HOME / 2022 Program / Juliana Tan
|Publishers||PT Gramedia Pustaka Utama|
|Gramedia Pustaka Utama (GPU) is the largest publishing house in Indonesia and a subsidiary of a leading mass media corporation, Kompas Gramedia. Established in 1974, GPU is headquartered in Jakarta, and has been the home to a collection of quality books and authors with worldwide recognition.|
Through cooperation with more than 200 leading foreign publishers, GPU also translated and published international bestselling titles such as the Harry Potter series, the Twilight Saga, the Hunger Games Trilogy, as well as masterpieces from Agatha Christie, Paulo Coelho, Robert Galbraith, John Grisham, John Green, Stephen King, J.R.R Tolkien, Nicholas Sparks, Jojo Moyes, Liane Moriarty, Enid Blyton, Kevin Kwan, Yu Hua, Cho Nam-joo, Jeong You-jeong, Keigo Higashino, etc.
With publications around 1,500 titles annually in both print and digital formats that encompass fiction, nonfiction and children’s books, GPU has solidified its position as one of the best publishers in Indonesia.
BOOK PUBLISHING TREND IN INDONESIA
During the pandemic in 2020, book publishing in Indonesia has been severely hit by the closing of bookshops as well as by books being considered as non-essential products. Even after the strict Covid measures were lifted earlier this year, the current book sales have not yet returned to the pre-Covid level. Current book sales are generally down by around 35 percent. The figure does not look very encouraging which prompts some people to wonder if book publishers are still relevant nowadays and in the years to come. Such a big question to ponder about, especially for a company which has almost 50 years of book publishing experience under its belt.
However, even in the midst of pessimistic and cynical outlooks, there are a few markets that are potential for us to explore more. If I were to write down the keywords for the book publishing in Indonesia today, these three words will definitely pop up on top of the list: AsianLit, Writing Platform, and AU.
What is AsianLit? It is actually what our publisher calls translated books from Asian countries or translated books dealing with Asian topics or themes. The trend started in 2011 but it is still going strong, if not stronger, today. It was first triggered by the Korean Wave in Indonesia where we were overcome with euphoria for K-pop and K-drama. As there are more technological advances through the years such as streaming services, we find ourselves becoming more and more exposed to pop cultures from other Asian countries that include, but not limited to music, films, fashion, as well as books.
AsianLit titles, namely the ones from Japan and Korea, are very popular at the moment. Even though the bestseller list in Indonesia is still dominated by domestic titles, the translated ones that make it to the list are Asian fiction such as “Before the Coffee Gets Cold” by Toshikazu Kawaguchi, books written by Keigo Higashino, “Kim Ji-yeong, Born in 1982” by Cho Nam-joo, and “Almond” by Son Won-pyung. Looking at those titles, Indonesian readers seem to be interested in various genres: romance, fantasy, mystery, slice of life, without any specific genre that stands out in the AsianLit category. This is because the AsianLit sales in Indonesia are mostly driven by external factors such as famous celebrities’ endorsement or adaptation into popular television series/films. There are, of course, people who read AsianLit books because they find the contents interesting or they like the way the writers tell the story, aside from the fact that those books are read by celebrities. For me, reading a story about Asian values and outlooks is like a breath of fresh air in a market dominated by books from Western countries. It is because AsianLit offers stories from familiar genres yet full of characters with different views on life, and are set on a world and society different from what we have been exposed to all this time.
Digital publishing has often been touted as the future of book publishing industry and the transformation is happening right in front of our eyes. In Indonesia, the writing platform fever started with Wattpad. Then in around 2015-2016, noticing the influence of Wattpad, publishers began to acquire stories from the Wattpad writers and publish them into print books. As the years went by, many kinds of writing platforms started to emerge and monetize their contents. There are a lot of new writers who favor writing for the platforms over traditional publishing houses since platforms offer more freedom in writing. They want to write steamy romance? Go ahead! As long as there is no SARA conflict in the writing. For your information, in Indonesian language SARA refers to Suku, Agama, Ras, Antar-golongan (Ethnicity, Religion, Race, and Intergroup relations). Basically, people can publish what they write originally in the platform without going through arduous editing process as they would in traditional publishing houses.
In 2013 our publishing company launched a crowdsourcing platform named Gramedia Writing Project (GWP). Originating from the belief that readers can also be potential writers, we built a writing platform that also serves as a community to empower both readers and writers. At first, GWP was only intended for us, Gramedia Pustaka Utama. However, to make it bigger and more sustainable, the scope of GWP has now expanded to include the other five publishing houses under Kompas Gramedia group. Even though there is no monetization in GWP, the platform is still going strong today and is one of the places for us to find new talents. There are already about fifty stories from GWP that are published into print books.
I believe well-managed writing platforms have a promising future in Indonesia, because the platforms present stories in easier-to-digest short chapters, which pull in people who do not necessarily like to read books. Moreover, posting works on writing platforms is much easier for new writers to get their stories out there, to amass fans and followers, and to make money.
The next keyword has been buzzing around the book publishing industry in Indonesia for the past couple of years. AU, a.k.a Alternate Universe. This is something that all fan fiction readers are very familiar with. AU is a setting for a work of fan fiction that departs from the original story of the fictional universe that the fan work is based on. AU stories can also feature characters inspired by real-life celebrities who live in a different environment, have a different history, and are tangled up in love stories or other challenges fantasized by the writers. Usually AU stories are found on personal blogs, fan blogs, tumblr, or websites dedicated to fan fiction/fan works. However, due to the rising popularity of Wattpad and other writing platforms in Indonesia, AU stories have also found a new home there.
We start hearing AU being mentioned by people who are not fan fiction readers. This new popularity of AU is driven by the fact that it has taken a new life on Twitter with the emergence of Fake Tweet and Fake Chat apps, where the writers will make as though the characters chat with each other. The most popular AU stories in Indonesia are romance with characters inspired by real-life celebrities. And some publishers have started to monetize this craze by publishing the AU stories in print books (of course, without using the celebrities’ names).
Now, thinking back to the aforementioned question whether book publishers are still relevant in the coming years, my answer would be yes. It is a fact that the heart of a book publishing company is content, regardless of the form. Whether it is print book, e-book, or webnovels, as long as we find the types of content that we can capitalize on, such as AsianLit or AU, we would definitely still be relevant.
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