"Book is not a product, it is something alive," says Sanjana Roy Choudhury

PrintWeek India spoke to Sanjana Roy Choudhury, publisher, Hay House India, about their book development process and their plans for the future. Hay House India is the Indian arm of Hay House, an international leader in self-help and transformational publishing.

15 Mar 2014 | By Mihir Joshi

Headquartered in the United States, Hay house has companies in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, South Africa, and Hong Kong.

Hay House was founded in 1984 by Louise Hay to self-publish her first two books, Heal Your Body and You Can Heal Your Life. The publishing house currently has over 300 books and 450 audios from over 130 authors in 33 countries.

Apart from self-help and transformational publishing, Hay House India also publishes select titles on current affairs, biographies, fiction, and cinema.

How was 2013 in terms of production output at Hay House? What are the plans for 2014; and how many titles are you producing this year?
We achieved our target of 35 books in the year 2013.

The year 2014 started with five Indian original titles, including, Louise Fernandes Khurshid’s Travails with Chachi. We are planning to publish 35 to 40 books this year. This year is going to witness some of the most beautifully written and extremely well-researched books in the non-fiction category on Kashmir, the Mughals, Pakistan, and a major celebrity we have signed on in the health and fitness genre.

Since Hay House focuses mostly on the 'mind, body, spirit' category, we started this year with Louise Hay and David Kessler’s You Can Heal Your Heart and the long-awaited autobiography of Dr Wayne Dyer I Can See Clearly Now. With a start like that, one can only imagine what the rest of the year is going to be like. We have planned some of the much-needed books to free yourself from stress and lead a healthy life.

What is the book development process at Hay House? When does print production step in? Please explain the process with one or two examples, to illustrate the workflow.
For all our books, we plan everything backwards. As soon a manuscript (MS) is accepted, the contract is signed. Post the first reading, we commission the cover. A couple of months prior to publication, we send out information to our distributor, Penguin, and mutually decide on print-runs. A month prior to publication, the book is placed on pre-order sections of online book portals.

Much in advance of this, the editorial process begins, most books go through a cycle of two or three edits and a couple of rounds of proof-reading, styling and so on. We work very closely with the in-house production and design team to ensure the layout of every book is vibrant. This is team effort and we work in tandem with each other. Ashok Chopra, MD & CEO of Hay House India has ensured that the entire system is well-integrated and a book moves from one stage to the other seamlessly.

How do you achieve international quality with consistency in India?
Achieving quality in these times of technological advancement, and intricate design systems is really not a difficult thing to do. What would be surprising is a shoddily produced book!

How do you ensure that the various quality standards are all maintained? Are there any specific guidelines for India?
We are the Indian arm of Hay House US, and achieving quality is second skin to us. We have exacting standards, and we ourselves ensure we do not drop quality at any cost.

What quality and features do you look for when you choose printers, in terms of productivity and printing workflows?
This is something our production department excels in. It comprises of an experienced lot with over 30 years of experience so they know exactly what to demand and get in terms of quality.

What is Hay House's emphasis on environment? Is it confined only to FSC certification, or are there other guidelines you follow in addition to FSC?
We minimise the use of paper and reuse every shred as far as possible.

In your opinion, what is the Indian printing industry’s capacity to provide special effects / value addition / infrastructure / turnaround time / transportation method?
It is on par, if not better than international presses. Many foreign publishers print not just black and white but also their four-colour books at Indian presses. That says it all!

India is a price sensitive market. Does cost precede quality?
We never, ever compromise on quality to save on costs. That would tantamount to cheating your readers.

How do you see the self-help publishing market developing in the near future?
It is important for you to know that Hay House is one of the world leaders of mind, body and spirit books. Some titles have sold in millions, and still counting, including titles by authors like Wayne Dyer, Brian Weiss, Louise Hay, Anita Moorjani, just to name a few. You give a fresh, exciting title to the market, and there is no reason why it won’t work.

We have some lovely books lined up for 2014-15 that will focus on new aspects of healing, health, fitness and spirituality, besides a very interesting array of non-fiction titles.

What according to you are the do’s and don’ts for a book publishing firm in India?
I think the most important thing for a book company starting out or otherwise is that it should have a dynamic and literate sales team in place. It can otherwise kill a book, and destroy an author’s writing career. An author hands his or her manuscript to you – each time, for the editor, it is an emotional feeling – you are handed a part of that person, and then with no sales team in place – the book dies – a part of the editor also dies. Also, don’t be in this industry if you treat a book like a product. It is not that. It is something alive.

Please list the book print firms that Hay House works with in India.
Thomson Press, Rajkamal Printers, Saurabh Printers and Replika Press.

The Author’s Take

Rahul Kamerkar, whose first book, The Man's Ultimate Guide To Popularity, hit the stands earlier this month, spoke about his experience of working with Hay House India. Kamerkar said, “When I first sent my manuscript to Hay House, I didn't know anything about the publishing industry, I had just googled publishers, and thought Hay House was perfect (if they accepted my manuscript) because of their size and specialisation in the self-help industry.

Ashok Chopra, CEO, Hay House India replied saying that they liked my manuscript but I had to write at least 45,000 words for it to be published. I had tried to condense all the principles I've learnt about life into as small a book as possible and had taken great effort to make the book compact to be a quick read. I agreed to write the remainder of the book in another six months,and even though I had overshot the deadline by another six months, Ashok was very supportive, Ashok only wanted a good book no matter how long it took, he'd say 'no hurry, take your time'.

The manuscript I submitted was still very raw, but luckily Sanjana, the publisher, and Tulika, the editor were the most talented and helpful people I could have worked with, they worked on my book extremely hard, and put in a lot of effort in order to give it a shape, flow and continuity. The book was, thus, possible only because of them and the others at Hay House.”

The Man's Ultimate Guide to Popularity tries to teach its readers exactly these important instruments of life and success. The book also teaches how one can acquire one of the most desirable traits any man wishes for. The book has also received endorsement from Brian Tracy, bestselling author, renowned sales coach and success expert.