Books

Write it, publish it

Go on, self-publish that book. Photo: Shaju John   | Photo Credit: Shaju John

All of us believe that we have something important to tell the world, but the idea of writing a book and publishing it sounds insane because, let us face it, what are the odds of a rookie author getting a book contract from a traditional publisher? Several years ago, first-time authors would have just given up their dreams. But, not anymore.

With the explosion of information technology, the publishing industry is being radically altered. As technology shrinks the world, you can put together a book as good as a traditional publisher.

Sanjay Maradi, a senior consultant for an IT company, wanted to write a book about how CEOs need CIOs more than ever. Maradi was tipped off by his friend (who wrote a book about IT outsourcing) about the restrictive atmosphere that an author has to negotiate in the world of publishing. “He had to be content with whatever he was provided with and be grateful for it. When I asked him why his book cover wasn’t good, he replied that he was given only two options and he had to pick one. If you are not a known name, that’s what you get. His experiences were enough for me to go at it alone,” he says.

While it took him three years to conceptualise and write the content, he knew that taking the traditional route wasn’t the way forward. He decided to try the world of self-publishing.

A space for writers

Once the decision was made, he did some research on the platforms offering self-publishing facilities. He found Naveen who, along with his two other friends, ran the self-publishing site, notionpress.com. This is a site which, from the looks of it, promises to make publishing easier and simpler than buying a movie ticket.

“When my friend (Bhargav) and I wanted to publish a technical book and approached traditional publishers, we were met with rejections. They didn’t want to do it because the content catered to a niche audience. We then started exploring the options for self-publishing and created our own publishing platform,” says Naveen, CEO of Notion Press.

Self-publishing is completely pro-author. Since the capital (and the risk that comes with it) is borne by the authors themselves, they have complete control over the content, publishing and marketing. In Maradi’s case, he roped in an editor from Australia, got a good designer to design the book cover and completed the book. Here comes the best part — self-published books allow the author to alter the content after the book is on sale.

How does this work? Self-published books are typically printed on demand. That is, if someone buys your book, it is printed and then shipped. Otherwise, only a digital version is uploaded. The advantage is that the book, based on feedback, can be reworked and replaced. “A CEO reviewed my book and gave me a few suggestions. I re-wrote some portions and replaced the old copy with the new one,” says Sanjay.

Many publishing houses, including Penguin Books, have co-opted self-publishing. But it has its own disadvantages. While a book lover wouldn’t want to spend money on a self-published book, the authors cannot, in most cases, match marketing budgets set aside by big publishing houses. Without support, the authors won’t be in a position to plan their book properly — without a good editor or a book designer, the book is likely to go south.

Here to stay

Despite this, publishers claim that self-publishing is a reality that will not go away. “Self-publishing is here to stay. It allows the author to sidestep the entire process of convincing the publisher of his/her book’s value. Also, traditional publishers are sometime hesitant to take risks. Self-publishing is the best bet for authors whose books may not conform to or suit the evaluation norms of publishing houses,” says Sandhya Sridhar, founder of Pageturn Publisher that publishes Indian romance novels.

Interestingly, two of the best selling books in recent times, The Immortals Of Meluha and 50 Fifty Shades Of Grey were self-published books, which were later picked up by traditional publishing houses.

Gautham Padmanabhan, CEO of Westland Publishers, is of the opinion that the impact of self-publishing will only be positive. Instead of making the traditional publishers obsolete, it will make the whole ecosystem of publishing more interesting. “While there is no doubt that self-publishing provides more freedom for the author who does not have to worry about the commercial potential of the book, we also need to understand that self-published authors have to depend on traditional publishing houses to reach the masses,” he says.

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Printable version | Nov 21, 2020 2:22:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/write-it-publish-it/article5325572.ece

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