When we launched CinnamonTeal Design earlier this month (July 2017), our repertoire included a whole bunch of services that we were already offering our authors previously as part of our self-publishing portfolio. Hitherto hidden behind a curtain of self-publishing services, a nomenclature that did no justice to everything else we offered besides publishing-related services, developing a “graphics and web division” helps us showcase some of the “other” capabilities we have had for long now. Like our website designing service, for instance.

Going forward, therefore, you will find us talking about issues and trends that perhaps a “normal” publisher won’t. Like digitization and archival, or app development. Or the need to have one’s  own ecommerce-enabled website.

This blog will enumerate the benefits of “going it alone” and having a stab at developing an ecommerce infrastructure that is managed and monitored by one company, usually the producer, alone. Most businesses already have a website, but sell their products through “marketplaces” such as Flipkart and Amazon. It is not a bad idea to sell through these marketplaces but having the option to sell through your own platform is a big advantage (disclaimer: we develop ecommerce websites for clients, so there is an ulterior motive to this blog).

Here are the pros and cons of having your own ecommerce-enabled website. First the pros:

a. You set your own terms: When you have your own website, you are allowed to choose your own payment and return policies. As a seller of books, we found that Amazon’s return policy, that allows buyers to return books, even a week after they have been purchased as a big source of revenue loss for us. Not only have we found instances in which the book was photocopied, the returned book was, for all practical purposes, unfit for selling again.

b. You are your own competitor: For the time a customer is on your website, you have no other competition. It is then your business to lose and up to you to ensure that the customer does not walk away without making a purchase. For that time, however, there are no deep discounts and other gimmicks by other sellers to worry about, nor the fact that a customer can compare the price of your product with those of other similar products. This also presents an opportunity to ensure that the customer leaves your website feeling good about her experience during her time browsing through it.

c. There is little by way of fees: There are no listing fees, or storage and handling fees, or those gazillion fees charged under quite innovative names. Having your own ecommerce platform allows you to keep costs down. You have, of course, to pay for the hosting and maintenance of the website, and, depending on the payment gateway you choose, also pay a transaction fee, or an annual fee, or both.

d. You get to set your own image: An ecommerce website must be viewed as a digital asset you can use to extend your brand. Therefore you must be very careful of the “image” you portray, how you deal with privacy issues, and how you solve problems faced by your customers. The design of your website must also reflect your brand. You can set up your website to match your “style”.

e. Your website can be tailored to suit your business processes: While selling off a third-party website means tailoring your business processes to meet their requirements, you need not do this if you have your own ecommerce platform. In fact the processes followed during and after an ecommerce transaction, like the way the customer is informed of the purchase and the shipment made, for instance, can be integrated into your way of executing this processes.

f. Your website acts as an additional marketing tool: That means, if properly coded, you can get your products to appear in search results, use your product detail page to highlight the main features of your products, and give your customers a detailed explanation of your products, and use your “about us” and “faqs” pages to properly “explain” your company. Similarly, allow customers to review your products; nothing works like customer testimonials to sell a product or service.

g. You have information regarding your customers’ buying habits: While this is information you have to use carefully (especially taking care to ensure that customers’ privacy is not violated), this information allows you to understand your market better, in turn allowing you to market certain items, understand any seasonality in sales, and cross-sell.

h. You can determine your own geographical reach: Many online platforms, due to restrictions they have placed on themselves, do not ship abroad or ship to only certain countries. Having your own ecommerce platform allows you to sell goods and services to all corners of the globe (unless restricted by the government).

i. You can complement a physical store nicely: An ecommerce-enabled website complements a physical store, if you already have one, very nicely. You can use it to attract customers to your physical store, and sell your stock lying there. For items bought on the website, the store acts as a perfect pick up point, yet another way to tell people there is a store they can visit.

Next, the cons:

a. The upfront costs are substantial: You will have to spend to register your domain name, spend on hosting (which can be paid as a lumpsum or annually), and spend to actually have your website developed. In addition, there will be recurring costs, like the payment gateway cost, the hosting fee (if you choose the recurring option) and the cost of maintaining the website.

You also need to keep in mind that there are costs you might not always be able to track. Like the cost of the time you spend on packaging and shipping, and the cost of packaging material and shipping by post or by courier.

b. Your website will have to be marketed: Just like other websites, ecommerce-enabled or not, you will have to market your website so people know about it and visit it. This translates both into a cost, and into slow pickup (which might mean, that initially traffic to the website will be low).

c. You are your own support staff: You have to take the calls when people have issues navigating and buying on your website, and make sure that the buyer’s problems have been addressed. This is important because it might mean the difference between the buyer returning to your website or forever deserting it.

It may now no longer be enough to have a website that simply displays your products and services. The new paradigm of business implies that you give the customer everything she needs to make a purchase at one point. Having an ecommerce-enabled business might help you achieve that.

photocredit: stocksnap.io

In August 2017, we will complete 10 years since we first published a book under the imprint of CinnamonTeal Publishing (our parent company, Dogears Print Media, was launched an year earlier, in 2006, with the launch of the online bookstore, Dogears Etc.). Incidentally the launch of CinnamonTeal Publishing meant that it was the first time ever that self-publishing was introduced in India at a business-to-consumer level (it was already present at the business-to-business level). Over the years since then we have worked on many different kinds of books and have several stories to tell. This story, however, is of our association with Sulekha.com, and other organizations like them.

During the years 2008-2010, Sulekha.com, which ran Blogprint, a popular blogging platform, decided to publish the blogs of its most popular bloggers as a book. The first book, titled “Subbu Chronicles: A Series of Adventures” was released in mid-2008. While the cover for the book was designed by Sulekha.com, CinnamonTeal designed the book interior, printed the book and arranged for its sale on indiaplaza.com, and subsequently on a certain, newly-minted, flipkart.com.

In the years since we have worked with several institutions and organizations to develop books, manuals, conference proceedings, in-house publications and other printed material. In these cases, the concerned organization provided us with material for the book, while we edited, designed and/or printed the book, depending on the needs of the client. In such an association, there is an implicit understanding that the strengths of the organization we work with are best at developing content for books, while we have significant expertise in publishing the book and bringing it to market.

A few illustrations of our work:

  • The Madness Starts at 9: This was the last in our series of books published in association with Sulekha.com. A total of 8 books were published, including a travelogue and an anthology of poems by women.
  • The Global Information Society Watch, and other publications by the Geneva-based Association for Progressive Communications: We worked with the APC to print their books (which mostly consisted of annual reports and other publications) and distribute them globally.
  • Books for Globethics.net: We printed and distributed various books published by this worldwide ethics network based in Geneva
  • Study material for Indian Astrobiology Research Centre: Our print-on-demand service allowed the Centre to keep their study material updated.
  • Books for the Rosary College of Commerce and Arts, Navelim, Goa: The books included Socio-Economic Inequities and the Health Sector – Issues and Perspectives and their quarterly journal, Gyaana.
  • Books on Six-Sigma: These books were authored by N C Narayanan and published on his behalf by CinnamonTeal.
  • Speaking with Hands: A coffee-table book that describes the various crafts of India through the eyes of travelers, many of who are from outside India, and all of who are craftspersons in their own right. Published for the founders of Indebo, a travel company.
  • epiSTEME-5 and epiSTEME-6: The proceedings of epiSTEME-5 and epiSTEME-6, the fifth and sixth in the series of biennial EpiSTEME conferences, organized by the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, a National Centre of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, India, which review research in science, technology and mathematics education.

Ten years on, and countless such books later, we have formalised these services into what we have labelled “Managed Publishing Services”. The idea behind it is the same: we let our clients do what they do best (collecting and arranging original content) and what is comfortably within their domain of expertise, while we bring our publishing experience to bear on the project, effectively translating a work-in-progress manuscript into a complete book, ready for its market.

In combination with our services for publishers, we now have a full portfolio of services for all customers who wish to have a book published and marketed. Our large distribution network ensures that the book is available in all major markets across the world. And our digital marketing services helps readers know about your book, sufficiently enough to make an informed purchase.

 

Introduction:

Many years after the first e-books appeared, a large number of publishers are still in the dark over the numerous factors that they must consider before investing in digital book (or e-book) development. This paper attempts to shed some light on some of these factors.

Let us start by listing what makes an e-book different from printed books. This exercise is important because it not only points to a change in the way that publishers should think about, and manufacture, e-books, but also because it points to a change in the way in which books are read.

This article is for publishers who wish to make, or confirm, decisions on e-book development and distribution. The goal of the document is to highlight the important factors that determine investments in e-book development.

E-books:

  1. Are read primarily on computer and mobile screens
  2. Are stored on digital devices. This renders them rather intangible. Just as storage of printed books involves investments in space, storage of e-books involves investment in ‘digital space’
  3. Like printed books, e-books too are susceptible to pilferage and spoilage
  4. Once prepared, e-books cost nothing to ‘copy’. This fact has several ramifications:
    1. Consequently, customers feel that e-books should cost lesser than printed books
    2. Illegal copying (and distributing) of e-books is an inexpensive exercise.

From the above points, it is easy to see that digital book development needs an approach different from that used for printed book development.

Devices and Formats:

E-books are ‘read’ on devices. These devices include e-readers, which are used only for reading e-books, or tablets or smartphones, which , while used for other purposes also, facilitate reading of ‘ebooks’ through computer applications, called apps. Examples of e-readers include the Kindle™, the Kobo™, and the Nook™. Examples of apps that facilitate e-book reading are many. In some cases, e-reader manufacturing companies have developed apps, like the Kindle app for smartphones and tablets.

Many devices allow users to purchase e-books using the device itself. This device is then the only device on which these e-books can be read (see the section on DRM for further explanation of this point).

It is important to note that while the content of the e-book may the same, they are developed in different ways, called formats. Many devices (and apps) are structured to allow only certain formats to be read. For example, the Amazon Kindle™ will only read the .azw format, while the Kobo™ will only ‘support’ the .epub format. When publishers have limited resources to invest in digital books, the challenge before them is to decide which format they should invest in.

The major file formats currently in use are:

Format Pros Cons Can be read on:
PDF
  • Can include fonts, videos, audio clips, etc.
  • Can be tagged with file specific information (metadata)
  • Can be read on most devices
  • Has weak security built around it, making it easy to copy and share
  • Not particularly good for small screen reading
  • Not recognized as an e-book format by many vendors.
Almost every device including personal computers, most readers, tablets and smartphones
EPUB
  • Uses technology similar to that used for websites, making them easy to develop
  • New technologies allow inclusion of video and audio clips
These files are “rendered” differently by different readers and apps making their appearance inconsistent across devices Almost all readers and apps except the Amazon Kindle. Some common readers include the Nook and the Kobo.
AZW
  • Amazon’s own (proprietary) format. Hence files developed in this format will render without error on the Amazon Kindle
Other readers do not support this format. The Amazon Kindle and the Kindle app, and on others like the Apple Ipad. The Kindle is used more than any other reader globally.
Note: Files developed in the MOBI format are converted into the AZW format by the Kindle before they are read. Hence these two formats are discussed together.

There are other formats also used, which are not discussed here. Any format, including a text file, that allows a book to be read electronically is an e-book file format. However, every format has its limitations. For example, one cannot use multiple fonts or display images in a text file. Hence it is important to choose a file format with the end goal in mind.

When contacted by vendors, publishers will hear a lot about the XML format for e-books. While not used in itself as an e-book, developing a book in the XML format allows special software to then “reflow” this book into other formats, including a print-ready PDF file. XML (which stands for eXtensible Markup Language) can define, via what are called schemas, how the text and images should be stored for easy retrieval and flow into other formats. For this reason, many publishers prefer to develop e-books in XML format, that can be then re-configured for other purposes.

A casual study of the book market suggests that a large percentage of e-books are developed in the .mobi format. This is primarily because Amazon provides self-publishing services to a large number of customers, and, as part of these services, develops e-books in their own .mobi format alone. However, by choosing to develop in just one format because it is popular, a publisher runs the risk of excluding all other readers who prefer other formats. On the flip side, developing costs increase with every new format that the publisher chooses to develop in.

Often during discussions with vendors, publishers will hear of the “fixed-layout format”. This format is recommended for books where images have to be placed in a specific position relative to the text, as in a children’s picture book, or a cookbook. The “fixed-layout format” is not a separate format by itself, rather a subset of other formats.

Support for Indian Languages:

The absence of “unicode fonts” (rather, “unicode-compliant fonts”, which ensure consistency in the way characters and symbols appear across various devices) for many Indian languages has hindered the development of e-books that are truly cross-platform (i.e. those that can be viewed in the same manner on all devices). Indian language publishers must therefore ensure that the e-books they develop are developed in fonts that can be viewed in the same manner across most, if not all devices.

The absence of Unicode fonts has also prompted some device manufacturers to refuse support for certain Indian languages, like Kannada. This means that, while readers may or may not be able to read Kannada texts on such devices, the Amazon Kindle in this case, the device manufacturers will bear no responsibility for texts that cannot be accurately read.

Metadata:

Metadata is the data that publishers record to catalogue their books and ensure that they can be found by readers searching for them. Meta Data will not only include the title, author and ISBN for the book, but will also include other information, like important keywords within the book, names of important characters in the book, and other such information.

Metadata is usually recorded and shared using MS Excel sheets or in the ONIX format, which records this data at a granular level to meet the needs of buyers, readers, distributors, retailers and other such stakeholders in the book chain.

For more information on metadata, follow this link.

The importance of metadata cannot be emphasized enough and publishers must pay as much attention to it as to the development of digital books.

Digital Asset Management Systems (DAMS):

Digital Asset Management Systems (DAMS) is software you can buy from a vendor or develop yourself that will allow you to manage your digital book collection and provide meta data in the ONIX format. Note that these systems are expensive to develop, so feel free to choose or develop one with enough functionality to meet your needs.

Digital Rights Management (DRM):

Simply put, DRM, allows publishers to control who can read and access their digital books. In other words, it prevents unauthorized viewing, or piracy.

DRM costs money to implement and adds to the cost of the book, and while many publishers have invested the money and implemented DRM to protect their books, many others have taken a different approach and made their books DRM-free.

The way DRM is implemented varies widely. There is “social DRM”, where unauthorized viewing is not prevented, rather the origins of the file are recorded. This is done by registering the buyer, for example, through the use of a watermark, or some similar tracking mechanism. In case of illegal sharing, this information is then used to track the origin of the file.

As opposed to social DRM, “Hard DRM” prevents the viewing of an e-book altogether, if the copy in question is deemed illegal. This has prompted a backlash from genuine buyers, when they, for instance, would like to share a book they have purchased legally with family or friends, or would like to view the book on a device different from the one used to purchase the book. The jury is out on the use of DRM and publishers should consider all issues before implementing DRM for their digital books.

Royalties and Contracts:

Author contracts these days specifically mention the royalty rates for e-book sales. While the actual royalty rate is left to the publishers and the author to discuss and decide, the general agreement is that authors should receive at least half of the net proceeds from sale of e-books.

Many contracts also state the retail price for the e-book, or its price in relation to the printed book. Publishers must consult the websites where they intend to retail their books, for guidelines on how these e-books will be priced (as these prices often depend on the price of the printed versions).

While deciding to develop e-books, the publisher has to decide whether to develop going forward, or whether backlists will be converted into e-books also. The contracts have to be revisited in the latter case, to ensure that there is no ambiguity and that the authors have agreed to such conversion. The publisher also needs to take a pragmatic view on which books from among the backlist are converted to digital books. Conversion is an expensive process, so the publisher may decide to a) convert only selected books, or b)convert all books into e-books in the PDF format, which is a relatively cheaper format to convert to.

Make or Buy:

The main goal of this paper is to educate publishers in the process of digital book development so that they can decide whether to develop these books in house or outsource them to 3rd party developers. In the case of the latter, the publisher must specify the formats in which the books must be developed, and ensure that metadata is properly recorded for each book. Developing the books in house implies creating an IT team, if one does not already exist, or developing the competencies required for digital book development in an existing IT team.

Whether you choose to develop your books in house or have development outsourced, it is important for publishers to know exactly what they want, communicate their needs, and ensure that the books are delivered according to specifications.

While publishers will track sales based on already established practices, it might be a good idea to track the sales of each format of a title, and thus establish if a particular format is profitable or not.

At the beginning of every decision-making process, find and discuss the international standards that must be adhered to. These could relate to metadata standards, file formats, XML schemas, catalogue distribution formats, prices, DRM decisions, and so forth. If publishers do not follow generally accepted standards, they run the risk of locking themselves out of future opportunities to integrate with new sales channels.

Publishers are advised to consider developing their e-books in the epub and/or azw(or mobi) formats if they wish to take advantage of complex e-book retail systems, and in fact invest in e-book development. Paying vendors money to develop PDF versions of your printed list is both a waste of time and fetches little returns.

ISBNs:

Ideally, a different ISBN must be assigned for each e-book format i.e. the ISBN for the PDF version must be different from that for the epub version of the same title. It has been observed that a few publishers assign the same ISBN to different e-book formats of the same title. This practice defeats the objectives of an unique ISBN number.

Workflow:
The print and e-book workflow is basically the same as explained in the diagram below.

The PDF mentioned in the above diagram refers to the print-ready PDF and not to the PDF digital book format.

Distribution:

A quick search on the Internet for “e-book aggregators” or “e-book sales platforms” will provide you a list with companies that allow you to sell your e-books on their platforms. Many publishers have also developed their own websites, that facilitate the sale of their e-books.

Some of these aggregators offer to convert publishers’ lists into e-books and sell them on their own, proprietary, platforms. Often these are exclusive arrangements i.e. while they will bear the cost of conversion, the e-book will be available for purchase on their platform alone. Often, the publishers are not given copies of the e-book file in such a case. Selling on another platform is either prohibited or involves incurring the cost of development.

Some of the well known e-book aggregators / online retailers are:

We also allow the sale of different e-book formats on our own online platform: http://www.dogearsetc.com

Global Trend

A quick Google search indicates that there is a stagnation in e-book sales globally. Nonetheless, many publishers are investing in e-book development, at least for a few titles. The decision to invest in e-books is purely a business consideration, and must take into account the genre of books, the readership for a particular title and the price at which the e-books are sold. A cookie-cutter approach will not work in the case of e-book development.

In Conclusion:

In this article we have attempted to enumerate for publishers the various factors that impact e-book development. We hope this article will be of use to them while they consider investing in developing digital content for their establishments.

 

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.

picture credit: https://stocksnap.io/

book_review_guy_on_the_sidewalk_by_bharath_krishna

  1. This book takes you on a splendid joyride across countries. The protagonist; Jay’s anxieties and apprehensions on coming to a new city in the States has been described with such tender details that you can’t help but live the moment with him. For those who have not visited these places, this book is a good start to experience the west for the first time.
  2. Every aspiring IT professional wanting to make it big abroad must read this book once. Whether it is the ups and down in the corporate world or the little perks of working in a structured, organized enterprise, Jay goes through a roller coaster of emotions and so will you.
  3. An incomplete love story of love found, lost and found again. Jay falls in love for the first time and goes through the clichéd first love experiences much to the annoyance of his friends. This aspect of the book will relate to many heartbroken lovers; who should definitely read this book to find out a unique way in which Jay overcomes himself and moves ahead.
  4. This book above everything else portrays the love every Indian has for his beloved country. You might be cribbing and complaining about the state of affairs and current scenario in India but once away from your motherland, your heart craves to belong to it again. The juxtaposition of the two countries; America and India have been brought out in an amicable manner.
  5. More than anything else this book stands for itself. If you are an ardent reader and are looking for a pleasant read flip through the chapters of this book and you will end up with an enjoyable experience across countries.

self-publishing services a la carte

We have often wondered if we really provide value to our customers. With so many other firms offering services similar to ours, it would be foolish to still stay around if we did not make a difference. We have therefore asked ourselves: Why should people do business with us? What should be their rationale for choosing us over the others? What is it we provide differently and why should that matter? These questions are best answered by those who have shopped at CinnamonTeal and returned satisfied. However, based on their testimonials, we have gathered some insights into their reasons for doing business with us. We hope we are right.

  • Your book is important to us. It is not another statistic we can trumpet out loud or a milestone we have to cross. We have never approached two books in the same way – you would be hard pressed to find two identical book designs. And the more you tell us about your vision for your book, the harder we strive to fulfill that vision. At the end of the day, the services we provide should ensure that your book comes out trumps.
  • You know what you are paying for and there are no hidden costs. And you get what you pay for. We endeavour to be always transparent in our dealings.
  • You will choose your course of action. We will not force you to do things you do not wish to do or go down an uncomfortable path. You will be informed on what is needed to arrive at a beautifully published book and be given the freedom to decide how to proceed. This is why we have chosen not to offer packages, because we believe that there are many components in the packages our competitors offer that are either of no use to the author or should simply not be charged for.
  • You have a vision for you book and we strive hard to manage your expectations. We will tell you, for instance, that books do not sell unless the author is involved in promoting them. If you ask us, we will also tell you not to depend too much on just a store presence (rather, to try all available channels) simply because there are too many books out there and books that are not promoted will not sell. You will know, going in, what to expect at the end of the process.
  • You will not end up with a shabby book. We are die-hard traditionalists who are not willing to tamper with the idea of the book. We believe that a customer buying your book should get value for her money and therefore a book should be well edited and properly presented. CinnamonTeal Publishing has been in the business since 2007, having introduced self-publishing in India, and we know what aspects of the book need particular attention. Having worked with almost all genres, we bring that experience to bear while designing your book.
  • Your satisfaction is important to us. For that reason, we are constantly looking for ways to improve our services, both in range and in depth. This is because we would like to be a one-stop shop for our customers, many of who have unique needs. For the same reason, we do not have constraints – like that on the dimensions of the book or on the number of images you can insert into your book. On that note, expect to see us improve our services even more. Owing to the Publishing Next conference we organize each year, we are attuned to the changes happening in the publishing world and bring that knowledge to the table while working on your book.
  • You can always communicate with us. We are easily accessible. While we prefer that you first email us describing your book and your vision for it, we are open to talking to you after that email so we know what it is you wish to discuss. In addition, many of our authors have come and met us at our office in Goa, simply because it assures them to know that there are people at the end of the line.

But perhaps, most importantly, you should work with us before we give it straight to you. We do not shy away from letting you know where your book needs improvement, we enumerate all costs and do not have any hidden charges and we do not promise to deliver a book overnight. There are certain things that are simply not possible and it is always good that the author knows what to expect while working with us. We can confidently say that we work in your interest, in order to put a book out there that’s the best we can produce.

These are still our thoughts. If you feel differently, we’d like to hear from you.

Image: epsos.de

Those familiar with the way4772680734_3ab815e07a_z CinnamonTeal Publishing operates know that it is loathe to offer self-publishing packages. We have always believed that packages skew the transaction in favour of the seller often leaving the buyer with products or services that he or she has no need for. With menu-based services, there is more transparency as the buyer knows what he or she is paying for.

We therefore offer services a la carte, or off the menu. And we believe that we are still cheaper.

Let me illustrate this with a true example. We recently received a manuscript of 74 pages (of text with no images or graphical elements such as tables) in the A4 format.

a. Since we insist on a round of copy-editing, for which we charge Rs. 120 per page, the cost of editing to the customer = 120 x 74 = Rs. 8,880/-

b. The cover for the book is then designed at a cost of Rs. 6500/-

c. The text in a 5.83 x 8.27″ (A5) format filled in 160 pages. Page design at the rate of Rs. 35 per page cost = 160 x 35 = Rs. 5,600/-

d. Printing one copy cost Rs. 147.10. Five copies for submission to the National Libraries (as required by ISBN allocation guidelines) cost Rs. 735.50.

For these specifications, the cost of printing 100 copies will be 101.90 x 100 = 10190/-

The total cost of publishing and printing 100 copies will therefore be 31,170/-. We charge for shipping the printed books too, so assume a final cost of Rs. 32,000/-

At this point, your book is published. In addition, if the service is requested, we charge Rs. 3000/- for pan-India online distribution and Rs. 9000/- for international distribution. That would total to Rs. 12,000/- for both. Add it to the earlier costs and the total cost adds up to Rs. 44,000/-

To see how these costs compared with the competition, almost all of who offer packages, we compared it to the prices of various packages on offer. Because many self-publishing service providers in India offer packages that offer some services and do not offer some others, we compared this final cost to packages that provided the following features (our goal here was to compare the package-based model with the a la carte model we offer:

a. Copy-editing
b. Cover design
c. Page design
d. ISBN allocation
e. Free copies (at least 5 so the author can submit the copies mandated by the ISBN guidelines if the service provider didn’t)
f. Pan-India online distribution
g. International online-distribution

Since these services were alone enough to get the book out the door and in the hands of people, we ignored the packages that did not include these services, even if they were cheaper and included other bells and whistles.

So here is what we found:

Provider Package Name Cost
Notion Press Silver (since no package included editing, we chose the cheapest one) 24,990 + Rs.0.60 per word x 40000 (for editing) + Rs. 6000 (for international distribution)
= Rs. 54,990.00
Partridge Publishing Topaz (since no package included editing, we chose the one that offered 5 free copies) 50,000 + Rs.1.11 per word x 40000 (for editing)
= Rs. 94,400/-
Become Shakespeare Basic (since no package included editing, we chose the cheapest one) 24,990 + Rs.1 per word x 40000 (for editing)
= Rs. 64,990/-

As indicated above, it became rather difficult to compare packages especially since most service providers do not place much emphasis on the need to have an edited book. However, we do and we feel that the buyer deserves value for money and an edited book provides such value. Nonetheless, we remain committed to providing services a la carte and let the customer choose.

Update:

Since we are on the topic of costs, we thought we would provide you with a few more examples. These are based on actual manuscripts that we have published as books. Before comparing with other service providers, please note that the services provided also match.

A) Manuscript Submitted: A4, 160 pages

Costs:

Copy Editing @ Rs. 85 per page = 19,200.00

The text corresponded to 208 pages in the A5 format. Hence:

Typesetting @ Rs. 35 per page: 7,280.00

Cover Design: Rs. 6,500.00

Ebook conversion into 3 formats (@ 25 per page for the 1st format + Rs. 2000 for each subsequent format):  Rs. 9,200.00

Printing of 100 books @ Rs. 127.82 per book: Rs. 12782.00

Online distribution of printed copies (within India): Rs. 3000.00

The total cost of publishing (including copy editing and printing 100 copies), developing Ebooks in the PDF, MOBI and EPUB formats, with distribution of printed copies in India: Rs. 57,962.00

 

B) Manuscript Submitted: A4, 144 pages

Costs:

Substantive Editing @ Rs. 165 per page = 23,760.00

Due to the presence of illustrations in the book, the total page count of the book was 312 pages in the A5 format. Hence:

Typesetting @ Rs. 50 per page (for books with illustrations and other graphic elements): 15,600.00

Cover Design: Rs. 6,500.00

Ebook conversion into 3 formats (@ 50 per page for the 1st format + Rs. 2000 for each subsequent format):  Rs. 19,600.00

11 illustrations @ Rs. 600.00 per illustration (this charge varies with the type of illustration needed): Rs. 6,600.00

Printing of 100 books @ Rs. 183.98 per book: Rs. 18,398.00

Online distribution of printed copies (within India): Rs. 3000.00

The total cost of publishing, printing 100 copies, and developing Ebooks in the PDF, MOBI and EPUB formats (with substantive editing and illustrations), with distribution of printed copies in India: Rs. 86,858.00

 

C) Manuscript Submitted: A4, 50 pages

Costs:

Substantive Editing @ Rs. 165 per page = 8,250.00

Due to the presence of illustrations in the book, the total page count of the book was 118 pages in the A5 format. Hence:

Typesetting @ Rs. 50 per page (for books with illustrations and other graphic elements): 5,900.00

Cover Design: Rs. 6,500.00

Ebook conversion into 3 formats (@ 50 per page for the 1st format + Rs. 2000 for each subsequent format):  Rs. 9,900.00

7 illustrations @ Rs. 1200.00 per illustration (this charge varies with the type of illustration needed): Rs. 8400.00

Printing of 100 books @ Rs. 101.46 per book: Rs. 10,146.00

Online distribution of printed copies (within India): Rs. 3000.00

The total cost of publishing, printing 100 copies, and developing Ebooks in the PDF, MOBI and EPUB formats (with substantive editing and illustrations), with distribution of printed copies in India: Rs. 43,696.00

The low costs aside, when compared to other service providers,

 

 

Image: Marc Falardeau