Independent publishers in India have slowly and steadily carved their space over the years. They have done this often through a sustained focus on themes and sections of the society that are still mostly unrepresented in titles from traditional mainstream publishers.
The boom in English literacy in India in the last few decades, accompanied by a surge in readers, also gave new avenues to regional literature through translation into English.
Here are five Indian independent publishers that are making a mark in the Indian publishing community.
Zubaan Books was established in 2004 by Urvashi Butalia. It publishes books “on, for, by, and about women in South Asia”, according to the website.
Zubaan’s titles include academic as well as general books. It publishes original works as well as translations into English. It publishes fiction as well as non-fiction with a special focus on themes of conflict studies, health, human rights, gender justice, history, cultural studies, and feminist and queer theory.
Besides publishing, Zubaan also runs a non-profit to promote research on gender, feminism and the women’s movement.
Wisdom Tree began as a publishing company focused on yoga and spirituality, but has since expanded to cover other genres as well, such as general books, fiction, management, and defence and diplomacy. Shashi Tharoor, Karan Thapar, and Ashok Banker are some of their most well-known authors.
They have separate imprints for children’s literature, test preparation books, cross-cultural books, fiction, and poetry.
Adivani was set up in 2012 with a focus on indigenous people, called adivasis in India. The name Adivani translates to “the first voice” or “the indigenous voice” as adivasis are believed to be the first inhabitants of an area.
“The Adivaani mediation work is an ongoing inter-generational knowledge, heritage, memory and legacy project, which serves as a wellspring of the authentic Adivasi voice,” according to Adivani website.
Adivani’s logo of two birds looking in opposite directions further explains its character. The website states, “One of the geese looks to the past and one to the future and that’s what adivaani stands for in the present — we are trying to preserve ourselves and the deep and ancient roots that link us to our earth and our ancestors for generations to come.”
Blaft was founded in 2007 in Chennai with a focus on Tamil pulp-fiction and popular fiction from South Asia and Africa.
They have translated Tamil pulp-fiction into English and have published novels of authors from India and Pakistan in addition to stories from Nigeria.
They publish a range of works from experimental writing, pulp art, folktales, science fiction, speculative fiction, graphic novels, and picture books about young women who are in love with monsters, according to their website.
Vitasta was set up in 2004 and it has since published more than 400 books on themes covering politics, social and gender issues, and new-age fiction.
Vitasta has published books on bold political themes such as on the mystery around Subhash Chandra Bose and Lal Bahadur Shastri’s deaths, the Kashmir conflict, and Hindu extremism that has been dubbed as “saffron terrorism”.
Regional literature has also been a focus at Vitasta, under which works like Sahitya Akademi Award-winning Assamese novel Jangam by Debendranath Acharya and KV Mohankumar’s novel Ushnarashi have been translated.