Home > Publishing Trends > #PubNext15 Roundup Part I

#PubNext15 Roundup Part I

PublishingNext 2015 roundup. Part 1

I was a panelist on September 12, 2015 at the absolutely wonderful Publishing Next conference in Goa. My session on The Nuts and Bolts of Self-publishing was with these co-panelists:

  • The absolutely delightful Vaa Manikandan. He is a Tamil-language author who’s been self-publishing print books offline after a bad experience with his trade publisher. At last count he is followed by 7090 people on Facebook. Huge number for a regional language author.
  • Jaya Jha, co-founder of pothi.com, a print-on-demand (POD) company
  • Kinjal Shah, CEO of Crossword Bookstores (about 100 bookstores around the country)
  • Leonard Fernandes, moderator of the panel.

PublishingNext is the brainchild of Leonard Fernandes and Queenie Rodrigues, co-founders of the India-based POD (print on demand) company, Cinnamon Teal. Publishing consultant Vinutha Mallya is an advisor to PublishingNext. If you’re looking to keep up with the publishing trends in India, this is the place to be. Very well organized and small enough that it is easy to interact with attendees over teas, lunches and dinners.

I attended every session (except two because they were parallel sessions). Here’s my take away in bits and pieces:

  • Use only Unicode type fonts for Indian (and possibly non-English) languages in order to enable portability i.e. usability on any device, and searchability on Google and other search engines. Right now many publishers use proprietary fonts which means the digital versions of the books need a lot of effort to make them Unicode-compliant.
  • Interesting point from the eloquent Osama Manzar. The youth of rural India are using mobile phones in lieu of TV. YouTube videos are extremely popular, as are movies. He’s come across enterprising youth who’ve invested in second- or third-hand cheap Chinese-made phones with large capacity microSD cards. They fill these cards with (probably pirated) Bollywood and other Indian-language movies, and “other” videos (that might interest teen boys) and sell them.

    Osama took exception when someone said the rural population is largely uneducated, saying that equating literacy with education is a fairly recent phenomenon in the history of mankind. He said youngsters are very adept with their mobile phones, and are disseminating information via videos.

  • Publisher Kannan said the Tamil language market is more than Malaysia, Singapore and Sri Lanka put together
  • Google supports translation into 11 Indian languages.
  • Bloomsbury and Francis & Taylor, in their Social Media Marketing session, divided the room into 5 groups, gave out five books from Bloomsbury and asked each team to come up with a social media marketing strategy. Clever. Helped both the authors as well as the instructors because some of the teams came up with really creative stuff. (Did I mention my team won? 🙂 )
  • 50% of India – which is about 500 million potential users – is under the age of 25. Mobile penetration is 900 million, but this also includes people with multiple SIMS, not necessarily unique individuals. Rural women are less likely to have their own phones.
  • Kids search on YouTube first. Google search is, apparently, for the old timers.
  • Co-panelist Kinjal Shah, CEO of Crossword Bookstores (approximately 100 stores around the country) announced the launch of The Write Place. For a fee ranging from Rs. 1.5 lakh to Rs. 8 lakh ($2258 – $12,039) your book will be placed in a separate ‘gondola’ for three months. Book announcements will be sent out in newsletters, according to him.
  • Bloomsbury, India announced the launch of their ‘custom publishing’ platform. The moderator’s comment – You mean, vanity publishing. There was no response to the comment.
  • Meekashi Singh, Manager – Contracts, Rights and Permissions, with Rupa and Aleph Publishers, talked about what to watch out for in publishing contracts. I asked her to do a blog post for me, and she graciously agreed.
  • Pratham Books, publisher of children’s books, has launched StoryWeaver.org.in. Stories can be read, downloaded, translated or printed by anyone for free. They also have a publishing tool, and a choice of 11 languages. Social publishing model.
  • ReadMyStori is a mobile app with currently 80 ebooks. Shailesh Gogate says there are plans for multilingual (Indian language) books. Right now you have to provide ebooks for free download. They expect to come up with a subscription model soon. Their success story is Gauri Dange. They marketed her ebook using three teaser chapters for a period of month. This resulted in 90 downloads. According to Shailesh they don’t have an online platform because they aren’t able to secure copyright as they would on a mobile app.
  • pothi.com announced Instascribe, an aggregator for ebooks (on the lines of smashwords). No upfront free. 20% cut in royalties for each book they sell a book for you.
  • For those who’ve not heard, Flipkart no longer sells ebooks.
  • Themeefy can take any kind of content – pages sourced from the Internet, pictures, blogs – and turn them into flipbooks. Their publishing engine picks up meaningful content from the data you submit – with user override – and builds end products for digital publication. You can generate a card, flipbook or digital portfolio. Customizable. Their focus is education-related publishing.
  • Amrit Abrol, CFO, Harper Collins says that their new focus is to tighten up because marketing too many books isn’t cost- or time-effective. They’re focusing on selling less number of books at higher prices – less pressure on finance, management, warehousing.
  • Jyoti Narula Ranjan did a podcasting session for publishers. She dealt mostly with her experience, introduced a few basics of podcasting. Was a decent session, would have preferred something more focused on monetizing podcasts from the point-of-view of publishers because while Jyoti has done 39 podcasts on her platform, SynTalk, and she works with a team, money for renting a studio etc. comes out of her pocket. A few ideas that she had – release snippets of book as podcast.

Interesting statistics from mobile-based app DailyHunt (formerly NewsHunt), title sponsors of the 2015 edition of PublishingNext. These are DailyHunt-specific statistics.

  • Success of their model is based on the fact that, in India, the penetration of mobile (cell) phones is much greater than either that of the Internet or TV.
  • 2000 paid comic book downloads a month in the Malayalam language
  • Half a million ebooks downloaded each month
  • 20% of their downloads are ebooks
  • No free sampling for articles or books
  • You can sell a chapter at a time, or the whole book
  • For ebooks, Rs. 49 (74 cents) is their sweet spot
  • Publishers and authors can track sales via dashboard
  • 95% of their downloads are regional language (i.e. non-English) books
  • Most mobile phones in India have limited data plans. DailyHunt requires that file size for downloads be 1 MB or less in order to keep costs for their customers managable.
  • Audiobooks, with their file sizes are more expensive to download, and hence a harder sell
  • Both trade or self-published authors can sell their books
  • Buy an article at a time – for Rs. 2, or the entire magazine for Rs. 5.
  • DailyHunt lays claims to being India’s only carrier billing (i.e. mobile operator payment) transaction platform.
  • No plans for subscription model for ebooks or magazines because India doesn’t allow auto-renewal via credit card in order to clamp down on potential fraud
  • 110 million user base.
  • They allow for micropayments – i.e. buying one magazine article at a time, in addition to conventional payment.

Part 2 deals with the scourge of vanity publishing.

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  1. October 10, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    Rasana, reg. FK and ebooks: a datapoint fo confirm that they are no longer looking at ebooks. We received a communication form them that they are no longer accepting ebook submissions. This was On October 7th…

    • rasanaatreya
      October 11, 2015 at 2:11 pm

      Sad occurrence. Monopolies are never a good thing now that we have only one major left.

  1. September 17, 2015 at 11:02 pm
  2. September 23, 2015 at 11:38 am

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