There’s a wide gap in children’s literature in India. While academic books dominate the children and young adult literature market, non-academic books find few takers. This is further weakened by the low remuneration paid to authors of children’s literature, mainly due to low readership. “A children’s author I spoke to recalled how writing children’s books could not be her main job because it hardly paid. She instead had to treat it as her hobby and take on other jobs as well to make a decent living,” says Kavita Gupta Sabharwal, co-founder and curator of Neev Literature Festival, an event focusing on kids’ literature, currently on at Bengaluru.
This reality is hardly addressed by renowned authors or publishers publicly. But Neev Literature Festival’s ‘A Study on Children’s Publishing Sector in India’ by Kanishka Gupta, literary agent and publishing commentator, addresses the issue. The ongoing study has voices from authors and publishers and was presented during the festival.
Sabharwal says that the market for Indian children’s writing is unsustainable and non-existent and that makes authors reluctant to choose children’s writings as a career path. “Careers for children’s writing is dwindling. What they get paid is very less and is less than `50,000 for a book. There are lots of children’s writers in India, but the challenge is that they are doing it as a side thing. There is a strong market for children’s activity books but not for literature books. Royalties to authors amount to 7% only but such books usually go out of print after a couple thousand copies. Additionally, Indian studios have not realised the potential of young adult and children’s series and shows,” shares Sabharwal while adding that Korean and Japanese shows dominate the television and OTT space for children and young adult and that Indian content in this category is completely missing.
The theme for this year’s festival is ‘Reading takes you places’ and it focuses on the power of books to set one free to experience new places, of this world, in their imagination, and explore various cultural perspectives.
NLF 2022 is spread over 92 sessions with over 60 speakers from around the globe talking about topics ranging from climate change to writing from conflict zones. Authors like Roopa Pai, Anushka Ravishankar, Paro Anand, Jane De Suza, Samina Mishra, Venita Coelho and so on, have been invited. The festival additionally has 13 sessions for parents and teachers, 17 interactive sessions, 20 master classes for students, and 42 book readings by authors.