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.
Lately I’ve been getting lots of invites from “Traditional Publishers” offering to publish my books for me. I’m always leery of such ‘offers’ because many of these outfits are self-publishing scams dressed in traditional publisher clothing.
Some quick and easy ways of checking if the traditional publisher is legitimate (though they are getting smarter by the year):
* Is the publisher’s website geared to the reader (as it should be), or are they in the business of selling you, the writer, services or ‘packages?’
* Is it a digital-only publisher? Frankly, I don’t see how this is beneficial to the author. Instead of a one-time payment to your editor / book cover designer / ebook formatter, you’re now paying a lifetime of royalties. If you have also been asked to pay for these services (in addition to the royalties) definitely stay away. Self-publishing is so easy – create an account on Amazon, smashwords etc and upload your book. Why would you hand over your rights to someone else for this effort?
* Are they asking you to pay for publishing your book? Stay away.
* Typically, traditional publishers have provided the author access to in-store distribution, which was what authors wanted / needed. But things are in such a flux now that it is hard to know whom to trust.
I wish I could say only scummy self-publishing outfits are demanding payment for publishing a book, but I find that (in India, at least) traditional publishers – the big established-for-decades ones – are also selling services on the sly. I’ve heard of a few of them offering to publish a book and provide in-store distribution for these books, provided the author ponies up hundreds of thousands of rupees. Not only that, these established traditional publishers are then pressuring the author to buy up the entire print run so the publisher can declare the book a success. If this isn’t smarmy, I don’t know what is.
Jane Friedman also deal with this on her own blog. Click here for her take on it.
My article today in scroll.in.
Incase the link doesn’t work for you, you can check this pdf on my blog.
If you’re self-publishing a paperback or hardback, you can apply for a free ISBN. ebooks don’t require ISBNs. I found a post detailing the steps required. Very useful. Note the the address on the form has not been updated (it is a government agency. Use the one the site below provides).
Click here for the site.
One of the questions I was asked in a recent interview – Can a newbie writer hope to make decent money out of self-publishing?
I was startled to see this question because it seems very obvious to me (and to a lot of other Indies, I’m sure) that self-publishing is where the money is. Where else can you expect to get royalties of 65-70%?
In traditional publishing the superstars – the Stephen Kings and the Nora Roberts – are the ones making serious money. Everyone else is obliged to hang on to their day jobs.
This is quite different from self-publishing where even mid-list authors – people you might never hear about – are quitting their day jobs because they are able to pay the bills. The reason you might never hear of them is that they need to sell a mere 75 ebooks each day at $2.99 in order to make a living. The amount people seem to agree is a living wage? $50,000.
But I guess all of this may not be very obvious to a lot of people, so I thought I’d point you to a couple excellent blog posts. You can decide for yourself.
The Passive Guy: Indie Authors Are Quitting Their Day Jobs.
The second post is by the amazing Hugh Howey: Newbie Author Declines $120,000 3-book Deal
The title of this could also be: Literary Agents, and What to Watch Out For
If you haven’t read Joe Konrath’s post before, you should be reading it. It is almost mandatory for those considering publishing their book. Something’s messed up. Unable to insert link into post today, so I’m having to give you the entire link: http://jakonrath.blogspot.in/2014/02/fisking-donald-maas.html