Sachin’s book runs up 2,000 ‘tons’ for publisher Hachette 

Vinay Kamath Chennai | Updated on January 24, 2018

Going by the book Tim Hely Hutchinson, Group CEO, Hachette UK, at a book store on a recent visit to Chennai. BIJOY GHOSH

Tim Hely Hutchinson

Group CEO Tim Hely Hutchinson says plans afoot for more differentiated commercial fiction

Sachin Tendulkar’s autobiography Playing it my Way, which sold a record 2.2 lakh copies in India, powered publisher Hachette India to a very good year which saw it grow 27 per cent. Group CEO Tim Hely Hutchinson, who was visiting India, says the book had done well worldwide too and was India’s blockbuster counterpart to the UK’s Alex Ferguson in record-breaking sporting biographies.

   Hachette, he says, came to publish Sachin’s book not because it outbid others but for the fact that the cricketer trusted the publisher with his life story. “We have a very good sports editor in Roddy Bloomfield who is a legend in himself and is deeply connected with the cricket world. He is friendly with Sachin and I think this was discussed for seven or eight years and that’s how good publishing sometimes happens. Sometimes it’s all over the media and there is an auction, we all just pay lots of money. This was a relationship built up over a good number of years,” explains Hutchinson in an interview.

Piracy peril

Hachette India knew that it had a very short window of a month to maximise sales of the book before the pirates got to it and had legal teams scouring the country’s main book markets to ensure there was no piracy, says Thomas Abraham, Managing Director, India. Security at Manipal Printers was tight and when demand for the book sky rocketed the printer had to ramp up with speed to ensure lightning turnarounds. Sachin’s autobiography will be published in nine Indian languages; the Hindi and Malayalam editions are ready for launch.

   The publisher’s focus in the Indian market will be on non-fiction and quality commercial fiction books. Hachette has given top billing to Krishna Udayshankar’s mytho-history series and is working on Subroto Bagchi’s second book with the publisher.

His first,  The Elephant Catchers, sold over 30,000 copies.

Rakesh Sharma, India’s first man in space, is writing an inspirational memoir that will be out at the end of the year. Also to be released soon, accompanied by a six-city tour is the latest bestseller from innovation gurus Navi Radjou and Jaideep Prabhu titled  Frugal Innovation,  which goes beyond ‘Jugaad’, the authors’ last book.

      “On the trade side, the main thrust is to continue developing the Indian publishing list, both fiction and non-fiction. There are more people writing on current affairs and interested in contributing to the debate on Indian society. There is a lot of good journalism and good writing. The publishers need to bring it out to market quickly,” elaborates Hutchinson.

Hachette UK has been an aggressive acquirer — it acquired five publishers last year — but will look to grow the Indian business organically than acquire, says Hutchinson.

“India is a vibrant market. The UK and Europe are stable at quite a high level but they are not very fast growing economies,” he points out. Hutchinson says as a publisher he’s agnostic to the book channel that is getting the book to the reader. Online is indeed taking a big chunk of the market. “In the UK it could be between 25 and 50 per cent of the market. For us, it would be over 40 per cent in online trade,” he says.

But, the important thing to book-sellers is to make the shopping experience enjoyable. You can’t display books in front of the public hoping they would buy. “It may be the children’s book mix with some toys or if they can sit and have some coffee, or an interesting selection curated by somebody who really understands books; the physical retailers will have to work harder on that proposition,” he explains.

     Referring to the prolonged dispute Hachette had with Amazon in the US over the pricing of its books, Hutchinson says, “We trade with Amazon in something like 28 countries in the world. That was an isolated issue in America and none of us wanted it go on for so long,” says Hutchinson, adding that selling books below margins is not sustainable in the long run. 

Published on February 24, 2015

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