These books, which are light and easy to read, are generally written by authors between 25 and 35 years. They cater to the short attention span of readers, says Sumit Aggarwal, 24, author of “Office Shocks” . But he adds there’s a need for writers to make a more conscious effort to add literary value to their work.
Narender Mani Ganesh, 25, co-author of “If God Went to B-School” , however, claims that though his book uses simple language, it deals with deep feelings. It sold some 9,000 copies. Ganesh hopes to sell more copies with the third edition, which has a more colourful cover and a glossy finish.
And that’s the USP of these books: packaging rather than literary content drives them. “You have to have an attractive cover, a catchy title and a good publisher,” says Subhasis Das, author of “Mom Says No Girlfriend” .
For Parinda Joshi, a Los Angeles-based data analyst, India’s flourishing market makes her hopeful that her own book, “Live from London” , on the girl-next-door , will do well. With a story that is predominantly set in
But authors who break the mould are not always received well. Kanishka Gupta, author of “History of Hate” , wrote about an unemployed man and a middle-aged housewife who go on a murderous spree through Delhi. Despite the book being in the longlist for the Man Asian Literary Prize, bookstores were returning copies of it just two months after publication. “Many publishers are becoming too commercial ,” she says. “They are concerned with market considerations and even brilliant novels are rejected.”
But there’s no doubt that this market has grown. While earlier publishing houses would only publish two or three such books a month, now the number has gone up to 20. But Das says publishers should be more selective and groom writers to write better books rather than churn out more writers.
However, there’s little doubt that the massmarket formula has proved lucrative for publishing houses . Delhi-based Srishti Publications produces such books for Rs 99 each and has had 30 of its 60 chick-lit books in the national bestseller list. A recently published book, “Few Things Left Unsaid” sold 8,000 copies within a fortnight . “Our motto is to get people to read,” says Srishti Jayanta K Bose, its chief. “Everyone can’t go through literary books – they want leisure books to read while travelling too.” Bigger publishing houses are also catching on to the trend, releasing more up-market versions of similar stories. Last year, Penguin India introduced Metro Reads, its own line of “light reads” priced at Rs 150. Eight Metro Reads were published last year and three more are expected this month. Vaishali Mathur , senior editor at Penguin says there’s a huge market for books with story lines catering to the youth and the working population. “Among the books we published in March, ‘Losing My Virginity and Other Dumb Ideas’ has been a bestseller.”
HarperCollins briefly experimented with the mass-market fiction trend with “Johnny Gone Down” by Karan Bajaj, priced at Rs 100. But though the book sold 40,000 copies, the publishing house is not likely to pursue this trend further , says V Kartika, editor-inchief at HarperCollins. “The time will come when people lose interest in these kinds of books. Instead , there will be two types of mass market fiction: books that are good and books that don’t last.”
Bookshops show a similar trend. Shubash Arora, owner of Teksons Bookshop in Delhi says, “No mature person would want to read these.” Though these books are reasonably priced and popular with the young crowd, fiction is no longer selling as well as self-help , business and parenting books. “The (mass-market ) trend is not here to stay,” he says. “If the quality improves , it might.”
Ultimately, good or bad, the fact remains that these books have definitely pulled in readers. “Previously, selling one lakh copies of a book was unthinkable,” said V Kartika. “It’s exciting that people are reading at all.”