Today, we are thrilled to launch a new feature here at Casa de Smugglers, and it is called:
Learn, Grow, Improve: Progressive Publishers Doing Cool Things
In this new monthly feature, we will spotlight new ventures and publishers that are doing awesome things – awesome, defined as something smart, admirable, and most importantly, progressive. There are plenty of new publishers that working to increase literacy, to raise money for charities across the globe, and redefining our concept reading and of the book itself.
Today, for our inaugural post, we are shining the spotlight on Duckbill Books. Duckbill is a new, independent Indian publisher that produces books and digital products for children and young adults. We are thrilled to have founders Anushka Ravishankar and Sayoni Basu over for an interview to talk about Duckbill, their mission, and what makes them so progressive, interesting, and cool.
Without further ado, please give a warm welcome to Anushka and Sayoni, folks!
The Book Smugglers: First and foremost, thank you both for taking the time to chat! Tell us a little bit about Duckbill Books. What type of books do you strive to publish? Are you mostly publishing fiction, and for which age ranges?
Anushka & Sayoni: We want to publish books that are compelling and distinctive, with offbeat ideas, contemporary themes and a serious predisposition towards humour. So we have mythological heroes, literary zombies, space-travelling pumpkins, singing monsters and timetelling superdogs. Our list is a hodge-podge of many things, just like the duckbilled platypus.
We are publishing books currently for ages seven and up (up being young adult). All we have published so far has been fiction, and while we see ourselves publishing non-fiction, I suspect it will always be a smaller part of the list.
The Book Smugglers: Tell us a little bit about the name “Duckbill” and the idea behind the brand.
Anushka & Sayoni: The name came up in tired conversation when we were driving back from some event. We had talked about setting up our own publishing company for many years, but it was an idle dream. But early in 2012, we found we were both tired of what we were doing, and it suddenly seemed like an idea we could bring to fruition.
The name was decided in about three minutes. Clearly, Ravishankar and Basu did not work as a name! There seems to be a preponderance of animal/bird names in publishing, so it seemed fun to go with that. We suddenly discovered that both of us liked the platypus. And Duckbill also was a genuflection to the many children’s publishing houses that have a bird as their name!
Like many of our decisions, it was made simply because it seemed funny.
The idea behind the brand is quite simple. We both like children’s books, and we have both felt that there was not enough being published in India that was truly contemporary and fun, and reflected the realities that Indian kids live in. While we were both working in publishing, we were sufficiently senior to be suits rather than hands-on editors, and we wanted to become hands-on editors again.
The Book Smugglers: Let’s talk about your authors – how do you find them? Are there certain themes or types of stories you look for in your submissions? Do you publish authors based in other countries?
Anushka & Sayoni: We felt very strongly that there are not enough new voices writing for children. We go out and look for new authors–through the workshops we conduct, through random things we read, and from our unsolicited manuscripts!
Since we have both worked in children’s publishing, we had a shortlist of previously published authors we wanted to work with. And we were gratified that all of them promptly agreed to write for us–though some books will be a good five years in the making! But this is going to be a small part of our list.
There are no specific themes that we look for, though anything didactic is a clear no-no and anything with mythology in it has to be really, really good (we have published one mythological fantasy!). We like strong voices, and we do have a weakness for anything wacky.
We are looking to publish books which are contemporary and Indian. Our primary market is the home market (though of course we want to sell rights) so we look for books which will work in that market first and foremost. We are publishing books by authors in other countries, specially for our Not Our War series, which is about children in conflict zones. The first two books in that series are by a Canadian, set in Afghanistan, and by an American, set in Iraq.
The Book Smugglers: Are your books available for sale internationally? What is your take on ebooks and electronic publishing?
Anushka & Sayoni: Yes, the books are available as ebooks on Amazon, and some of the physical copies are also available. We are just starting the process of trying to sell rights.
We think ebooks are excellent. We do ebooks of all our books (where we have rights!) and publish pretty much simultaneously. We are also just starting work on a standalone digital book, which may or may not have a paper version.
The Book Smugglers: Here at The Book Smugglers, we want to spotlight authors that are doing progressive, interesting, important things. What makes Duckbill Books interesting, progressive, and important?
Anushka & Sayoni: Everything is progressive in its own eyes. We find ourselves not just interesting, but positively fascinating, and we are pretty self-important.
About Sayoni and Anushka
Anushka Ravishankar has written more than twenty-five books for children, many of which have been published internationally and several of which have won international awards. She has worked in publishing, at Tara Books and most recently at Scholastic India as the publishing director. As an editor, she has worked with well-known authors like Paro Anand, Manjula Padmanabhan and Meera Uberoi, among others. She has participated variously as author, speaker and resource person, in many national and international publishing events and conferences, including Les Belles Etrangeres in France, the Children’s Book Tour in the UK, AFCC Singapore and Jumpstart and Bookaroo in India.
Sayoni Basu has worked in publishing for over thirteen years, including at Oxford University Press and Penguin India. She was in charge of the children’s list at Puffin India, before she joined Scholastic India as publishing director, a position she held for several years. Most recently, she worked at ACK Media as the group publisher. As an editor she has worked with well-known authors like Siddhartha Sarma, Anushka Ravishankar, Samit Basu, Jerry Pinto, Manjula Padmanabhan, Ruskin Bond and APJ Abdul Kalam, among others. She has participated as speaker and resource person in national and international publishing events, like AFCC Singapore, Bookaroo, JLF, among others, and has taught at various publishing courses in India.
Thank you, Anushka and Sayoni, and everyone over at Duckbill Books!
And now, fellow readers (and publishers), we open up the floor to you! Got any suggestions for publishers doing cool, important things? Leave a comment or drop us a line (contact AT thebooksmugglers.com).