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


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.

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.


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.



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 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. 

Which books are selling on the Streets of Gurgaon?

Let me begin by saying that I do not buy books from peddlers who sell books on traffic junctions on the streets of Gurgaon near New Delhi, where I live. Nor is the intention of this post to promote this “trade”.

I have been observing these peddlers with great interest over the past several weeks. The books they sell very closely follow the bestseller lists one reads and hears about. This is not rocket science.  It is quite likely that someone using these peddlers as another ‘point of sale’. I have touched and felt some of these books and have noticed that the quality of paper used, printing, and binding is at par with the books published by the major trade publishers. Many of these books are wrapped in plastic cover, and are sold at nearly half their list price. Almost none of them have dog ears or any other signs that they are used.

 At two different traffic intersections this week, I saw that the following books were being sold. And to me, it is proof that these books are indeed in demand from readers. And the list is an interesting mix of both fiction and nonfiction. In a random order, the list is as follows:

 (The links point to the books or author page on Goodreads, or on Wikipedia.)

 I am left wondering: should the folks at Nielsen  Bookscan India include these sales in their rankings? And as an author, would you be excited to see your book being sold at traffic junctions? (i.e. would that be an indicator that your book is indeed selling well, even though you lose out on the royalty payments?)