1. Royalty Rights in Punjabi Publishing

I had the opportunity to publish my novel Skeena in Punjabi (Sanjh Publications, Lahore 2007) last year, and while it was one of the most creative and inspiring experiences for me, it did include, and still does, confrontations with my peers around royalty rights and promotional strategies.

All the wonderful things began happening with Ijaz Syed in California who after reading the English manuscript of Skeena, recommended it to a publisher in Lahore; who in turn, offered to publish it in Punjabi and invited me to come to Lahore to translate it. This was a wonderful opportunity for me, and Ijaz Syed again stepped up by bringing me over to California where i enjoyed his hospitality and that of his family and friends. I am most grateful for the time and attention i received there from Nusrat Syed, Sarmad Syed, Vidhu Singh, Sanjeev Mahajan, Shaista Parveen, Salma, Cesar Love, Nidhi Singh and Rob Mod. Later, Ijaz, Sanjeev and Shaista were prevailed upon to buy me a one-way ticket to Lahore.

This also meant a chance for me to live in Lahore for a meaningful length of time in 2006 after having left it for Canada in 1986.

This was a dream situation for me also because Skeena is a character and story rooted in Pakistani Punjab, that then reaches out into the Punjabi communities of Toronto and Surrey. The very diversity of our communities had shackled the English manuscript with sentences upon sentences of Punjabi while the living culture of Muslim characters had laiden it with shots of Arabic. This was pointed out by most of its readers, and by Editor Michele Sherstan in Vancouver who had worked with me on Skeena in 2004. At that time, I knew that the novel had to be re-expressed in Punjabi before the English can ever be published; yet i had been away for so long that many sounds and words shivered below the surface of my mind as i looked for the courage to draw them out in the open again.

It will be an understatement to say that i am grateful to Skeena’s Punjabi Editor Zubair Ahmed for giving me the courage, the skills and the environment to rewrite Skeena in Punjabi. Zubair is a rare friend who cares for me and my work, and challenges me to do better. He spent countless hours of volunteer work to edit more than three hundred manuscript pages of Skeena as he supported me to shape my voice in Punjabi. Zubair also provided a comfortable and creative environment at Kitab Trinjan, a Punjabi bookstore on Temple Road that he manages on permanent part time voluntary basis for over a decade now. I was also happy to know Trinjan’s only full time employee Ghulam Haider; as well, Zubair introduced me to some most wonderful people there including his wife Samina, and Amjad Salim of Sanjh Publications who later published Skeena in Punjabi.

The publisher who had originally offered to publish Skeena was excited about the submission of the Punjabi manuscript, and we were beginning to discuss production and promotion when i realized that nothing had been mentioned about royalties yet. After a while, i asked the publisher as to how much royalty i was going to get; the question set off a wave of double headed culture shock hitting both the publisher and the writer. The publisher nearly fell off of his chair, so to speak, telling me that the top most Punjabi authors in Lahore pay the production cost to get their books published, where I, a mere writer of unpublished novels, am asking for royalty when my book is being published for free. Across from him, my eyes were popping out of my forehead because years of living in Canada had made me unprepared to deal with a situation where a small or medium level literary publisher was apparently operating for many years without recognizing an author’s right to royalty.

That culture shock helped me to figure out that royalty is NOT one of the rights accepted by Punjabi publishers or writers. So, this was the beginning of many inspiring discussions and fiery confrontations on royalty rights, book promotion strategies and maaNboli language issues in Lahore and other cities. I am aware that fighting for royalty rights for Punjabi writers/creators, and generating a debate on this issue by pushing it on the Net is not going to make me popular in Punjabi literary circles on either side of the border. Still, i will continue to share my ideas and experiences in Uddari Weblog because i think that the non-recognition of royalty rights is central to the ailments of Punjabi publishing industry.

Before i end this post, let me put your mind to rest: Yes, Sanjh did accept, and respect, my royalty rights.

Fauzia Rafiq
2. Royalties for Punjabi Language Authors
3. Author Royalties Down to Definitions in the Punjab

Royalties and Copyrights

7 comments on “1. Royalty Rights in Punjabi Publishing

  1. […] 1. Royalty Rights in Punjabi Publishing […]


  2. […] First post: April 11, 2008 Title: Aahu Chashm Ragini Photo by: Partap Singh Ahdan Sourced by: Amarjit Chandan Post intended to be the first: Royalty Rights in Punjabi Publishing […]


  3. Roop Dhillon says:

    I have had to go to an English Publisher to obtain high quality books. But alas all the problems that Amarjit has stated plus the lack of exposure in Punjab itself has ensued.

    We all need to get togeather and construct our own Publishing house.


  4. Shumita Madan Didi says:

    It is wonderful when Royalty rights are recognised and honored. Otherwise folks tend to devalue many good but as yet unknown writer’s works by labeling them “merely self-promotional/self-published”. I hope that funding will be available to Punjabi Publishers to be able to do so. Novel ways have to be found to do so. I also hope that all of us pledge to buy and not just borrow or try and get books for free!The idea of promotional tours, book signings and readings helps a lot. Recently I have been involved with the release of Ramindra Ajit Singh’s second book of short stories in Punjabi. I read out two of her stories there in a slightly dramatised manner. the response was overwhelming, many folks said they bought the book soon after as it was brought alive for them. Writers must be encouraged to read effectively from their own works or take assistance from lovers of fiction and poetry who may have a flair of delivery. Distribution channels mustbe well planned but also informal novel methodology shouold be experimented with.


  5. fauzia rafiq says:

    Painter Kanwal Dhaliwal (www.art-d-kanwal.com) has responded via email, and he says:
    “… Being a painter and sculptor I am not very much acquainted with the difficulties of Punjabi writers regarding the royalty however I do have a fair idea that due to the lack of readership it might be hard for every one in the trade to make this ‘right’ a legal binding. Wish you all the best for the success of SAKINA – Kanwal.”


  6. In principle there can’t be any debate about royalty rights for Punjabi writers. A Punjabi writer should assert his/her rights while dealing with big publishers, but sadly we don not have any in Punjabi book industry.

    I know a bit about Punjabi publishing scene in East Punjab and I am sure it is not much different in Lahore.

    In good old days i.e. during 1950-1970 the book print order used to be 1100 copies and now it has shrunk to 300-500 which takes five to eight years to sell. Except a handful of authors –mostly novelists– whose books sell well, all others pay the publishers or are into vanity publishing. In return they are given certain number of copies on ‘cost price’ equivalent to the amount of money paid. In that case both the parties are satisfied. Our stalwart writers like Gurbakhsh Singh, Nanak Singh, Mohan Singh and Amrita Pritam had started their own publishing houses. 1960 onwards Amrita had guaranteed standing order to supply her titles to the libraries of the Indian armed forces. Now Surjit Patar is into self-publishing.

    I tell my own story though sheepishly. So far for all my books in Punjabi except the last collection of poems Annjall (Lok Geet. 2005) I paid the publisher. My publisher Pritam Singh of Navyug who became a millionaire out of publishing always complained that Punjabi books don’t sell. I always wanted to ask him but never did then why was he in the business.

    We all know that no Punjabi publisher is professional in the sense that they don’t employ any editors (manuscript, pictures etc.) and book designers. With the advent of computer graphics they all design the books themselves and the quality has gone down the drain.

    Kitab Trinjan (KT) in Lahore is run by a volunteer Zubair Ahmad who earns his living teaching in a college. Like volunteers working in organisations in the West, I am sure Zubair is not paid travelling expenses and free ‘ tea & sandwich’ etc. The KT titles are published with contributions from a few individuals who are passionate about Punjabi language and literature. A friend in London contributes Rs 5,000 to KT every month out of his hard-earned income. I think, it’d be too much to ask a small publishing concern like KT for royalties.

    I belong to the old tribe of writers who wrote and published for the love of it without asking for any reward. So far KT has published my three titles. I paid them the cost of production of my own accord and in return I asked for not more than 20 copies each. The deal ended there. I will not ask them for more or for that matter any questions.


  7. Jatinder says:

    I absolutely agree with you. Lack of awareness or exploitation by publishers is one of the major roadblock in the development of Punjabi. I am not a writer myself, still I feel professional publishing can encourage writers to spend more time on writing and we can read better Punjabi literature.


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