RAIPUR: Noted Hindi writer Vinod Kumar Shukla, 86, plans to withdraw copyrights to his books from publishing houses Vani Prakashan and Rajkamal Prakashan for “paying him pittance” as royalty. He said he came to know how underpaid he was after he met writer and actor Manav Kaul. Shukla said it came as a rude shock and he feels cheated.
“I want rights of all the books back from…Vani and Rajkamal. I am also thinking to take the publishing rights back from other publishers… but for now, I want [the copyrights to] my books from Vani and Rajkamal as soon as possible,” said Shukla, who is from Chhattisgarh’s Rajnandgaon district and lives in Raipur.
Shukla said Vani has paid him ₹1.35 lakh over 25 years for three books. He added Rajkamal pays him around ₹14,000 annually for six books. “I want all my agreements with these two publishers canceled and I do not want to be duped further. I want to get rid of harassment.”
Vani and Rajkamal have issued statements saying they will sort out the matter by meeting Shukla, who rejected this as a gimmick.
The rights of Shukla’s Sahitya Akademi Award-winning “Deewar Mein Ek Khidki Rehti Thi”, poetry book “Atirikt Nahi” and another collection of poems are with Vani. Rajkamal has published “Naukar ki Kameez”, “Sabkuchch Hona Bacha Rahega”, “Kabhi Ke Baad Abhi”, “Kavita Se Lambi Kavita” and “Hari Ghaas ki Chhapar Wali Jhopadi aur Bauna Pahaad”.
Shukla cited his age and said he does not want to go to court because it will take time “… I want publishing rights as soon as possible. The other writers and my well-wishers have told me that there are other ways to take back the rights. Recently, the family of Hindi author Nirmal Verma has taken the rights of his book from him without going to court… ”
Shukla said since 2016, he has been writing to the publishers not to publish further editions of some of his books. “Around a decade back, I realized the two publishers were giving me a poor royalty and started writing to Vani since 1996 and urged it not to publish my book but in vain.” He said Kaul told him that some of his books by him published by Vani were also on Kindle. Shukla said he was unaware of it.
Kaul wrote an Instagram post. “In the last year, I have received only ₹6,000 for three books published by Vani Prakashan. and only ₹8,000 for the whole year from Rajkamal Prakashan, almost the same amount. It means that the biggest writer in the country is earning only ₹14,000 a year. He does not get any reply to his letters from him for months. He has written to Vani to not publish his book by him but nothing has been done on this, ”Kaul wrote.
Shukla’s son, Shaswat, said they got to know that Vani has put out a Kindle edition of a novel and the poetry book “Atirikt Nahi” without paying royalty to the writer. Shaswat said they do not use Kindle and e-books so he had no knowledge about it. “Young writers, my father’s students, and admirers have told us that even a new writer receives around ₹3 to 4 lakh a year for two-three books and here my father is paid only ₹5,500. When my father got to know about this, he said he has been cheated.” Shaswat said Shukla feels his trust in him was broken.
Hindi authors believe there is a sort of monopoly in the publishing industry, which is rarely challenged. “These two publishers respect writers. They get books published on time… They get agreements done with the writers but at times, their behavior is dominating,” a Hindi author said seeking anonymity. I have added there are bad and less bad publishers in Hindi.
Chandan Pandey, another Hindi writer, said the nature of the book agreements is decided by publishers and it is always inclined towards them. “…in 2007, the royalty used to be 18% for the author and it has now come down to 6 to 8%. …very few publishers sign agreements. There are many famous writers whose books were published 10 years ago but their contracts have not been done to date.”
He added writers’ associations have limited themselves to political discourses. “The associations are silent about the difficulties writers face and most of them are affiliated to political parties.”
Writer and translator Somprabh said there have been allegations against many publishers that they print books by taking money first. “Due to a lack of professional approach and transparency, the world of Hindi books seems cruel and unjust.”
In the statement after a video of Shukla accusing the publishers of giving him poor royalty went viral on social media on Wednesday, Vani said his relationship with the author has been since 1996. “His novel ‘Deewar Mein Ek Khidki Rehti Thi’ was published on July 31, 1997, and for this, he was also given an advance royalty.” Vani cited the books published and the percentage of royalty.
Shukla questioned why Vani has not mentioned the royalty amount. “…deliberately avoided mention of the royalty amount.”
Vani said they were trying to find out details about the e-books and added it has not received any money from the Kindle and Google. Rajkamal said Shukla never sent them any letter asking to take back the rights. “Last year, in June, he signed with us a contract for publishing his story collection ‘Maha Vidhyalaya’ and also kept insisting it should be published soon… [He] you have received advance royalty for all his books. This was the first time when he did not ask for advance royalty…” It added Rajkamal has also released an e-book on Kindle and its royalty was being sent to Shukla.
Shukla questioned why the publishers did not inform him before publishing e-books. “If they are saying that they obeyed me till now, I request them to return the rights as soon as possible.”