From keeping track of sales to raking in the moolah with high royalties, self-published writers have plenty of reasons for going solo...
We were sceptical at first. “But won’t you miss the smell of old books or the joy of pressing pretty flowers between the pages of your favourite novel?” we asked. As Gulzar writes in one poem, what of asking for books, dropping them or picking them up as excuses for forging relationships with complete strangers? (“magar woh jo kitabon mein milaa karte thay sookhay phool, kitabein maangne, giraanay, uthaane kay bahaane rishtey bante thay, unkaa kyaa hogaa, wo shayad ab nahi hongey). “How will we write profound love notes and advice on books we give as gifts?”
The pragmatists gave us their reasons. “Technology is the way forward; think of all the space you will be saving at home/office.” How unromantic, real estate as the trade off for books.
Slowly, however, reasons for embracing e-readers like Amazon’s Kindle are emerging. “Think of all the trees we can save,” they say. True. And here’s another compelling one: for the sake of discovering interesting writers who are publishing exclusively on these e-readers. There is a quiet revolution apparently and we may lose out on reading some good books if we don’t catch up now, we hear.
Ok, here’s a compromise. How about, we keep our libraries and book shelves filled with novels, poetry, memoirs and magazines, while also peeking at these new-age e-readers every once in a while, to read what emerges in the future?
And here are four of Amazon India’s biggest successes explaining to the reader, why they chose to self-publish through Kindle Direct Publishing.
Ranked among the 50 most popular authors in the “Mind Body and Spirit” section by Amazon USA consistently for the last year and with over a quarter million books downloaded in the last 14 months on Amazon Kindle, Sri Vishwanath is among the best examples of Kindle Direct Publishing platform’s success in India. The 42-year-old cost accountant and company secretary, born and brought up in Mumbai, lived and worked in the United States. At 33, he came back to Mumbai leaving a job in the United States to venture into book writing.
“I had no clue about the book industry yet was very keen to get to the top tier in the spiritual/transformational book league,” he says. Vishwanath has written 13 books in the last seven years. Of the 13 books, titles such as Give Up Your Excess Baggage: 24 Simple Mind Exercises That Great Men & Women Effectively Use Every Single Day, The Power of Visualization - Meditation Secrets That Matter the Most, Seven Common Signs of A Spiritual Awakening have seen great response. His latest book is titled Stolen Idol.
“I have had over 500 reviews combined for my books in Amazon USA. So the response has been phenomenal,” says Vishwanath. “Like everyone else I went through traditional publishers initially but simultaneously also explored the self-publishing route. I kept writing books got close to securing big deals with a New York publisher but for some reason or the other the deal would not come through in the end. Eight years later, after completing 13 transformational titles I uploaded all my books on Amazon Kindle two years back. And readers in United States, UK and other countries loved it,” says a proud Vishwanath.
Ask him why he chose Kindle and pat comes the answer: “They have the simplest system for self-publishing. You can upload your book in less than five minutes if you have all the details and it gets published in less than 12 hours. They have got internal traffic as millions of Kindle users search for books.”
Vishwanath has even helped his son Vignesh publish on the platform. “He is 13 years old and wanted to publish a book. He had collected quotes of Vivekananda, Ramana Maharishi and others. He put it all together and we put it up on kindle. I never did any promotion other than helping with the title. He has sold over 600 books which is great,” he says.
Parvathi is a full time writer, professional book critic and now author of a fantasy novel The Grove of the Sun. “Writing, especially imaginative fiction, has always been a passion for me since I was a little girl,” she says. Born in Thiruvananthapuram, she began school in Los Angeles and has since then lived in Cochin, Hyderabad, Jaipur and Bangalore. The Bangalore-based author is also the granddaughter of noted Malayalam litterateur V. Madhavan Nair (Mali).
“My book, The Grove of the Sun, is a standalone high fantasy novel, unique in its setting and approach. It has Indian elements that are not drawn from mythology. It is about Order and Chaos in the whimsical land of Chimera, and one man’s discovery that all that he’s believed about his homeland may not be the truth after all,” says Parvathi. It took her over seven years to research, write and edit The Grove of the Sun.
“Fantasy, especially one that is not based on mythology, is relatively new in India,” she explains. Since the genre is new to India and the response of traditional publishers was lukewarm, Parvathi decided to go with KDP. “The Kindle store has worldwide reach. It gave me an opportunity to present my book to an international audience with a single upload. The book is available in India, the US and UK, Australia, Canada, and many more countries. There are also no extra costs nor any middlemen involved, and as a whole, it is a quick and attractive way to market my writing,” she adds.
About the response to the book Parvathi says, “It’s been pretty good so far. I’ve had interviews and great reviews in newspapers and magazines, as well as blogs, from readers and critics in India and abroad.”
Rasana Atreya, who holds a Masters in Computer Engineering, worked in IT for a few years until the yearning to be a writer got too strong to ignore. “I started off with technical writing and later moved on to freelancing for newspapers,” she says.
“My first book is about superstition, our (Indian) obsession with the colour of one's skin, and the power of manipulation. This novel came about because Indian television is overrun with advertisements from manufacturers of fairness creams that promise everything from good grades to nirvana, if only you use their particular brand of product. This annoyed me enough to I wrote out a tagline -
Fairness Creams: Finding Solutions to Life's Vexing Problems, One Application at a Time. Then I proceeded to write a novel around it. I worked on it for three years,” she says. The manuscript of her book Tell a Thousand Lies was also shortlisted for an award.
“I chanced upon the Tibor Jones South Asia award in 2012. This award was unusual in that they were asking for unpublished manuscripts. Getting shortlisted for this prize by Amit Chaudhuri and Urvashi Butalia did wonders for my self-confidence. I'd also been watching self-publishing stars Amanda Hawking and Joe Konrath,” she adds. Rasana wanted to self-publish but was quite nervous about it. “Around that time I was also offered a publishing contract by a publishing house. Ironically enough, it was these two things (the award and contract) that gave me the confidence to strike out on my own.”
She chose to self publish because, she says, many, authors - mid-list writers, not necessarily superstars - are making a living solely off of Amazon. “And their 70 per cent royalties don't hurt,” she adds. And her book has been received very well by readers, she insists. “It was much more than I'd hoped or expected. I've received fan mail from places as varied as Mexico and Pakistan. I've had people request me to ramp up my writing speed because they can't wait for my next novel. My book has been well reviewed on Amazon and Goodreads with a combined 300 reviews on these sites.”
“Since my book has been doing consistently well, the Jaipur and Hyderabad Literary festivals invited me to be part of their panels in 2013,” she adds. Rasana, who has also helped her daughter self-publish,
explains that the beauty of self-publishing lies in the fact that you can track your sales by the hour. You can tell exactly how many people have bought your book, and from which country. You can also track exactly how much royalties you've earned each month.” On some months she has also sold more than 1,000 books online.
Ajay Jain is a full-time writer, journalist and photographer based in Delhi. He has written travel books like Peep Peep Don’t Sleep, and other titles such as Super Brand You.
“I initially published on KDP as that was the only major e-publishing platform. More importantly, Amazon ensured there were no barriers from day one. You could be an author, an independent or a big publisher, and you could be anywhere in the world - it allowed you to upload and list the book without any fuss. You could even decide your own pricing. Even after all these years, KDP remains an easy to publish platform,” he explains.
Ajay also enlists the fact that despite e-reading catching on fast, Kindle continues to remain a popular e-reading device/app. “I am also able to tap into an international audience, set prices in multiple currencies and also vary the same according to the purchasing power of various markets,” he explains, “In a nutshell, the distribution and simplicity of the platform ensures there are minimum barriers for publishers, authors and readers to come together.”
Ajay says that the response has been terrific to his books. “I was pleasantly surprised to see a deep penetration in the Indian market,” he says.