Let me first appreciate all those Kashmiri writers and storytellers who try to prove their mettle in the field of writing. Their writings up to a point make readers understand the events, both past and present, in this piece of land through fiction and nonfiction. These writers are assets of our society. They have worked hard and we must appreciate their effort. There is a perennial question in literature: are writers made or born? But even if one is born as a writer, he or she needs guidance and training to sharpen the writing skills. Those who are not born as writers but have the passion to pen down their ideas or the happenings around them, they need perhaps more guidance. They need to read a lot before they can come out with their own writing.
Now let me come to the point which I want to put here, which is about self-publishing, especially here in Kashmir. In Kashmir if one does something unique or out of the box, others will follow and that too in large numbers. You are well aware of the fact that when there is a traffic jam on the road, if someone out of the queue and tries to get ahead of the others, other vehicles will follow blindly, creating chaos and adding to the jam. Same is happening nowadays with self-publishing in Kashmir.
A few days ago I went to a famous bookstore in the city center to buy some books. There I came across a book which was published by a publishing house based in Kashmir. I read its first few pages and to my surprise I didn’t understand what the author wanted to say. I found the book full of grammatical mistakes and its sentences did not make sense. In self-publishing an author has to bear all the expenses to get the book published and it is the responsibility of the publishing house to check the material before accepting it and sending it to the press. The publisher must check every word, proof read and edit before printing the book. Unfortunately, what I find is that some publishing houses act like photostat machines which can publish anything for you. All you need to do is to give them money. They can even publish someone else’s work in your name.
It seems that our young authors are in a hurry to get the tag of an author, which leads them to knock on the doors of these self-publishing houses which are ready to publish even trash. It is a good sign that our youth are writing; we must appreciate them for that but as a reader we want good quality of writing, and if not good quality then at least without mistakes. The stories and characters should be well etched to make the book interesting.
For a good writer the question that must be kept in mind is why anyone should read and spend precious time on reading their book. What special and unique is in the book which deserves the attention of readers? For the publishing house, it is important to realize that only publishing good-quality books will earn them goodwill and reputation.
Please take this criticism in the positive sense. Publishing houses should make the right suggestions to writers when they find their work inappropriate or unsuitable. They must act as guides rather than as racketeers out to fleece the gullible.
The writer is a research scholar. [email protected]