Anish Chandy heads business development and sales at Juggernaut Books. He is the founder of the Labyrinth Literary Agency and was a Senior Commissioning Editor at Penguin Random House.
In a conversation with Kabuliwaala Kamal Pruthi, Anish Chandy shares his career ambitions before getting into publishing industry, the anecdotes of landing a job at Penguin, tips for the sales representatives involved in book sales and the significance of strong relation between retailer and publisher.
Share your own untold story and journey into the publishing industry.
I was born and raised in Mumbai without ever imagining I’d be working in publishing someday. I always was a voracious reader but I didn’t really ever think of the ecosystem that exists between the writer and the reader. I would spend countless hours as a penniless student in the British Council Library and early Crossword stores. I read One Hundred Years of Solitude sitting on the couch at Crossword, Kemps Corner over a few weeks.
What were your initial career ambitions?
The masterplan always was to get some work experience, an MBA degree, then go abroad and setup a career there. I did all of that, and was based out of Chicago working for Infosys and was diligently working towards acquiring a Green Card. After about four and a half years with Infosys, I had my existential crisis. So I quit my job and returned to India with not the foggiest idea of what to do next.
I took a break from work, traveled all over the country, co-founded a web based non-profit called WikifyIndia. I ended up moving to Delhi. I bumped into an editor at Penguin, we connected over books. A few months later she mentioned that Penguin had been searching for Commissioning Editor for Business books for quite a while so would I be interested in applying? I researched the job, didn’t find much to work with, and so met the Publisher in a semi informal interview setting. After a couple of rounds of Q&A and ideas back and forth I was offered the job.
How were your initial experiences in the publishing industry?
I found that there was a real generous spirit that flowed throughout the company. I had decades of book creation experience to tap into and learn from. When coupled with my own experience of reading, marketing and selling, it felt like a perfect fit. The first book I edited was Harish Bhat’s Tatalog. It ended up selling ten thousand copies in hardback. I commissioned or bought between 15 to 20 books a year. My authors included Prakash Iyer, Ravi Subramanian, David Graeber, The Unreal Times Founders etc.
I quit Penguin to setup the Labyrinth Literary Agency which represents a diverse set of writers like Nikita Singh, Sanjay Manjreker, Ambi Parameswaran, Suveen Sinha etc. During this period my former colleagues at Penguin Random House founded Juggernaut Books which has the potential to disrupt the industry or redefine some aspects of it. I joined Juggernaut earlier this year and I head digital business development and offline sales.
What aspect of the Publishing Industry interests you the most?
I derive great joy from helping create a hit out of thin air. When one is sitting with a group of editors and someone says “hey what do you think of this as a book idea” and voila one year later the book is sitting on top of the best seller charts. This is an absolutely magical collaborative process.
What two sales tips would you give to the sales representatives involved in the direct sales of books?
Read the book or at least learn as much as you can about it.
Don’t bluff book stores by telling them you have a best seller when you know you have a dog’s breakfast. You have to face them next month with a new set of books.
If you were not into publishing industry, what would you be? Why?
It would be a startup or an industry where the end result of our endeavor can be defined as a hit or a flop.
How do you see your transition from working with Infosys to Juggernaut Books?
Infosys taught me three things that I’ll take with me wherever I go: the importance of processes in any business enterprise, stakeholder management and keeping calm when faced with a raging fire. All of this comes into play at Juggernaut book both on the digital and physical books side.
What two messages would you like to convey through your talks at Publishing Next 2016?
Retailers and publishers must collaborate intensely to ensure that the reader has a fabulous experience while choosing her book and then reading it. We must communicate with each other more accurately about the book what is our joint ambition for it so that it will reach as wide a readership as possible.
What is your opinion about events like Publishing Next? What role are they playing?
Publishing Next is very unique as it is the only platform where all the elements of the industry can interact in a relaxed atmosphere. It is a great opportunity for us to learn from each other and help solve industry wide problems while keeping an eye on opportunities in the horizon. It also facilitates free and fair exchange with the reading public and budding writers. So I hope Publishing Next continues for many years to come.
PUBLISHING NEXT 2016
Publishing Next is an annual gathering of publishers, authors, editors, translators, librarians, book retailers, printers, technologists, service providers and policymakers from all over India and abroad. The event is organized by Goa-based CinnamonTeal Publishing, since 2011.
Dates: 15th 16th 17th September 2016
Venue: Kochi, Kerala