Lovely Book! By Tim Geers

Cost of Self Publishing my Book in India

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.

On Hindi language books

This morning I was traveling by train between Pune and Mumbai, when I saw a bookstore at a railway platform. As usual, I decided to check out what was selling. It was a real eye opener. The number of Hindi language books that were stacked in the bookshop far exceeded the number of English language books.This was a stark contrast from the bookstores one finds in Malls, airports  and office buildings, which are dominated by books in English. Hindi and regional language books almost get a stepmotherly treatment.

The shopkeeper, Dinesh, was more than happy to let me take a few photographs, which I am posting below. In Hindi, there is a phrase “Jo dikhta hai, woh bikta hai.” In simple words, it means that visibility matters for sales. So if one is seeing more Hindi books than English ones, then that could confirm that in terms of sales volume, Hindi language books in India represent a much bigger  market. Just how big? I will try and assess the same in the coming weeks. And look at translating Now, Returned to India in Hindi.

Hindi books
Hindi language books
bookshop at Pune
Bookseller Dinesh at Pune Railway Station
Aside

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.

Going back to the basics

I had mentioned in an earlier post that one also needs to think about some basic questions about one’s book that need some introspection. It’s like applying to grad school, or even a job. These are the questions make you think about the ‘why/who/how/what/where’ aspects of the book.

Here are a few of those q’s and my initial thoughts that I had penned down several months ago as I started writing Now Returned to India:

  1.  Why did I decide to write a book?

The main reason was to share my story with a wider audience. My online diary on the R2iclub forum, which forms the base material for the book, had received a good response, and the feedback was positive. So writing a book seemed like the logical extension of my work.

2. What would be the category or segment of the book?

Based on what I have read, discussed and learnt so far, my book would fall under the fiction/ humor category.

3. Why did I choose this segment?

There was no specific reason for choosing fiction/ humour. My book covers a two year period of my life, so its not quite an autobiography. Moreover, I thought fiction would make it more readable.

4. Fiction is okay, but why a satire?

First and foremost, I thought of humor/satire as a category because my book is based on incidents that are now life’s lessons. Many of them seemed to cause a lot of pain and emotional suffering at that point in time, but these are also incidents that I can sit back and laugh about. And laughter can be contagious. There have been several authors who are masters of tragedy, and I have a great amount of respect for them. But for me, humor would work best.

5. Who is my target reader?

I initially thought that the 30 to 40 year old readers, typically those who have spent a few years outside of India, would be my target readers. They continue to be the main segment I am focusing on. But as I am talking to more and more people, I am discovering new groups of people who might be interested too. For example, parents of NRIs are such a segment. In an age where almost every publisher and most first time authors are focusing on the 15 to 25 year old demographic, I might be considered as an outlier.