Don’t get confused by the title. I am simply trying to give in to my urge of writing the sequel for Now, Returned to India. Actually, not one, not two, but three sequels. And thanks to Camp Nanowrimo, work on the first one is under way. Noe you might ask, why a four part series? It so happened that as I was working on the first novel, a few other ideas kept pouring in, and somehow they involved most of the characters I was already working on. The plots are interesting, and I hope to complete atleast two of the sequels by the end of the year. Ambitious, I agree, considering that the first novel took two and a half years.
I am also using this opportunity to give a couple of updates: I will be on vacation next week, so I will not be posting on the blog for nearly 10 days for now. Some may call it a blessing, as they will be spared the torture of reading what I write. For those who think otherwise, I am excited to inform you of a new blog that I am setting up. More on that later. till then, happy reading/ writing/ writing about reading, or reading about writing – as per your preference.
Next Friday, the movie 2 States, which is based on Chetan Bhagat’s bestselling novel, will hit the theaters in India and rest of the world. And that has lad to few news articles and blog posts that talk about the phenomenon of movies that are based on books. I read somewhere that film rights for books is the Holy Grail for authors. I call it scaling the Everest of bookwriting. The reason is as follows: since 2004, only about 1 in 5,000 fiction books that have been published in India has been made into movies. In other words, only a handful of authors have scaled this ‘summit’.
As I began my research to arrive at the above figure, I read several blog posts, looked up on IMDB and news articles. In particular, this blog post and this one were quite informative. Wikipedia also has a list of Indian movies that are based on books. I think some of the information needs to be updated, which I plan to do shortly. It appears that less than 20 films released between 2004 and 2013 were based on books, if one excludes the books for which films rights were purchased, or moves that are under production.
Next, I looked at the market for book publishing in India. The table below shows that between 90,000 and 100,000 titles or books are published in India every year. This includes fiction and nonfiction titles in English, Hindi, and regional languages such as Marathi, Bengali, Tamil, and others.
*I have assumed that these numbers are for 2012 because the publication does not specify the year.
Nobody has so far made a movie on “How to lose 10 pounds in 30 days”; or “How to prepare for the Civil Services Exam.” In other words, one needs to exclude nonfiction other than biographies and books based on historical events. I came across some reports that nearly 10,000 biographies or fiction books are published in India every year. Based on these figures, one can say that about 1 in 5,000 fiction books published in India every year is made into films.
You may ask why do I like to convert everything into numbers and ratios? I think that is a good way to keep oneself grounded. Simply put, I may have to write 5,000 fiction novels if I ever hope of seeing my novel ever made into a movie in India. That is, unless I am one of the writers whose multiple books have been made into movies: Shakespeare, Sharatchandra Chattopadhyay, Munshi Premchand, and more recently, Chetan Bhagat. It is noteworthy that 3 movies (and counting) that have released in the past decade are based on Chetan Bhagat’s books.Statistically speaking, this should not have happened, but it did!
Note that I have written this post not to promote 2 states, but because this book has a special place in my heart. During our courtship period some years ago, my wife had recommended that I should read this book. After all, we were going to spend the first year of our married life in IIM Ahmedabad. The flip side is that according to my wife, it was the only time that I ever followed her recommendation. Now that is a story for another post. Or several posts.
In my previous post, I had mentioned that I had compiled some data on the Top 20 English language fiction/nonfiction books that were listed on the online bookstores in India. Towards the end of the post, I had also listed down a few questions that arose as I saw the results of my work. These are mere observations, and not trends for the industry, and I do not claim to be an expert when I try and answer those questions.
But before that, how does the raw data look like? I am posting a screenshot of the sample data I collected:
a. Which category of books is selling more: Fiction, or Nonfiction?
This came as a surprise to me. I have been informally scanning the top selling books on the websites, particularly, Flikpart, Amazon.in and Infibeam over the past year and the top selling books have mostly been in the fiction category. One possible reason why nonfiction books feature so prominently across the sites is as follows. Most of these books are study guides for competitive guides, and the season for bank officers, civil services and other competitive exams is round the corner. This could be a seasonal factor, and in a few months’ time, say by end of May, one may see fewer nonfiction books.
b. What is the ratio for number of fiction: non-fiction books sold?
In the above image, there is a ratio for number of Fiction and the Non Fiction Books that are sold (F:NF). For print book, this ratio stands at 0.82, that is, 8 out of the top 20 selling books on Amazon.in as on 28th March were in the Fiction category. This ratio varies depending on the site, and the format of the book (print versus ebook). For example, the F:NF ratio is 1 for print books on Flipkart and Crossword. On the other hand, this ratio is 2.33 on Google Play store, implying that more number of fiction ebooks are sold on that site than nonfiction. Conversely, on Infibeam, nonfiction books outsold fiction books by a ratio of 5:1.
c. Do the same books figure across the stores in these lists?
While I did not track this information specifically, the answer is that in case of fiction, one can see the same names, particularly books by Amish Tripathi and Chetan Bhagat. Books by other authors such as Rashmi Bansal also figure prominently. In case of nonfiction, the study guides for a couple of competitive exams were seen in the top 20 lists for print books across multiple sites. In some cases, the sellers have discounted the price that may have caused a particular book to figure in the top 20 list.
c. What were the number of pages for these books?
I felt this question was a little difficult to answer because of two reasons. In general, nonfiction books, particularly study guides, seem to have a higher page count (average of 500 pages) compared to fiction (average page count: 325). I was surprised by the 200 plus page count for fiction, because I believed that a typical fiction book in the romance/ YA category would range between 200 and 250 pages. The higher average could be because the mythology books (particularly by Amish) and historical fiction tend to have a higher page count.
d. How many comments/ stars has the book received. Do they play a role in the sale of the books?
The short answer is Yes. For print books sold on Amazon for example, the average number of reviews for a top 20 selling book was 65 (fiction & NF combined), while the average rating was 4.4 stars. Similarly for the ebooks sold on Google Play store, the number of reviews was 357,while the average rating was 3.8. Am I probably stating the obvious here!
e. Do self published books figure in the top 20 selling books?
The answer in this case, unfortunately, is No. Across every site, irrespective of the type of book or the format (print or ebook), only the boos published by traditional publishers figures in the top 20 selling list. Does that mean that a self published author cannot crack the Top 20 charts? Time will only tell. The other implication here could be that for a non-Indian author who is trying to sell their books in India and aspire to make it to the charts, self publishing-only might need a re-think. For those thinking of higher royalty earnings, this also could be the way to go. For example, a 200 age fiction book is listed for more than 750 Rupees (12.5 dollars) on one of the sited. This book has been published by a US based publisher, and they have probably retained the pricing across the globe. Of course, we are talking about an author who has sold many. many books till date. (Update: The selling price for this book has been discounted to 420 Rupees or 7 Dollars now).
f. Are there any other trends or patterns that show up?
I have put together this section to distract you, the reader, from the disappointing news posted above. I am going to post some random pieces of information here for you to digest.
*How long has it been since these top 20 selling books were published?
Is it logical to assume that the books meant to help in preparation for competitive exams were published in recent months. But for fiction, some of the top selling books go as far as 2011. One reason for these books to figure on the list could be because they have been deeply discounted, often to the extent of 60 percent of the MRP.
*I ask again, what about ebooks?
Average MRP of an ebook on Google Play store was 80 Rupees, or nearly a Euro at the current exchange rate. On the far end of the spectrum, the MRP of a Adobe ebook on Landmark was almost the same as a print book, and in some cases, twice the price of a print book. Average MRP of ebooks on Amazon was Rs. 74, or a 1.25 US Dollars, but that is largely because six or seven books from the Ron Fry series figure on the top 20 list. Each book is priced at 4 Rupees (less than 10 cents). Udpate: Amazon has updated the list on the day I am posting this blog.
As for nook and ibooks or other formats- sorry I didn’t look into them because nook isn’t available in India yet, and market for ibooks is very small. Flipkart do have their proprietary ebook format, and I did not look into it in detail. And then we have the new member to the party, Kobo. They have a tie up with Corssword, and I thought that their new titles are priced on the higher side, with their top 20 selling books priced at an average of 211 Rupees. I hope to discuss with the folks at Kobo about this in the near future.
*If the print version of a book is in the Top 20 list, does it mean its ebook version will also be in the list?
Not necessary. This may be true for Indian fiction books which were published an year ago or older, but not for majority of the newer fiction titles and certainly not for nonfiction books. For books by foreign authors, ebook versions of their new titles are available, but the need not figure in the top 20 list.
*Have you covered all the major online stores which sell books in India?
I wrote these posts with a simple intention of sharing with you, the readers, what I found.
*What about the market for Non-English Books?
It is true that the market for non-english books in India is much bigger than that for english books, and I hope to follow up with a similar work for books in Hindi and Marathi, the two languages that I am fluent in. Possibly Gujarati, which I can read as well. But for other languages, I would encourage others to come up with similar analysis so that others may also benefit. I have the greatest respect for regional language books, and I am posting ths image below to highlight why regional language books matter.
A few weeks ago, I heard a podcast by Joanna Penn in which she interviewed author Minal Hajratwala. A part of the discussion dealt with the ebooks, self publishing, and particularly pricing for the Indian market. The issue of pricing for the Indian market was also discussed by Joanna during her interview in the Self Publishing Podcast (I have been a silent listener of both these podcasts so far). I had been thinking of this issue myself, because I am exploring the option of self publishing Now, Returned to India. Let me also note that I have sent the final manuscript to a traditional publisher and am awaiting their response, which may take a few more months.
While investigating the market for self publishing in India, I came across a few sites which had guides or calculators for pricing self published books. (For example: Notionpress, a self publishing company, has a royalty calculator that gives the suggested Maximum Retail Price (MRP) based on the type of the print book (Paperback/Hardcover), size of the book, and number of pages. You can find it here. Note that I have no affiliation with Notionpress, except that my fellow alum and author Anirban Das self published his book through them recently.
Coming back to the topic, bookstores often mark down the prices in terms of discounts or bundle them with other books every now and then. Then there is the problem of piracy. For example, a street peddler may sell a book for a third of what a bookstore sells it for. Therefore, a royalty calculator alone might not be a good indicator to determine how to price a book. That got me thinking: is there a different indicator that one can use? As I gathered more and more information, a few questions kept cropping up in my mind. What type of books sell the most in bookstores, both online and offline? What is the typical price of these books? What is the number of pages? And finally, what about ebooks?
In order to find answers to these questions, I scanned the top 20 bestselling books on the websites of the following stores in India. In alphabetical order: Amazon.in, Crossword, Infibeam, Flipkart, Google Play, and Landmark bookstores. I also looked at the pricing for ebooks on Kobo, I went through Crossword bookstores site for this purpose. Based on this information, I have developed a table that lists the MRP per page across these stores for the print books as well as eBooks. Also,I have tried to arrive at the median prices for MRP per page for fiction and ebooks based on the information available. I hope that this will will be helpful to those of you who are looking to sell their books written in English in the Indian market.
What does this table mean?
As an example let us consider a fiction book of nearly 300 pages. On an average, a this book has a MRP of Rupees 255 (300 *0.85). If we consider the median, the same fiction book should cost Rs. 234 (0.78*234). The ebook version of this book would be around half that price at Rupees 133. I have included both the average and the median price because of the large variation in the price of the ebooks across the stores, depending on the format of the book. This data only provides some guideline for pricing the English languages books in the Indian market, and should be treated as an indicator and not as an absolute.
Fiction may include Romance/Humor/Satire/Literary fiction/ Mythology or Historical fiction, while nonfiction includes everything else. While this could be an over generalization, and I am sure some purists may not agree with my approach, please note that this is the first time I conducted such an exercise. As I learn more about the book publishing market in India, I might add more categories in subsequent studies.
Let me also clarify a few things up front. I have based the results on the data that I obtained from the websites of online/physical bookstores. While I do not have the sales figures, it is reasonable to assume that sale of books from online bookstores is a very small percentage of the total number of books sold in India. Also note that I have looked at books in the English language only. The market for books in local languages is much larger than the market for English language books.I have also not discussed it with the folks who are in the business- representatives of the publishers, category heads for online booksellers, etc. I plan to do a similar review in the coming months, and will try and get their views to make this effort more worthwhile for the readers. And finally, I had to use my judgement for compiling the list of top 10 selling books each in fiction and nonfiction in a few cases (e.g. Crossword Bookstores, which did not rank its top selling books).
I have also not listed the names of the books, author or the publishers in the compilation. I did this for two reasons: first of all, I manually entered the data into a spreadsheet, since I am not savvy enough to automate the process via writing software for it. (If someone is willing to help me on that front, I will be glad to take their help!) Secondly, the titles in this list are likely to change with time. But I believe that the the ratios are likely to stay the same range. These ratios include: MRP per page, MRP per page (fiction), MRP per page (ebook), ratio of fiction:nonfiction books, etc. Of these, the last ration (fiction:nonfiction) may change in three to four months’ time, I will explain in my subsequent post why this could be the case.
At each store, I looked up the following information
a. Which category of books is selling more: Fiction, or Nonfiction?
b. What was the MRP of the book?
c. What were the numbers of pages for these books?
d. How many comments/ stars has the book received? Do they play a role in the sale of the books?
e. Do self published books figure in the top 20 selling books?
f. Are there any other trends or patterns that show up when we look at the data? For example – recency factor: how long has it been since these books were published? Which author’s books figure the most on these lists? Also, in fiction category, which types of books figure the most, etc?
In order to keep this post as brief as possible, I will upload the detailed report tomorrow where I discuss the findings and try and answer the questions posed above.
I have considered the MRP for books because the selling price may vary from store to store. Moreover, there may be a transaction cost involved that may extend beyond the MRP or the selling price. For example, the time and effort cost of visiting a physical bookstore, or shipping charges applied to a book when buying from an online bookstore.
For the same book, the MRP per page may vary for different formats of the ebook (epub versus mobi,etc.). Whenever I was able to compile this information, I did go ahead and add it to my results.
For the past two weeks I have been experiencing a very nasty back ache, which has caused me to stay away from posting on this blog. But I am working on a very exciting assignment right now- will post the findings of my work this Thursday.
Before I add anything further, here are a few updates- March brought two negatives : Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and the DNA/Hachette Hunt for the Next Bestseller. And while I await the final verdict from a publisher on the manuscript, I have also been exploring the self publishing route very seriously. And that’s what my “exciting assignment” is about.