In April this year, 14-year-old Adit Ambani launched his first book Alvin and the Carbon Conundrum at Oxford bookstore in Churchgate. His parents opted for Power Publishers’ ‘Black & White King’ scheme, which includes sending the book to five newspapers for a review, creating a video book trailer, printing business cards and setting up a website for the author. “All the bells and whistles” ended up costing almost Rs 1 lakh, says his mother Suvarna Ambani.
But not all parents have to shell out so much. Child author Maitreya Wagh’s father spent about Rs 28,000 to get his son’s crime investigation story published and then donated the proceeds to a charity.
However, the money spent by Adit’s parents paid off. After the book launch, he was written about in several newspapers and his 260-page adventure novel saw a print run of about a 1,000 copies. “Because it was self-published and has done reasonably well, we now have a contract with Leadstart, a mainstream Mumbai-based publisher,” says Ambani.
At Pothi.com, the price of publishing a 30-page book can be as little as a few hundred rupees. Their low prices have even inspired Mumbai-based couple Shachii and Gourav Manik to conduct book writing workshops for kids. By the end of three hours, the kiddie participants come up with a story and paint pictures, which are then compiled into a book costing about Rs 300.
According to Jaya Jha, the founder of Pothi.com, one of the most common requests “is to create books for children’s birthdays”. Jha has seen a 20 to 30% increase in the number of queries from the parents of child authors in the last year.
Other reasons for publishing children vary from encouraging an interest in writing to plumping up a teenager’s college application to helping one’s child get a foothold in the industry. “Many children want to become professional authors when they grow up so they want to start early,” says Ghosh. “For example, if you want to become an athlete or a gymnast, you have to start training at an early age.”
Sayoni Basu, co-founder of Duckbill Books, a mainstream publisher, gets one manuscript from a child author every day. She worries that this trend is “more a fulfillment of the parents’ latent desire for achievement”. Despite the deluge of manuscripts from kids, Duckbill has published only one book by a teenager so far. “Age and life experiences give resonance and depth to stories and storytelling, which is why often even a child who writes exceptionally well cannot really measure up to an adult,” she says.