My Foray from Newspapers to Book Publishing

In late March 2024, virtually out of the blue, Renu Kaul Verma, the feisty lady who set up Vitasta Publishing offered me a job as executive editor. I had spent a lifetime in The Times of India, retiring as a deputy editor with The Speaking Tree, their spiritual newspaper. Then, for a while, I had edited spiritual books for Bloomsbury and Westland, but the money was not so attractive and I decided to finally be a lady of leisure. Much deserved, I thought, after 36 years of working.

So Netflix took over my life―often from morning to night, fascinated as I was with those oh-so-smashing kdrama men and women. Also obsessed with crime thrillers, I interspersed those riveting Korean stories with some 'gory' crime serials. I began my eerie journey into crime mysteries when I was not yet 12, reading my first Perry Mason then. I vividly recall the name―The Case of the Screaming Woman, with its provocative silhouette of a woman with a shapely posterior on a silver-grey cover.

Many more thrillers followed―James Hadley Chase, Agatha Christie, and recently, Sue Grafton. I'm still reading these thrillers decades later, but my new job in book publishing will hopefully improve my reading list.

For one, I was happy to discover that a publishing outfit was just as chaotic as a newspaper office with people chatting, sitting on tables, putting their feet up when the boss (Renu) isn't around, asking for chai and coffee, or just giving vent to their vocal cords while arguing with printers, booksellers, courier wallahs, and what not.

There were also some fancy moments―for instance when one of the Vitasta authors, the eminent legal eagle, Dr Subhash C Kashyap had his book, a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita released both in English and Hindi by no less than the Vice President of India, Mr Jagdeep Dhanker and at a venue that other publishing houses can only dream of―the auditorium at the new Parliament House annexe.

That was recently, on May 14, and later this month, another prestigious launch is set to happen with Delhi's Lieutenant Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena set to release a coffee table book on Patiala House by Justice Poonam Bamba. Vitasta is most certainly going places!

Also on the stands early next month will be a top gynaecologist Dr Aruna Kalra's memoirs presented in an absolute page-turner-kind-of-book, I Want a Boy. Dr Kalra's account of some heartwarming, and some absolutely bizarre stories culled from among her patients, represents the obsession of millions of Indian women and their families―trying to give birth to a boy child. It is both an eye-opener and a social commentary on what women are subjected to and the absurd lengths they can go to in their quest for a male baby. It's a book that all women, mothers, and daughters will want to read, including medical students and the doctor fraternity, itself.

On the publishing list for this month is a book exploring the phenomena that is Amitabh Bachchan by Shoma A Chatterji, a longstanding film writer. If you grew up in the '70s and '80s with the towering Bachchan storming around in his films as the angry young man, then this book is for you. It has an intriguing title, Amitabh Bachchan as the Other. And who is the Other? Bachchan, himself and his towering cinematic persona in some 15 of his blockbuster films, from Anand to Agnipath.

And with elections being the flavour of the season, can we, at Vitasta, afford to miss out on politics? And so, we have journalist-turned-author, Sudesh Verma waxing eloquent on his favourite political person, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whom he maintains has changed people's perception of India, on several fronts. Transforming India: Gamechanger in Action is Verma's convincing account―backed by facts and figures of a 'political superstar' who in a span of 10 magical years has turned all sceptics' theories of India on their heads.

Then again, we have a treatise by Prof. Rameshwar Mishra Pankaj, Prof. Kusumlata Kedia, and Swami Nigamananda for our serious Hindi readers looking for meaningful books. Their book, Hindu Rashtra: Kya? Kyun? Kaise? sheds light on the necessity and significance of a Hindu nation, while addressing the many obstacles in its path and the supportive forces aiding its attainment. It simplifies the necessary legislative and political processes for achieving this goal. This book explores the complex meaning of the term, 'Hindu Rashtra' and demystifies it for the new generation. It is linked to actions towards this objective by PM Modi.

Some of these books have had the compact team at Vitasta Publishing breathing fire, especially at production time which descends with surprising regularity during the last 10 days of the month.

However, monthly deadlines in the book publishing world, don't really intimidate me, for in newspapers, it was daily or sometimes weekly deadline, if one worked on a features supplement, both of which I did for several years.

Unlike newspapers, in the publishing world, both big and small players generally have a team of freelancers on their rolls, with an inhouse editor giving the manuscript a once-over after the author has okayed the freelancer's edits. All these years, that I have worked in the newspaper industry, one often gets just that one chance at editing copy, so it has to be done quickly with all your mental faculties on high alert. In the book publishing world, freelancers think they will catch their misses on their second read, but that may not happen either.

Here was this very promising manuscript in its final pdf stage just days away from being printed that now had to be reworked. By the time, I assisted with two younger colleagues on Vitasta's inhouse editorial team, Saumya and Abhishek had finished reviewing, the freelancer's work, we had marked some 2,000 errors in the pdf file!

It made us grit our teeth and had our designer throw up his hands in despair! But we are hoping that the nightmare once over will have readers exult over the book's unusual stories! I strongly believe that it has all the makings of a nationwide bestseller. Wish us luck in that endeavour!

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