The Diy Of The Book World: Self Publishing
Man's World|November 2020
The pandemic brought out the author in the best of us, and short stories, novellas, tales about living through a lockdown came alive. But the self-publishing industry is one that’s existed forever, and has only grown over time. Here’s a lowdown on where it
Samreen Tungekar

When author Siddhartha Gigoo self-published for the first time, it wasn’t really a planned decision. Gigoo has gone through the traditional publishing route (his book in January this year was through a publishing house), and while that took him a good one and a half years, he self-published Love in the Time of Quarantine in 21 days. It took technology, Kindle Press, and determination.

This is a conversation with authors that have self-published, platforms that allow self-publishing, the pros and cons of both forms of publishing, and India’s most important literary agent weighing in. Brace yourself.

Kindle Press has a lot to do with how self-publishing became even more accessible. In 2008, Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) launch meant writing is now open to all. KDP provided authors tools that can help them do the head-to-toe of a book on their own — writing, editing, formatting, designing a cover, and making an ebook. Gigoo’s experience with self-publishing has been good, because he’s sick of people asking him, “Who is the publisher?”

How does it matter who is the publisher, he retorts. “When a movie is announced, does anyone ask who the studio is? I find this question extremely baffling, as if the publishing house decides if the author’s work is good. People have this mindset,” he adds.

One of the limitations of traditional publishing is enormous delays. Gigoo explains that traditional publishers have loads of book proposals coming to them. “When I was writing my first book in 2011, it took 18 months for me to get a response from a publisher. That’s just the beginning — a yes or no. Then comes scheduling the book. Their line-up is so packed that your book will be scheduled for the next year, or the year after. By the time the process is done and the book is out, five years have already passed,” he says.

“When it comes to traditional publishing, there is no budget to even market your book, you have to pay for it. They are also cash strapped, they are in the business, so other than the initial bit of a quick sell, they aren’t invested in marketing your book. If you self-publish, you market it yourself. You have complete creative control too. When it comes to cost, there is zero cost in self-publishing, and no issues of royalty,” he adds. Author Amish — yes — the one who made mythology cool, self-published his first book, the very well received Immortals of Meluha in 2010, after being rejected by every publisher he went to. “It was a necessity,” he says.

According to him, self-publishing has now become easier, as compared to the past two decades. “Back then, the biggest problem was the minimum print runs because you had to print a minimum of 3,000 copies. Printing was a lot more expensive as well. Now, you have print-on-demand for as little as five copies. You can reasonably sell online, whereas earlier, you just had the offline models, and bookstores would not take the books of a self-published author,” he recalls.

Even though he fought the odds, Amish feels being published by traditional publishers is a lot easier. “Publishers get you proper distribution, which is difficult for an individual to do. So, if there’s a choice, one would obviously prefer to be published by a mainstream publisher. Self-publishing is a route you take if there’s no option,” he clearly states.

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