The main purpose of this article is to spell out the differences between traditional publishing and self-publishing, and enumerate its pros and cons, so that an author seeking to publish her book can decide which of the two options to choose.

The term “traditional publishing” or “mainstream publishing” refers to publishing as it is usually understood – where the publisher bets on the book and spends on it. In this mode of publishing, the common practice is for a publisher to either commission a book i.e. to ask an author to write on a particular topic, or to solicit manuscripts for publication. In the latter case, not all manuscripts are published, rather each solicited manuscript is passed through a round of editorial review. Once the publisher has decided to publish a book, all expenditures related to the book – its editing, design, printing, marketing and distribution – are borne by the publisher. In many instances, the publication process starts with an agreement in which the author hands over the rights to the book to the publisher, and in turn agrees to a ‘royalty fee’, a fixed percentage of sales paid to the author by the publisher. In some cases, an advance is paid against future royalty earnings.

traditional-vs-self-publishingSince the publisher is literally putting its money on the book, the publisher is choosy about the book it will publish. (Usually a publisher will publish just one kind of book, a genre, like crime thrillers, for instance. Or it may publish many genres under different labels, or imprints. For instance, Penguin India publishes business books under its Portfolio imprint and other contemporary non-fiction under its Allen Lane imprint.) A publisher may therefore choose to reject a book that is submitted to it by its author because the book does not fit among the books it has chosen to publish, or because the publisher does not see a market large enough for the book to be able to recoup its investments in that book. Please remember that a traditional publisher may reject your book even if it is a good one [].

Further, the publisher will take all necessary steps to ensure that the book appeals to its audience. The publisher brings its wisdom and experience to bear upon this process of developing the book for its market. That might mean making certain changes to the text, developing a cover that it finds suitable, setting an appropriate price for the book, and formulating a marketing plan appropriate for the book. The publisher can choose to do all of this without the involvement of the author. Based on its estimation of the market, the publisher will choose to print a certain number of copies of the book, and reprint or discontinue the book depending upon the response it gets. Depending upon the nature of the contract signed between the author and the publisher, the publisher has the freedom to negotiate and sign on agreements for translations of the book into other languages, for conversion into other electronic formats, and even for TV or movie rights.

So how is it different from self-publishing?

The self-publishing route differs from traditional publishing in the following aspects:

Cost: All costs related to the developing, printing and distributing the book, are borne by the author. That means the author remains fully invested in the process. Consequently, the author also has a say in all matters related to the book. Some options, such as crowdsourcing, that will make it easier for authors to fund their books are now available.

Control: This follows from the previous point. Having paid for the book, the author gets to decide (rather, should be given a chance to decide) on every aspect of the book, such as the book dimensions, the type of binding, the nature of the cover, the number of copies printed and the avenues of distribution.

Profits: All profits go to the author. Any deductions, if held back by the service provider, should be communicated to the author, preferably before the service is undertaken. The author must receive an explanation of the costs and reimbursements. Typically, the author gets to choose the quantum of royatly payable after each copy is sold, and, based on that, the price of the book. The author agreement, that every self-published author must read before signing, must explain how profits, and royalty, will be disbursed to the author. No advance on royalties is paid to the author.

Rights: The rights to the contents of the book remain vested with the author. Thus, the author decides on the rights for translations, serialization rights, rights to convert to other formats, as also TV and movie rights. An author agreement is therefore very important for authors who self publish, more importantly one that explains where the rights to various aspects of the book will be vested.

Time to Market: A self-published book almost always makes it to the market earlier than a book that is traditionally published. A six-month period is considered as the average time a book takes to become available when the author chooses the self-publishing route.

Having said that, self-publishing does not appeal to many. That is because self-publishing is hard work. It means a total commitment to the self-publishing process, understanding every aspect of the process, taking time to learn how publishing works, and, very importantly, taking it upon yourself to ensure that the book is adequately marketed and distributed. Self-publishing cannot be for authors who will outsource the task of monitoring the process to a third party.

On the other hand, a majority of authors do prefer the tradional publishing way. And for good reason:

There is prestige and validation: Being a published author implies having your book approved by a team of editors. That in itself is a badge of approval that many authors relish. Such validation does not come easily to self-published authors. In fact, in the case of many genres, such as academic books, self-published books are frowned upon. That stigma, though, is slowly disappearing.

Your book is worked upon by a large team of book editors, designers and marketeers: Very often the team assembled to work on your book has many years of experience between them. Given that the publisher has invested a lot of money in the book, it naturally follows that this team is charged with publishing a very good book. When you self-publish, on the other hand, you choose the team you will work with.

Distribution becomes easier: Book distributors and retailers believe that a book from a traditional publisher will be worth selling since it is assumed that the content is properly vetted and edited and a lot of effort has been put into developing a good book. No retailer would shun a good product and the publisher’s imprint assures the retailer of just that. Like many self-published authors will avow, getting physical stores to keep their books on their shelves is next to impossible.

There are no costs to the author, a lucky one might actually receive a royalty: In the traditional publishing model, the publisher invests the money necessary to develop, market and distribute the book. In case of established authors, the publisher might actually offer the author an advance against future royalties.

A traditionally published book is more likely to be accepted for awards and acclaim: Many literary awards are not open to self-published authors, and remain available for traditionally published books alone.

Self-publishing can be a way to get published the traditional way. Many authors have found commercial and critical success with their self-published books as a result of which publishers following the traditional model of publishing have noticed them and offered them a proposal for their next book. Ultimately it is the decision of the author, to choose which route to take. There cannot be any substitute for hard work and writing a good book. That done, both models are guaranteed to get the market to sit up and notice your book.

We are often asked why we insist that a manuscript submitted to us for self-publishing should be edited. Many authors believe, and some rightly so, that they have put in a lot of effort to make sure that the loose ends are tied and therefore the need to spend time, and money, on a round of editing is unnecessary. But we still insist on a round of editing, sometimes to our own detriment because many authors desert us when we ask them to have their manuscripts edited. We however believe that a round of editing is good for the book. Here’s why:editing

a. An editor will read your book with a different perspective: While most readers read the content of the book, and may thus oversee some errors in the text, a good editor will read every word to ensure that the text is as error-free as possible. Moreover, writers are so familiar with their own work, they usually miss many errors that a different set of eyes will see.

b. An editor will ensure consistency: Such consistency could be with respect to spellings, or the way dates are numbered or the way punctuation marks are used.

c. An editor will ensure accuracy: An editor will ensure that all facts are checked, the numbers add up, and, as it happened in one case with one of our books, that a person who died on page 77 does not reappear on page 132.

d. An editor will ensure clarity: An editor, who is unfamiliar with the text, and is reading it for the first time, will want to ensure that the narrative is clear to the reader. What might be obvious to the author might not be to the reader. The editor might therefore ask the writer to clarify the text so that it is communicated as clearly as possible. Similarly an editor will ensure that the narrative is not verbose and long wound, or bogged down with complex words when a simple word will be as effective.

e. An editor will iron out all issues with the grammar of the text: A writer need not know about split infinitives or dangling modifiers. That’s the editor’s job to know, identify and correct.

f. An editor underlines your commitment towards excellence: Every author wants to ensure that his/her book out there is the best. A round of editing can ensure that.

It is often argued that self-publishing authors should not be asked to cut and chop text, that it is their choice of what to keep and what to remove. A round of editing does not impinge on that choice, rather it only shows what the author could consider modifying so that the book reads better. A good editor will suggest modifications that do not impinge upon the author’s style of communicating. Editing is not a censorship tool, rather an approach towards perfecting the book. With the book on the shelf, the author has but one opportunity to make an impression on the reader. An edited book can ensure that that impression is a memorable one. At the same time, an editor cannot guarantee commercial success for the book, just that the book will read well.

So what are the types of editing available and what type does your book need?

Proofreading: During this process, the proofreader reads the proof (usually an already-edited manuscript) and acts only as a quality check for spelling and grammar, making sure that the copy editor has not missed something. The proofreader is not responsible for the overall consistency and accuracy of the text.

Copy Editing: Copy editing makes sure that the author’s raw text is corrected in aspects of spelling and grammar. Copy editing also involves, among other things, ensuring that the text flows properly, that nothing is missing or redundant, that sentences and paragraphs are uncomplicated and of adequate length and that the consistency of characters and plots is maintained. A copy editor also ensures that illustrations support the text and have appropriate captions.

In addition, editors will eliminate redundant words, replace repetitive words with appropriate synonyms, and will substitute weak words, phrases, and sentences with alternatives that deliver more impact or are more relevant to your subject matter. During all this, our editors will make sure your original tone remains intact. After a round of editing, we insist that the author reads and reviews these changes.

Substantive (or Developmental) Editing: Substantive editing, sometimes called structural editing, focuses on the content, organization, and presentation of the entire text, viewed wholly, from the title through to the ending.

Which editing you choose actually depends on the book you have written. At the very least, we suggest you have your book copyedited. This is necessary because it removes the scruff from the grain. A good copyeditor will see what you are blind to because you are too invested in the words you have toiled to write, and will help you make your book even better to read. If you are unconvinced, remember that in the traditional publishing process, it is the editing phase that takes the longest. Publishers who have invested in the book make sure that the book is properly edited. You are doing the same thing with your self-published book when you invest in a round of editing.

I recently came across an interesting article that explained how all-you-can-eat (AYCE) buffets use principles of psychology to great benefit. The manager of an AYCE restaurant has a single mandate: that to fill the customer’s belly quickly and cheaply, while creating the perception of providing ample variety and high quality food items. At the same they must ensure that food wastage is minimal to ensure that profit margins remain high.

The psychology of AYCE meals is rather interesting. It’s been found that most people eat the same amount they do in other restaurants which do not offer AYCE (where, instead, customers are asked to choose from a menu). One study reduced the price of an AYCE menu by half while keeping untouched the food on offer. The customers expressed dissatisfaction with the food, equating the low price to low quality. Clearly, getting a good deal wasn’t of primary importance. It is also true that most customers do not over-eat and even fewer waste food in an AYCE restaurant. More importantly, most customers are not price-sensitive, so higher prices (which give a perception of higher quality) actually yield higher margins.

Okay, so what does that have to do with self-publishing? Lots actually because most self-publishing companies provide the equivalent of an AYCE menu by offering packages. At CinnamonTeal Publishing, we have resisted the urge to provide package-based services because we are certain that choosing off a menu is not only cheaper for customers, they actually get to choose varying levels of quality based on their budget. That means, for instance, while a package will offer editing, a menu-based service will allow customers to choose between proofreading, copy editing and substantive editing, based on what the manuscript actually needs and on the budget of the customer. A package, on the other hand, will rarely specify the type of editing that is being offered (and very often, quite surprisingly, editing isn’t offered at all).

Agreed, the AYCE approach, and packages, do have some benefits. It makes comparison easier and it saves the customer the hassle of looking into the details. There are many self-publishing providers like Notionpress and Pothi who provide packages, and we do not believe they would have done it without giving it enough thought. But this blog is based on our belief on the flip side of self-publishing packages. And while we have lost many customers because they prefer the hands-off approach to the publishing process and opt for packages, we also have had many more authors who take the self-publishing exercise very seriously, and who wish to know how the process works, and engage with us to develop a better book.

So what is the flip side we are taking about? Here are some factors we think may apply:

a. Authors lose the ability to choose among levels within the same service: We already provided the example of editing. The same goes for cover design. By simply saying “basic design” or “premium design”, the details of complexity within the (cover design) process are deliberately obfuscated. Moreover, the customer has no say in the process. So if the author wishes to have a cover that has a personal touch to it, the package-based system simply does not work for him or her. In the package-based way of doing things, nuance is lost and every service is homogenized. One must remember that cover design is not cover design. There are many ways each cover can be uniquely fashioned. And authors can and must be given the option to play a vital role in that process.

b. The “meat” is avoided: Just like AYCE meals skimp on the protein and feed the starch, so also many packages are designed to seem “full” while providing little substance. One extremely high-priced package available in the market does not include copy editing but includes several marketing gimmicks, all of which are available for free on the Internet. In the hurry to seek a rationale for the money that is asked, the hapless customer overlooks the fact that no matter how good the marketing, the buyer will return the book to the shelf if he encounters a spelling or grammatical mistake. Good editing and presentation make a good book. A good marketing effort can only work with a strong product. Yet, the long list of “benefits” on offer prompts the customer to overlook that starch has been substituted for protein.

c. Unnecessary costs are justified: A quick look at most packages will show that most of the “features” on offer are simply not necessary to develop a book and get it out in front of the eyes of readers. Much of these bells and whistles are, like explained above, post-publishing i.e. after the core product, the book, is already produced. It is also true that many of these features on offer make sense to the author only when it is part of a larger plan. Like the website, for instance. Unless the website is part of a larger marketing plan, a poorly designed website, in the design of which the author has had no part to play, might actually harm the author’s credibility. It makes more sense for the author to put together a comprehensive marketing plan, then individually purchase the components that fit the plan, with the desired level of complexity of each component. Speaking of marketing plans, does the one your package provider is offering you allow you to prioritize visuals over text, or text over visuals? Do they provide analytics to determine the efficacy of the plan?

d. Books are homogenized: If the same set of packages can be applied to all books, it follows that package providers consider all books equal. That is very rarely the case. Even within a genre, a certain book might require a certain way of presentation and handling that another book in the same genre does not. The package provider treats all books as equal and goes through the same process for all books. This can only be harmful for the book. If generic marketing services are being employed, such services may actually end up doing the book more harm than good.

e. There is no clarity if services are homogenized: If, to take the previous example, website design is a service offered as part of a package, is there a change in the design offered each time to customers choosing that package? And if different designs are being offered to customers, are they costing the package provider the same? And if they do not all cost the same, why are the changes in cost not being passed on to the customer? Or are these services being outsourced to the lowest bidder?

It is our firm belief that a customer who is paying must have the ability to choose between the wide array of options available. For this reason we have not offered packages. And we think that the serious author shouldn’t opt for packages either.

Before finishing, let me reiterate that this post is not to ridicule the service providers who offer packages and the authors who purchase them. Both have been successful. This is to explain our point of view so authors who are still looking for a self-publishing service can make an informed decision. We hope we have been able to successfully communicate why we do not offer packages and we insist on a menu-based system.

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How much does it cost to self-publish a book in India?

The short answer: it depends.

The long answer is here. This post helps you understand the costs involved with self-publishing in India.

In order to have a published book, the book must go through any number of steps. This number depends (you’ll hear this word many times, so brace yourself) on the contents of the book. At a minimum, any book goes through the following steps:

a. Pre-publishing (before the book is ready for printing):
Cover Design
Book Layout (or Typesetting)

b. Post-publishing (after the book is reading for printing)
Printing (and/or ebook development)
Marketing and Distribution

There could be more steps depending on what you want for your book. For instance, you might want some illustrations included in the book. Or you might want to have the book indexed. Or you might wish to have some contents of the book fact-checked.

Let us go through each process and understand the costs that each of them incur. Let me state here, that this is the process that we at CinnamonTeal Publishing follow. Other self-publishing service providers follow their own processes and it may be wise to ask them how they base their charges.

Editing: There are three levels of editing, each level an improvement over the previous – a) Proofreading, where basic errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation are identified and corrected, b) Copy Editing, where the editor, besides checking for spellings and grammar, also makes sure that the narrative flows properly, that important details aren’t missing, that sentences and paragraphs are uncomplicated and of adequate length, and that the consistency of characters and plots is maintained, and c) Substantive Editing, sometimes called structural editing, which focuses on the content, organization, and presentation of the entire text, viewed wholly, from the title through to the ending.

As you can imagine, substantive editing is the most expensive service of the three, while proofreading is the least. When we receive your manuscript we read it to determine the level of editing your book needs. We write back to you with our suggested level of editing, with enough examples to show why that level of editing must be considered. And then we charge you for that level of editing. Charges are levied per page, of A4 size, after all unnecessary blank spaces are removed.

So the charges for editing depend on a) the number of pages that need to be edited and b) the level of editing that the manuscript needs.

We have always been asked why we insist on a round of editing. We do that because no matter how good the author, a mistake here or an error there, is bound to escape the author’s eye. The author, who has read and reread the text many times, can miss vital details, that a fresh, trained, pair of eyes can immediately notice. But we aren’t the only ones who believe this. The best publishing houses spend their most vital resources on editing. This is because a well-edited book (and a well-presented book) speaks for itself and makes an instant impression on the buyer.

the cost of self-publishingPage Design (or Page Layout or Typesetting): This is the process by which the interior of the book is laid out. It involves deciding on the dimensions of the book, the choice of fonts, the position (and contents) of the header and footer, the way chapter numbers and titles are designed, the position and design of pages such as the preface, foreword, afterword, prologue, epilogue, etc., and other such matters related to the interior of the book.

After the edited manuscript is received, in A4 format, the book must be “shrunk” to the desired dimensions. Our preferred dimensions for most books are the A5 format (210 mm x 148mm) and the Demy (216mm x 138mm). But the actual dimensions of your book depends on the subject your book covers and on the preferred dimensions for other books in that genre. When the book dimensions change, the number of pages that will constitute the book in its final form will also change. We charge for typesetting based on the final page count. Charges per page increase when the book contains graphical elements, such as photographs, illustrations, images, tables, flowcharts, etc..

The costs for interior page design depend on a) the final number of pages in the book and b) the presence of graphical elements.

Cover Design: The costs for cover design depend on the degree of complexity required in the images used for the cover. For example, an author may provide an illustration and ask that it be incorporated into the cover. Or she might want us to draw an image for the cover. Or the author might ask us to buy an image or a photograph or a special font, and incorporate that into the cover. In each of these cases the costs will vary.

Our cover design costs include the costs for designing the spine and the back cover. If there is also an e-book for which a cover has to be designed, there are other important factors that need to be considered. Like the fact that the cover has to have an image that stands out even when reduced to a thumbnail. Please note that the cover design processes for printed books and e-books are separate, and, in the case of CinnamonTeal Publishing, are charged separately.

At CinnamonTeal we do not distinguish between “basic covers” and “premier covers”. We believe that the cover design process is an equally important part of the book development process and needs a lot of attention to detail. The cover is the book’s way of putting forward its best first impression. We therefore make sure every book gets the best cover it deserves.

Cover Design costs depend upon a) degree of complexity and b) additional materials such as images and fonts that need to be especially purchased (on request by the author).

At this point the book is published. What it needs is to be given a form – whether as a printed book or an electronic copy. An author could request other bells and whistles such as illustrations, photographs, indexes, etc. that add to the cost of the book.

Illustrations: The cost of an illustration also depends on the complexity that is requested. An author might ask for a simple line drawing or an incredibly detailed image, in colour or in pencil shades. Depending on the author’s requests a quote is provided for illustrations.

Indexes: This depends on whether a) a subject index, b) a topic index or c) both a subject and topic index is requested.

After the book is completed, we proceed to give it a form. That means printing the book, or giving it an electronic form, or doing both.

Printing: An author might wish to print in bulk and provide copies for sale as required or she might wish to have them printed after a sale is made (printed on demand). The costs in each case vary, depending on the number of copies printed at one time. The cost per copy, in turn, depends on a) the number of pages in the book, b) the number of colour pages in the book, c) the kind of binding requested for the book and d) any embellishments requested for the cover of the book.

The book can be bound in various ways, the common ones being the hardcover and the softcover (paperback). The hardcover, in turn, could have its title printed on the hard cover itself, or on a paper jacket, called the dust jacket, or on both. The book itself could be bound in other ways. It could be spiral bound or have a wir-o-binding. The cost of printing a single copy is influenced to a large extent by the choice of binding.

Embellishments to the cover can enhance its look and feel. If you want areas of your cover to show in relief, for example, you can use what is called a Spot Gloss, or Spot Varnish or Spot UV. These embellishments are very expensive and should be considered only when print runs of a thousand copies or more are considered. Embellishments do not include cover laminations. A gloss or matte lamination is provided automatically.

So, the cost of printing depends on a) number of copies printed and b) transportation costs for the printed books.

E-book Development: The development of the e-book runs parallel to the printing process. If the book is requested in both, the printed and electronic form, the ebook development process occurs parallel to the typesetting process. If the book is requested only in electronic form, the typesetting process, after which the book is printed, is not required.

Ebooks are primarily developed in three ways, or in three formats: a) PDF/A (for use on mobile handsets or computer screens), MOBI (for use on the Amazon Kindle™) and EPUB (for use on most devices including the Sony eReader™, the Kobo™, Nook™ and the Apple iPad™). Because EPUB formats do not read on the Amazon Kindle, an author should consider developing in all three formats. It is however left up to the author to decide which formats to develop. Each format costs money, and caters to a different readership, and it is therefore an important decision for authors to make. While deciding a format, the author should also make sure that he/she possesses a reader for that format. Fortunately there are many android- and iOS-based appls available for all three formats.

Should an author opt for both the print and electronic options, i.e. to have both, the book printed as well as developed as e-books (in one or more formats), we, at CinnamonTeal, take all measures to ensure that the electronic formats mirror the print editions to the extent possible, while also exploiting the potential of the electronic medium. We do this to ensure that the reader is exposed to a consistent image of the book, whether in print or in electronic format.

The price of e-book development, for each format, is a function of the number of pages of the print version (if a print option was exercised, to ensure that the print and electronic versions mirror each other to the extent possible) or of the number of pages of the edited manuscript (if the author decided not to have the book printed).  Further, the costs also depend on the number of formats developed.

Marketing: Not to be confused with distribution and sales of the book, marketing encompasses several activities undertaken to make the readership aware of the presence of the book. This could take the form of digital marketing where social media tools are used to distribute information about the book, or physical marketing that may take the form of a book launch or a newspaper article or a book review. We offer all these options, including bespoke digital marketing options, and the cost in each case really depends on what options are exercised by the author.

Distribution: This means making the book available for sales. While we have tied up with several networks around the world for online distribution of books, both printed books as well as e-books, we also make physical copies available for sale at bookstores within India, if the author so desires.

We charge for our online distribution service, whether the book is made available within India alone, or internationally also. This charge includes a one-time charge to list and disseminate book information and an annual fee to maintain the records on all networks. This charge also covers our activities when we have to pack and ship books after a sale has occurred.

Distribution charges thus depend on whether the author has chosen to distribute your book within India alone, or abroad too.

So, like you can see, it is not only difficult for the service provider, but also unfair to the author, to have a single charge for self-publishing services. We are the only providers within the Indian market who do not offer packages and often we have been ridiculed for that. But when there are so many variables influencing the cost of self-publishing, we believe it is unethical to offer the author a single charge because such a charge will invariably cover the costs of all services, and that too their most expensive variants, whether or not the author has chosen, or wishes to avail of, those services. More importantly, it assumes that the author is incapable of choosing those services that she/he knows is best for her/his book, and deciding among the variants within each type of service. Moreover, in many cases, the author is able to get certain parts of the publishing process done pro bono, through a friend or acquaintance. Like the cover design, for example. The package approach simply does not work for such authors.

However, we hope that, after reading this, you will appreciate why we do not give you a quote without knowing a few details of your manuscript. And why we, as a matter of principle, do not offer packages. We also hope you will get a clearer picture of the processes that go into a self-published book.

But coming back to the question: what does it cost to self-publish a book in India? Well, like we’ve seen above, it depends.

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The clamour among authors and publishers for a mechanism that prevents ebooks from being pirated (illegally downloaded, copied and shared), particularly for DRM (Digital Rights Management, an umbrella term for technologies that prevent ‘piracy’), hasn’t quite disappeared. Before we get into a discussion around piracy and DRM, let us examine the types of customers that prompt this clamour for DRM technology.

A. The customer who will only download free stuff, whether books or software
B. The customer who will download free books because he/she cannot afford to pay for a legal copy
C. The customer who will accidentally land upon a pirated book and download it because he’s found it for free, and is perhaps never going to read it anyway.

If you consider these three options, you have lost a sale only in case A. In cases B and C, they were never your customers anyway, rather, they would not pay for your book in any case.

Spending on DRM to prevent customer A seems a colossal waste of money. And time.

The case for DRM is widely considered a weak one: to begin with, it is expensive to implement and can easily be tampered with. In addition, in the absence of an industry-wide DRM standard, different platforms have adopted different locking mechanisms thus making it difficult for retailers and buyers to purchase solutions that are compatible across platforms without bearing a cost in each case. Moreover, we are of the opinion that e-books should be shared, much like printed books are, and that artificial barriers that prevent what is essentially a basic human instinct to share, must be avoided. DRM, being what it is, will only lead to a backlash from consumers by turning away buyers who legitimately purchase a book are seeking a good reading experience.

On the other hand there is the matter of indiscriminate pirating that is a legitimate concern of many authors. If books are simply distributed over the Internet, free of cost, surely it must impact sales and, consequently, rob authors of their royalties. Unfortunately, there is no study that proves that DRM actually prevents piracy. Moreover, these days a printed book can be easily scanned, then subjected to OCR software, thus making it easily available for sharing. Countering piracy therefore needs a different approach. But, as seen above, it does not make economic sense to spend money countering piracy.

Many reports like this one make the distinction between piracy (where the file is let loose and anyone, even those unrelated to the originator, can lay hands on the book) with casual sharing (where the book is shared between people who know each other. DRM might prevent casual sharing, and, consequently, a sale that might happen because the person it is shared with might actually like the book and buy herself a copy. Publishers understand this and are moving one by one to make their books available DRM-free.

So what might be a good way to prevent unbridled file sharing? Making the book easily accessible might be a good way to start. Most often, it is not the price, it is the fact that books are simply not available, that forces buyers to look elsewhere for books. E-commerce platforms coupled with easy-to-obtain applications on smartphones (on which reading is quite popular(requires a subscription)) can make for a seamless purchase-and-read experience.

While it is still not a good idea to implement hard DRM to counter piracy, one option that is finding much favour (and one that we have adopted on our e-commerce platform,, for our books) is digital watermarking (or social DRM). Digital watermarking involves adding an image or some software code that identifies the original purchaser of the book. In case of rampant piracy, the source can thus be traced. Thus, while sharing is not limited or made cumbersome, due to the absence of DRM, publishers are still enabled with the tools needed to identify the customer who purchased the book (and who may have then turned generous and made the book available to all and sundry).

Digital watermarking is not provided on every platform and there are still platforms which offer a choice only between hard DRM and no DRM. Social DRM seems like the best compromise and it is our hunch that it won’t be too long before it is accepted widely.

If you are a publisher based in India, or even an author applying for an ISBN, chances are you have encountered a rather long-drawn, tedious process to apply for an ISBN through an online portal provided by the Ministry of HRD (MoHRD), Government of India. While a step in the right direction, the process itself hasn’t been smooth and has led to many publishers complaining about the long waiting period that they have to go through before their application is approved, not to mention confusion over the documents that need to be submitted for the application to be approved. Further, unlike earlier, where an entire block of 10 or 100 ISBNs were allotted to the publisher, this new process requires the publisher to apply for each ISBN separately. A few of us, publishers, have submitted a memorandum to the MoHRD, and the authorities, in turn, have agreed to look into the issues that were raised. If you wish to be represented (the memorandum highlights the issues of publishers alone, not authors), write in to us so we can include you in our discussions. You can email for more details.

The-multitudes-of-ripples_coverThe author is a research scientist by training. He is technical consultant who works in an advisory capacity to the pharmaceutical industry. He specializes in intellectual property, technology upgradation and information technology. He is a science writer specializing in theoretical and philosophical foundations of modern scientific thought.

In a conversation with CinnamonTeal, the author spoke about his book and his expectations from those who read it.

CinnamonTeal: What inspired you to write your first book?
Vaachakmitra: I have been an avid reader of English literature. I found out that these writers had developed insights into human nature through their writings. I also found fiction writing as an analytical tool. I write because it gives me an understanding about my own subconscious mind.

CinnamonTeal: After this first-hand experience, would you want to write again?
Vaachakmitra: I have found strange solace in fiction writing. I would definitely continue writing fiction. In fact , I am writing my second novel. I am already writing blogs on my experience in writing my second novel.

CinnamonTeal: Is your book based on a real-life inspiration or is it completely insightful?
Vaachakmitra: I think writing a novel is confluence of reality and imagination. For the first time novelist , the reality consists of his personal life and imagination consists of his interpretation of this reality. Maybe , in my second novel , there will be less of myself and more of mankind.

CinnamonTeal: Did you face any criticism while in the process of writing your book?
Vaachakmitra: I was brought up by my parents who dotted on me. My father was a serious student of avant garde literature. So criticism is something I have never faced. Now my family appreciates my communication skills.

CinnamonTeal: What kind of readers do you wish to aim at? The youth or a much older crowd?
Vaachakmitra: It is difficult to pin point my intended audience. On one hand the period of my novel and the sensibility of the protagonist are that of person who would be in fifties and sixties. On the other hand , Indian ethos are meant for all age groups. Finally , this is a sincere tribute to masters who have shaped my literary sensibility. I think all these three groups would enjoy my novel.

CinnamonTeal: What do you wish the readers to take away from this novel, at least thematically?
Vaachakmitra: Frankly speaking , I am not in favor of inspirational writings. A genuine fiction , like life itself , demands seriousness. If anyone can read through this novel ,I am sure , she/ he would try to introspect her / his life. The readers would find that everyone’s life can be interpreted in more than one way. The core , the philosophical core , of this novel is that all these interpretations of ones life contain , within themselves , a germ of truth. If my novel helps readers to be aware of these multitudes of interpretations of life , I would consider myself as a good writer.

CinnamonTeal: What does the title ‘The Multitudes of Ripples’ signify?
Vaachakmitra: I think my previous answer contains the reason why I called it by such a title. I have been asked by someone why the word multitude appears as plural noun. To some purists common noun can be used in plurality. However , I think that not only grammatically, but even semantically, this plurality is correct. When there is more than one multitude, then they can be called multitudes.

More importantly , I have used plurality here because I am convinced that such a multitude occurs in each one of us. The plural form refers to that , after reading this novel , every reader would become aware of her/his own multitude. Since the reader’s multitude is triggered by a the protagonist ‘s multitude , plurality of multitudes is correct notation.

Finally , I was asked about the use of definite article ‘The’ in the title. I think that definite article refers to the fact that beneath these multitudes of interpretations, there lies a unitary life. There could be many interpretations of life but life is singular. In some sense we, as individuals, are different but life that runs through our consciousness is one. The definite article ‘The’ refers to singularity that unites all of us.

CinnamonTeal: What kind of books do you personally like to read? Did they influence your thought process for this book?
Vaachakmitra: I was a voracious reader in my younger days. About , twenty five years ago , I decided to become a writer. At that point of time , I decided to stop reading fiction because I did not want to imitate my favorite writers. After such a time lag , I think details are forgotten but the sensibility has remained. My favorite writers were many. I can name only a few of them. Camus, Sartre, Maugham, O’Neill, Bellow, White, Achebe etc. When I had to read my own novel while editing , I found echoes of all of them in this novel.

CinnamonTeal: What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Vaachakmitra: All I can say is the novel is lying dormant in your subconscious mind. Just tap your inner self to find that novel. I seriously believe that a fiction writer merely transfers the novel from subconscious mind to the paper.

CinnamonTeal: How, if at all, does your process differ from the other authors, when writing a novel?
Vaachakmitra: I wish I knew that answer. I am not much into biographies , so I can’t compare my writing process with those of others. However as mentioned in one of my blogs , the novel compels you to give it a birth. Writers are the instruments not owners of the novel. ( unless it concerns the royalty payments!).

CinnamonTeal: Any specific reason for choosing the pen name of ‘Vaachakmitra’?
Vaachakmitra: I have mentioned in one of my blogs why I chose to write under a pen name. As for this particular pen name , I think I want to emphasize that I was a reader first and then a writer. My empathy is with readers hence this name.

CinnamonTeal: In the years to come, will you reveal your true name or would you prefer it being masked from the media’s focus?
Vaachakmitra: I am not sure. I have been a private person all my life. I am comfortable with anonymity that a pen name offers. However , I am not sure what future holds. All I can say is ‘ Que Sera Sera’.

The Multitudes of Ripples, a novel, is a first-person narrative of an entrepreneur who struggles to make sense of his life and demonstrates how optimism incorporates meaningful semantic even in the face of psychopathology. Available on Dogears Etc.. Also available on Infibeam, and Flipkart.

img_20160516_213823Sanjay Kumar Singh went to school at St. Michael’s High School, Patna and Bishop Cottons Boys School, Bangalore. He graduated in Economics (Honours) from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, and has a Law Degree from Campus Law Centre, Delhi University.  He is now a practicing lawyer and lives with his wife Leena, daughter Vaibhavi, fondly called Tiggle, and their pet Labrador named Phantom, in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India.

In a conversation with the author, we asked him about his book and what inspired him to write it:

CinnamonTeal: Tell us about the title. What made you choose “Fear is a Friend” as the title of the book?

Sanjay Kumar Singh: Fear is an emotion and emotions have the potential to further agitate the subconscious which itself is stupendously powerful. If fear is embraced as a friend and not treated as an embarrassing companion, it can work with the subconscious to create solutions and provide answers even in extreme situations of risk and turmoil, as happens with Ashwin Bhardwaj, the central character of the book.

CinnamonTeal: Share with us your taste for books. How much of your reading influences your writing? And what made you write a thriller? Any favourite authors whose style of writing has influenced you?

Sanjay Kumar Singh: I like books that are intelligently written, strive to deliver some meaning, even if in between the lines, and do not unnecessarily stretch their content. To that extent, what I like reading does stand as a parameter to improve upon in what I write.

I have been reading thrillers from a young age. Of late, particularly, I have been disappointed with the quality of thrillers generally available; for often they consume pages to the point of boredom and often feature far too much brutality. I felt that I could write a thriller without these shortcomings and give it ingredients that would make the book not only far more engaging and entertaining but also leave the reader with positive feelings and images in his mind.

While I do have some favourite authors, I do not think my writing style has been influenced by any of them.

CinnamonTeal: Let us in a bit on your other tastes. Like your taste for poetry that reflects in your writing. What is it about poetry that fascinates you?

Sanjay Kumar Singh: So far as tastes are concerned, at this point in my life, I find that my tastes or attention are largely devoted to the deeper meanings of life and after-life.

Poetry can link with the subconscious in a much more expressive and powerful mode that does incite my interest and my attempt to bring out the same. I have a published book of poems titled “Mascara on Whiskey Nights and Other Poems” and my next work, just completed, is a novel written in poetry and has some contemporary pressing issues as its theme and setting.

9789386301123_fcCinnamonTeal: Explain to us how you went about researching for your book? Share with us any advice you may have.

Sanjay Kumar Singh: I have had, I daresay, a wide reading base, including that related to current affairs and issues which helped me in reducing the research I actually had to carry out for the book.

I would advise one to take time in conceiving the plot of the book. This at times can be quite demanding and even painful, but is well worth the intensity of the effort put in. Then, to express the plot in a manner that is comfortable both to the writing style of the writer as also to the reader. And, of course, I feel that one should avoid incorporating features or aspects in one’s book about which one doesn’t know much.

CinnamonTeal: Will there be a sequel to the book? Will Ashwin Bhardwaj ever quit?

Sanjay Kumar Singh: Yes, there would be a sequel to the book for, yes indeed, Ashwin Bhardwaj does indeed doesn’t look like as if he would quit!

CinnamonTeal: Describe for us your emotions as you began to write your first novel? Was there trepidation? A sense of excitement? A fear of the unknown, perhaps?

Sanjay Kumar Singh: Of course, there were tremors of trepidation and currents of excitement throughout and yes, the feeling that FEAR is indeed a friend!


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