Kids & Teens

There are books for adults and there are books for children, but what about the adolescents, the young adults, who are tired of reading children books and somehow do not fit into the adult segment? Young Adult Fiction (YA) caters specifically to this age group. Though Indian market always had its share of Harry Potters alike, but it’s time young adults in India get to read books, specially published for the Indians. This new era has begun…. Varsha Verma brings more on this nascent segment of the Indian publishing industry. Karthika (L) & Sudeshna Shome Ghosh (R) Technically, young adult fiction (YA) refers to books written for the young adults or the adolescents, roughly in the age group of 14-21. Mostly, the main character is an adolescent and the stories or novel revolve around what he/she sees, feels or experiences in that age. The story line is limited only by the imagination and the language is what adolescents in this age can relate to.

But, it does not means that a young adult book is enjoyed only by the children in this segment…many adults would also love to read these books. As Karthika VK, publisher & chief editor, Harper Collins Publisher India, puts it, “We do not want to restrict the readers by age. Hence, we do not use ‘YA’ symbol on our books. But, we have started a different imprint for this category, which is called ‘Harper.’ The title designs are made really interesting and stand apart from kids books.”

While, Penguin has initiated a separate Penguin Young Adult imprint for the same. “We are targeting mid to late teens in the books that carry this label. It is ideally meant for readers who have outgrown children’s books and adult books may not always be what they are looking to read,” told Sudeshna Shome Ghosh, editorial director, Puffin and Penguin Young Adult as a matter of fact.

The varied topics…

But Young Adult books are not limited to fiction alone; there is a mix of fiction and non-fiction titles. “We have tried to bring books of diverse kinds into the list. Mostly we have looked at what interests them at the age. Fantasy adventure is a popular genre for young adults, which is why David Hair’s books are appearing in this series. The books would usually have a young adult protagonist and can fall into a variety of genres – crime, fantasy, coming of age. We are also looking to do non-fiction books in this category – we also have a book on teen fitness and one on business and the professional life,” told Sudeshna.

Similarly, Harper-Collins, which started this division an year back, has a mix of fiction and non-fiction titles. “We are also launching a book on Euphoria (rock band by Palash Sen), which would be released with their new album. Then, we have a book on ‘Body talk’ where we have explained things that young women would like to know about their body. We also have books on crossover fiction for adults and young adults. Our first YA fiction – Potato Chips – received an overwhelming response,” informed Karthika.

Penguin has an initial print run between 2,000 and 8,000 copies for these books while HarperCollins goes with a print run of 5,000 copies.

Finding authors – a mammoth task…

Finding authors for young adult fiction is not easy. As Sudeshna puts it, “It is not easy, the way it is not easy finding really good children’s writers. When an author writes for a specific target group, various considerations do come in – is the language appropriate, or the content and the relevance of issues that crop up in the books. In YA we also need to be careful that the book does not come off sounding as if it is talking down to anyone. We prefer to have books by Indian authors, or if not Indian, then ideally the book should have an Indian or a subcontinent connection.”

Her views were echoed by Karthika who agrees that there are very few writers in this segment but since they are not looking at a huge list in this category, they wait for the right author and the right manuscript. “Sometimes, even adolescents write very interesting books. Our title ‘Potato Chips’ was written by Anshuman, who is a 16 year old boy. The idea is to have a book which is smart and has an immediate appeal to the young adults. Besides, it should directly appeal to Indians, it should not be boring – it should be cool and have hyper urban chic style.”

The marketing angle…

Merchandising seems to be one way to promote the books. Harper is looking at bringing out merchandising like chic handbags to promote their books like a fiction by the ‘Sex and the city’ author Candace Bushnell. Besides, advertising at the live media at coffee shops etc is also done from time to time, besides organizing the regular reading sessions at bookstores and schools.

While Sudeshna says that there is no substitute for good gripping writing. “The design of the book has to be appropriate and not look too kiddish. The promotions of the book can look at various platforms like social media, mobiles, and other avenues,” she added.

On encouraging reading habits…

Adolescents have a lot of other entertainment options but books undoubtedly remain their best friends. As Sheba Karim, an author of a young adult novel opines, “I’d say that unlike movies and video games, which create a visual world for you, the visual world created by books is, though guided by the author’s words, entirely of your own mind, that reading books opens up your mind to new emotional depths and physical possibilities, and there’s nothing more fun than exploration of one’s own imagination.”

“We encourage reading habits by publishing well thought out, well edited books for them. Our commissioning into this section is well thought out and sustained, which means we will continue to publish for this segment regularly,” added Sudeshna.

How big the market is…

Since it is a new segment, there are no ready data available for how big the market is. There have always been books for this segment but it is only now, that they are marketed in this genre. “Most trade publishers are bringing out books for this age group though no one in India has a separate imprint or series name for it like we do and it is difficult to state how big the market is,” told Sudeshna. “We enjoy a good market share for our other books, since the YA series is just introduced we would obviously want to be optimistic and go for similar numbers as our other books. The initial sell through has been receptive, and we hope that we continue a good run,” added Sudeshna.

At HarperCollins, Karthika feels that right now, they are just eyeing 10 percent of their list for this segment but as the market will grow, they definitely will bring out more titles.

The challenges ahead…

Karthika opines that it is not an easy segment as there are not many writers who write for it and a lot of aggressive marketing and publicity is required to make people aware that there are books in this segment. “This segment will get its due share once they have a substantial segment in the bookshelves. I think it will find its own voice and we would be really glad to see Young Adult weave its way into the Indian publishing industry,” concluded Karthika.

Asian Festival of Children’s Content

May 26-28, 2011, Singapore

Once upon a cyberspace, children explored the world through libraries, bedtime tales and story books. Books are still around, but they are looking different. As technology puts media access into children’s pockets and bedrooms, how do content makers stay connected with connected kids?

Organised by the National Book Development Council of Singapore and The Arts House, The Asian Festival of Children’s Content would be held from May 26-28, 2011. As part of this three day long festival are Critique Sessions and an art exhibition, the Children’s Book Illustrators’ Gallery (BIG), which aims to showcase the works from writers and illustrators around the region.

The Secret Keeper

Author: Mithali Perkins
Publisher: Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
(Pp 210, ISBN 978-93-5029-047-7, Rs 199)

A diary is our best friend – our secret keeper! Aimed at young adults, the book shows how a girl confides in her diary. Asha, a Delhite, visits her ancestral home in Kolkata with her mother and elder sister. It was supposed to be a short-term temporary visit until her father found a new job overseas. But, Asha’s life is changed…she has to deal with lots- conservative extended family, new relationships with cousins, fending off her sister from unsuitable suitors, besides teaching lesson to neighbourhood boys who think girls are not good enough. With her hands full all the time, she finds solace at a rooftop hideaway, where she confides in her diary – her secret keeper. And here she finds a boy, who makes her heart beat faster…and adds love to her life.
The book is a reflection of what girls from metros face when they visit their cousins in other smaller towns. Written in an interesting and lucid manner, the book is entertaining and insightful.
- Vasu V

Free children’s book library

Story Time For Me has released a library of free interactive multimedia storybooks for homes, schools, daycares and libraries. The programme will encourage children to read entertaining, animated stories with socially relevant themes such as ‘Not to bully’, ‘Sharing’, ‘Being responsible for the environment’, ‘Helping your neighbor’, etc.

“The development of this free library fosters a continued love of reading through our multimedia storybooks,” said Andrew Gitt, co-founder of Story Time For Me. “We are thrilled with the response we are already getting from educators and schools across the United States, and are currently expanding our outreach

efforts. Select branches of Goddard Schools, Bright Horizons, Primrose, YMCA, JCCA, Childcare Network and a dozen other National chains are using our books as supplemental learning resources for their children.”

A new book for children on social sharing

Windsurf Publishing LLC has released a new book about social sharing for young children by Maureen Mihailescu, that describes and teaches the ways children share, interact, cooperate, and play with one another.

Mihailescu acknowledges that many children today have communication and behavioral challenges that interfere with their ability to cooperate and interact with other children. She posits that children can also be very shy socially and have anxieties during new social situations. That is why she created Social Sharing Is All Around Us. Her belief is that this book can be beneficial to those children who find it difficult to join in with others, understand other children’s feelings, and interact in age appropriate ways. She feels that children can also be reluctant to socialize with children. And she stated that sometimes children who start school for the first time could be nervous. Her feeling is that having a book about other children and activities that children share in can help the socially anxious or those who are social novices.

Social Sharing Is All Around Us is now available on Amazon worldwide, Barnes and Noble online, and other international booksellers.

Skunk Girl

Author: Sheba Karim
Publisher: Penguin Young Adult
(Pp 232, ISBN 978-0-143-33165-0, Rs 250)
Aimed at young adult, the book deals with teen aches of a Pakistani NRI girl, who feels herself odd at her high school. Nina is the only South Asian student at Deer Hook High. Her sister is very intelligent and is studying at Harvard. Her parents and teachers expect the same from her, but Nina is different. She likes to study but she is not a bookworm, she wants to enjoy like her friends. She wants to have a boyfriend, she wants to go out for parties and she wants to have a normal life like her friends. But her family is orthodox, she is not even allowed to wax…she is hairy and she hates that.

The book is a true depiction of a girl from a Muslim conservative family. It gives an insight into teenage problems – peer pressure, change in hormones and family pressure for studies. It forms an interesting read, not just for the young adults but for adults as well!
- Varsha Verma

Self-improvement guide for teenagers

In her latest book, Pull Up Your Pants for Personal and Social Change (Infinity Publishing), Sabrina Hayes, an author, trainer, and mother of three, shares her inspiration, traditional childhood rearing philosophy and avid purpose to mentor and develop young people. Hayes is passionate and unequivocally determined to take young people “back to the basics”—observing and honoring sensible, respectful, and obedient behavior.

This book is an insightful, self-improvement guide offering practical solutions, valuable leadership and phenomenal transformation. The book reveals the consensus of teenagers and young adults surveyed, that: “saggin´ pants or any other bizarre display of expression is our constitutional right and, is merely a form of personal identity, self expression, total independence... exempt from societal endorsement.” To counter such attitudes, this book teaches the fundamental principles of individuality, leadership and character, encouraging young men to embrace the “men of honor” concept and, young women to understand the true meaning of self worth and self value in society as a “virtuous woman”.

says Michel Kripalani, president, Oceanhouse Media, an upcoming global digital publisher for children books in an interaction with All About Book Publishing (AABP).

Oceanhouse Media, Inc. is a leading publisher of mobile apps for iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) and Android devices. As of January 2011, the company crossed the one million mark of paid app downloads on Apple’s App Store. The company has more than 145 apps, many on Top 100 lists, on the App Store in the books, games, music, photography, health & fitness, reference and finance categories. Children books are high on the list for Oceanhouse Media.

Based in Encinitas, California, Oceanhouse Media was founded in January 2009 by Michel Kripalani, a veteran of the video gaming industry. The company has licensing agreements in place with Dr Seuss Enterprises, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, Zondervan (a division of HarperCollins), Hay House Publishers, Character Arts, Chronicle Books, and others. In many cases, the company works directly with authors to bring their beloved books to the mobile market, always staying true to the original content and intent of the books. Here, Michel Kripalani, president - Oceanhouse Media, Inc, shares a few insights into children ebooks.

AABP: Starting just two years back, Oceanhouse Media has indeed come a long way. How has the journey been so far?

Michel: It’s been a fantastic wild ride for us and we’re very grateful and thankful for how things are going. We definitely hit the ground running. Our first app, Bowls: Authentic Tibetan Bowls, did very well. Landing the Hay House contract was a really great next step for us. In a year and a half since we’ve already delivered close to a hundred apps for them. Landing Dr Seuss Enterprises in the fall of 2009 is really what opened the flood gates for us. That relationship has been fantastic. We’re very happy with the quality of the apps that the team is producing and thankfully the Dr. Seuss apps are introducing us to many more children’s book publishers, authors and agents around the world.

AABP: What was the idea behind this company?

Michel: This is my third startup. In the back of my mind I always thought it would be interesting to own a publishing business. With the introduction of the iPhone and digital distribution of apps it just seemed like a logical place to go. The idea really is to build a new style of digital content publishing firm. We believe we have a unique model of licensing successful products, adapting them, and re-publishing them. We believe we can deliver apps that are uplifting, educational, and inspirational. We are confident that we can create apps that fit squarely in that category and can really help the planet. The team is very focused on building high quality products that people really enjoy.

AABP: How many applications have you developed so far, and in what categories?

Michel: We’ve just shipped our 150th app. We primarily focus on the books category. We do a lot of children’s books, a lot of self-help and metaphysical books, we have some apps in health and fitness, finance and entertainment categories. We’ve also done three games and many tarot card apps. I guess the simple answer is that we are scattered across a wide variety of categories, but we do tend to focus primarily on books, and specifically children’s books.

AABP: Of these, how many eBooks are available?

Michel: If by eBooks you’re asking how many omBooks we’ve created (Oceanhouse Media digital book) then the answer is forty-two. Our plan is to release another 120 omBooks in 2011. We expect that the electronic digital book industry is really going to explode. Most big publishing houses are now looking for ways to get their books on the digital market. It’s where the publishing industry is going. It’s not going to be enough to just have the book in print, consumers are now expecting their favorite titles to be offered in more than one medium.

AABP: Which licensors are you working with and what is the criteria of selecting a particular licensor?

Michel: We are very fortunate to work with some of the best licensors in the business. We have deals in place today with Dr. Seuss Enterprises, Hay House, Chronicle Books, Houghton Mifflin, Harper Collins and many others. In terms of selecting a specific licensor we are looking for high quality content that has been well received in the market previously, primarily in book form. We also look for brands that people recognize, especially if they are recognized on a worldwide basis.

AABP: What is the organizational structure of Oceanhouse Media?

Michel: Oceanhouse Media Inc. is a privately held company with a very small number of employees and a larger group of independent contractors that work on a virtual basis.

AABP: What are the Unique Selling Points of Oceanhouse Media?

Michel: We focus on building very high quality apps that we know consumers are going to enjoy. We take content that has already been successful in another format and build a new level of functionality on top of those products as we bring them to mobile devices. We use the multimedia features available to us to transform the original products into even more useful, exciting and educational apps. In particular, the omBooks we’re producing are also contributing to children's literacy. There are many very important tie-ins between the graphics, the text, and the audio in every app. The words highlight perfectly in sync with the narration so that as the child is listening to the words they are also seeing those exact words highlighted on the screen. We support this with picture word association features which allow the child to tap on any picture and see the word enlarged as it’s spoken. Additionally, almost without exception we are then able to offer the digital app version of these products at a cheaper price than their print or film counterpart.

AABP: In your opinion, how big is this market and what is the potential to grow?

Michel: There are about 70 million iPhones in the world, another 70-80 million iPod touches, and 15-20 million iPads. All combined that’s approximately 160-170 million devices. I don’t see why, with the advent of Android taking off and Apple really hitting its stride, there couldn’t be a billion devices worldwide that are capable of running these apps. The sky is really the limit, we’re seeing people using their desktop computers and laptop computers less and less and switching their time over to mobile devices. We’re seeing children much younger in age get access to smart phones and tablets so we are very bullish on the growth. We expect that there is going to be an absolute explosion of hardware and apps and we believe this is the future of publishing.

AABP: What are the future plans?

Michel: We plan to acquire more high quality licenses. We are always looking to expand our team. Our goal is to become one of the leading, if not the leading children’s book digital publisher in the world. This however is such a fast moving industry, there’s no way to know what it’s really going to look like tomorrow or next year, so we just try to stay on top of our game and ready for the next big thing.

exclaimed Mudit Mohini, director, Vishv Books and also a children books author, in conversation with SK Khurana, editor, All About Book Publishing (AABP).
AABP: Vishv Books have been into the book publishing for quite some years, when did you initiate publishing children books?

Mudit MohiniMudit Mohini: Vishv Books division was established in 1965 by my father Rakesh Nath. He was always fascinated by book publishing though his main focus remained with magazines publications (Delhi Press). But book publishing was in our roots. My great great grandfather prepared a New Hindustani English Dictionary in 1879 in collaboration with Dr SW Fallon. To print the same dictionary, Delhi Printing Works was established in 1913. Therefore, to keep the book publishing intact, my father used to take out very few books every year. When I joined Delhi Press in the year 2003, I saw one of the books being designed. I thought it should be produced differently and thus started my involvement with Vishv Books. I have always been fascinated by children books since my childhood that is the reason our focus shifted to children books.

AABP: Which is the target audience you cater to?

Mudit Mohini: We target different age groups: from 2 to 80 years. In children’s books section also we have picture books, picture stories, full page stories, novels for young adults and novels for grown ups. Besides these, there are reference books, encyclopedias and self improvement books which are read by all age groups.

AABP: Since lots of children books are illustrative, what kind of designing setup do you have – in-house or outsourced?

Mudit Mohini: When we started publishing, we used to get our designing work outsourced but over the years I have developed my own team of very creative illustrators and graphic designers and now nothing is outsourced. I myself take very keen interest in designing. Our team makes sure that we put in our best efforts and there are no compromises with quality.

AABP: How many titles do you have for children? On an average, how many titles are added every year?

Mudit Mohini with her father Rakesh NathtoMudit Mohini: We have about 300 such titles belonging to different categories as well as indifferent Indian languages. Recently we have also entered school books too from preschool to 5th class of Primary section. On an average, we publish around 80-100 titles a year which include children’s as well as general books.

AABP: What is the average print run of these books? Which are your bestsellers?

Mudit Mohini: Print runs vary with topics and the category of the books. Our initial print run starts from 3,000 to 5,000 copies and on the basis of response, we repeat the print order. Our bestsellers are Vishv Picture Dictionary, Inside the Jungle, Easy coloring Books, Board book series, and Bedtime stories series. Some of Indology books have been sold to the tune of 70,000 to a lakh of copies. General books have varied print orders from 2,000 to 15,000 and have sixth & seventh editions also. In some titles, repeat editions are modified and revised keeping in view of the latest scientific development and other new information coming in.

AABP: Do you also prepare customized children’s books for specific school requirements?

Mudit Mohini: Yes we do it sometimes. For Pragyan School, Greater Noida, we made several books as per their programme incorporating our editorial contents.

AABP: How many authors have you entrusted to create children books? Do you prefer new or renowned authors? What do you think about Indian vis-à-vis foreign authors?

Mudit Mohini: Apart from our own editorial team, we are open to new authors. Some of our authors just walked in with the story and now they have done number of titles with us. We are always keen to look for new authors instead of renowned authors as we believe that everyone should be given chance. Sometimes unknown authors come up with new innovative ideas.

We always believe in promoting Indian authors as they are more aware of Indian surroundings, culture, habits as well as Indian people and their aspirations. But yes, foreign authors are more seasoned and creative and they also put innovative and revolutionary thoughts in their writing style. It will take Indian authors some more years to achieve that.

AABP: What are the challenges in children books industry?

Mudit Mohini: In the book fair or in any book shop, if you pick up any well written and good illustrated book of any renowned publisher, one would find that it has been produced under collaboration with some international company. Baring one or two publishers no one want to invest in creating pool of talented authors, artists or designers from our own country. Most of the big publishers are just buying rights and tying up with international publisher or authors for reprinting. Besides, Indian book industry ownership trends are also fast changing. Foreign book publishers are now on prowl to grab Indian publishing houses so that they are saved with teething troubles of new set up for quick startup and also to reduce their cost.

AABP: Since you are also a children books author, share how you got into writing and how has been the experience?

Mudit Mohini: Initially when I joined the family business, there were very few children books published by Vishv Books. I started revising and redesigning those books which gave me a confidence to write and design children’s books. So far I have authored some more than 100 books. Writing a children’s book is always more fun than writing or designing a book for grown ups. There is no end to what you create for children!!!

says Shamim Padamsee, author of AWIC award-winning children book ‘The silly story of Bondapilli.’

Shamim Padamsee is a writer who has been through several avatars in her life – educationist, globe-trotter, social worker, businesswoman, diplomat, mother and grandmother. She is passionately interested in children’s literature and believes that books are important learning tools. Here, Shamim shares her love for writing and her experiences with writing.

On writing…

Shamim Padamsee with a group of childrenThe seeds of writing were sown a long, long time ago when I was growing up. However, it lay dormant until they started to get watered by my rich experiences in the field of education and nurtured by the sunshine brought into my life with the coming along of grandchildren.

As a child I loved to read, however due to lack of indigenous books I read mostly ‘foreign’ stories. I read Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series and other such books and realized that something was missing. Those kids were not like me. They lived differently, ate different foods, and had different festivals, in other words they were from a different world. Whilst I enjoyed the stories, I felt a disconnect. And then, when my kids were growing up again, it was the same. And so, I started making up stories for my children. Stories of Indian children, Indian animals, Indian festivals and more. I wanted my children to discover and know India.

Soon my grandkids started coming along. Luckily, however, many Indian publishers today are bringing out interesting India specific books for children but we definitely need much, much, more.

Most difficult part of writing…

The hard part is holding a pen to the paper and getting started. However, once I start and get into the swing of it, words just flow. I love writing. It is so amazing to be able to mould the story any which way you want. Right from how the story will begin to how it will end!

Unlike what most people think, writing for children is not as easy as it looks. For one thing, one has to grab the attention of the child as soon as possible the story has to move quickly and has to be told in as few words as possible. Long winding descriptive sentences that are used for adults are a definite no-no! The important thing to keep in mind is that whatever the message of the story it has to engage the child – only then will they develop a love for reading.

On her book ‘The silly story of Bondapalli’…

Bondapalli started with an episode in Chennai. My sister was visiting me. As we chomped on the Bondas, as usual we started to worry about the impact of this delicious snack on our figures. One thing led to another and soon the Silly Story of Bondapalli was born.

Infact, Bondapalli is a fun story that has a lot of play on words. I think that the child in me came alive when I started to write it, and egged on by my two little grandchildren ideas and thoughts tumbled and bounced all over the story!

I was happily surprised when I received a mail from Tulika, my publishers telling me about the award from AWIC. But, my real reward comes from the fact that so many kids are enjoying the book. In fact, parents tell me that their kids want to read the story over and over again and some are even asking me to write a sequel!

Advice to young authors…

One of the most important qualities of getting your work published is Perspiration, Patience and Perseverance. The three most important P’s! Believe me, having patience and perseverance is equally as difficult as the perspiration bit, if not more. After all you have penned down the most amazing story – according to you, the author, and then you are surprised as to why the publishers don’t all rush and grab it. Sometimes an author feels rejected, when his or her work gets rejected. Writing is love’s labour. And one must persevere and who knows someday suddenly you get an acceptance letter and feel on top of the world! So, that brings me back to the first P – Perspiration. Even after one’s story is written, there is still a lot more to do.

What I am reading…

As to what I’m reading today, it is mostly children’s books, especially Young Adult. There are some amazing books out there. I recently read the book Just a Train Ride Away by Tulika. It is set in the pre-independence era. What a great way of learning our history! I also read Faces in the Water by Puffin, dealing with the very serious subject of female infanticide in an amazingly appealing manner.

Advice to parents…

Read to your child from a very young age. Not only it is fun but is also beneficial in so many ways. One, it helps mental growth, two, it helps the child’s vocabulary, three, it will open up new horizons for the child, giving him a window to the world, so to say. If children grown up with TV as a source of entertainment, you can’t blame them for not reading!

On my next books…

I love to write. In fact, I write prolifically. Anything that catches my attention is converted into a story. Next year should see the release of some more of my stories, a series of adventures with Puffin and a couple more with Tulika.