February 22, 2020
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Shifting loyalties are a luxury that Indian authors are just discovering ...

illustration by Jayachandran Heads rolled in HarperCollins India when William Dalrymple insisted on shifting to Penguin India with his big hit, White Mughals. Dalrymple, to no one’s surprise, preferred to launch his labour of love—and five years’ research—with a less somnolent publisher. But being jilted by one of their star authors seems to have done HarperCollins some good: it’s working hard to hold on to other big writers on their list. Patrick French, who nearly left HarperCollins for greener pastures, has been persuaded to stay. HarperCollins will publish French’s book of travels, Tibet, Tibet, very soon. Other forthcoming titles which the publishing house hopes will put them back in the race are Inder Malhotra’s political book on the dynasties of India and the sub-continent and a book on the firangi bahus of native princes, Wicked Women of the Raj, by Coralie Younger. As another resort, they have hired Zameer Ansari, the marketing manager behind Penguin India’s success story.

illustration by Jayachandran It’s not such good news, however, for other writers on the HarperCollins’ list. Dumped with over Rs 1 crore stock of unsold books, the new owners of HarperCollins, the India Today group, is resorting to the age-old publishing tradition of telling its authors that you either buy back your books or we’ll pulp them.

illustration by Jayachandran Shifting loyalties are a luxury that Indian authors are just discovering, thanks to the spurt of publishing houses that have sprung up in the last few years. Picador lost one of its star novelists to Penguin India: Gita Hariharan’s latest novel set in the academic world and its battles over textbook history will be a Penguin production. Instead, Picador gained I. Allan Sealy, who has deserted IndiaInk after Everest Hotel. His third novel will be brought out by Picador soon. And in its turn, IndiaInk won over a Penguin author, Manju Kapur, whose latest A Married Woman they launched last month. Even HarperCollins stole a march on its rival by bagging the rights to eight books by one of Penguin’s biggest star authors, Khushwant Singh. Watch out for these old books in six-coloured new jackets that will be launched with a bang by the publisher later this year.

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