There is no other feeling in the world that can match reading a hardbound book. The older the book, the better. The faint scent of worn pages, dog-eared pages and older editions can invoke a sentiment that probably no bibliophile can put to precise words. But what does it take to create that book? As much as a writer holds the book dearly, surely the feeling is no different for a publisher. Especially if the publisher is small and the relationship with the writer is personal and probably that is the beauty of getting published by an independent press.
1. Panther Paw’s Publication
This publication was started by Yogesh Maitreya in 2016 and has gone ahead publishing some critical titles since then. Yogesh Maitreya is a poet, translator, curator, and PhD scholar at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. He felt that many prominent Dalit regional voices got lost in the cacophony of the mainstream and also due to lack of translation. To bridge the gap, Yogesh started the publishing house that focuses on publishing writers from Dalit community including translated works from Marathi to English. When asked what makes him pursue publishing, he says, “The history of the community is either distorted or erased or is that of victims in English language. I wanted to tell English world stories of community that of valour, resistance and rich cultural practices. It needed to be done and there was simply no excuse. Hence despite all odds in the past I went on with publishing and will go in future.”
Some of the titles published by them include ‘Flowers on the grave of caste’, ‘We, the rejected people of India’, ‘Days will come back’ and many more. The publication has brought out 9 titles so far and is now looking for seed funding to be able to do more. More details can be found here: https://velivada.com/2021/01/12/seed-funding-for-panthers-paw-publication/?fbclid=IwAR0sLLwn1RM-bAqla50v8x4jftrDMVLJg5qWqMNzlTFCZCrA6DTdEMGbpp0
2. Zubaan Publishers
Zubaan is a leading independent publishing house based in New Delhi. Started in 2003 as an imprint of India’s first feminist publishing house, Kali for Women, it continues to publish books on, for, by and about women in South Asia. Zubaan’s ideology is simple: to be aiming always to be pioneering, cutting-edge, progressive and inclusive. This reflects in the works that they publish including academic books, fiction, memoirs and popular nonfiction. Founded by Urvashi Butalia, who was co-founder of Kali for Women, Zubaan was set up to specifically continue Kali’s work and has some excellent books to its credit.
3. Red River
Red River started as iwriteimprint in 2017. Founder Dibyajoti Sarma was looking to publish his own collection of poems and he decided to do it by himself. That’s how it all began for this small press whose every book is a piece of art. Red River predominantly publishes poetry and so far, has over 45 titles to its incredible feat. While Sarma says there are many challenges of being a poetry publisher. He says, “Everything — starting with sales, marketing, readership. See, this has been a struggle. Publishing costs money, even if you are willing to work hard, even if you do everything from commissioning to editing to designing to marketing all by yourself. You need money to print your books. Ideally you should be able to sell enough books to recover your cost of investment. Almost 90% of the time, it doesn’t happen.”
When asked why he pursues publishing he adds, “Because, unexpectedly, as a publisher I am now a privy to a wonderful body of writing, especially by younger people. I feel it’s my responsibility to see the poets through, especially when they are relatively unknown. That’s why I prefer to work with first-time authors, with the hope that they will find an established publisher for their second book.
If this sounds idealistic, here is the real answer. When you find a poet you love working with, and when you finally publish a book the way you envisioned it, it’s an extraordinary feeling, a real high that no narcotics can replace. I have had that high with nearly 70% of the books I have published through Red River, and now I am addicted. I cannot quit.”
Independent publishing is satiating but definitely harsh. As readers it must become our collective responsibility to support them as they try to create their spaces in the cacophony of the mainstream. Meanwhile, we wish that these small independent publishing houses continue to give us some stellar books and content that we can indulge.