Rahul Soni from HarperCollins India

Rahul Soni from India says, ‘Literature is still considered a “luxury” in its market. He is a Frankfurt Scholar for 2022.

Raul Soni. Image: Jinhee Park

By Porter Anderson, Editor | @Porter_Anderson

“It’s what I knew how to do best”

AAs Frankfurter Buchmesse regulars know, the Frankfurt Stock Exchange is one of the oldest such programs offered during the fair. It is based on the Zev Birger Jerusalem Editorial Fellowship program, which in May had a strong presence of new fellows and alumni at the Jerusalem International Book Forum, the Frankfurt edition having been founded in 1998 to mark the 50th anniversary of the fair.

Fellows are editors, publishers, rights managers and literary agents from many parts of the world. Each year they arrive in Germany before the fair (October 19-23 this year), and as part of a specially organized program they are presented to publishing houses as well as literary agencies and bookstores, while attending market presentations, matchmaking events and networking sessions in Berlin as well as Frankfurt.

They are then of course present at the show before returning to their home markets with a new experience of the international dynamics of the industry.

Today we hear from one of the fellows chosen for this year’s program. Rahul Soni is an editor at HarperCollins India, which is led by CEO Ananth Padmanabhan. Soni says that in Frankfurt, in terms of the content he wants to find, he will be particularly interested in work that has “a very strong link between India and South Asia.

“I would also like to publicize some of the truly exceptional works that we have created,” he says, “whether originally written in English or translated into other Indian languages.” Much of this work, Soni says, “deserves a global audience.”

The timing of the trip is good for Soni, because in November, he says, “we will publish a translation of The World Museum” (The Museum of the Welt) by Christopher Kloeble (DTV, 2020).

“It’s a fascinating work,” says Soni, “which came to us in the form of a submission of the author and translator, Rekha Kamath rajan. Thisit is a novel based on the true story of a scientist dispatch by three Bavarian brothers, the Schlagintweitsacross the Indian subcontinent, around the time of the 1857 uprising here. It’s a story about science and colonialism,” he says, “told by a half-Indian, half-German orphan from Bombay – a remarkable fictional character and a remarkable voice.

The Museum of the Welt did well in Germany, he says, and is being adapted for television.

“As you can see,” he says, “the story’s Indian connection is very strong and the themes are very relevant to an Indian audience. And it’s a wonderfully written, wise, exciting work. when i read it, I thought it could potentially work very well in India too.

“A Love for Words”

Soni says he was drawn to books and a career in publishing, “as with most of us, I guess-it’s a the love of words this bring me to the edition. And maybe the suspicion that that’s what i knowew do his best.

“I started, with a friend, the newspaper Pratilipiand I have been associated with the journals almost the island and Asymptotewith the international the Sangam House writers’ residence and the Writer’s Side literary agency.

“During this time, I made everything from manuscript review to editing and ghostingwriting; from cover design to book layout and production; manage a small press; organizedzconferences and literary meetings. Finally in 2017, after having been in “indie” circles for almost 10 yearsI joined consumer trade editing taking on the role of Commissioning Editor at HarperCollins India.

When asked which parts of the job might have surprised him by going better than he might have expected, Soni responds with a wry response: “Are there always good surprises? »

In truth, however, it is the still ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic that he is referring to. “Mmore seriously, as the pandemic has hit the publishing market here very hard, as it has in every aspect of our lives – especially as we’re still a very heavily print-dominated market – I think she did a very good job of bouncing back after the worst of the pandemic waves have passed and the various restrictions have been gradually reduced.

The “aspirational” public

To the question only journalists love – what keeps you up at night? – Soni speaks well beyond the borders of its enormous market. His response is one we hear echoed across many sectors of international industry.

“They are looking for works that have a purpose, that will help them improve their lives in a concrete and immediate way.”Rahul Soni

I think the biggest challenge for me – for literary publishing in India – is finding an audience,” he says.

“While the market for books is huge here, the public is another longing. They are looking for books that have a purpose, that will help them to improve their lives in a concrete and immediate way, or at least that will fulfill the promise, books that will teach them things or that will reaffirm their existing convictions and beliefs rather than question. .

“Literature is still considered a luxury” in the Indian market, says Rahul Soni, “which we may not agree with, but it’s understandable in a nation that is still struggling economically and on many basic indices of development.

A session at the Frankfurter Buchmesse 2021 in the Festhalle. Image: FBM, Marc Jacquemin


More information on Publishing Perspectives on Frankfurter Buchmesse is here, More on the Frankfurt Scholars Program is here, more on the Indian market is here, more on the German market is here, and more on international scholarship programs in the edition is here.

To learn more about the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and its impact on international book publishing, click here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident member of Trends Research & Advisory, and was named International Business Journalist of the Year at the London Book Fair’s International Excellence Awards. He is editor of Publishing Perspectives. He was previously associate editor of The FutureBook at The Bookseller in London. Anderson was a senior producer and anchor for CNN.com, CNN International and CNN USA for more than a decade. As an art critic (National Critics Institute), he has collaborated with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which is now owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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