One year since I submitted my book proposal …

It has been a little more than a year (53 weeks to be precise) since I wrote my first post on this blog. So as a birthday gift to the blog, I decided to change the theme.

I had started my journey with the intention of sharing my experiences as  a first time fiction author who was trying to get his book published in India. On May 13th 2013, precisely one year ago, I had sent off the book proposals to the top three publishers in India. The result did disappoint me a bit, though it did not surprise me. All three of them rejected Now, Returned to India. Well.. two of them sent me the rejection emails, the third one is yet to respond.

As I worked on the draft, I became familiar with new terms like copy editing and cover design. The importance of a writing schedule became more and more evident (trust me, I am still not adhering to it the way I should). And thus continued my journey.

In the days to come, the editor will start their work on the draft. The cover designers will be finalized. And most importantly, my wife and I will start identifying self publishing agencies. And while I keep working on the sequel, she will fine tune the marketing plan. Exciting times lie ahead of us! With an end July/ early August release for the novel, time is really short.

The next few weeks are going to be quiet as the book is getting chiseled and polished. And I am planning to use this period to share what I have learnt about the book publishing industry in India so far. With that goal in mind, I thought of setting up a sister blog: Maze Pustak ( Maze, pronounced maa-zay, means mine in Marathi. Pustak is a Marathi word which means book. Pustak has the same meaning in Hindi and several other Indian languages as well. Watch out for http://www.mazepustak.wordpress.com in the days to come.

Since my last few posts dealt with the book publishing industry in India, I thought of creating another blog so as to stay true to the original intent behind this blog: tracing my journey as a first time author.

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How to Price your Book in India

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.

MRP data
MRP Per page for top 20 selling books

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.

added later:

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.

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.

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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.)

Two Years, and now a Four Part series.

In a few weeks’ time, it will be nearly two years since I started my bookwriting journey. It has been a rewarding experience, although many times I was a little slow in writing. There were bursts of writing followed by long phases of almost no writing activity. In the meantime, one got many other ideas that have made me resolve that I will turn my novel into a four part series.

So I have set myself a new target. By November 9th, I will complete the manuscript of Now, Returned to India with no more edits from my side till an Editor sends it back with their comments. Come Nov. 10th, I will start writing the second novel in the series, which will hopefully not take two years!

 

 

 

A first timer’s experience at a Booklovers’ Meet

Last Saturday I was at  an event organized by the Delhi Booklovers Club.  It turned to to be a very interesting afternoon – the highlight of the meet was interaction with published fiction authors. These three authors write in different styles on very interesting topics, and most importantly, had very insightful stories to share. But there was more- it was great to see a couple of dozen booklovers- readers, writers, book critics – spend four hours at the venue, Cafe Ludus and share their views on a variety of topics related to books: about the frustrating wait while dealing with publishers, how to stay motivated when the manuscript is rejected, importance of finding a good editor and over designer, and of course, about how to market books. Book writers and book lovers talking copyright and commerce versus passion for writing.

The published authors at the event were Kanika Dhillon (Author Bombay Duck is a Fish), Neeta Iyer (FIND_love.com), and Sid Bahri (The Homing Pigeons). The last one in particular has received very good reviews, and while I have not read any of these books- but I did promise the these authors that I would read them shortly. (which means now I have seven books to read, and four to write… more on the writing in one of my future posts)

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Neeta Iyer, author of find-love.com, reading an excerpt from her book
Sid Bahri- Cafe Ludus, Oct 5 2013
Author Sid Bahri sharing his bookwriting experiences

Would you wait to finish the manuscript first?

In almost every blog post I have read, conversations I have had, and email exchange with authors, both published and aspiring, there has been one consistent theme: they have all recommended that one should finish the manuscript first before sending it to the publishers (or agents, as the case may be).

While this seems like a logical approach, my question is as follows: at least in India, most publishers expect you to send a book proposal which includes at a minimum a synopsis, sample chapters and author bio. Then, there is a long wait anywhere between two to six months before the publishers respond to you – informing whether your book proposal has been  shortlisted or not. Then you have to send the full manuscript, which will get reviewed again and then finally you will be informed of the decision.

While what I have written above may already be known to most of you, my question is as follows: Why wait to send the sample chapters till the entire manuscript is ready? Why cannot one send the sample chapters as soon as they are completed, and finish the rest of the book while the book proposal is being evaluated?

I would like to know the pro’s and con’s of doing so- I am thinking of trying this approach for my next book.