Article Title: Interview with Penguin Publisher - Interview by Sharif Khan

* This email is being delivered directly to members of the group:

Free-Reprint Article Written by: Sharif Khan 
See Terms of Reprint Below.

We have moved our TERMS OF REPRINT to the end of the article.
Be certain to read our TERMS OF REPRINT and honor our TERMS 
OF REPRINT when you use this article. Thank you.

This article has been distributed by:

Helpful Link: 
  The Digital Millennium Copyright Act - Overview


Article Title:
Interview with Penguin Publisher - Interview by Sharif Khan

Article Description:
Mr. David Davidar began his career in journalism and is founder 
of Penguin Books India. Currently, he is Publisher of Penguin 
Canada and also is author of the novel, The House of Blue 
Mangoes. How did he first get started in the publishing business?

Additional Article Information:
2407 Words; formatted to 65 Characters per Line
Distribution Date and Time: Wed Jan 25 02:16:10 EST 2006

Written By:     Sharif Khan
Copyright:      2006
Contact Email:  mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED]

Article URL:

For more free-reprint articles by this Author, please visit:

You may break this article down into a Part One, Part Two 
arrangement, so long as you agree to publish both parts
one and two, you attach the author's resource box to both 
parts, and you let your readers know where they can read
the missing part of the article.


Interview with Penguin Publisher - Interview by Sharif Khan
Copyright © 2006 Sharif Khan
Psychology of the Hero Soul

Mr. David Davidar began his career in journalism and is founder 
of Penguin Books India. Currently, he is Publisher of Penguin 
Canada and also is author of the novel, The House of Blue 

How did you first get started in the publishing business?

Twenty years ago I was working in Bombay and there was a 
colleague I knew who had done a publishing course at Harvard. And 
she said, "Why don't you go there and check it out?" So I came to 
the States, and I did the course, and at the course was Peter 
Mayer, Chairman of Penguin world-wide. He said, "Look you're from 
India?" (I said "yeah"). He said he was thinking of starting a 
company in India and asked me, "Would you like to run it?"

I was then twenty-six years old, I'd never done a publishing 
company in my life, I had little or no idea, but when you're 
twenty-six years old sometimes you're foolishly confident about 
your abilities, so I said "yes." I went to Delhi where the office 
was going to be and I had never been there before, starting from 
Cambridge, Massachusetts to Delhi – and there was nothing there. 
There were exactly 3 employees in the first year of operations 
and they invested ten thousand US dollars in the company in 1986. 
And that was it... Now Penguin India is Asia's largest English 
publishing company and has done over 10 million dollars in sales. 
It was quite an interesting experience and I had a ball! It kept 
growing and growing. It's so fascinating... Now every 
multinational is in India. Penguin was the first.

What project are you particularly proud of as a publisher?

The fact of having created this company (Penguin India). We 
publish 200 books a year in India in the English language now. 
We've started publishing in 4 or 5 languages other than English 
(the first time Penguin has published in any other languages) and 
will be 25 years old in five years. Its just been a win-win 
situation because when we started, it coincided with the boom in 
Indians becoming global superstars like Vikram Seth, Arundathi 
Roy, and Upamanyu Chaterji, etc., etc., etc... The whole lot... 
so it is the #1 company by a long stretch and so that is my 
greatest pride because I started out as an editor but am now 
trying to develop companies and just the fact of helping create 
Penguin India has been enormously satisfying.

Can you tell us about the BUSINESS of publishing? (I think for 
most people it's a mystery veiled in secrecy and delusions of 

There is the myth that if you write a novel you'll become rich, 
famous, attractive to women, or whatever the case may be, but I 
think that's largely a myth. Very few books break out in a way 
such as God of Small Things and A Suitable Boy did because its 
only 1% who get to superstardom because they won a big prize or 
it's an amazing book and enough readers caught on to the fact. 
But think of the odds... There are about 100,000 books published 
every year. How on earth are you going to get each of those books 
to a reader's attention! Let's say you walk into a bookstore, you 
face the first novel that appears and you have no idea what it's 
about. There is so much competing for your attention. Most novels 
sell only about 400 or 500 copies. If it's a good seller it will 
sell 5000 copies if it won an award and got great reviews. It is 
only superstars that sell more and superstars are very few and 
every one knows who they are. The question we need to ask is why 
are there so few superstars? Why isn't every writer published 
famous? There isn't enough attention available for these writers. 
So that TV time, radio time, bookstore sales, all mitigate 
against every writer getting in.

Two or three industries suffer from the same thing, movie and TV, 
and music being closest to the book industry. Think of the tens 
of thousands of artists who've produced CDs and nobody's heard of 
them, and nobody will hear of them because that is the way the 
system works. So what happens say if you've written a book and 
you approach a publisher? Well normally you approach the 
publishing house through a literary agent because they are the 
top filter, and a top agent comes to me and says this is a 
wonderful book... I'll say I'll read it. But if you approach me 
directly you probably won't get through many of the sieves... 
there are assistants, there are people in the mailroom, and there 
are book manuscripts at the back because of overflow... everyone 
thinks they can write a book!

Finding a good agent is becoming increasingly tough because they 
too are inundated with manuscripts as well. The agent comes to us 
generating interest in a book and we have special editors, one 
specializes in Canadian writers; she says okay or no, I like it 
or don't like it. The book is brought to a meeting where she says 
she wants to pay this kind of money. You have a price on this 
book say $35 dollars, so the author will get a percentage royalty 
on every book sold. For a 10% royalty you will get $3.5 dollars 
on every copy sold. So what we will do, is advance the author, 
through his or her agent x amount of money, say $35,000 dollars 
because we expect to sell 5,000 or 6,000 hardback and 10,000 
copies in paperback, so we figure its worth about $35,000. So 
it's not an outright gift... it's an advance against royalties. 
Then hopefully the book is published and lives up to expectations 
and earns out and the response is we're happy, the author is 
happy, and the agent is happy... but in 90% of the cases it 
doesn't earn out the advance and so you're in trouble. Of the 100 
books published in Canada, I expect 20 books to support the rest.

Where do you see the Canadian publishing industry heading? How 
does it compare with what's happening in the Indian publishing 

Canada has certain problems and certain advantages like many 
markets in the world. I'll deal with the problem first. It's a 
small market. It's 35 million of which 5 million are French 
speakers, so you can't do much with that size of market. Whereas 
America is 200 million plus, UK is over 60 million, Australia is 
really small, about 20 million. So tens of thousands of books are 
jostling for attention in this country. Plus you have the major 
superstore Indigo Chapters which controls over 50% of market, so 
if they don't support a book it's dead in the water. And there is 
immense pressure on them as well because there are so many books 
pouring in. So these are the problems people have to deal with 
including the fact that there are lots of writers, agents, lots 
of publishing houses, everyone competing for that elusive 
customer. Fortunately, Canadians read quite a lot, but they don't 
read enough to make everyone prosperous. It is probably very 
difficult for a writer to break out in a major way unless you are 
someone like Yan Martel, Michael Ondaatje, Rohinton Mistry, 
Margaret Attwood, etc., these are people already established and 
are stars because they've built up over period of time. Beyond 
that, it's very tough to break through.

On the positive side, because of the way Canada has been 
encouraging immigration for the last 30 years, you have the whole 
world sitting here, and so Canada's stories are quite fresh; 
whereas writing about one's experiences living in Mississauga 
that's where a lot of these books get bogged down because if your 
domestic experience is not interesting, how will you make your 
book interesting? Your life is interesting to friends, family, 
and about a 100 people who know you. That is were most first 
novels fail because they are so autobiographical, instead of 
trying to sell a story. Why would people want to read a book 
unless they're interested in your life?

The interesting thing here is you have people from Somalia, 
Kosovo, Taiwan, India, and they're all writing books about their 
own experiences and that's what makes it interesting. So I think 
Canada has a great future about the stories its writers are 
starting to tell. And it is a very good domestic market for its 
size because per capita people read a lot more here than other 

I was once asked at the Canada Book Expo, where I was giving a 
presentation, what advice can I give aspiring writers. My reply 
is they should always take risks. There's no point in writing a 
small, safe, book... it just disappears. Take risk! What do you 
have to lose? Stretch yourself, write a big, huge, ambitious 
book! And those are the books that always leave a mark because 
there's so few around.

The Indian publishing scene in 20 years will be the second or 
third largest in the world overtaking Canada and Australia; I'm 
talking about English language publishing. I've heard there are 
about 300 million Indians using some form of English, so they've 
already taken over the US and UK, but for the publishing industry 
you need to use English as first language or frequently because 
otherwise you're not going to go to the bookstore to buy a book. 
You might go to a street fair, but you're not my market. That's 
going to take a while. I think today there are 7 to 8 million 
Indians who use English effortlessly, so that's about the size of 
New Zealand, but because you have next generation teenagers and 
young people learning English at the speed of light, they are 
going to join the market in another 5 to 10 years; this 
generation will continue to be the market, and there's going to 
be bit of the previous generation also in the market, so from 
about 7 to 8 million India will go to 30 to 40 million in the 
space of 15 to 20 years which means it's just going to explode. 
It's already the fastest growing market in the world and it's a 
huge market. Penguin India is fortunate, we came in the beginning 
so we got in on the ground floor; all we need is to reap the 
benefits of our earlier labor because this market is growing, 
while the Canadian market is pretty much static. However, it is 
growing through some immigration. That is why Canada needs to 
look out for itself constantly and build its strengths to the 
world if it's going to keep its economy and lifestyle going.

Who are your heroes?

I started out with heroes and along the way you lose the need to 
have heroes. I greatly admire my mentor, Peter Mayer, former 
Chairman of Penguin, Sunny Mehta, who runs Knopf... I greatly 
admire writers like Vikram Seth, Arundathi Roy, Ondaatje, 
Rohinton Mistry... but at some point in your life you stop having 
heroes. You figure everyone does their best, some people have 
luck on their side, some people have some advantages, but 
everyone's a hero.

What makes them heroes in your mind?

They are exceptionally talented, and they have arrived... You 
know, I was reading a poem by Rudyard Kipling which goes, "If you 
can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds' worth of 
distance run, yours is the Earth and everything that's in it... " 
Which means you do your best every single moment you can, and if 
you happen to have the talent as well, then you get to a stage 
where you are slightly set apart from your peers because you have 
done things that it is not possible for them to do.

So for example, you have great artists, like the South African 
writer Coetzee; they've written novels that's not possible for 
average novelists to write because of their level of skill and 
level of perception. Why do you read a novel today? You have so 
many sources to choose from. The reason I think you read a novel 
today is because the greatest novels give you more truth than 
non-fiction. Non-fiction is information, non-fiction is 
argument... The Economist will give you insights, but what 
fiction gives you is insights into the human condition, the great 
fiction, not the hundred thousand novels that are published every 
year. There are very few books like Disgrace or A Suitable Boy or 
100 Years of Solitude, my personal favorites, which raise the 
bar. If you can't do that, why bother? So that's why they are my 

In terms of publishing, Sunny and Peter have pushed the 
boundaries of the publishing business and tried to innovate. 
Anyone who pushes the boundaries needs to be admired. Whether you 
are a business person, an athlete, or whatever, you need to push 
the boundaries instead of merely existing. Pearson, the company 
that owns Penguin, its vision is you need to be "Brave, 
Imaginative, and Decent." Which are interesting words that carry 
a lot of meaning, and is what I look for in people. There's lots 
of people that don't get opportunities, lots of people face much 
competition, maybe their home situation isn't so great, maybe 
their work situation isn't so great, so their kind of stuck... 
but I think people make their own destiny don't they? Yeah, I 
admire people, but if you ask me whether I have heroes today – 
probably not.

Do you have a dream or vision that guides the course of your 

The thing about vision is it needs to be renewed every day. 
Because at the end of the day, what does a person want to do? You 
have a set path which clarifies itself as you go along. You have 
a set path – this is what I do, this is what I'm good at, and how 
can I use this to influence events and people within my ambit? 
And I think narrowly defined within my job description, my vision 
for Penguin India was to give India a world-class publishing 
company. I think that vision has been achieved. My vision of 
Penguin Canada is to make it the best company of its size 
anywhere in the world.

You only have one chance, make the best of it!

Sharif Khan (; [EMAIL PROTECTED]) is 
a freelance writer, motivational speaker, coach, and author of 
Psychology of the Hero Soul, an inspirational book on awakening 
the hero within and developing people’s leadership potential. 
He provides inspirational keynotes and leadership seminars and 
also helps companies develop empowering content through his 
copywriting services. To contact Sharif directly, call 
(416) 417-1259.



TERMS OF REPRINT - Publication Rules 
(Last Updated:  April 7, 2005)

Our TERMS OF REPRINT are fully enforcable under the terms of:

  The Digital Millennium Copyright Act


*** Digital Reprint Rights ***

* If you publish this article in a website/forum/blog, 
  You Must Set All URL's or Mailto Addresses in the body 
  of the article AND in the Author's Resource Box as
  Hyperlinks (clickable links).

* Links must remain in the form that we published them.
  Clean links should point to the Author's links without
  redirects having been inserted into the copy.

* You are not allowed to Change or Delete any Words or 
  Links in the Article or Resource Box. Paragraph breaks 
  must be retained with articles. You can change where
  the paragraph breaks fall, but you cannot eliminate all
  paragraph breaks as some have chosen to do.

* Email Distribution of this article Must be done through
  Opt-in Email Only. No Unsolicited Commercial Email.

* You Are Allowed to format the layout of the article for 
  proper display of the article in your website or in your 
  ezine, so long as you can maintain the author's interests 
  within the article.

*** Author Notification ***

  We ask that you notify the author of publication of his
  or her work. Sharif Khan can be reached at:

*** Print Publication Reprint Rights ***

  If you desire to publish this article in a PRINT 
  publication, you must contact the author directly 
  for Print Permission at:  


If you need help converting this text article for proper 
hyperlinked placement in your webpage, please use this 
free tool:


ABOUT THIS ARTICLE SUBMISSION is a paid article distribution 
service. and 
are owned and operated by Bill Platt of Enid, Oklahoma USA.

The content of this article is solely the property 
and opinion of its author, Sharif Khan



1. Print the article in its entirety. Don't make any changes in the article . 
2. Print the resource box with all articles in their entirety.
3. Send the Author a copy of the reprinted article or the URL 
  where the articles was posted.

Anything short of following these three rules is a violation 
of the Authors Copyright. 
Yahoo! Groups Links

<*> To visit your group on the web, go to:

<*> To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:

<*> Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to:

Reply via email to