Gouri Dange does what all writers, or at least most writers in India, would like to do deep in their hearts but do not have the courage to do. Give up on a big ticket publisher like Penguin to set up her own publishing house. Not for her this whining about how the industry is so pathetic etc, something the rest of us unknown writers are guilty of doing - she goes ahead, gives all these guys the miss and takes control of the process of publishing, distributing and promoting her book. And just for this, I really admire her and will cheer her and help her in any way I can, all the way.
Since I was in Pune, and had also made up my mind to meet Gouri Dange, novelist, columnist, blogger and counsellor, and now publisher, on this visit, I called her last evening seeking time to meet. I had met Gouri very briefly of course, post her reading from her latest novel 'The Counsel of Strangers', at Crossword, Hyderabad a few weeks ago but I really could not talk to her then. I knew I'd visit Pune soon, so I took her number which she was kind enough to give.
Why did I want to meet Gouri? For one, my editor and good friend Keerthi Ramachandra had invited me to Gouri's book reading in Bangalore which we thought would coincide with a meeting of ours. I could not go then. So when Gouri was having a reading in Hyderabad, Keerthi called and said go, go, go. Gouri, I knew, was one of the few who had the courage to do what most writers would want to do. Despite being published by Penguin for her first novel '3 Zakia Lane', she decided to go it alone and not depend on publishers, however big, since she felt that they were not doing enough of what they were supposed to do. So she started OMO Books (On My Own) and published her second novel 'The Counsel of Strangers' which is getting pretty good reviews all around.
Brilliant. I wanted to know what she did and how she proposed to go ahead and sell her books. Gouri said it was okay to meet at 7 this evening and I drove down to her house in Ram Nagar and chatted with her and her husband for a while. Gouri said she goes with small print runs and markets her books in a very niche manner. Pretty much everything is targeted - reviewers to book sellers. She chose not to go the book distributor route as well and tied up with Crossword for one and a few other book stores to sell her books. Through Crossword she has done a promotional tour of 'The Counsel of Strangers' - Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai. She is also excited about publishing a few other books from other authors that interested her - translations from other languages that are very good. It is a business model that will pay a lot more than the conventional route and I congratulate her on the initiative. And when you talk to her, you also get the feeling that she finds this process highly satisfying.
I have not read either book as of now, though I have a signed copy of 'The Counsel of Strangers' with me back in Hyderabad and which I propose to read ASAP. I found myself agreeing with all that she said about books and readings and writers. She says her house is open to writers who wish to come to Pune for book readings - and I completely subscribe to her views. In fact she has also hosted a small book session at her house successfully. I shared with her some of my vague ideas about developing the concept of book clubs, reviews from regular readers, use of the net to connect to specific groups etc. Also that next time she was in Hyderabad I could be of some help to her.
It was fun sharing and talking all these things with her and her husband for over an hour. I read her blog www.randomharvest.blogspot.com and it is a fine, honest and funny read. For now, it was very satisfying to have met Gouri and the warm conversation we had. I suspect we might be doing a bit more of that in times to come.