Karthika VK is the publisher and chief editor of Harper Collins Publisher India. She started her career in publishing in 1996 with Penguin and moved to Harper Collins in 2006. It was a matter of chance that she entered into the world of publishing. It was when her friend told her about the opening at Penguin, she went there and got the job of editorial assistant.
She has published and acquired many prominent authors like Anuja Chauhan, Sarnath Banerjee, Anita Nair, Hartosh Singh etc.
In an exclusive interview with Kitaab, Lekhak Prachi was able to get to know her closely and know about her thinking and opinion on various aspects of bibliophilia.
1. Women’s Day just passed away. So on this occasion, I would like to ask you, have you ever faced discrimination at work or in college?
Karthika: NO!! I was in a girl’s college and therefore there was no question of any kind of discrimination at all. People in publishing, perhaps trade publishing have women even if we compare it to academic publishing.
There are interesting ways in which there is still a pattern of the way women work. For instance, women will be prolifically contributing in editorial sphere but very few will be in sales or marketing especially in sales because it involves lot of travelling. But then exceptions are always there. Head of sales at SAGE Publishing House has been a woman for so many years.
There is a weird and complex pattern that exists in Publishing Houses.
2. Being a JNU alumnus, what is your opinion on the whole ruckus created over the incident?
Karthika: am sure it’s the same as every other student. It was completely unnecessary and very badly handled. I think JNU’s response has been quite terrific. I mean to respond to something like this, is by educating people on the concept which is likely the best way University should have responded.
3. You have published so many authors. Many of them are bestsellers. Have you ever planned on writing a novel yourself, something like, “inside the editors office”?
Karthika: NO! NO! Not at all. You know the thing is when you read manuscripts and so many books you start wondering whether there is anything left for you to stay. It is a very humbling experience when you read so much good stuff and then to feel you also have left to say anything is pretty hard.
But, yes there have been many editors in the history who have written but certainly not me.
4. What does the day of a Chief Editor looks like?
Karthika: Soooo…. I would wake up to answering e-mails so that when I leave the house, at least the work that has piled up over night is done. Google recently did a project named, ‘ARISTOTLE’ which looked into various work groups and how they work effectively. It was found that many employees spend 3/4th of their time just co-ordinating with colleagues or dealing with them and that is true with me too.
When I go in the office, most of my day goes in meeting, be it budget meeting, cover meeting or brain-storming sessions and the rest is spent in meeting the authors one to one.
I do editing late at night or early in the morning at home and can hardly edit three to four pages while in the office.
5. How is it that you decide that yes this is the book Harper Collins will publish?
Karthika: This book calls my attention as a reader and has something unique to offer or the plot is gripping are the basic instincts while deciding. You know instinctively that this is the book you are going to read and then there might be thousand other people who feel the same way you do. But, then this is only the one side i.e. the editorial instinct.
You have to take in to account many other factors like market demand and trends, mood of the country etc. in the listed self, Harper Collins has different imprints. One of them is Harper Sports. So we aim to publish 4 to 5 sports oriented book a year. Then we have HARLEQUIN where we publish romance. Romance is something that will last forever. We have only published 4 books under this head in the year whereas the target was 10.So yes, most of time you also try to fill in the gaps in your aim of publishing certain goals.
6. Who is the best person you have ever worked with, be it an author or colleague or your sun-ordinate?
Karthika: Ummm.. Sarnath Banerjee. He is a graphic novelist. His first book ‘Corridor’ was published when I was in Penguin. It was a task full of challenges because for the first time I was to edit a graphic novel. Since then I’ve worked on four books with him. He is funny smart and thoughtful. He is a kind of person of whom you can count on. It is people like them who make the journey good.
7. How has the journey been so far?
Karthika: UNBELIEVABLY GOOD!
I had no idea when I started my career in publishing but I wouldn’t undo thing in my whole career span, in fact I would like to add on a few books which I lost. It’s a world full of ideas and you are always working on everything new. It’s the amazing variety of things that and editors get to do and I wouldn’t be able to use the word BORING during these whole 19 years.
8. What is the mantra that drives you through life?
Karthika: challenges! I like challenges.
I want to wake up to something exciting every day.