I had always been writing poems for as long as I can remember. My poems had been published in several online platforms and had won some major international writing competitions, but the urge to have my work out there in a book was overwhelming. I wanted that coveted laurel of being called a ‘writer’ and not just a ‘blogger’. So, when the manuscript of my first book ‘Stolen Reflections’ was complete, I was impatient to get it out in the world as soon as I could.
The biggest question I faced in this regard was: should I go all the way and get my book traditionally published, or should I take the so-called easy way out and self-publish? Initially, the options appeared unlimited, as did the opportunities. A simple Google search revealed a long list of companies and independent publishing houses inviting unsolicited manuscripts from all over the country.
The biggest question I faced in this regard was: should I go all the way and get my book traditionally published, or should I take the so-called easy way out and self-publish?
The familiar rush of adrenaline pumping through my veins, I set to work to shortlist what publishing houses might be best for me. As I looked deeper into their websites and read their fine print, it was apparent that the wait-time involved in getting an acceptance (or even a rejection) from a major publishing house was close to six months. I was a new author impatient to get her book in bookstores all over the world, and six months appeared to be a too long a wait time. The independent publishing houses had a shorter wait time of 20-45 days, but the 30 or so smaller publishing houses I communicated to said they weren’t into publishing poetry right then. Although it didn’t feel make me feel bad then, but now when I look back, rejection didn’t taste too good.
So I chose the only other option available to me – self-publishing.
A little bit of looking up on the internet made me familiar with the incredible success stories of Indian-origin female authors like Rupi Kaur and Savi Sharma – who self-published their first books that went on to become major international and national bestsellers. I put up a few posts on Quora and Facebook informing my followers of the upcoming book release, and the response I got on them was encouraging. There were hundreds of commenters saying they were excited to read my book as soon as it came up. This enthusiasm gave me some reassurance and acted like the final push in me deciding to invest some money in self-publishing.
Self-publishing, though easy, had its own problems too!
Amazon KDP was my first choice, but sadly, they don’t print paperbacks in India. I scrounged the internet for other options and found Pothi — a print-on-demand service where the author has to invest nothing, and would get paid 70% of the profits made from each book. It sounded like a fairy-tale, but the glitch here was that they would not provide an ISBN (which is essential if you intend to sell your books in a bookstore). Also, the MRP per book would be somewhat high, and the royalty relatively less. In addition, there was no international distribution.
As an alternative, I looked through several options of vanity publishing, and finally zeroed in on Notion Press. They guide you through the process of publishing — right from designing an Amazon and Goodreads author page to choosing an MRP for your book. The royalty they gave was impressive, but considering their rather high fees, an author would need to make a substantially large number of sales to break even. For me, the magic number was 1000 — an elusive milestone I am still struggling to reach.
Self-publishing, though easy, had its own problems too. The biggest among them was – the onus of producing an error-free manuscript fell entirely on the author. An editor, as assigned by the traditional publishing houses would have been extremely helpful in this case, but for then, I chose to stick to Grammarly (which was pretty helpful). Another issue was the book cover design. Most self-publishing houses claim to assign a cover designer to your project, but the most they do is download some stock images and print the book title and author name on it with a fancy font. To make sure my book cover was unique, I got it designed by a professional.
Once the manuscript and cover design were finalized, it took Notion Press hardly one week to make my book available online in all major e-commerce sites. I still remember the day Stolen Reflections saw the light of the world – 26th April 2018, one of the happiest days of my life. Needless to say, I was over the moon.
The warm response of my friends and followers to the news of my book release had somehow made me believe that my book would sell at least a hundred copies the day it hit the stands. But sadly, only about 50% of the people who commented actually cared enough to buy my book. In the first few days, I was disheartened looking at my author dashboard, refreshing it every few hours to see if the sales had gone up, but the numbers just didn’t increase. That was when I realized what big a role marketing plays in the Indian book industry. If you have some talent as a writer, then, word-of-mouth can go a long way in making your book a huge success.
And now, over a year and two more books later, I can vouch that marketing is something that can make or break a book. And the easiest way to do it today – why, social media, of course!
Here are a few marketing tips that I have learnt the hard way:
a. It is imperative to build an audience prior to publishing a book. Which translates to: “post regularly whether or not you have plans for a book in the pipeline”.
b. Giveaway contests: These generate an interest in the audience and lead to more publicity for the book.
c. Book reviews: The most important factor that makes a prospective buyer purchase a book are the reviews. For an author, it is advisable to get their friends and family write good reviews of the book on Goodreads and all leading e-commerce sites. Another option is to reach out to famous book-reviewers and bloggers with an audience of their own to review their book.
d. Hiring a digital marketing expert: This is a huge investment, no doubt, but in my opinion, paying for spreading the word about your book is better than paying for it to be printed, especially when there are so many alternatives that can get this done for free.
All things said and done, it is unrealistic to expect to be a millionaire by selling a debut book. It takes work and ounces of patience to make it big.
Till then, keep pushing. After all, more the writing, more is the happiness.
About the Author
Anangsha Alammyan is the Bestselling author of “Stolen Reflections” which has spent time in Amazon India’s ‘Top 10 Selling Novels’ list and ‘Hot & New Releases’. Her second book, “What did Tashi do?” is a cybercrime thriller that sold over 1000 copies in three months, earning the tag of “#1 Hot New Release” on Amazon India, with over 100 reviews online.
Hers is a well-known voice on the Q & A platform Quora, where her short stories and poems have garnered over 55000 followers. Several of her posts have gone viral on the internet, grabbing well over 11 million views for her content. She was also adjudged Quora Top Writer 2016 and 2018 – a title coveted by many, but bagged by few, especially in India. Her articles have been shared by several blogs and magazines online, earning her acclaim and other feathers in her hat, including the title of “Top Writer’ on the American blogging website, Medium.
Apart from her writing career, Anangsha holds a master’s degree in civil engineering from IIT Guwahati. She has several research publications and two patents (related to unsaturated soil mechanics) to her name. She is currently working as an Assistant Professor at NIT Silchar.
Anangsha hopes to write her own fantasy fiction series some day.
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