visits my blog and that doesn't make me sad but the visitors who reads and leave meaningful comments makes me glad.
    Thanks for your time and thoughts.

  6. Thank you Suman ji for writing on this topic.I really wanted to know the views of Indian writers on this issue. You are absolutely right -
    "The publishing house should take the responsibility to uphold the quality and look beyond earnings".

  7. Hi Suman, I couldn’t agree more. It reminds me of your earlier article about internet and barriers to entry. I was recently reading an article which was extremely chauvinistic, but was amazed to see the defiance in that guy. He also had a great following - it was called the male factor or something. With the ease of publishing now quality has become a severe concern. I can would be interested to see if there’s a triage for this situation

    1. We can only hope that the market forces will act in a way that is aligned to our thoughts and not the other way around.


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