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New Delhi: The status of a bestselling Indian author is often decided by the publisher chosen. It is usually a conglomerate with a wide portfolio - unlike in France where publishing is still a niche affair with small independent firms catering to specific subjects.

"I think the editorial trend of the future is the revival of strong independent publishing houses or imprints, especially in countries like France which are devoted to a specific type of writing. It was a trend that made French publishing niche in the 1960s and 1970s," Eric Vigne, editor-in-chief of non-fiction and essays at Gallimard in Paris, told IANS here.

The small publishing houses are run by strong personalities - and have a certain kind of branding so that a writer knows even before completing a book the publisher who will best brand his book, Vigne said on the sidelines of a forum, "France/India: New Editorial Trends in Publishing", at the 20th World Book Fair in the capital.

In India, leading publishing houses, including the India cells of international publishers like Penguin Books, India, Harper Collins-India, Rupa & Co, Random House India, Simon & Schuster India, Konark Publishers, Wisdom Tree, Full Circle, Om Books International and several others, do not discriminate between genres.

"They publish fiction, mass market commercial books, children's books, pictorial books and non-fiction together, though sometimes under different imprints to qualify their standard rather than the genre," the senior editor of a leading Indian publishing firm said.

It makes the prospect of selling difficult for smaller subject-specific publishers.

"Distribution is the major problem for smaller publishers. Imprints like Puffin (which publish children's books) of Penguin Books India are more visible and their books sell more," Radhika Menon, publisher and editorial director of Tulika Publishers, said. Tulika is a leading publisher of children's books in nine languages.

She said most of her titles sell 2,000 to 3,000 copies unlike France where some children's books, like the nursery rhyme titles published by Didier Jeunesse in Paris, sell more than one million copies, she said.

Pricing is also another stumbling block, she said.

"We are a multilingual publisher and we have to sometimes price our books as low as Rs.100 because we have a different distribution network. Small town schools cannot afford to buy expensive books. How do you bridge the small town and metropolitan divide," Menon said. Bigger publishers in Indian metros can price their books steeper than their multilingual counterparts who cater to the semi-urban and rural markets.

The history of modern publishing in Indian language is brief because the colonial history dictated the kind of books published, Menon said.

In France, publishers often dedicate themselves exclusively to publishing fiction genres like "romantic fiction", "experimental reality", "autobiographical novels", "novels about history and politics" and "novels based on social reality", Emma Foucher, a bookseller at Mollat's, one of the biggest independent bookshops in France, said.

One of the most successful individual French imprints, which has refused to part with heritage, is the "Les Edition de Minuit" - a wartime publisher that traces its origin in the French resistance of the World War during the 1940s. Minuit's books still remain as sparse as its wartime editions.

The only decoration on the cover of the book is a blue border and the symbol of the publisher - a star and the letter "m". "The Minuit is an example. The books echoes what the publisher had published before," Eric Vigne said.

Indian publishing houses, on their part, have diversified content, formats and design post-liberalisation and is currently riding on a boom, said the official of a prestigious Delhi-based publishing company.

Priyanka Malhotra, director of Full Circle Publishing and Bookstores, agreed.

"Indian readership is growing," Malhotra said. Quoting figures from surveys, Malhotra said "adult fiction has grown by 49 percent in 2011 and children's fiction 39 percent".

"Overall, we are witnessing a metamorphosis with changing readership and new trends in publishing. In the next 10 years, while mass market will occupy a big space, literary fiction will keep its own space," Malhotra said, hinting at bigger portfolios for Indian publishers.

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