By the book: Students are turning authors, with interesting results

Even if your title doesn’t sell big, it helps show future employers that you can commit, follow through, communicate well.

education Updated: Nov 17, 2017 19:32 IST

Whether you aim to be a doctor, engineer, PR executive or professional blogger, chances are you’ve thought — I think I could write a book.

A lot of students are turning that thought to action, writing and publishing or self-publishing books in an effort to add to their CVs, reflect their skills or just offer a reflection of who they are.

“The themes generally chosen by these young authors are romance and fantasy, mainly because most of them have grown up reading JK Rowling [author of the Harry Potter series],” says Anup Jerajani, publishing head at The Write Place, a platform set up by Crossword Bookstore to encourage aspiring writers and new voices.

Since 2015, The Write Place has published 10 books by students aged 13 to 17. “We receive manuscripts from students as young as age 9,” he says. “We are surprised by how confident these students are when submitting their manuscripts. And many of their books have gone through multiple reprints and have got fabulous reviews.”

Half Baked Beans, a Delhi-based publishing house established in January 2014, has also seen a rise in the number of manuscripts sent by students in the last two years. “We receive about 10 manuscripts a month, almost half of them are by students under 22. Earlier, we would receive one or two such manuscripts every quarter,” says founder Chetan Soni.

Romance was more or less the theme of Udita Pal’s debut novel, Adulterated Love. The 21-year-old mass-media graduate from Central University of Jharkhand, Ranchi, had the book published three years ago.

“I had always wanted to get a book out in my name,” she says, with a laugh. “So I wrote a 140-page story on the dark side of romantic relationships between young adults.” Pal then approached a publishing house she had worked with on a project.

“I was so afraid they would reject the book,” she says. “But they published it in November 2014. I did not have to pay, but I also had no right to earnings from it. For me, it was enough that my name was on the cover, and the story was out of my system.” Gargi publishers printed 2200 copies, of which over 1500 have sold so far.

Adulterated Love, in addition, gave Pal a USP. “During one interview for a job as a digital marketing executive, we spent almost an hour discussing my book-publishing experience. And I got the job,” she says.

Do it right

On marketing your book
  • Join social media groups dedicated to bloggers, reviewers, writers and book marketers to connect with the larger reading and writing community, which will help if you want feedback or promotion tips.
  • To build an image for your book, create a social media page. To market your book, use already established pages which have a dedicated following. For example, a single post on the Facebook page The Bookoholics would cost Rs 3,000-7,000 and reach around 50,000 potential readers.
  • Set a marketing budget. Whether it is self-publishing or traditional, the minimum cost comes up to Rs 25,000.
  • Build a strong social media profile as a potential writer on Tumblr or Quora before you release the book, to build a fan base.

No matter what career you opt for, having a well-written book in your name is always a CV highlight, says Mrinal Pandey, assistant vice-president at recruitment firm Catenon.

“It tells the recruiter that you have pursued a passion, found an unusual way of spending your leisure time, and have the ability to sell your work as you did to publishers and to readers.”

It can also reflect who you are and what matters to you. Nikita Raikwar, 23, for instance, wrote her book called Body Positivity: Tackling Negative Body Image, in her final year of college in 2015.

“I have been slightly overweight all my life and never let it become an issue,” she says. “I wanted to write a motivational book on loving your body. This is a self-help book based on the experiences I have had with body image issues over the years. It also has five accounts by friends who have faced the similar issues.”

Raikwar didn’t want to wait weeks or months for a traditional publisher to get on board. So she decided to self-publish via Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform in March 2016. This meant that she had no professional help with editing, marketing, or even proofreading and formatting.

“I did it all by myself and learned a lot through the process,” Raikwar says. “I even designed the book cover, using a copyright-free image and a Kindle cover creator template, a facility provided at the back end.”

The book has sold 430 copies so far and she has also received several messages on social media from people who have read the book.

She earned about Rs 15,000 and has found her experience very helpful in her career as a content writer with a book subscription company. “When people ask me what I do, and I mention I have authored a book, it immediately intrigues them. It is received with much admiration.”

Dos and don’ts

“A lot of young authors send us manuscripts which are just 3000 words long, which do not make a book,” says Anup Jerajani. “We suggest them to keep the word count between 30,000 words to 70,000 words.” He adds that a student should bear in mind cost of getting a book published. “The initial cost is higher because it involves printing, pre-press as well as logistics and marketing.”

Standing among the global fantasies was a dream of Nishant Muralidharan, 23, who now works as a digital marketer from Delhi. “I wrote the book Tempestatem, a fantasy novel, in eight months of engineering semesters and vacations. It was published in 2015,” he says. “Having sent it around 35 published, I received about 10 responses, and not all of them were positive. It was Vijay Nicole, an academic Publisher in Chennai, that picked it up. Facing rejection and managing the writing & editing process was mentally fatiguing to say the least.” The book has sold around 1100 copies, online and offline combined.

Now when Muralidharan looks back, he thinks that it was a mistake to rely too much on the publisher. “You need to market your book yourself.” He is planning to write the second part of the book now and market it better. “When it comes to jobs, the book’s helped me open a lot of conversations. I think it highlights me as a dedicated individual, capable of picking up a project and see it through from beginning to end.”

First Published: Nov 17, 2017 19:32 IST