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How to self-publish your book

books Updated: Oct 31, 2011 09:22 IST

AFP
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When Bhrigu Chadha finished writing his dark psychological tale of a metalhead, he knew the creative liberties he took won't fit in the editorial expanse of any publishing house. So instead of running around with his unconventional, unconvincing manuscript, the guitarist decided to be his own publisher.

That's self-publishing for you. Where there's no editor censoring your thoughts, almost no rejections of manuscripts, you retain the translation rights, control the price of the book, number of copies, the cover and everything else that lies in between.

But all this comes at a price -- the price of printing the book.

A popular concept in the US, self-publishing industry in India is on a rapid rise thanks to the collective dreams of Chadha and Co., who want their work published at any cost.

The model works on the premise that there's no publisher. There are firms like Cinnamon Teal, Pothi.com and Power Publishers which, unlike regular printing presses, can print you as few copies as you want, starting with one.

They scrutinise your manuscripts, screen out those bordering on pornography or the ones utterly indecipherable, offer you editorial and design services and print as many copies as you want. You pay for everything, they charge a nominal fee.

Bangalore-based Chadha, who took four years to write his first book, says he wanted to do something "different, intellectual, with my own signature on it. I've been hugely inspired by Christopher Nolan, his unconventional storytelling in 'Inception'.

"There are three voices in my book. A dead musician, his wife and the author. The narration keeps shifting between them," Chadha, a marketing executive-cum-musician, told IANS.

Afraid that a publishing house would want him to tweak the storyline to adhere to the unspoken publishing protocol and in the process render it commercial, he shelled out some Rs.25,000 to get his book ready and another Rs.18,000 for printing 100 copies.

However, it can cost you much less as well. For instance at Power Publishers, you can get 40 copies of your book in just Rs.12,000.

While Chadha went for self-publishing so as not to compromise on his creative freedom, Sayantan Gupta, a doctor, got his poem collection published from Power Publishers for altogether different reasons.

"I'm already working on a novel which I want a reputed publisher to back. So to show some printed material to the publishers, I got 'Where the Rainbow Ends' self-published," said Gupta, 66.

Then there's Gurgaon-based Sitaram who knocked at almost every publisher's door for his study of the real estate industry, "The Whistleblower".

"They rejected it for one reason or another. Some said it doesn't fit in their profile, some said they are too burdened. Then I approached Cinnamon Teal and got a book in my hand in six months flat," Sitaram said.

The author himself edited the book some 40 times before opting for Cinnamon's editing service.

"Big names don't guarantee success; content does. No one knows what will click with the readers," he adds.

According to Pinaki Ghosh, CEO of Kolkata-based Power Publishers, 60 percent of his clients are below 25.

"Then there are corporate hot-shots secretly nursing a dream of writing a book. They are very dignified and have lots of money and don't like it when their manuscripts are rejected," said Pinaki.

There is also a category of authors whose works have a very narrow market. "These books are usually education-related or something technical," Pinaki told IANS on phone from Kolkata.

The three-year-old company has done 70 titles till date while Goa-based Cinnamon Teal has done 160 in its four years of existence.

But, according to Cinnamon's Leonard Fernandes, the self-publishing industry's size is very small in India.

"Abroad, they do 1,000 titles per week. Here, we do just one every day though the industry is growing at the rate of 100 percent every year," Fernandes, who runs the company with his wife, told IANS.

According to him, the biggest challenge of self-publishing is marketing and distribution, a view seconded by Anuj Bahri of Bahrisons bookstore in Delhi.

"We don't stock these books because we can't deal with individual authors. It becomes hugely difficult to manage the accounts that way," he said.

Due to this very reason, self-published books seldom reach bookstores. But they do make it to online stores like uread.com and Flipcart.

As for marketing, the onus lies with the author as to how much time and money he's willing to spend.

Like Chadha, who has been advertising through Facebook. "I've also tied up with a few distributors to sell my book at concerts and shows," he says.