For promoting good Nepali literature or Nepali literature in English that would get international exposure, a healthy tripartite relationship of publishers, writers, and critics may play a significant role in its promising future. Many of the publishers in Nepal are not professional yet. They seem to be biased and mostly money minded. If a writer pays them a handsome amount of money, they might be ready to publish any work without a thorough peer review or editing guidelines or without publishable content.
“If the writer is a celebrity, he doesn’t have to work too hard to get his/her work published. On top of that, the celebrity also gets paid in advance while other non-celebrity writers don’t even have access to big publishing houses and end up publishing from some other publishers who don’t even pay them even after a thousand copies or more have been sold,” a writer friend of mine shared his thoughts over the sips of coffee the other day. As a result, a good writer feels insulted and frustrated.
Publishers and writers
Many of the publishers do not seem to have maintained honesty. Some publishers even manage to publish seven books within a week, while others promise to publish on time and never publish until they get money from the writer or end up breaching the contract showing some reasons, nor do they let the writer know about the proper sales of the books and the exact amount of the royalty.
Some publishers don’t even bother with hiring blind peer reviewers of the submitted manuscript, nor a good critic who might offer critical feedback on the manuscript that doesn’t display the author’s name. Such practices from publishing houses might end up discouraging good writers who mostly write based on research— going out to the remote areas and bringing out the melodies of the marginalized from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Such marginalized narratives might become a potential and promising work of art to garner international exposure.
When the books come out, only those who have access to media, people, and have good public relations can get an exposure. Some publishers do not even bother with promoting the books because they know they already have received enough money from the writers to cover the cost and some pocket money for the publications themselves. On the other hand, the practices of international traditional publishing houses would be the other way around or just the opposite. However, some Nepali publishers have tried to bring in some international practice of promoting books, organizing signing programs, paying the writer in advance and so on. When the publishers take the initiative in those activities, it shows that the books are of some quality, and the publishers have invested in it.
Another problem is with critics. After the books come out in the market, critics are biased at times. Rajendra Parajuli (2021) writes that critics are biased because they admire their friend writer’s work even if the book is “okay” or “not okay.” It is because they also need to have him write a review on their books when they come out. It is like a “parm,” helping each other. Similarly, some critics are sycophants and keep carrying one writer throughout their lifetime. Also, if the writer has good public relations with media, they can cover his/her book in their news stories with major highlights, and those who have never access to people in media will remain lost without any exposure of the book to the readers. Rajendra Parajuli (2021) again writes that many of the critical reviews are written either to make someone happy or to defame someone. Honesty seems to be a far cry from reality. It shows that the honesty is not with some critics either. Mathew Arnold says that if one looks at the work with honesty, there lies the effectiveness of literature. However, Abhi Subedi sees some hope. According to him, “Literary criticism following the tradition of English literature established itself as a powerful genre in South Asia. Indian literature, especially Hindi has produced very strong literary critics, so has Nepali literature in the last century prominently” (Subedi, 2019).
Until the criticism highlights the importance of the content of the marginalized people belonging to diverse ethnic and socio-cultural backgrounds, Nepali literature can hardly get an international exposure. Reaching out to the marginalized is to find out their lived experiences that are associated with their culture, myths, and other folk and rural experiences that have received attention in modern world literature. In this context, giving the examples of renowned modern world literature that range from the Caribbean to African, Mahesh Paudyal (2020) writes, “our mythology, cultural glory, scriptural and philosophical poignancy, folk and rural experiences and indigenous Nepali epistemology, has not found adequate entry into our literature” (p. 4), and that is possible only through the research of finding the melodies of the marginalized for which publishers, writers, and critics should work together with honesty.
Along with the increment of publication houses in Nepal, the publications of books and their availability in Nepali market and abroad have increased. Also increasing is the number of writers who have received critics, criticisms, and media exposures. Different online and self-publishing platforms, such as KDP, LULU press, Digital2Draft, and Ingram Spark given all writers the opportunity to promote and distribute their books across the world. This gives the impression that it will not take that too long for Nepali literature to grow in the international market and receive international attention. Therefore, there is the promising future of Nepali literature as it currently is travelling across the world in various online and digital platform that is gaining wider readership although the platforms bring with it some challenges because anyone can publish their works without proper peer reviews, decent editing, and proper knowledge of the genre.
Thus, quality of writing is a must. Abhi subedi (2019) writes, “As in every literary tradition, the test of any literary work lies in the quality of the writing, which is what makes up not an only literary tradition, but also the individual talent.” Creative writing courses should be introduced in academia as one of the academic programs, and there must be frequent writers’ workshops along with the discussions of major trends and practices of writing in the literary world and the award-winning writing. There must be honesty amongst publishers, writers, and critics. Writers should not buy publishers, nor publishers should sell themselves for money. They should look out for quality products, not for money or celebrity writers only. They should have courage to publish quality books so they can invest on them, promote them, and equally treat all the writers. Critics should be given to read the manuscript without displaying the author’s name on it.
(Published in The Rising Nepal, dated Nov 25, 2022)