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.
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.
Three years ago this day, I finally gave in to the encouragement that my wife had been providing (which I sometimes equated to nagging) and I decided that I was going to write a book. The topic was in a way set – I was going to use my life’s story as the theme: a young man from India, who has been living in the United States for nearly a decade, returns to India for one year and never goes back. I had narrated some of my experiences in my diary on the Return to India Forum. The title was also ready: I was going to call my book Now, Returned to India (a play on words on NRI- Nonresident Indians or the Indian Diaspora).
Even before I had written the first word, I promptly wrote in my email signature “Author of the soon to be published book: Now, Returned to India.” When friends and family learnt about my bookwriting (ad)venture, they were curious, excited, and supportive at the same time.
I learnt the hard way that ‘soon to be published’ can very quickly become ‘to be published after three years’. But it has been a long, exciting journey, and it has been a journey in which I learnt a lot.
The first print run of Now, Returned to India should be ready by the time this blog goes live. Hopefully in ten days’ time, readers in India will be able to order the print version of my book through Amazon.
This will conclude one chapter in my journey as a first time author. The new chapter would soon begin, and I will ponder till then: As a published author, what next?
No, I am not drawing the curtains on this blog. In fact, I plan to keep writing, because my journey as an author has just begun. Just wanted to share my feelings with the readers of this blog, many have been with me in my journey since the beginning. I wanted to thank them for their support and encouragement…
I am happy to post a guest blog by Vinod Kaul, a fellow first time author who has just published his book, Confessions of an MBA. In only the sixth decade of his life, Vinod has turned into an author. This is his story in his own words below. Note that this is not a sponsored or paid post. Vinod has in fact written this article based on my request. Hope you will find his story useful.
“In a sense I have been a closet writer all my life. In spite of being praised for my amateur pieces from school onwards, I never got down to putting together a manuscript long enough to submit for a book. Even when I was between jobs in Canada, I found the tumult of looking for one too distracting to focus on a treatise.
The first challenge was, therefore, to write in the first place.
Luckily, in my last assignment I launched a somewhat successful e-journal in retail and fashion. I was the proud editor and was compelled to not only write but to also correct other writer’s pieces. However, when I finally got down to putting a manuscript together, I switched to fiction. Once I started it came out so smoothly and I cursed myself for not starting earlier. Looking at the calendar, I realized I was over sixty. But that didn’t stop me from starting my marathon running and I was sure I could do this for writing as well.
I decided to write a collection of short stories. I thought this would be easier than writing a single 50-thousand-plus words manuscript. There were many smaller hurdles to cross but I must say I enjoyed the ride. Often, I would write non-stop for hours. I wasn’t sure if what I wrote was good enough. So I selectively shared some of my works with alumni, my running mates and other friends. I wanted to guard against the ‘it is nice’ comments that friends are wont to say. However, I did discern that my writing had an appreciative reader. There was, of course, a lot of brushing up to do, but I would learn it along the way. Finally, over a year, I did complete a manuscript of 50-thousand-plus words, a collection of eight short stories.
I knew that publishing was another cup of tea that I would have to grapple with. I was keen not to self-publish but to go ahead with the old system of publisher-author relationships. This I thought would ensure that my writing stood on its own merits rather than being hoisted by self-serving thoughts.
Having read about ‘rejections’, I was ready for a long haul to find a genuine publisher. This started with research and listing of the top and commonly known publishers. I started my submissions of sample chapters and other information. Submitting online made things a lot easier but a number of the publishers were still old world, asking for hard copies which they would gladly sell by the weight. I smirked at the comments such as ‘if you don’t hear from us in three months, we will not be going ahead with your manuscript’ or ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’. A number of publishers did send polite notes of ‘no’. It did help to hear something rather than nothing at all.
While scouring for publishers, one kept hearing about the ‘vanity press’. These are publishers who play up to one’s vanity and vulnerability by agreeing to accept your manuscript as a ‘conventional publisher’ but pushing in costs for editing, cover design, printing and myriad other things. After two publishers accepted my book, some hard research on the net threw up the ugly truth – that they were vanity press in mufti. I didn’t even bother to reply to them despite getting a ‘yes’.
When I did get a call from a publisher, not too familiar, but seemingly with clear credentials, I thought I must investigate further. What impressed me about them was that they were well organised, accessible and were able to give clear and meaningful explanations. An online search indicated that they were quite sturdy in distribution to book chains and independents. This was one of the important features I was looking for. While a lot of book retailing is going online, I thought that a store presence is important for a new writer like me.
In my research I was also able to pull out the publishers history and past association with authors; some of the books and authors had reached national status. The publisher was also regularly participating in all the major book awards. By signing up for their newsletter, I was able to keep a track of their new book launches and even attended a couple of them.
Through references I was able to reach out to an established author for advice. He had already published three books which were medium successes. His publisher was Harper Collins. He was quite helpful in guiding me through the Agreement I was offered by my publisher.
I had been offered a straight classic type of publishing but with possible marketing delays or a shared cost basis with higher royalties which would put the whole arrangement on a fast track. The cost suggested was quite reasonable. I had also built confidence about the publisher by this time. So I decided to go ahead with the latter with the blessings of my wife and the writer-reference.
Unfortunately, the story does not end with ‘they lived happily ever after’. Being new I didn’t realize what an enormous work needs to be done after the first draft of a manuscript. What I thought would take three months, took six. The editing itself took three whole months. The cover design and layout another month, not to talk of the printing and distribution process itself. While it was reasonably fast to sign up the online sites, the distribution to book stores on a national basis takes three whole months.
The author, especially a first time author, cannot completely rely on the publisher to market his book. The latter will do a basic job and at minimal costs. The author has to dig into his own resources, friends-circles and networking to make a din. Worst of all is that feedback is not easily forthcoming. The book retailers, especially the independents, are a law unto themselves. So one has to keep huffing and puffing and keep hoping that it is producing results. It is as much as a year before the numbers can actually speak.
There are no promises of success. A writer must write because he is a writer and nothing more. Today I have to divide my time three ways: my regular work, writing and the marketing of what I have written.”
About Vinod Kaul
Vinod Kaul is an alumni Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedadab and St.Stephen’s College New Delhi. He has worked 40 years in fashion & retail and today he has refocused on writing and marathon running. His debut book, Confessions of an MBA and other stories, has just been published. The author can be contacted at : firstname.lastname@example.org
Confessions of an MBA and other stories can be found on Flipkart and Amazon
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.
For the past two weeks I have been experiencing a very nasty back ache, which has caused me to stay away from posting on this blog. But I am working on a very exciting assignment right now- will post the findings of my work this Thursday.
Before I add anything further, here are a few updates- March brought two negatives : Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and the DNA/Hachette Hunt for the Next Bestseller. And while I await the final verdict from a publisher on the manuscript, I have also been exploring the self publishing route very seriously. And that’s what my “exciting assignment” is about.
For the past few weeks I have met and interacted with other writers, most of them are first time authors. Incidentally, all of these writers who love to write while managing their professional careers. I have met the authors at alumni meets. and have taken the efforts to go through the pangs of getting their books published the traditional publishing way. They have told me stories of rejections, tales of long and agonizing wait to hear from publishers, the multiple edits to the manuscript, etc… But these seem like rest stops along a long journey, and the end result – the destination- seems to be worth it. I would like to mention a about a few of these authors in my post.
I will start with the most recent first: Vikrant Pande, who has translated a book on Raja Ravi Varma, one of India’s most celebrated painters. The original biography was written in Marathi language by Ranajit Desai. A review of the book can be found here. Vikrant is planning to translate four more books, each on a completely different topic.
The next interaction was with Ankur Mithal, whose book “What Happens in Office, Stays in Office” is about office politics, and other do’s and dont’s. It has received some good reviews at many sites, including the one at goodreads.
Aditya Mukherjee’s debut novel, Bomtown, is a story of young entrepreneurs who set up a restaurant. It has also received positive reviews across multiple forums, and the book’s facebook page has lots of links to reviews other information. I found it quite interesting.
And finally, there is Vivek Kumar Agarwal’s Love, Me and Bullshit – I suppose the title is self explanatory , but yes, it also has the tales of a young guy aiming to make it into business school.
I have not read any of the above books, nor am I writing about them to promote them. In fact, I am planning to buy them and read them myself once I have completed Now, Returned to India. But I thought of mentioning them here because meeting other authors is always a good feeling.