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BW Businessworld

A Bookshelf For Your Kids

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India has one of the world’s youngest populations, with over 30 per cent of Indian citizens being between the ages of 1 and 14. All these individuals constitute a market for those who publish books for children (including Scholastic). The children’s book industry is a flourishing segment and is poised for greater growth in India. The Indian market has several local players and it is therefore difficult to estimate the size and actual growth rate of the same but we would expect it to grow at a healthy 10-15 per cent in the coming 5-10 years.

The industry is being transformed in terms of content, scope, and market potential. Publishers today find themselves in a very dynamic environment within which there is a greater trend towards experimentation with new ideas and genres. Among these is speculative fiction, an umbrella term for a lot of the newer kinds of fantastical fiction including fantasy, horror, science fiction, supernatural fiction and more.

Innovation & Presentation
The market for children’s books is expanding rapidly. Talented new authors, with new perspectives are presenting exciting ideas every day. There is constant innovation not only in the literature itself, but also in the themes and the way they are being presented to appeal to young readers.

Publishers are also looking for magic formulae and closely studying market trends to gauge what works and what does not, and most importantly to see what the reader wants. Authors of children’s books are now willing to make more informed choices about the kind of books they want to write and the themes they choose. For instance, the stories in Scholastic Young Adventure series and the Scholastic Junior Adventure series are accompanied by maps and games to enhance the novelty of these books.

The market for children's books is further expanding with an increase in e-readers. The usage of myriad digital platforms and other popular devices, like tablets and smartphones making books easily available to read, buy and store. While stand alone e-book readers may still be limited in number and not taken off in a huge way, the growing proliferation of mobile phones capable of supporting such platforms will eventually provide a boost to this segment.

In this fiercely competitive industry, every publisher is trying to think out of the box, whether it is in terms of the kind of books that are being planned, the kind of covers that are being done or even the names that are being given to imprints and ventures. In terms of innovation one of our forthcoming titles, 2, a graphic novel co-written by the well-known author, Paro Anand and a Swedish author, Orjan Persson, has two covers for the two stories that it will contain, so you will have to turn the book around to read the other story. Though most publishers keep these things a closely guarded secret, there is talk of higher advances against royalty, and consequently better royalty terms being offered to authors by publishers. The result is a growing number of aspiring authors who are willing to publish and make a profession out of writing.

In the retail sector, there is an organised effort to promote books, and publishers are partnering with retail outlets in the promotional campaigns. With so much happening in terms of product, marketing efforts have also been ramped up across the board. Increasing marketing efforts have been noted, catering to young adults, in the wake of popular best-selling series, such as Harry Potter, Twilight and, more recently, The Hunger Games. Although increased marketing and digital development efforts are expensive, such investments are projected to boost profitability in the next five years.

One sees innovative efforts which go above and beyond the usual “book launches in hotels” motif. In any case, marketing spend for this once staid industry is definitely increasing, and we will see much more advertising in the days to come. Gone are the days of books which sell themselves. Television, print, and collaborative marketing is on the rise in this once very traditional industry.

Without quoting figures, one can safely say that marketing budgets are definitely on the rise as promotion is as integral part of selling a book these days.Tie-ups with vernacular publishers are common, especially where translation rights and sales are concerned. The idea is to make intellectual property available to the greatest number of readers in the most efficient way possible.

Publishing in the end, is a reflection of the interests and mores of society. As Indian society changes, so shall the publishing industry change, to serve it.

The writer is managing director, Scholastic India
businessworldbooks (at) gmail (dot) com