Self-publishing is opening up avenues for Tamil writers to shine

The emergence of platforms like Kindle Direct Publishing has created opportunities for aspiring authors writing in regional languages

Updated - November 12, 2019 12:00 pm IST

Published - November 12, 2019 10:18 am IST

(From left) Pa Raghavan, C Saravanakarthikeyan, Cable Sankar and Vaishali Aggarwal at the panel discussion

(From left) Pa Raghavan, C Saravanakarthikeyan, Cable Sankar and Vaishali Aggarwal at the panel discussion

Senthil Balan always had a penchant for writing.

A doctor, who practises in Muscat, Balan could neither afford the time nor focus his energies towards gleaning the attention of traditional publishing houses, considering the exacting nature of his profession. So, he logged in to Amazon and self-published his book through the global e-commerce giant’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform.

Earlier this year, Balan was picked as one of the winners of KDP’s Pen to Publish contest for his self-published book, Parangi Malai Irayil Nilaiyam (St Thomas Mount Railway Station), part of a series of books based on the character he created, Detective Karthick Aldo. “Five years ago, I wouldn’t have believed if someone told me that an NRI like me could be a published author and reach millions of readers,” says Balan, in a recorded message played at a panel discussion, put together by Amazon KDP.

The programme discussed how the evolution of online publishing platforms has opened up lucrative avenues for Tamil language authors. Says Vaishali Aggarwal, head, Amazon KDP — India, “KDP is an easy way to publish and has led to a more diverse set of voices telling their stories to people.”

There has been a considerable increase in demand for these texts. “At least 10 out of 100 trending Kindle e-books are self-published ones. The numbers are higher when it comes to Tamil, and this shows that the reader is open to experimenting,” adds Vaishali.

Writer and filmmaker Cable Sankar, who was one of the panellists, noted that the emergence of avenues similar to KDP has broken the notion that only famous names could publish books in Tamil. “It has also taken away the fear of publishing costs from the author,” he says.

Noted Tamil language author Pa Raghavan concurs with Sankar and adds, “There is a high readership for fiction-based books on KDP. But the demand for fiction books exceeded my expectation. For example, one of my 1200-page novels, which was published by a prominent publishing house, took about eight months to sell 600 paperback copies. When I put it up on Kindle, it sold more than 1,000 copies in less than two months.”

What publishing on KDP offers to these authors is a crack at an eager readership. “It is an unmeasured pool of audience,” says Vaishali. KDP pays royalties per sale of each book that starts at 35% and could rise all the way to 70%. While Amazon refrains from sharing exact numbers, the e-commerce giant draws from a royalty pool of $15-16 million to pay the self-published authors on its KDP platform, says Vaishali.

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Not only can the payouts be handsome, it also opens up newer opportunities. Vaishali picks out the success story of writer Sundari Venkatraman. With about 41 self-published titles to her name, Sundari was invited to the recently-held Jio MAMI Mumbai film festival, where she was offered an opportunity to pitch her books as content for film production houses.

C Saravanakarthikeyan, another panellist, opines that while this development is encouraging, it has also kick-started a trend where writers stick to the genres of mystery, thriller and fiction. Authors are publishing only content that will appeal to filmmakers or digital streaming service providers, who would want to adapt it for the visual medium.

This year’s Pen to Publish contest too has the option of the winner earning a chance to get their book adapted into a web series by Amazon. But Vaishali defers.

“We have only brought in this option to create awareness among budding writers. We will not always have this. It is just to encourage writers who have been sitting on the fence for years with their content, and push them to get it published within a timeframe,” she adds.

The third edition of Pen to Publish contest is currently open till December 14. Entries are invited in all genres from Tamil, Hindi and English languages.

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