Cost of Self Publishing my Book in India

Lovely Book! By Tim Geers

Image credit: Lovely Book! By Tim Geers at Flickr

Call it epiphany, or a combination of circumstances, or a  mere coincidence. Earlier this week, I decided that I should write a post on how much self-publishing NRI:Now Returned to India cost me. That was on Monday. By Thursday morning, I had the draft ready, but then two events prompted me to re-write this post and publish it a day later.  On Thursday evening, the moderator of the Nanowrimo India group on Facebook posted an article from The Write Life which discusses the costs incurred by four authors on self publishing their books. That article prompted a discussion within the group, and some members shared their costs- which ranged from Rupees 15,000 (around 250 U.S dollars at the current exchange rate) to Rupees 150,000 (or about 2,500 dollars). The latter cost has been incurred by yours truly. And that’s what prompted me to re-write this post.

First and foremost, the cost is very much on the higher side. (Rather as Rasana Atreya put it, that is WAY too expensive). I agree, and I am not making any excuses for it. But first, let us look at the breakdown of the costs. they are as follows:

All figures are in Indian Rupees. On the day I publish this blog, you can convert using the following for US Dollars, divide by 62; for Euros, divide by 70. (follow the links for Euros and US Dollars for the rates in case you are reading this post at a much later time period, also known as the future).

a. Editing: 40,000

b. Cover design: 10,000

c. Printing: 70,000

d. Other setup costs:15,000

e. Author website (hosting, design, etc.): 15,000

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Total: 150,000

Other setup costs include launch promotion, shipping charges, sample copies via Createspce, etc. Adding author website here because  I only have one published book so far. I have also rounded off some of the costs on a higher side to arrive at a ballpark figure.

As you can see, these costs are indeed on a very high side. In particular, the cost of 400 print copies nearly doubled our estimate. Some of the above costs hurt financially, which I will explain below. Practically our break even point (i.e the point where income equals costs) further away from where it should have been.

Lessons learnt:

a. Search harder for an editor next time. we had received quotes that ranged from half a Rupee to 1 Rupee per word. For my 75,000 word novel that would have pushed the cost to 75,000 Rupees. We thought that 40,000 Rupees quoted by the editor we selected was a reasonable price.  Moreover, she was a published author herself, and came highly recommended. But what we got from her in the form of an edited document was an absolute disaster.

b. Stay away from print as far as possible. Takes up too much time, too much up front investment, longer recovery time period for the costs incurred.

First of all, print sales, unless pushed hard, move slowly (i.e. they take a longer time to sell). And the ebook version of my book heavily outsells the print version. Secondly, we had about 80 orders for print copies before launch of my book, only 15 have resulted in actual sales so far. 65 pairs of cold feet was not quite morale booster for a debut author. Finally, mistakes in print are costly. the first lot of 100 out of 400 copies that we printed were are not up to the mark. Maybe some day, I will sell them as a collectors’ items and recover my money.

c. On a lighter note, I will not disclose my background in my author bio, particularly in light of the above mistakes. The reason: I probably did not apply a single principle I learnt in my MBA when it came to book marketing. People might be tempted to ask “really?”

What could we have done differently/ will do differently next time?

While the lessons learnt are the obvious starting point for doing things differently, there are a few other things we are working on. I say “we” because my wife owns the company which is the publisher on record, and for print books in India.

a. For my next book, we are looking for a print on demand publisher in India, so that some of the costs we incurred upfront, and also the time and effort taken to ship the books to Amazon’s fulfillment center can be saved. We have been recommended a few publishers, particularly Pothi or Notionpress. But they do not work for us since they are not pureplay POD. Repro graphics, is another recommendation, but they have simply not responded to us so far.

b. Consider platforms other than the Amazon ecosystem. For ebooks, we used KDP Select, for print, it was Createspace for North America& Europe, for print books in India, we use Fulfilled by Amazon.

c. Plan out the book launch and marketing better. Also, look at the financial projections more seriously. Not that we didn’t plan the launch or marketing. But right around the time of the launch, we moved from Gurgaon to Bangalore (I took up a new job), which took our focus way for nearly a month and a half.

I hope that you will be able to avoid some of the mistakes we made along our journey, but let me also tell you: for us, there are no regrets, the lessons learnt will serve as a reminder to try harder and work smarter next time.

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How our Free eBook promo resulted in nearly 4,000 downloads

On January 9th and 10th, we ran a free promo for my novel NRI: Now, Returned To India, which resulted in nearly 4,000 downloads. This was more nearly four times the number of downloads that we had imagined. Others might have achieved greater numbers, but it was a very interesting experience for both me and my wife (who owns Shree Gajanan Consultants,  the firm who is the publisher on record for my book and  is also the book marketer).

Our objective was to increase visibility of my book (first in four part series), and try and get some reviews in the process. We were looking at about 1,000 downloads and probably 40 to 50 odd reviews. (As we learnt later, this is a very very ambitious number for getting reviews! Steve Scott mentioned in his podcast that the ratio could be as low as 1 review per 1,000 downloads. Ten days after the campaign, we are yet to see a single new review for my book, so probably he was right!)

The timing of our book promo campaign was specific: Government of India was celebrating Jan 7th-9th as Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas or NRI day, and January 9th 2015 marked the 100 year anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s return to India. (Now you can see the why we chose this period for the campaign- not just the title but the theme of the book is relevant).

Free kindle book downloads
Screenshot of downloads during free book promo

Here’s how we went about it:

We used a combination of : (a) Twitter posts (around 4 to 5) (b) Google adwords, and (c) targeted posts to about three or four forums, including the Return to India forum).

Three days before the promo, my wife set up a Google adwords  ad campaign for my novel. In addition, we targeted the facebook groups for NRIs (Non Resident Indians, or Indian diaspora living particularly in North America). We had been turned down by Bookbub, so we were looking for other approaches.

At the end of the two day campaign on January10th, the following were the results:

Number of Downloads: 3,985
Book Ranking: #1 in its category for Kindle (up from 40 or so, now it is back to the 20’s)
Ranking for free eBooks: It peaked at #56 for overall Kindle downloads, then slid down to the 80’s and eventually off the top 100 list towards the end of the campaign.)
Reviews: Too early to expect/ speak about.

In addition, I gained about 10 new subscribers for my newsletter on my author website (www.amarvyas.in) and three new twitter followers.

Call it beginner’s luck, or an early elation, time will tell whether this worked or not over the long run. In the meantime, we are happy with the results. I am not sure how different the results would have been had we tried Bookbub or Buckbooks – for our next campaign, we might try a similar service, greater number of ‘pre-campaign’ outreach efforts, and probably reach out to more number of focus groups.

Hope that is helpful to those of you who are planning to run targeted campaigns, and best wishes!

Note: I had originally posted the below message originally in Pat Flynn’s Facebook group for authors, now re-posting it here with some edits.

added later: Shree Gajanan Consultants site is not accesible right now, we will fix that shortly.

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.

 

 

All you wanted to know about Now, Returned to India

With one more week before the release of the print version of Now, Returned to India, I thought of writing this post to gather my thoughts about my whole writing experience. But first, let us begin what what the book is all about. 

Moving back to India was the last thing on Amol Dixit’s mind when he was leading a carefree life in Chicago. Then one day, he found himself sleeping on the streets of Mumbai.

Now, Returned to India is a Back-to-Rags story of a Non Resident Indian (NRI), and is a humorous account of the experiences of Amol Dixit, who relocates to India in haste. It all begins when he interviews for a job that he doesn’t really need, and then plans to spend a year with his family in India before heading back to North America. In a series of missteps which affect his social and work life, and cost him the woman of his life, Amol learns the hard way that living in India is no cakewalk. Inspite of these challenges, he decides to stay back in India. And just when his life has hit rock bottom, GB enters his life.

Now, Returned to India was shortlisted by DNA- Hachette in India for their “Hunt for the Next Bestseller” competition in 2014. This is the first book in the four part series by author Amar Vyas, and is inspired from Amar’s own blog which received over 100,000 views on the Return to India Forum (www.r2iclub.com).

Why did I write this book?
My book is based on a blog which use to maintain at the Return to India (www.r2iclubforms.com) site. My posts received over 100,000 views. Many members on this forum read my diary and encouraged me to write a book based on my story. And one fine day, my wife asked me to do the same. Between November 2011 and March 2014, I wrote, re-wrote and fine tuned the draft, and finally the book is ready for release.
In the process, I realized that I had many more stories to share, and plan to write a few other books that deal with the life of the protagonist Amol Dixit, a fictional character whose life is loosely based on incidents in my own life.

Why should you read this book?
Now, Returned to India is a story of how Amol fails and how he ultimately overcomes his failures and realises what being an NRI means. Most important message from the story is, as they say, “Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail.”
Amol was a failure for the first year and a half of his R2I (return to India) because he did not plan the move well.
I am not the first author to write a book on the dilemma, issues and experiences related to R2I journey. My novel may not be able to answer several of the questions faced by those who are considering, are in the process of, or have R2I’d. I have used humor to narrate the story, and hope that you will be able to relate to it.
My novel has been reviewed by nearly 40 beta readers and the feedback so far has been very positive.

Where can you find more information about my Now, Returned to India?
You can reach out to me at:
Web:www.amarvyas.in

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!

Four Weeks Off Schedule for Print Book Release

A man takes up a new job. A month later he moves from Gurgaon to Bangalore. Wife, a four month old puppy, and a truck with worldly possessions follows. The very next week, our man is back in Gurgaon, and will be stationed there for the next two months. Wife is fuming, because she is left to fend for herself and the puppy, who she didn’t want in the first case. The household goods arrive, the car goes missing in transit. Such is life.

This could very well be the theme of my new book, because it sounds like Amol Dixit’s story all over again. Unfortunately, this is the reality that I am faced with. Not surprisingly, my present situation has thrown the launch schedule for the print version of Now, Returned to India completely out of gear. I am officially four weeks behind schedule.

But now, things are looking positive. With a four day holiday coming up next week, the final edits and a proof copy of the book should be sent back to the printer. By early next month, Now, Returned to India should hit the online bookstores.

As any project manager will tell you, it is important to build buffers in the schedule, and prepare for contingencies. I did neither. And several willing, paying customers had to wait. For that, I apologize.

The Last Mile

This morning I woke up with a smile on my face. One more day to go for the book release. I smiled even more when I saw a mail from Amazon that my book had gone live. That was the good part, considering that the actual release or launch date is Friday the 29th.

But then my jaw dropped. There was some formatting error in the book description, and I had to go back and change it. (who likes to read a book blurb that has “<br><br> <br>” in between the lines? )

On a positive note, my author website http://www.amarvyas.in is live, and that went without a glitch.

Now, getting ready for the last mile.

Week of anxiety before book release

With only three days to go for the release of Now, Returned to India, I am faced with, as expected, last minute glitches. 

Website is still not up and running (hopefully that will be corrected in a day’s time), ebook is still being worked on, and we had to drop the plan of releasing print version (Createspace) and ebooks (Kindle) on the same day. The good part is, that the experience has been fantastic. 

I will post the details of the release in a day or two, till then, it is time to take a deep breath.