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A collaboration over too much coffee.
coffee and pen

20 October, 2010

PEN Statement on Rohinton Mistry Ban

Theosophy Hall
40 New Marine Lines
Mumbai 400 020

20 October 2010

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

The PEN All-India Centre strongly condemns the removal of Rohinton Mistry’s novel, Such A Long Journey, from the SYBA syllabus of the University of Mumbai’s Literature course. We also express our great disappointment at the manner in which politicians belonging to the supposedly centrist and liberal parties, including the Indian National Congress, have consented to this ban, demanded by the scion of a right-wing political party, the Shiv Sena.

India has lapsed into the worst kind of competitive populism, with political forces seeking to outdo one another in destroying and banning works of literature, art, theatre and cinema, in the name of an aggrieved religious, ethnic or regional sensibility. Not only does this constitute a betrayal of the liberal Enlightenment ideology that ushered India into postcolonial freedom, but it also makes nonsense of our claim to being a 21st-century society, marked by openness, tolerance of diversity, and respect for the creative imagination.

There is only one name for a society that bans and burns books, tears down paintings, attacks cinema halls, and disrupts theatre performances under the sign of an aggressive chauvinism. ‘Fascist’ is too gentle a description. The exact name is ‘Nazi’. It is a matter of extreme sorrow that Mumbai in 2010 is exactly what Munich and Berlin were in 1935. It is for civil society in our city to decide whether we want to plunge deeper into the abyss of Nazi-style obscurantism, dictatorial oppression and a savage destructiveness towards every impulse that is open, receptive, creative and compassionate -- or whether we shall resist it.

Ranjit Hoskote
Naresh Fernandes
Jerry Pinto
For The Executive Committee

18 October, 2010

Does this look like a publishing scam to you?

This refers to this listing, and this one, both on Caferati Listings (free sign-up needed to view).

Via our friend, the novelist Venita Coelho, we learn that things are not quite what they seem at Cedar Books. I'm pasting in a letter Venita forwarded to me, with the name of the writer to whom it was sent removed.

To: _____
Subject: Re: submission
Date: Mon, 27 Sep 2010 11:17:57 -0700
Dear _____,

We are glad to inform you that we are ready to publish your novel provided you agree with our certain terms and conditions.

Following are some of the terms which you will be required to agree before we take things forward. A detailed contract will be send to you once you agree with these terms.

1. Considering the word count, we will keep the price of your book at Rs 175.

2. You have to buy back 300 copies of the book at a discount of 25%.

3. You have to make one time payment either through DD or Cheque along with the signed copy of the agreement which we will send, after you agree with these conditions.

4. An additional Rs 5000 will be charged if we design the cover for you and if you chose to design your own cover then for the final designing part we will be charging Rs 2000.

5. As we promote our books through various digital mediums we charge Rs 3000 for that.

6. And lastly you will get a 4.8 % royalty on the cover price for each book.

Hope you find these terms suitable.

Do acknowledge the receipt of this mail along with your response. Please feel free to mail your queries, if any.



What this means is that to publish this author, Pustak Mahal would charge her/him Rs 39,375 (75% of the cost of 300 copies s/he would be forced to buy) + Rs 2,000 as a design fee even if s/he designed her own cover (Rs 5,000 of she wanted PM to design a cover) + Rs 3,000 for promotions. That's Rs 44,375 (Rs 47,375 if PM did the cover).

I'm not sure of current prices, but it looks like the author would be paying Pustak Mahal / Cedar Books enough to totally cover the cost of printing, with a handsome profit left over. Note that Pustak Mahal / Cedar Books has no obligation to actually print any more than the 300 copies that the author must buy. Even if they did, the author would get a piddly 4.8% royalty on any sales, despite financing the entire operation.

Sounds like rather more than the 'benign scam' of the type of website. There, at least, you can choose to buy only one copy of the book, even if at a high price.

If you know of similar publishers elsewhere, do please tell us about it in the comments.