Google “self publishing in India” and you will get a full list of companies promising you the moon. For a (rather large) fee, they tell you, you can publish your book and be on your way to achieving publishing success. Amanda Hocking and E. L. James, and, closer to home, Amish Tripathi and so many others have achieved it, they say, so why can’t you.

While that may be true, and while publishing success can surely be yours, it also helps to understand that there are equal chances of the book failing in the market. The book might fail because of reasons totally out of your control, or for reasons you can indeed control. Nonetheless, it helps to know these reasons so you can prepare for them. Their knowledge can also help you be more realistic about your chances in the market and perhaps have a plan B in mind should you encounter some hiccups along the way.

To understand a bit about why books fail in the market, think about the last time you visited a bookshop. While looking for a book to purchase, you probably had a book in mind, or an author you wished to revisit, or a genre of books you’d have liked to browse through. If it was a genre of books you were going through, you probably were still looking for a book you had heard about or an author whose next book you wanted to read. It’s on a rare occasion that you would pick up a book randomly, and then too you would do such a thing because you read something interesting on its back cover.

This train of thought occurs wuth almost everyone who is in the process of buying a book. People often choose books that they have, in some form or another, read or heard about. Readers are often out to buy a book that is written by an author who is in the news or a book that has been widely mentioned in the social or print media. There is some familiarity – whether with the book, or with the author. And when an acquaintance with neither the book or its author exists, it is beautifully written back-cover text that sways the reader into buying that book.

The authors that taste success with self-published books are those that understand this point. They know that their book will not sell only because it is “out there”, whether it is listed on online portals, or on a shelf in a bookstore. They know that for a buyer to buy a book, he/she must be intimately familiar with the book – familiarity bred from either knowing (or knowing about) the author, or from having read about the book, either in the print or social media or in a well-written blurb.

It is a common misconception that book purchases are made based on the price of the book. The price of the book does play a part but a very late stage in the book buying process (think about it, you will turn the book over to see its price only when it is a book you consider buying). Like this infographic explains, a buyer looks at other aspects of the book before buying. He/She considers the cover of the book, its title, information on the flaps (if any) and on the back cover, and even glances at the content of the book before looking at the price of the book while deciding whether or not to buy a book.

Which brings me to my point: Self-publishing is a LOT of work. If there is a downside to self-publishing (and if one can call it that) it arises from the fact that an author who has decided to self-publish must spend all effort in making sure that every stage along the path of self-publishing has received its due attention. There is no publishing house to take care of the small details (like in the case when the book is published the traditional way) and it is left to the author to coordinate with the service provider (if there is one) to ensure that the book is properly developed at every stage. A detached author – one who trusts the publishing service to do everything for the author – will, more often than not, end up frustrated and disappointed. A well-meaning service provider will, in fact, engage with the author during each stage.

Ideally the author should a) ensure that the book is properly edited and make sure that the changes suggested to the text reflect his/her voice, b) be involved in all aspects of the cover design, including the back text and the design of the spine, c)make sure that if the book contains photographs, they are properly enhanced and fit for printing, and d) that the book is carefully and neatly laid out as per convention. The attention to detail that the author must have cannot be emphasized enough.

More importantly, an author should invest in marketing the book. Often confused with sales, marketing doesn’t always cost money. It is the time and effort that the author invests in getting as many people to know about the book as possible that is important. Very often authors shy away from this role that they need to play, often to their own peril.

As we saw at the beginning of this article, a buyer likes to have some familiarity with the book he/she is buying. That familiarity might arise after knowing the author or, perhaps, after knowing the book. This ‘knowing’ comes through various means – it could happen because the reader had met the author someplace or because the author is a public figure or, and this is often the case, because the author has reached out to the reader through email or other social media. The ‘knowing’ does not have to be personal – rather it should be an acquaintance, where the reader has heard about the author. It is therefore important that the author invests time (and, sometimes, money) in making himself/herself known to readers.

An author must also bear in mind that a book sells gradually, over a long period of time. Any marketing campaign that an author initiates must, therefore, spread itself so that the message being communicated is constantly reinforced. Many authors engage marketing services for a duration of 3-6 months, and then, seeing that it yields little or no sales, get frustrated and wind it down. Readers buy books at their own leisure and a good marketing campaign will be at hand to remind them of your book.

Self-publishing is therefore not for authors who are shy of marketing their own book. Even in instances when marketing is a paid-for service, it is important that the author remains involved in the marketing process. It is important that the message communicated to the readers is a consistent one, and reflects the spirit of the book. If you are an author who cannot be involved in the development of the book, and its marketing, or cannot be patient while calculating return on investment, probably self-publishing isn’t for you.

picture credit: https://stocksnap.io

After an initial wave of enthusiasm for electronic books (e-books) and all its capabilities, the clamour for e-books seems to have subsided. For many traditional publishers, the development of e-books is an important part of their go-to-market plan, if only to ensure that sales are not lost because prospective buyers did not find an e-book to buy. For authors, who are considering self-publishing, though, adopting an “e-book first” approach could be a smart move.

But first the caveats:

a. E-books haven’t got quite the reception that was expected of them just a few years back. In India e-book sales have hovered around the 10% mark according to some studies. Although there are no statistics to back this, it is safe to say that a majority of these sales have come from the ‘Education and Learning’ sector. In 2016, Juggernaut, a new publishing house set up in Delhi, bet almost exclusively on digital content (consumed in the form of e-books). Yet, the response to e-books has remained lukewarm.

Several factors have contributed to this. While it was predicted that the rise in sales of smartphones would contribute to the rise in sales of e-books, that hasn’t quite happened. This is because users are looking for free information, and for audio-visual entertainment. Moreover, the lack of e-book reader apps, whether for text in English or in other Indian languages, are either too rudimentary in the user experience they offer, or too inconsistent across operating systems of various phones and devices. In India, particularly, there aren’t many platforms that facilitate the sale of e-books. DailyHunt and Matrubhumi are among the leading platforms for sale of e-books (we offer this service too), especially for e-books in Indian languages. An aggregator (a service that “pushes” e-books for sale on different other platforms) is yet to emerge in India.

b. The pricing of e-books is also a tricky issue. On the one hand you have users who are spoiled with offers of free content (on data subscription services that cost next to nothing) and will not pay for e-books, no matter how much they are discounted. On the other hand, the relative low costs of their printed counterparts makes the tangible version a more attractive choice as compared to e-books.

c. E-books, being in the digital realm of things, in one option available to the digital content buyer among the many options available to him. A reader who is thus spoilt for choice, therefore, has the luxury of evaluating the pros and cons of buying an e-book versus buying videos, games, music, etc. In the end it is almost like luring the buyer into a bookstore.

d. Finally there are the die-hard book aficionados who simply value a physical copy, and the tactile experiences that come with it, to anything else. You cannot sell too many e-books to this market segment although the travelers among them are slowly changing their mind, thanks to the attraction of being able to carry along thousands of books to read, on a single device.

Nonetheless, it is our contention that e-books are a good way for self-publishing authors to test the market and get published. Here’s why:
a. E-book publishing eliminates the costs of printing, shipping and warehousing: This means authors can spend their money ensuring that the book is well edited, has a good cover and is design (typeset) elegantly. Immediately after cover design and typesetting, the book is available to read, without any additional investments in printing the book, having it shipped to a warehouse, and stored there. Upon purchase, the book is instantaneously available to the buyer. This “immediate availability” makes it attractive to many buyers.

b. E-books are a good way to test the market: This actually follows from the above point. After an author has a book edited, designed and typeset, she is faced with a choice of whether to print the book or not (i.e. have an e-book). Both have costs associated with them, but the latter option has lesser costs involved and an almost zero marginal cost (the cost associated to produce one additional unit). In the near absence of marginal costs, e-books become a better way to test the readership for the book.

c. There are no debilitating costs of shipping to the buyer: These are not the costs that are borne in the process of shipping the books from the printer to the warehouse, rather those that are borne while shipping the book to the buyer. The high shipping costs that a buyer, especially an overseas buyer, pays for a printed book are completely avoided in case of an e-book.

d. E-books can nowadays incorporate audio and video: These technologies are available and should be used if they can add to the value of the book. However, it must be noted, many readers still do not support their use and, consequently, the author may have spent on these technologies for nothing.

So while e-books seem an attractive option for self-publishing authors, it has its downsides too. Here are a few:
a. There is a threat of unbridled sharing: Let’s not call it piracy, let’s just call it unbridled sharing. It used to be done with physical copies too, but it is possible to do it with electronic files much more easily. Different publishers have viewed and have addressed this problem differently.

b. There are many readers and sometimes none at all: Because of the many formats and the many ways the formats can be implemented, it becomes difficult to ensure that a book that looks and reads a particular way on one reader will look exactly the same way on another. Nonetheless, there are a few companies like Kobo and Amazon that offer the same experience across all their readers.

All said and done, an e-book offers a self-publishing author a faster route to market, with the option to price the book independent of the volumes produced (thus avoiding the need to recoup costs of production). It also allows the author the ability to develop different versions for different markets, thus catering to the cultural sensitivities of each market. In a sense, it offers an even greater flexibility on top of what self-publishing already offers and a smart author could well use it to her own advantage.

picture credit: https://stocksnap.io

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 [https://scroll.in/article/832753/eight-reasons-that-even-a-good-book-is-rejected-by-publishers].

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.

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):
Editing
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.

picture credits: https://stocksnap.io/

Leticia-photoWe asked Leticia Afonso, author of ‘Think From the Heart’, what she felt about ebooks vis-à-vis the printed book, and her thoughts on self-publishing as opposed to the traditional publishing options available to authors. This is what she had to say.

“As technology has advanced, so has the way of reading books. We use computers nearly everywhere now. eBooks are trending these days,​ they are quite popular with the youth. Ebooks give you the flexibility of reading anywhere and at any time you want, they make it unnecessary to carry along a huge load of books. I still prefer printed books. I love the smell of them, I love to turn the pages, I love the little bookmarks, I love to hold the book in my hand and just go on for hours  reading it. Tablets do not work for me when it comes to reading books. Being a software engineer, I sit in front of a computer all day. I wouldn’t like to do that at home as well. I take solace in reading, I wouldn’t want technology to intrude in that space.

“When it comes to publishing, both have its pros and cons. Self-publishing allows you freedom from the dictates of a publisher. You don’t need to rely on somebody else to get your book out there. You don’t have to make several trips to the publisher’s office, or email it repeatedly. You don’t have to wait for months to hear from them. You can mould the publishing process based on your own requirements. You only need to invest in the process, both time and money. On the other hand, conventional publishing seems attractive because the publisher will do everything for you. You needn’t worry much, especially if you manuscript is chosen for publishing. But it’s a long wait before you know for certain that a publisher will pick up your book. Sometimes the wait can kill your dreams. But if you are determined enough, I believe anything is possible.”

After postponing it many times for various reasons, we decided to have a panel discussion on the topic of self publishing, during the fourth edition of Publishing Next, held during the recently concluded World Book Fair. The panel discussed why we might see more people sign up for self publishing in the coming years, and how these authors might come to expect more from this option. Many traditional publishers have either set up or are contemplating a self-publishing arm, a phenomenon that was widely attributed to the fact that these publishing houses do not want to miss out on what is a growing trend, maybe even to identify new authors for their traditional publishing programme.

save-money-diyLike one speaker pointed out, traditional publishers have only one thing going for them – their control of existing distribution mechanisms. That too is a fast waning advantage, especially with so many distribution options being available online. If the Internet does indeed become the leveller it promises to be, will traditional publishers still survive? And what is to be said of companies that provide self-publishing services? Will they still be relevant?

Although the quality of self-published books was discussed only peripherally during the panel discussion, it is rather obvious that self-publishing will be taken seriously only if books of good quality are published via that option. At some point in the near future, the discussion will be about good books versus bad, not about traditional publishing versus self publishing as is the case today.

What makes a well-written book a still better book are perhaps the editor’s inputs and suggestions. They not only help correct the obvious grammatical and spelling mistakes but also can help tighten the narrative, fill in missing blanks and even tailor a book for its intended audience. More than distribution, it is these editorial inputs that are, perhaps, the greatest contribution a traditional publishing house makes to any book. A self-publishing author should therefore take all the editorial help she can get in her goal to improve the book.

At CinnamonTeal Publishing, we encounter a lot of resistance from the author when it is suggested to her that she should have her book edited. Understandably so, especially when an author has spent a lot of time on the manuscript, writing it first, then perhaps re-writing many drafts. However, it helps to have another pair of eyes look at the manuscript. Such a trained pair of eyes will immediately spot the errors that are easy to miss, identify inconsistencies in the narrative and recognize if the author has been rambling on for too long. A good editor will look at the manuscript objectively and will be solely concerned with improving the book. The author should take the editor’s suggestions in the right spirit especially since it is her book that is being improved.

Self-publishing does not mean that the author has to do everything alone, rather it means that the author has to do everything in her power to develop a good book, especially if it can be developed by employing the best resources available to her. For that reason, I am not convinced that accessible platforms like KDP will necessarily lead to good books being published on such platforms. In fact it might tempt the author to impulsively publish an unedited manuscript with an amateurish cover. Such impulse cannot be good for the book, or even for other self-published authors, despite the predictions of an incredible explosion in self publishing. There are many options available that allow an author to crowdfund and crowdsource a book. These options are easily accessible and could benefit an author immensely.

Self-publishing can indeed be a good thing, if properly executed and by putting the best available resources to use. Its benefits are many, especially when combined with print-on-demand.  The author simply needs to ensure that everything she does is in the interest of developing a good book. One that is written well, free of errors, laid out nicely and has a beautifully designed cover.

The title of this is post is borrowed from a recent article in the Huffington Post  that wonders if self-publishing authors are spoiling the party for everyone. In their hurry to create blockbusters, authors, the article argues, are ignoring the basic tenets of writing and resorting to cheap gimmicks to sell their book.

The author proceeds to list the ways in which she thinks many self-published authors are “devaluing the written word”: by pricing the book ridiculously low, refusing to pay attention to editing or proper cover design and resort to paid reviews and other such antics to attract sales.

Paperwork – creative commons license

The article gets it right on both counts: the methods employed by authors to cut corners and ensure sales and the reasons why they employ them. Having seen how the Hockings and Jameses of this world have tasted success, no one believes such success cannot be his or hers. Those tried and tested rules that almost always ensure a good book and satisfied customers can wait.

In India the scene isn’t too different. We have the Bhagats and the Shenoys here, who have made many believe that mediocre writing also pays. The runaway success of such books have spawned a multitude of writers. Nothing wrong with that, except that many choose to rather do that than ensure a good book.

At CinnamonTeal we constantly encounter such authors. Many of them have a plot that can be refined with a little editing, many others have written a beautiful book that could leave a lasting impression with a good cover. But they won’t hear of it. They’d rather go to market as soon as possible at the lowest price they can offer. Often we push back in the belief that the authors will understand and invest a little in editing and design. Ours being a self-publishing service, ultimately we have to bow to the wishes of the author.

We hope that this will change – that authors will aspire for literary glory along with financial reward, that marketing will be less about frills and more about communicating the essence of the book. We hope that authors will speak to the niche than to the mass market because, like a colleague at a publishing course recently pointed out, mass-market books cater to ‘the lowest denominator’. On our part, we believe we are doing our best to educate the author and bring about such change.

The self-publishing phenomena, being a nascent one inspite of the attractive numbers, cannot afford the disrepute that comes with badly edited and produced books. There are many authors who are working really hard at their books and making the best of the opportuinities that self-publishing platforms offer them. The rest, who couldn’t care less, should not spoil it for those hard-working authors. If self-publishing should indeed be taken seriously, those engaging in it should ensure that good literary works emerge.