Faheem Bhat | Literary Entrepreneur rewriting rules of publishing in Kashmir

Faheem Bhat | Literary Entrepreneur rewriting rules of publishing in Kashmir

Last year when author turned entrepreneur Faheem Bhat decided to start a publishing house in Kashmir the challenges looked enormous and prospects gloomy. Though the market is virgin, yet working in a place like Kashmir was full of obstacles. "There were host of issues ranging from lack of good infrastructure including quality printing press to lack of even a decent readership," said Faheem Bhat 20. "But we were prepared for the challenge and thus Lieper Publication was born."

Barely months into the business, Lieper Publications hit thetrajectory of growth that no other publishing house has seen in Kashmir inrecent times. With huge social media presence and intelligent promotion ofbooks appealing the younger generation, Lieper got the knack of the market.Authors started pouring in with their manuscripts and the end product haddecent sales too.

The unique thing about this self publishing house turned outto be its flexible packages, which it offers the authors. In a traditionalpublishing house, it is the publisher who pays the author for the book, but ina self publishing house, it is the author who pays to get his book published.

"We never sweet talk with authors. We have certain packagesfrom lowest averaging Rs 16000 to highest which we offer to authors. The choosewhatever they wish and we give equal commitment to every package," said FaheemCEO of Lieper Publication. "The royalty to authors is 100 percent. If an authorwitnesses sale of 1 lakh copies, he or she will earn equal amount. Everythingis transparent." Some of the authors like Dr Henana Barjes and Shuja Tasleemhave seen good revenue from their books, thanks to the royalty model.

With packages that suit even a person from a lower middleclass income group, the otherwise shy and poor authors got a boost ofconfidence. An author from Peer Panchal region came all the way to his officerecently just to sign agreement for a book and left. Similarly another persondoing menial jobs saved the amount and went on to publish his dream book. "Wehave so many stories to tell. Every author is a story," said Faheem.

After the stupendous success, which saw almost one bookrelease every week, the publishing house changed it tagline from "We turnwriters into Author's" into "Kashmir's first and fast growing self publishinghouse". It happened just in nine months. At present they have published 33books.

Most of the books are fiction followed by books in othergenre. Though English is dominant language in majority of books, but the househas also published books in Urdu and a book in Kashmiri is in pipeline.

"One of the biggest challenge of working in Kashmir is thelack of readers. If you ask me I would say that we have readership rate of just8 percent. We may have literacy rate higher than that but people don't read. Ofthe 8 percent majority are urdu readers and 3 percent read western literature.Now that leaves us with small space to work with," said Faheem. "So there aretwo ways either we have to work in that narrow space or try to expand thatspace. We are trying on both fronts."

The books they have published are also doing anything fromvery good. One of the biggest success stories has been the The Mahzur by DrHenana Berjes. The books has received tremendous response from readers not onlyin Kashmir but outside too. Among the 118541 paid books on Amazon India, TheMahzur is currently on rank 2009 in anthologies category and 7840 incontemporary fiction category on Amazon India. It is doing good even in UKmarket. People have been loving the fiction and the reviews are equally great.The book set in a middle eastern country has raised bar for Kashmiri authors.

A unique thing about the publishing house has been itsencouragement of teens and even children to write books. Of the 33 authorswhich the house has published 25 are below 20 years of age. The youngest isGowhar Mubarak who is just 14.

Faheem himself is an accomplished author whose fictionWandering for Love was released in 2017. The fantasy book is a story  about Fenin, a reckless young man, and the journeyof his transformation from a carefree person to one who loses his faith inreality. Fenin's whole world is turned upside down on meeting Arabella. Withouteven realising it, he falls in love with her. However, Arabella, due to certainof her beliefs, can't reciprocate his feelings. Upon rejection, Fenin becomesdetached from everyone.  "He finds solacein books. He becomes obsessed with them and reads about fictitious worlds allday. This behaviour of Fenin makes his parents worried. One day, all of asudden, he finds himself living the life he always wanted. His life becomes afairy tale, and he enjoys every second of it. This new life of Fenin violatesthe principle of possibility. But how did his life change? Can imaginationaffect reality? Is 'impossible' just a word in the dictionary? These are someof the questions answered in the book," the description of the book on Amazonreads.

Wandering for love was one of the fast selling books in 2016to 2017 across India. The success brought following on social media, newconnections and a key to further success. The book got 4.8 out of 5 stars inits customer reviews on amazon.

The love for writing made Faheem to ditch his engineeringdegree that would have made him a software engineer.  The book was a huge success in comparisonwith other writers of same league.  "Aspeople particularly youngsters saw my success, there was sort of encouragementin air. Many authors approached me to enquire how to publish their books andhow this industry works. At that time it was evident that people with deeppockets could easily get their work published and rest struggled. I got theidea to start a self publishing house to meet this demand. It took almost sixmonths for me do research in the market as I knew nothing about it," saidFaheem. "We carefully planned everything keeping a watch on every variable."

Lieper's strength has been its social media presence. ItsInstagram page has crossed 10000 in a year and they are now applying for bluetick. Its blog is widely read and very blog gets readership of around 6000. "Noself publishing house has social media presence as like us in entire India. Weopt number of small strategies like keeping address of our Instagram page Delhiduring promotions to reach wider audience. It is continuous improvisation, "said Faheem. "And investing in social media has brought us benefits. Now we areeven going national. Very soon we are launching a book by an author fromLucknow. "  Then there are open micevents organised by youth wherein authors from Lieper interact with readers atcafes.

In addition to being available on e platform like Amazon,Faheem also started courier service to cater to the needs of hard cover lovingreaders. The company has 24 hour delivery commitment in Srinagar. Working inKashmir has its own period and Faheem is aware of the consequences. Thepublishing house usually avoids political books and even conflict is wetted.

"The future looks equally bright. If a person has a clearervision and gives 100 percent commitment then success is not far away. We havefew more collaborations in mind and even are on the lookout of internationalauthors. We want to make Lieper a brand from Kashmir that has global audience,"said Faheem content with the fastest growing tag in an industry that isstruggling to cope up with declining reading trends and online onslaught.

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