There are moments when certain developments challenge your long-cherished beliefs about the business you are in. These developments pose questions that make you wonder if you were wrong to begin with, about the assumptions you made about your business, its core values, and about the customers you hoped you would attract. One such development came in the form of a series of emails we received through our website query form. These visitors to our website knew about other service providers that provided self-published books almost instantaneously (within a matter of minutes!!) and wondered how we were okay not offering our customers similar turnaround times.
Our company, CinnamonTeal Design and Publishing, called CinnamonTeal Print and Publishing at its launch in 2007, was the first in India to provide self-publishing services. Within a few months of launching our services, we were contacted by the US-based self-publishing house, AuthorHouse. They wanted to know if we would extend their DIY publishing service to our customers in India, in return for a fee (the exact terms of the contract are now hazy). We jumped at the idea and they were gracious enough to help us with the design and development of the required tools. But a few months into this relationship we saw why this might not work for us.
For our ideal customer, we had in mind an author who was sure of her craft, yet hesitant to discard the established best practices of publishing. She wasn’t cocky; while she knew she could write well, she didn’t hesitate to ask for editing help, nor did she cut corners with the process a good book should entail. This author knew that publishing is hard work, that getting a book out there and giving the buyer, a reader who would spend time and money on her book, their money’s worth, involved a lot of effort. So, for this author, jumping the line wasn’t an option. For her, it did not matter how fast her book got to market, rather that her book should be as ready and complete as possible. This was the author we had in mind, and wanted to assist.
DIY publishing would therefore not work for such an author. DIY publishing processes are rather suited for authors who wish to seek no help in perfecting their manuscript, who see no value in an editor who will polish their manuscripts for the better. DIY authors are in a rush to get to market – a template-driven approach, where off-the-shelf products are used to make do, works best for them. Undoubtedly, such authors have their place in the spectrum of writers, they were just not authors we wanted to work with.
So when authors now come and ask us whether we will turn around in 30 minutes or less, we really don’t know how to answer them. Because our gut and our years of experience (11 now) tell us that books are not made that way. That every book is unique and that, therefore, a one-size-fits-all approach will not work for a book that must be produced exquisitely. That every book must be edited, more times than one, or at least once, thoroughly. That the cover, spine and back cover are important elements of the book, elements that the author must pay a lot of attention to. That an author must be passionate about her book and take every step to ensure that the book is widely marketed among its readership, and put in place a process that makes the book accessible to those who wish to buy it. That an author must ‘own’ the book as much, if not more, than its publisher.
For now, we will continue to seek that author who believes in perfecting her art of writing, even if she is a dwindling tribe. And work with her to provide another beautiful book. For the rest there seem to be enough providers in the market, who will “turn around” faster than you can say the two words.