Now, Available on Amazon in India!

Last week, my printer delivered 250 print copies of NRI:Now, Returned to India to the Amazon fulfillment center near New Delhi. I was excited, but my excitement was short lived. Turns out that one part of their inventory system acknowledges that the copies are available, but the other says that some information is missing. Nearly 5 days of contacting the Seller support folks has yielded no results till now.

Edited:

So as of now, I am happy to say that till the time issue gets resolved, my book is almost available on Amazon in India.

Super excited! I will summarize my journey to becoming a self published author in the Indian market in a few future posts..thank you all those who have been witnesses, supporters, participants and fellow travelers in my journey.

 

 

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Updates: Print Book, Nanowrimo and Sequel

As we approach the middle of November, it is getting a little challenging to hit my goal for nanowrimo: I am writing the sequel to NRI: Now, Returned to India. Which also means that I have had to cut down on other writing, and somehow, I was unable to post on this blog fell into that bucket. I have learnt that bureaucrats refer to such errors as “administrative lapse.”

Lapses, or oversight aside, it is time for me to voice my concerns, share my updates and learn from the readers’ experiences, and the best way to do all of that is to write this post. So here goes…

First and foremost, I am very excited to announce that the print version of NRI:Now, Returned to India is available on Amazon. After several weeks of redrafts, edits and adding new content, one fine day, I was finally able to get the book released. In a subsequent post, I will write about my experience with both Kindle Direct Publishing and Createsapce. My wife (who is managing the marketing and the release of the book in India) has finalized a printer and we are in the last steps of finalizing the distribution of the book. More on that in a subsequent post.

Three things really delayed the publishing of the print version of the book, and that hurt us quite a bit. First of all, I was not happy with the editing. I hired an editor who charged top dollar, but the output was far from satisfactory. And that meant re-visiting the whole process: look for an editor, finalize them, send the manuscript, rounds of review, etc.). Secondly, we moved to Bengaluru, something that I have mentioned in the past. A career move at the most unexpected time really threw our publishing plans out of gear. And last but not the least, we are yet to get an ISBN from the National Agency for ISBN in India – even after applying four times over the past six months. In subsequent posts, I will write about copyright and ISBN so that others may benefit from my experience, rather, avoid the kind of mistakes that I have made.

As the year draws to a close, I would like to throw a few ideas on which I plan to write my subsequent posts in this blog.

a. Copyright process in India

b. Getting the ISBN in India (there is quite a bit of information available on this on the Internet, I would specifically like to share my experience)

c. KDP and Createspace- experience of a self published author from India (and tax implications!)

d. Printing, Pricing, Distribution of books – the DIY way.

e. Time travel- my path to becoming a self published author.

f. Guest posts. I think a new ‘voice’ will add both some spice and bring some fresh air to my blog. Volunteers are welcome!

g. And finally, a quick update on the MRP per page index for the last six months of the year.

I hope that the above schedule will keep you interested in my blog, and more importantly, you will find the future posts relevant and informative. In the meantime, Happy Reading, and for those of us who are aiming to hit the 50,000 word target this month, Happy Writing!

150 books as Royalty Payment

Well, sort of.

But first, my apologies – I have not posted on this blog for nearly a fortnight. But yesterday, a phone conversation prompted me to write this post.

I had a very interesting discussion with Dr. Sujata Niyogi, author of seven books on numerology. She is also a consultant, advisor and an expert on all things numbers. She got her PhD at the very young age of 70 (yes, you read that correctly), and published her first book when she was nearly 75. She is working on her eighth book. I am proud to add that she happens to be my aunt.

The reason I am writing about her is twofold. First of all, I am amazed by the amount of effort she puts into research. She spends several hours in the library every day researching. Now some may say- reading books in a library in order to write books: Isn’t that a dying art? Isn’t that old school? Why not simply google it up? But as she told me,

“I am not that technology savvy. I prefer going to the library every day, taking notes, and then compiling this information into the first draft. Then, I have someone type it out for me in Marathi. Following a few rounds of reviews, I send the manuscript off to publishers.”

Marathi, my native language, is spoken largely in the state of Maharashtra in India. With 73  million speakers, there are more Marathi speakers than the entire population of United Kingdom.  Marathi happens to be one of the most vibrant markets for publishing in India, with several bestselling authors who have evoked interested in the printed word for generations.I will write more about the  Marathi book publishing industry in a later post.

Coming back to the topic: 150 books as Royalty.

Dr. Niyogi asked me about what sort of royalty I was expecting for my novel, and then went on to tell me her experience with traditional publishing. For example, her publisher took nearly two years  to publish her first book after she had submitted her manuscript. And the first royalty check came a year after the book was released. Three years to see the first check is a long time. She also mentioned that there was very little transparency in the process. For example, one had to rely solely on the publishers’ sales figures, and it was difficult to verify them independently. Moreover, the author has no control on the reprints. And then one has to follow up with the publishers multiple times to get the money. In other words, the system is heavily leaning in favor of the publisher. Some of this may obviously be known to many of you, so no surprises here.

But to counter this problem, Dr. Niyogi summed up in one line:

“Ask your publisher for a check up front for an amount that is equal to the selling price of 150 books.”

In other words, if the selling price (MRP) is Rs. 100, you ask for a royalty check of Rs. 15,000. If the MRP is Rs. 200, you ask for Rs. 30,000 and so forth. While these are very small amounts, and will hardly enable writing as a career option, her method will make sure that the writer does not lose money in the process.

Dr. Niyogi spends nearly 2 months per book on research. A visit to the library costs her Rs. 200 in commuting costs. Assuming 20 visits to the library every month, the cost of commute amounts to: 200*20*2 = Rs. 8,000

The person who types out the first draft charges nearly Rs. 6,000. In other words, the amount of money Dr. Niyogi spends up front for every book is:

8,000 + 6,000 = Rs. 14,000.

If one relies on the royalty received from sale of books for recovering this investment, one may have to wait for three years or even longer. But remember, it may take more than three years to recover the up front investment, because the royalty depends on the sales of the books, and sometimes the books may not sell at all.

Then we must also re-visit what we learnt in our financial literacy classes. Had this money been invested at say at 10 percent interest rate compounded annually for three years, the 14,000 rupees would have become nearly Rs. 18,600.

For a first print run of 1,000 books, and a MRP of Rs. 200, you get your 30,000 Rupees, and you don’t have to worry about the timelines, follow ups, compound interest or any other issue related to royalty payments. So while you wait for your book sales to take off, the 150 book principle can come to your rescue.

Sequels and a Four Part Series

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.

How did I approach beta readers to review my novel?

Earlier this week,  a writer and fellow blogger asked me how did I approach my reviewers. At the same time, I heard on the most recent show of Simon’s Rocking Self Publishing Podcast that probably 20 is a good number of beta readers to have. This got me thinking: How did I actually do it? Over the past several months, I had been so enamored by the novel that it is quite likely that I must have told anybody and everybody who cared to listen. And that probably got a lot of people interested to read Now, Returned to India during the interview.

Coming back to the question: When and where did I approach the reviewers?

In my case, the book reviews took place in two phases. The first phase was from June to September 2013, when I only sent the first one or two chapters to over 30 readers. My starting point was the tried and tested method- largely friends and family. I also approached few readers from my alumni or professional network, but the majority of the reviewers were “cold calls”. It so happened that my wife and I had set up a food stall for nearly a week in September at a fair. While she was getting the orders ready, I pitched the book to the customers or other who were simply curious to know what we had to offer. I had prepared a bunch of leaflets that told the prospective reviewer about the book, and also had a tearaway for people to write their names and contact details. I managed to get more than 30 reviewers this way. It was an interesting experience to say the least! 

Response rate
Beta readers’ feedback

The second phase began in January, when I had substantially re-written the rest of the draft. I contacted a few of my friends & family again, but largely my alumni network and also members of the Return to India Forum, where it all began for me. I also happened to attend a family wedding in January, and unexpectedly discovered a new potential audience of my novel. They reviewed a few sample chapters and gave really encouraging feedback. (More on my target audience in a later post).

I am also including below the profile of the respondents. As you may note, nearly 1 in every 2 persons who I approached has given some feedback or the other. Many of them have gone line by line and sent back the sample chapters in track change mode (I had sent word docs to most of them), others sent long-ish emails with details on what works in the novel and what doesn’t.

For those who did not respond, I understand and  appreciate that they are busy people, and it is perfectly fine!. Or maybe they did not like what they read and are too polite to let me know that.

Profile of Respondents
Profile of Respondents

I would be curious to know what other’s experiences have been with beta readers. Same question again, when and how did they approach them?

-Amar

Beta Reviewers Have Spoken

Over the past week, I received the feedback from several readers about Now, Returned to India. Some read one or two chapters, others read the entire book. And their feedback was an eye opener.

First, a word of thanks to the beta readers. They not only took the time sample chapters or the manuscript, but they were also kind enough to point out what worked and what didn’t work about the draft. Some even took the extra effort to comment section by section and sent the word document back by email. I am summarizing the overall feedback below. I’d like to call it my book’s “Report Card.” The good part is, that it is for the Beta version, so there is room for improvement.

Image
Feedback for Now, Returned to India from beta readers

The above is just a summary, and specifically, I was told that the OK’s can be upgraded to ‘Good’, once the grammar and the typo’s are addressed. But I took the “too lengthy” and “too verbose” comments seriously. And before sending the draft off to the editor, I worked on the manuscript one more time. Note that I had acknowledged that the draft had not been sent to a professional editor and the reviewers were aware of it.

I spent the nearly an entire week making the manuscript more concise. It was a lot of work, and I learnt a lot about brevity. A dear friend of mine had cautioned me – he said “use a scalpel and not an axe” while reducing the wordcount. The manuscript now down to about 78,000 words from 98,000. In other words, nearly one fifth of the words were either redundant or the sections weren’t really adding value to the story. That was the most important learning for me from this process.

On a positive side, the comment “Improve the pitch” led to an unexpected bonus- I was able to submit the manuscript for Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award.

I will write about how I went about editing and trimming down the wordcount in my next post. Till then, happy reading! (And in the meantime, a big THANK YOU to C S Lakin for her very helpful guest post on Catherineryanhoward’s blog.)

At the New Delhi World Book Fair

Sample exhibitors at the World Book Fair
Photographs taken at the World Book Fair
I spent the last couple of days at the World Book Fair in New Delhi, and I had a blast. There were books, books and more books wherever my eyes could see. Then there were author sessions where authors spoke about their books and their journeys as writers. The service providers who feed the book publishing industry, were also present in good numbers- from software companies promoting their inventory management platforms to those providing translation services. What stood out during this event was the special focus on children and Young Adults. Books for kids was indeed the theme for this year, and the exhibitors have done a great job.

My takeaways were as follows- the market for printed books still rules. And so does the market for books in the local languages. The latter is not surprising, considering that the readership say for books in Hindi, Marathi, Bengali or Tamil languages each can possibly outweigh the total readership for English language books in India.

The biggies of the publishing world were there in full force- Random House Penguin,Harper Collins, Simon and Schuster, and of course homegrown satraps such as Rupa.

The non-print world was clearly dominated by the Amazon and other smaller players providing educational software for school and college students. I had visited the fair last year also, but I thought this year there was a lesser focus on self publishing and non-print books (read: ebooks and audio books). The fair ends on Sunday, and I am planning to visit it again on Friday and possibly this Saturday. It only takes me one and a half hours to reach the event, and except for the six kilometer drive from my home to the nearest metro train station, it is public transport all the way. All the more reason to go again and again.
I also took a few pictures of the parts of the fair that I liked the most.

*Author sessions
*An entire exhibition hall that displayed books and publications from markets that are less well known in India (Korea, Iran, Poland…)
*Workshops for kids (leaf painting, sketching, storytelling using pictures)
*Tintin in Hindi. Yay!
*And last but not the least, the puppies who were basking in the sun and having a good time overall

Tintin in Hindi
Tintin in Hindi

Young booklovers
Young booklovers

I have also spoken to a few service providers and other allied businesses, and hope to share their perspectives in a forthcoming post. Till then, it is time to go back to the editing table.