Sayoni Basu, primary platypus, Duckbill: In 25 years, multinationals will publish largely crap and exciting books will come from the indies

Sayoni Basu in conversation with Leonard Fernandes of Publishing Next, a conference which brings to the fore, unique voices in Indian languages, as well as small and medium-sized publishers.

05 Jun 2019 | By PrintWeek India

Sayoni Basu (second from right) with Anushka Ravishankar of Duckbill and others

Interesting 12 months for books. How did you perform?

Indie children's publishers exist in a state of eternal optimism not inconvenienced by cold commercial reality, so I would say our books performed really well — eight lovely awards for eight of our books and a respectable growth in sales.

You have been a publisher for some time now. How many old tenets are still relevant? Your team follows them?

The central tenet of publishing when I started (twenty years ago) was to publish books you truly believe in, and they will (by and large) sell. This still holds good, and we follow it religiously.

The thought that millennials don’t like reading books is a wrong assumption. They don’t like shoddy books. If we create a good book the millennials will read it. Your view?

Agree completely.

One book title which was a feather in your cap? Why?

Our cap is very multi-feathered in our opinion! Because we have a really small list, every book has to count. If I had to pick one book published recently, it is Siddhartha Sarma's Year of the Weeds, set among the Gond communities of southern Odisha. It is a story of one tribal teenager's battle to save his lands.

One thing about Indian books which is most underrated?

Commercial fiction is not taken seriously, and there is not enough good commercial fiction (apart from Anuja Chauhan’s work).

Which is your least favourite part of book printing print?


One exciting title to look out for in the summer season?

A new non-fiction series called The 10s. The first two books are by Devika Rangachari and Ranjit Lal, called 10 Indian Monarchs Whose Amazing Stories You May Not Know and 10 Indian Animals You May Never Meet in the Wild.

What will the Indian publishing industry look like twenty-five years from now?

Sadly, I fear it will be that the multinationals will be publishing largely crap and the good and exciting books will come from the indies.

One author you would like to shoot a selfie with at the Delhi World Book Fair?

I don't like selfies with authors. I would take a photo of Vikram Seth if he happened to be lurking.

Your favourite five books?

Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy; Anushka Ravishankar’s Moin and the Monster; Upamanyu Chatterji’s English August; AS Byatt’s Possession; and Margaret Atwood’s Robber Bride.


Paper or Kindle?


Secondhand or brand new?


Volume or POD?


Paperback or Hardcase?


Nobel or Jnanpith?