Business behind the buzz

Controversies and celebrities aside, book deals were also struck at the Jaipur Literature Festival

The Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) is a noisy affair on all counts, from the discussions to the controversies. A quieter trend emerging is that it is also becoming a venue where publishers from around the world do business. This year, on a conservative note, there were over 150 publishers and agents from across the world, according to festival organiser Sanjoy Roy.  “Most of the major publishers from Australia, South Africa, the UK, the US, Canada, France, Switzerland and Germany were here,” he says.

Though this number is minuscule compared to the 2,000 publishers who registered for the 39th World Book Fair in Delhi last year, what publishers at the JLF seek is its casual undertone. There are no literary discussions and hardly any authors at book fairs. It’s all about publishers and agents, whereas the personal connect at events like JLF is often the deal clincher.

Dr Judith Oriol is book attaché at the French Cultural Centre in Delhi. Last year, she invited two publishers from France to the festival. “Earlier, Gallimard, which is one of the largest publishers from France, had transactions of one book every two to three years with Indian publishers,” she says. “But after last year’s lit fest, Gallimard sold rights to 12 books in India.” 

Last year, Priyanka Malhotra, director, Full Circle Publishing, was introduced to two publishers at JLF. “During our conversation, I found out one of the publishers had the rights to the bestseller, The Elegance of the Hedgehog,” she says. “Coincidentally, a few people asked for the book just before that. So we decided to buy the English and Hindi rights for the book.” 

Yoda Press’ director Arpita Das, too, had a similar experience. She spoke to publishers from Germany and France, and bought rights to a book from one of them. Divya Dubey, who runs the Delhi-based Gyaana Books, says, “Other than networking and meeting new authors, JLF helps business because you meet distributors and retailers from various parts of India.” 

Eliana Ramirez Callas, another visitor to the fest, translates books from English to Spanish. There is a lot of interest in literature from India in Spain, she says. Callas has been visiting JLF for four years to spot interesting Indian books that she can then pitch to publishers. “I come every year,” she says. “Publishers in Spain are interested in knowing what the author is like. I meet them and pick up their books. So, when I go back, I know exactly what kind of book to pitch.” Last year, she made four deals. Soon, even the din of the chatter at the lit-fest will not be able to drown out the deals struck over Pushkari chai and mulled wine at Diggi Palace.