*This article is the summary of a speech I gave at our recent Writer to Author event on the topic: Print on Demand and eBook Publishing options for authors in India.*
When I decided to publish my crime fiction novel, I evaluated different publishing options in India. I could’ve applied for traditional publishing houses but I had no contacts there. And the chances of a top publishing house accepting my 120-page manuscript was less. My second option was to self publish my book in India, but many self publishing houses in India want the author to pay a lot of money and buy some books upfront, which I didn’t want to. I even thought of printing my own book, but I need to print hundreds of copies.
As it was my first book, I was not sure if I should invest money into the publishing process, especially since I was just looking for reader feedback, and not any spectacular sales. So finally I decided to go with two (almost) free publishing options: Print on Demand & indie eBook publishing.
Print on Demand Publishing in India:
In this mode of publishing, author uploads his/her manuscript in PDF format to the PoD service provider’s website. The books are printed only on the receipt of customer’s order. The PoD service provider generally provides a webpage (URL/Link) which the author can pass on to their circle. If someone follows that link and orders the book, it is printed and sent to the customer. The books are printed on an individual basis, and hence even one book can be printed on demand.
The limitation in this mode of publishing — since each book is printed individually — is the higher printing cost, and hence the higher selling price, of each paperback book.
I utilized the services of Pothi.com, a popular PoD (Print on Demand) publisher in India. They provide the printing cost (author price) for each book, based on the number of pages. Authors can add their margin and decide on the selling price. The price difference between the selling price and author price is passed on to the author.
Pothi.com, for a fee, allows authors to opt for extended online distribution for paperback books with Flipkart and Amazon.in. But the issue is, some margin needs to be passed to these retailers also, and hence the selling price of the book gets even higher. Also, Pothi.com doesn’t allow the author to change their selling price later on. However, I was happy that my paperback book was available to buy at Flipkart and Amazon.in, albeit at a price higher than what I prefer.
I should mention here that I am happy with Pothi.com’s PoD services and quality of printed books, except their high per-book cost. Authors can order copies for themselves at author price, and my order for eight books with them was delivered within 8 days.
e-book Publishing in India:
I am not sure if there are any e-book publishing platforms in India. I used the global eBook publishing platforms that also distribute to India.
I published my book on Amazon Kindle Desktop Publishing, Google Play Books Author and Smashwords (that distributes to Kobo, B&N, iBooks, etc.) that covered almost all major online retailers. For Amazon and Smashwords, it’s sufficient if you have your novel in MS Word format and a cover image. For Google Play books, you’ll need to have a PDF and an ePub version of your novel.
All these services are free for authors. I spent some money to make a good cover image and for professional editing/proof reading. Other than this, I didn’t spend for any other service. With most of the above mentioned eBook platforms, it is possible to earn around 60% of royalties on each book sold, but 30% taxes are deducted on that revenue. Authors are paid via Direct Deposit, Paypal, or Cheque, depending on the service provider.
The advantage of publishing eBooks is, our book becomes available for readers from (almost) across the world to buy (or download) and read instantly on their eReader, mobile device or tablet. It is possible to reach international markets easily today, but whether your book will sell there is another question altogether.
I feel it’s difficult to sell books, given the competition and the options available for consumers. I think it takes some investment, excellent craft/technique, and a few years of hard work to become a successful indie author.
But it is possible for an indie (independent) author today to reach as many readers (if not more) via these PoD and eBook platforms, if they think and act like entrepreneurs.