Self-publishing: Blessing for novice authors!

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The self-publishing route has helped many novice authors get established in the publishing space. As more and more authors are taking this route, Varsha Verma of ABP finds out how the selfpublishing companies actually work. Self-publishing: Self-publishing had always been there… In 1931, author of The joy of Cooking got 3,000 copies of her cook book published by an author. It became a bestseller after it was acquired by Bobbs- Merill Company. More recently, the popular trilogy Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James was also a self-published book initially and so was Amish Tripathi’s The Immortals of Meluha. These are just a few which made history, there are many more.

Once called vanity publishing, self-publishing has come a long way…it is an easier and quicker way for authors to reach out to their readers. Few of the well-known selfpublishing companies helping authors include Notionpress. com, Cinnaon Teal, Pothi. com, BecomeShaspeare.com, AuthorsUpfront, Zorba Books etc.

“Self Publishing is here to stay and is growing in exciting ways, as is clear from the catalogue of the self publishing platform – AuthorsUpFront – I co-founded in 2014. Authors are in a position to take controls back in their hands thanks to technology. Of course editorial inputs cannot be done away with,” says Arpita Das of AuthorsUpFront.

What they offer?

Malini Nair, head of publishing services, BecomeShakespeare.com, shares, “BecomeShakespeare. com, a brand of Wordit CDE Pvt Ltd, currently provides editorial, design, self-publishing, book marketing and distribution services for English fiction and non-fiction. We provide best in class services in each of the above categories and wish to help writers improve their craft.” While, Naveen Valasakumar, CEO, of notion.com shares, “We offer free to use publication tools. The content can be typed in, proof read with our assistance, layout of text/ cover design can be done using our templates.

Automation is the key of Notion Press. We have developed a user interface which automates the processes mentioned above, get peer reviews and plan the book’s distribution globally. The three stages of content creating, reviews, printing /publishing are done with our assistance. Through our analytics, we can tell the author where one’s book is doing well – e-Pub, PDF or retails online. One of our clients, an IT consultant, and author of a book on “How a CEO needs a CIO’, commented that using Notion site was easier and simpler than buying a movie ticket.”

“We offer an end product, which is comparable to any international book. We have primacy to author’s inputs during the publishing process and provide clarity regarding each stage of publishing. Authors can get professional inputs and guidance from experts. What’s more? We offer wide distribution both within India and worldwide with a focus on online. And an author can publish his book within 30 days!” shares Shalini.

Why self publishing?

On asking about why they ventured into self-publishing, Malini shares, “We were looking at the self-publishing space for a while and found large gaps in the services available for authors. This is when we began with creating a self-publishing programme as close as possible to a traditional publishing setup, but designed for authors aspiring to look at publishing as a source of revenue.”

While, Shalini Gupta, founder director Zorba Books shares, “As with any new venture so with Zorba Books the path was neither straight nor easy. We wound our way through a maze of traditional publishing, book exhibitions, library setups and corporate requirements to finally finding our niche with self-publishing. We realised that new talented writers had no option but to go to traditional publishers. However, hundreds of them were not getting published because they could not draw the attention of the traditional publishers or the traditional format did not suit them. Since no publisher took on the author’s work for publishing, the individual would have to file away the manuscript and forget about his/her dream of being published. So we decided to provide an alternative to talented writers in the form of self-publishing and drive the growth of self-publishing in India through Zorba Books. The fact that we did not have a hard core background in publishing made it possible for us to break the conventional mould and bring in fresh thinking in the form of the new option of self-publishing and in the way we operate – honest, open and offering great service. The journey is not over and we continue to expand into new realms and push the selfpublishing boundaries.”

Challenges…

But self-publishing comes with its own set of challenges. “Unlike the western markets where self-publishing is widely accepted, authors in India are just about getting acquainted to it. Hence, a lot of time and energy gets spent in explaining authors the features and benefits of this model of publishing versus the traditional model of publishing,” shares Malini.

Similar views were shared by Shalini, who says, “Awareness regarding the option of selfpublishing is low amongst prospective authors. They need not be at the mercy of traditional publishers but can fast-forward their writing career through self-publishing. Besides, most authors do not realise the importance of marketing in selling. Every new author needs to market his book aggressively and over a long period for the sales to show any result. Marketing is an intensive, time consuming exercise and needs to be carried out consistently over a period of time.”

Marketing efforts…

And these self-publishing companies are not leaving any stone unturned to make sure that the books are available at major outlets and online bookstores. “At BecomeShakespeare.com, we provide distribution services to leading brick and mortar bookstores, chain stores, airport retailers, etc. apart from online retailers like Flipkart and Amazon. The format is simple: we take the risk and rent space out at these bookstores, while creating a ‘SIS’ (Shop-in-Shop) model, which enables us to distribute this shelf space among our books. Similarly, we also provide all the best practices the traditional publishing firms have, i.e. good editing, proofing, cover designs, pagination, printing in bulk, aggressive pricing, media mentions, book events, book reviews and author interviews, to name a few,” Malini.

Similarly, Naveen mentions that they had tied up with 500 dealers for book distribution. “Cost of publishing a book comes down to one third the cost of self publishing with Notion. A self publisher would at least spend Rs 55,000 excluding the Reprinting cost of book. As an author one will have to invest in his book and we will co-invest with him. This will ensure that he is committed to the project and plays along with us for marketing and publicity related work,” shares Naveen.

While, Shalini adds, “Marketing is a maze of activities and baffling for a first time author. We have a three pronged strategy to help the author with marketing. First, we help the author de-clutter the marketing maze and arrive at marketing solutions that are most suited to his/her needs.

While doing so we keep in mind the author’s background, the book genre and the budget, based on which a marketing plan is drawn up. Second, we aid the marketing effort by offering various marketing aids such as developing a website, preparing a book trailer, etc. Last as with all publishing, it is the author’s responsibility to implement the plan, though we are always ready to guide and help.”

“Self-publishing is a nascent industry in India with limited awareness amongst the public. But this is gradually growing and would empower wouldbe authors to get their work published and make their voices heard. As literacy increases and disposable incomes rise, India will follow the same rapid growth trajectory that the Western world has followed,” concludes Shalini.

Best Indie books declared!

Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group has named the best indie books of 2015. The books are winners of the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the largest not-forprofit book awards programme for independent publishers and selfpublished authors. The winners and finalists were honored in New York during BookExpo America (May 27-29 2015).

The awards are judged by leaders of the indie book publishing industry, including many coming from long-standing careers with major publishing houses, to identify books that deserve to reach a wide audience. The term ‘indie’ traditionally refers to independent art – music, film, literature or anything that fits under the broad banner of culture – created outside of the mainstream and without corporate financing.

Independent book publishing companies are independent of the major conglomerates that dominate the book publishing industry. Indies include small presses, larger independent publishers, university presses, e-book publishers, and self-published authors. The top prize winning books in the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards are: Top Non-Fiction Books: First Place Winner ($1,500 Prize) – Thrown, by Kerry Howley (Sarabande Books); Second Place Winner ($750 Prize) – The Sky and Earth Touched Me, by Joseph Bharat Cornell (Crystal Clarity Publishers); Third Place Winner ($500 Prize) – The Wild Horse Dilemma, by Bonnie U. Gruenberg (Quagga Press); and Honorable Mention ($250 Prize) – The Beatles Encyclopedia: Everything Fab Four, by Kenneth Womack (Greenwood Press).

Top Fiction Books: First Place Winner ($1,500 Prize) – Topeka, ma ‘shuge, by Raymond Hutson (Gilliss Books); Second Place Winner ($750 Prize) – The Magdalene Mystery, by Christine Sunderland (OakTara Publishing); and Third Place Winner ($500 Prize) – River Talk, CB Anderson (C&R Press). In addition to the grand prize winners, top indie books were named as winners and finalists in 70 publishing categories ranging from Action/Adventure to Young Adult.

Entries are now being accepted for the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. The awards are open to fiction and nonfiction books released in 2014, 2015, or 2016 from independent authors and publishers worldwide.

New online bookstore for self-published works

Bocabel (www.bocabel.com) is the world’s first independent, all-inclusive online bookstore dedicated to self-published books. Self-published books, i.e. privately funded publications, represent the majority of books published annually around the world. There are many reasons why authors choose to self-publish their works, including a desire to maintain full authorial control over content; a preference to retain the lion’s share of sales revenue; or a wish to release an experimental or specialised work which, though worthy of publication, might not have ‘commercial’ appeal. Furthermore, as more and more mainstream publishing houses opt to ignore the work of previously unpublished authors, self-publishing is fast becoming the ‘norm’ rather than the exception as far as emerging writers are concerned.

Famous self-published authors include Walt Whitman, John Grisham, Michael J Sullivan and David Chilton.

The traditional difficulty with self-publishing has always been distribution – how do selfpublished authors sell their books? Bocabel solves this problem by allowing customers to purchase self-published works via a secure and easy-to-use online bookstore.

The brainchild of Australian publishing pro fes s iona ls John Power and Sam Constantopoulos, Bocabel is designed to connect authors and readers in a secure and user-friendly environment. Importantly, Bocabel introduces a fresh inventory of self-published books to mainstream markets – many books listed on Bocabel will not be available anywhere else.

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