A platform that offers an opportunity to hear the best and brightest minds speak is one we’d never pass on. So when just that happened, thanks to the Tehelka sponsored ThinkFest, we made sure we attended the entire programme, all three days of it. While the venue and some comments made there could have been avoided, the event in itself provided a lot of food for thought.

While laying out the agenda of the conclave, the editor-in-chief of Tehelka, Tarun Tejpal stated that Tehelka saw the need for ThinkFest because “India will grow not because it has a large number of consumers but only when there are more ideas”. He said that intellectual capability needs to be celebrated and that diverse ideas, from the sciences and the arts, need to be presented so that the human mind can then make most of these ideas.

In a strange way, I think independent publishing, and even the model of publishing that we at CinnamonTeal service, does quite that. It allows diverse opinions and ideas to be voiced. At a session on “The Difficulty of Selling Excellence”,  Kiran Rao(of Dhobi Ghat fame), actors Imran Khan and Abhay Deol and producer Dibakar Banerjee, took turns

Image rights reserved by chris8800/flickr

and spoke on how it was difficult to produce movies that “deviated from the formula”, yet were made by producers and directors who believed they had a story to tell. Ms. Rao lamented the lack of space that the creative arts had here in India, the space to express itself without being bothered too much about issues like distribution and budgets.

Although the speakers were talking about Bollywood, we felt quite familiar with the issues being discussed. Lamentable as it may be, it seems like the first issue that must be discussed by publishers deliberating on a book is the book’s marketability and its chances in the marketplace. The merits of the book, its intrinsic quality and the importance of the topic (or plot) it addresses seem to be of secondary nature. Publishers are quite unwilling to take a risk because the book might not find distributors, let alone buyers.

This conversation on stage, by Ms. Rao and others, came at a time when I was reading Aaron Schiffrin’s “The Business of Books“. He states how, increasingly in the United States, certain books are not being published either because a)they serve too small a market (and may therefore have print runs in the hundreds, not the thousands) and b)because the issues being addressed may be ideologically different than those that the owners of the publishing house believe in. While the second reason is something that may not happen in India (although I cannot attest to that), I am sure the lack of a “perceived market” for a title prompts publishers not to publish that title. So never mind that there might be a few hundred readers who might be interested in a particular book; since it may not result in a print run of a few thousands, the book is often not published.

Case in point: Mahesh Nair, a photographer by profession, with the permission of the Indian Army, authored a coffee table book titled “Iron Fist, Velvet Glove” that was published by CinnamonTeal Publishing. The book juxtaposed the military activities of the Indian Army alongside its other, humanitarian, activities in a format that had interesting visuals and even more interesting text. Every distributor we have approached has refused to distribute the title because they feel no one will be interested. With all respect to their wisdom in the matter, we feel it would have been better for the readers to decide that.

Besides, the theory that publishers (or distributors) know what readers want is stretching the truth a little. Like Steve Jobs once commented, “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them”. This self-delusion that publishers have, of believing that they know everything about customers’ tastes probably led many to believe that a story about a boy wizard would never sell. Many such stories are well documented.

Left with few alternatives, CinnamonTeal is trying hard to develop other initiatives to boost its sales. In many cases it might be about developing its own channels. In the meantime, we are taking quite seriously this exhortation to provide a channel that will allow other voices to be heard. We have been contemplating a publishing imprint for some time now, one that follows the “regular” model of publishing for books of a certain genre, and we can promise you that that will happen soon.

While many people choose to self-publish nowadays, authors are well advised to give it some thought before they choose this path to get themselves published.  As an author, you should not self-publish if:

a. You aren’t in it for the long haul: Authors who’d rather write about the book and not bother about the rest of the process are better off working with a mainstream, established publisher. Think about self-publishing as an entrepreneurial process. Like it makes no sense to open a store and leave it unattended, it makes even little sense to write a book and care little about the remaining stages that the manuscript must go through before it becomes a book that customers will buy. Every stage of the process is important: the editing process where the author must approve of or reject the changes made by the editor, the cover design process where care must be taken to ensure than an appropriate yet attractive cover is designed, the typesetting process where attention must be made to the most minute of details including the fonts used, the imprint page and other aspects like widows and orphans and the pricing which will ultimately determine whether the book sells in adequate numbers. Most importantly, you should be willing to market the book, something we discuss in the next point.

b. You cannot be bothered with marketing the book: No one, not even the publisher, knows the book better than the author does. The author knows the circumstances that triggered the book, each character depicted in the book and the intended audience for the book and is best suited to “explain the book”. It thus follows that the author can market the book best. However many authors feel that marketing is something they’d rather stay away from, sometimes even feeling that it is beneath them to market their own book. Since many buyers will search for the antecedents of the author, either by reading about it in the book itself or by researching it, before buying a book, it follows that when the book is spoken about by the author herself, it helps the marketing process.

 

Photo Credit: Zamburak (flickr.com)

 

c. You seek to recoup investments in a hurry: If you have calculated your costs and are now planning to price your book so that you can recover your costs within a few months, nothing will discourage you more. Self-publishing requires a great deal of fortitude and you must be there for the long haul. Like we mentioned before, self-publishing must be thought of as an entrepreneurial venture, doing what it takes to ensure that sales are sustained and costs are recouped over long periods of time. Instant gratification just won’t happen and must not be expected either.

d. You wish to quit your day job: This follows from the earlier point we made. While much has been made of success stories such as Amanda Hocking, it remains a fact that book sales by self-publishers are, at best, modest. That said, with enough marketing effort by the author, sales can matter, often enough to recoup costs. However, to expect book sales to replace your other sources of income might be stretching it a bit too much. We suggest you’d rather keep your expectations low and be pleasantly surprised.

e. You are doing it for the recognition: Again a bad reason to want to self-publish. Authors usually wish to self-publish because a)they have heard of the lengthy process it takes to get published and wish to circumvent that process, b) they wish to exercise total control over every aspect of the publishing process or c) they have approached publishers before and have been told to go fly a kite, although the book and the plot do make sense. It is never a good reason to wish to self-publish simply to see your name on the book. Or to aspire for a Chetan Bhagat-like moment. Or to hope someday that you will be approached by a Bollywood producer for movie rights. These things do not happen often and if that’s the reason you are writing a book, that book might not be worth reading and might not be worth spending a publishing effort on. You must want to self-publish because you have a good story to tell and because this seems like a good way of doing it. Note that ultimately content is king and if your book is short on good doses of that, chances are someone, everyone, will recognize it for what it is.

CinnamonTeal Publishing has launched a new distribution service that will cater to electronic books alone. This service primarily targeted for the distribution of books in Indian languages will allow CinnamonTeal Publishing to leverage its association with several ebook distribution services around the globe and ensure worldwide visibility and availability for its titles. In addition to its revamped website dogearsetc.com, ebooks distributed by CinnamonTeal will also be available through smashwords.com and globalebooks.es, allowing its titles to be purchased on more than 100 websites and a wide range of devices.

CinnamonTeal believes that this service will allow publishers to make their books available worldwide without the extra hassles of printing and physical distribution, in a medium that is increasingly gaining currency among readers. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that ebook sales are increasing worldwide and while CinnamonTeal Publishing already provides ebook development services, this new distribution service will supplement that service and ensure that the produced titles are also now easily available to buyers. For new authors, especially those who wish to self-publish, this service provides them the low cost option of doing everything electronically and altogether rejecting the option of producing copies in print.

This service will be available for all languages and books will be produced in EPUB, MOBI and PDF formats, which, together, can be viewed on most of the e-readers available in the market. For more details, do write in to contactus@ cinnamonteal.in

Many distributors are reluctant to work with self-published authors and this remains the ultimate challenge that such authors face, one that renders their book inadequate no matter how well written and produced. At CinnamonTeal we have tried our best to provide distribution services for the titles we have published but these efforts have largely been confined to India. Many authors want their books to be available globally. Our association with LightningSource International (LSI) provides just that.

Starting this month, we have entered into an agreement with LSI, an international POD distributor as a result of which we will be able to offer POD distribution services and make our titles available for buyers in Europe, North America and Australia. This agreement, allows us access to a large number of distributors and retailers.

We hope that this service will go a long way in making our titles accessible to a larger audience. We have always believed that our authors have told some beautiful stories. We are glad many more can now read them. This service is available only for the books we have published

To know more about this service, email us at publishing@ dogearsetc.com

Europe Australia & New Zealand USA
Adlibris ALS Ingram
Agapea Biblioquest Amazon.com
Aphrohead Booktopia Baker & Taylor
Amazon.co.uk DA Information Services Barnes & Noble
Bertrams Dennis Jones & Associates Espresso Book Machine
Blackwell Footprint Books NACSCORP
Book Depository Limited Garratt Publishing
Books Express Holistic Page
Coutts Information Services Ltd. James Bennett
Designarta Books Koorong
Eden Interactive Limited Peter Pal
Trust Media Distribution (formerly STL) Rainbow Book Agencies
Mallory International The Nile
Paperback Shop Ltd. University Co-operative Bookshop
Superbook Deals Westbooks
The Book Community Ltd. Wheelers NZ
W&G Foyle Ltd.
Wrap Distribution

My home state, of Goa, has a rich history of printing and publishing. The first printing press arrived here in 1556, although unintentionally, when the ship carrying it stopped at Goa en route to Abyssinia but couldn’t move forward because the weather won’t permit it to. So, quite unwittingly, Goa had the distinction of having the first printing press in Asia. It was attached to the Jesuit training centre for aspiring priests, the St Paul’s College.

In here and at the Rachol Seminary several works were published, mostly spiritual books that catered to the needs of the newly converted indigenous population. These books also alluded to the circumstances of the times and became a commentary of the socio-political environment present then. Following the expulsion of Jesuits from Goa in 1759, and a general disinterest in protecting cultural documents like these, many of these precious works were lost either to ransacking crowds or to interested bibliophiles who added these books to their collections.

Gradually these books and manuscripts are beginning to resurface, in far away places. Many of them are now available in public or college libraries in Paris, London and Lisbon or among private libraries in India. Many of them are in a dilapidated state, close to ruin. These books represent an important part of the cultural landscape of the state and must be preserved for future research and scholarship.

Credit must be given to the Central Library, Goa and its curator, Carlos Fernandes, who is doing his best to make these texts available once again to readers in Goa. We at CinnamonTeal Publishing have been working closely with him, and have thus been able to develop an expertise in book restoration and printing and thus add another service to our repertoire.

The books we have restored so far include a volume of the Jesuit Miguel de Almeida’s Jardim de pastores, which was printed in Goa in five volumes in 1658-9 and an account of the life of Jivbadada Kerkar, a senapati (commander) in the Maratha army in the Peshwa era. We are currently working on a reprint of “Arte da Lingoa Canarim” (A Grammer of Konkani), published in 1640. The text of this book was available only at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, which graciously allowed us to work on a reprint.

The book was originally in a very bad condition before we painstakingly “restored” it.

With each book, we carefully scan the pages using a specially constructed book scanner, “clean out” the embellishments on each page and carefully layout the book to closely resemble the original. The book is then printed in required quantities. It has usually been just a couple of copies each time so that these copies can be circulated or loaned to members of the library while the original book is carefully preserved.

We are very excited about this new line of business because it allows us the excitement of discovery of new worlds, quite removed from modern times, one we could only imagine without the guidance of these texts.

The unique ability of print-on-demand to produce only as many books as required allows us, at CinnamonTeal Publishing, to experiment in exciting ways. Like our partnerships with publishers around the world, that allow them to introduce their titles in India at practically no cost and allow us to introduce good books to our readers in India.

CinnamonTeal introduces the titles in India on its own website and those of its channel partners. The books are printed on sale and dispatched to customers. The publisher is thus able to sell within India and does not have to spend a dime in the process. All rights, even those for sale within India, still rest with the publisher. By this arrangement, CinnamonTeal only charges for printing and shipping. The rest, after accounting for channel discounts, is reimbursed to the publisher.

Using this model, CinnamonTeal has partnered with publishers in Nigeria, South Africa, UK, Canada and Australia, thus allowing readers in India access to good literature from these countries. It has also allowed lesser-known publishers to introduce their titles in India and receive a readership for them.

CinnamonTeal wishes to partner with more publishers using this model. If you are a publisher and are interested in finding more about how you could work with us, do write in at contactus@ cinnamonteal.in

To view these books, do visit our website at:
http://www.cinnamonteal.in/index.php?go=gallery9
http://www.cinnamonteal.in/index.php?go=gallery10