In what is being pegged as a coup in the world of Indian writing in English, Amazon Publishing has signed a deal with author Chetan Bhagat for his next six books.
Bhagat is the first Indian author to be signed by the global publishing arm of the online retail giant.
“Usually, Indian authors head West to look for international publishers. It’s exciting to see the West coming to us,” said Bhagat, who made his debut with Five Point Someone in 2004, and has published nine books (seven novels and two non-fiction books) with Rupa Publications so far. Each has been a bestseller.
Under the new deal, Bhagat will pen three fiction and three non-fiction titles within the next five years. The first novel, currently in its editing stage, is set for release in October. (“It’s different; expect the unexpected” was all the author would say.)
The non-fiction titles will feature Bhagat’s essays and columns on issues concerning the young rurban Indian, whose voice he is often seen to represent.
Each book, priced competitively to target the mass market, will be published as a paperback, as an e-book and as an audiobook.
“It’s challenging to make people read in today’s times, when you can easily get distracted by social media and digital technology,” said Bhagat. “These innovative platforms help.”
The books will also be translated into multiple Indian languages, including Hindi, Malayalam and Tamil, by the Indian publisher Westland, owned by Amazon. The translations will be released as close to the English launch dates as possible.
Westland will handle distribution India, both online and offline. The books will, of course, be available on Amazon, whose global arm will distribute the books to English-speaking markets around the world, with special focus on the US and UK.
“We want them to reach as many readers as possible across the world and multiple formats allow us to do that,” said Jeffery Belle, vice-president of Amazon Publishing.
Bhagat added, “This will also help me grow my audience base. Thanks to Amazon Kindle, my previous books are available online. At a literature festival in Dubai, I met people from the Middle East who had read the online versions. I never expected to have an audience in that region.”
The company also plans to experiment with Bhagat’s non-fiction content as novella-length short reads under a format similar to the Kindle Singles featuring British and American writers.
In India, this content will be available under Mikros, a Westland imprint. “We’ll publish short stories, curated content from books and commissioned pieces under this imprint,” said Westland CEO Gautam Padmanabhan.
Earlier, there was no platform for content longer than a magazine article and shorter than a book. These are typically narratives between 5,000 and 45,000 words, Belle added.
Bhagat’s novels have also turned out to be moneyspinners for the Hindi film industry, as on-screen adaptations. Asked if Amazon plans to adapt the books for its OTT digital platform, Amazon Prime, Belle says, “It’s too early to say. “Our main focus is to turn the books into successes first.”