Meet the SHEROES - Richa Jha
Today, at the start to what we believe is going to be a wonderful week, we share the story and candid thoughts of Richa Jha, an independent author and publisher who founded Pickle Yolk Books. What sets Pickle Yolk Books apart from the rest? Well to begin with, their endeavour is to create beautiful picture books that make the readers smile, laugh and ponder...
Let's see what Richa wants to share with us,
How did the inspiration to enter the field of publishing come about?
More than inspiration, it was (and remains) an insane passion to create interesting picture books. Getting into publishing made sense because it is the only way I get to have creative control over the entire pre-production and post-production drill. It's an invigorating experience, both with the challenges and the highs!
What are the top 3 challenges you face in this business?
Its difficult to stop at just three!
1) The extreme price consciousness among Indian parents when it comes to picking up picture books for their kids. Most see little value-for-money in a book that has very few words, and are rarely willing to go beyond the Rs 150 barrier. But picture books are expensive to make and promote. Unless the parents see the indisputably rich role that picture books can play in a child's growing up years (and indeed, all our lives), and understand that the more engaging the illustrations, the longer lasting that book's influence on her cognitive, imaginative, verbal development, or just even on her sense of appreciating a story visually, it is a no-go for the publishers who would like to pump in more behind getting better artwork for the books. And unless we have more and more picture books with engaging artwork and wholesome stories out there in the market that get the parents to devour them and have them hungry for more, the publisher will not be willing to risk a higher sum. It's a chicken and egg thing, really.
2) I am largely a single-person army for Pickle Yolk Books. Of late, my brother Abhishek Jha (at Atonal Indian), also an ace dub step producer, has stepped in to help me with the design aspects of the books and promotion. That's been a massive help and has eased off my pressure a bit. But managing all fronts remains a challenge on the breeziest of days.
3) Reaching out to prospective buyers. As any publisher will tell you, printing a book is less than half the battle won. It's the distribution that kills many a seasoned publisher. For a small fry like me, this particular roadblock takes on gargantuan proportions!
How is your business different from others?
I believe that the essence of any business remains the same at the core - being able to understand (or even pre-empt) what the end user wants and being able to connect with them at a personal level. In that sense, I don't think it's very different than the others. What is different about most creative businesses, in general, is the extremely subjective take of a prospective reader on the book that you've created with so much love. It's impossible (and not advised) to please everyone, so it is best to go with your gut feel, go all out with your passion and belief in yourself, and do it to the best of your ability. If I've enjoyed that process, that journey of creating, it'll radiate in its own subtle ways!
What are the short term aims you have for your business?
1) Better brand recall for my books both within India and outside
2) Make fewer, but entertaining, quirky, wholesome picture books that will have kids and parents wanting to go over them again and again.
How do you manage a work-life balance consistently?
I don't! I wish I could do it better. I get carried away when I get down to work. That's my greatest shortcoming, and I have begun consciously working on it.
A few words of advice for fellow Sheroes?
1) Listen to every single feedback that comes your way, especially the not-so-palatable ones. Respect the person who is giving you that feedback because she has stepped out of her comfort zone to let you know what may not be working with your book / product. Then spend some time with every word said, weigh what parts of the criticism work for you, what don't. Put aside the latter, work on the former, and always remember that despite the changes, you remain the boss of your creative process.
2) Define your aims and goals. Once they are in place, go after them with a missionary zeal.
3) Professional envy is natural. But channel your inner self-belief to get over them quickly, and get your focus back in place. And never ever forget to be graceful (even with the one you can barely see eye-to-eye with), no matter what.