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!

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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.

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.

How I shortened the manuscript from 98,000 to nearly 76,000 words

When I had sent the draft of Now, Returned to India to my beta readers, the word count stood at nearly 98, 000. As I had mentioned in an earlier post, almost every reviewer had mentioned that my writing seemed verbose. So when I sat down to reduce the word count, I also began to maintain a chapter-wise ‘before and after’ word count. I also kept track of what was the reduction in words in percentage. During the process, I also learnt an important lesson – how to narrate the story in as few words. I am posting the results of my two week long effort below. Note that I also merged two chapters which would explain the numbers in the paranthesis. I am not sure if this was the most effective way of reducing the length of the manuscript, and would like to know how others go about the process.

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Manuscript WC- Before and After

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.)

Attention please.. you are crossing the word limit

The other day I was traveling in a taxi to the airport. Everytime the driver would cross the speed limit on the highway connecting Gurgaon to Delhi airport, an alarm would go off “Please slow down.. you are crossing the speed limit.” It was quite amusing at first, but it got irritating very quickly because the driver simply ignored the warning. Finally, I had to literally give him an earful and he slowed down.

I thought of mentioning this incident because I received the feedback from my test readers (cannot call them beta readers still because the novel is still undergoing editing) and a couple of them thought that certain sections were too lengthy. A quick wordcount check showed that I had neared the 100,000 mark. Not that I had a word limit in mind, but I think I could trim down certain sections. It has been a slow and painful exercise, and the reason why I had not updated my blog for nearly a month. And since I am not done with the process yet, I will have to give a miss to the Jaipur Literary Festival this year. But I am still on course for attending the New Delhi World Book Fair in February.

And since I missed wishing you a Happy New Year, my apologies, and wishing you a (belated) Happy New Year. If there’s any consolation, I am not too late for the Chinese New year, and Gudi Padwa , which marks the begining of the new year where I come from, is a few months away.

Aside

Time for Introspection

Reflection
Introspection. Image of art work created using Rangoli by Rushikesh Kave and Shekhar Khedkar, Vadodara, India, Nov 2013

I have been missing from this blog for the past month, and I only have one excuse for that: nanowrimo!

There was a period between October and First week of November when I was reviewing the first draft of Now, Returned to India. Somehow, I was not happy with what I had written. The novel was at around 60,000 words, and it had a flow, a good plot, the characters were there, but somehow I felt that the essence was missing. As a professor of mine would ask us “What is the soul of this story?”.

I somehow felt that the novel was lacking a soul.

Fortunately, nanowrimo came to my rescue. On November 8th, I set about re-writing the novel, and by the 25th, the rewritten draft done. (And yes, I even managed to hit the 50,000 word count in two weeks). The editing work has been in process for the past few days – not just to tie the loose ends, but also because I am at 90,000 words, which is much longer than the original draft. I am targeting to get it ready by the 15th of this month. That is five weeks beyond the original date that I had committed to myself and you, the readers. But hopefully the outcome will justify my efforts.

Nanowrimo
Nanowrimo 2013 winner