Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Chick-Lit Pandemic

Indian chick-lit makes it to the NY Times. Here. Next you will see Sex and the City types running to bookstores to buy Indian chick-lit.

In countries "where feminism hasn't fully taken root, chick lit might be offering the feminist joys of freedom and the post-feminist joys of consumerism simultaneously," said Mallory Young, a co-editor of "Chick Lit," a collection of academic essays on the genre. Take India, for example. In Swati Kaushal's breezy "Piece of Cake," the 29-year-old heroine juggles her marketing job at International Foods and the suitors who appear after her pushy mother lists her in the matrimonials section of The Hindustan Times — under "miscellaneous." The book has sold about 4,800 copies, a respectable figure in India, though it doesn't compete with the work of traditional pulp romance writers, said Diya Kar Hazra, Kaushal's editor at Penguin India. A recent novel by Shobha De, considered the Jackie Collins of India, sold 44,000 copies. Another popular chick lit title is Rupa Gulab's "Girl Alone," about "a pseudo-intellectual (named Arti) who deals with her disappointments in love with cough syrup, rock music and existential literature," as the author told The Mumbai Mirror last fall.

Looks like its either Chetan Bhagat or Swati Kaushal all the way. Sigh.


Falstaff said...

Wait. 4,800 copies is a respectable number? You mean if I wrote a book and convinced the principal of my high school to get every kid in the school to buy a copy, I could be a 'best-selling' author and have people write pseudo-academic articles about me in the NY Times?

Ludwig said...

Indian "lit" (the chick variety included) is just flooding the bookstores nowadays. It has become virtually impossible to go to a bookstore and browse decently, one is assaulted by a phalanx of "new Indian writing" every single time. Practically everyone's written a book, and found a publisher for it, and it is becoming very very hard indeed to find out what's hot and what's not. Major pain.

Falst., 4800 seems to be a tremendous respectable figure in Indian publishing, from what a friend in the publishing industry tells me. Anuradha Roy, one of the founders of Permanent Black, was given the "International Young Publisher Of The Year Award 2004", and in her acceptance speech (I guess) this is what she had to say:

"...India does not, in fact have a gigantic book market as its population may lead people to imagine. According to one report the total Indian book market is worth a billion pounds, which means each person spends only a pound a year on books. In the US each person spends 60 pounds, in the UK, 50, in Taiwan 30, and in China 2.50. Roughly seventy per cent of Indians spend their solitary book pound on textbooks alone, which is logical in a poor country. Therefore, while books do sell in large volumes, the volume is largely made up of text books..."


"...The biggest print run Permanent Black has sold out within a reasonable time is 2000 copies. Even Penguin India, which publishes popular reading, usually prints just
2000 copies of new books. In India, Harry Potter sold a mere 20,000 copies; the biggest fiction sales have been of The God of Small Things, 150,000 copies..."

The speech is quite readable, and I have it in PDF form. Should you be interested, holler.

Anyway, the speech apart, the publisher friend also says that anything over 2,000 is very very decent, so your whole school principal tactic could in fact pay rich dividends.

One, of course, is entitled to and in fact expects a gratis autographed copy of the magnum opus in exchange for all this gyaan.

Veena said...

Falstaff: Yeah, just reprint that ole' poetry book of yours and get the Principal to make it the prescribed text. Soom you will see Times journalists at your door.

Ludwig: Thanks for all that info. I had heard too that 2000 is an extremely respectable number. Darn, this is what I should have done - written a book last year, gotten 2000 copies printed and made every single one of those people who came to the wedding to buy it! Why didn't I think of it before?