Keep Calm and Write
I began blogging sometime in 2011, when the literary industry in India was at its peak. The blogging, which began more as a love for the written word, soon gave birth to my second blog, which was purely a book reviewing blog. Having been a voracious reader since the age of four, reviewing came naturally to me as I was able to see through the plots of the books I read. Fortunately I enjoyed reading varied genres which gave me a glimpse into what a good book is all about, irrespective of its genre. And that holds the key for me till date.
The way I perceived books changed when one day I read a book which was poorly edited and highlighted it in my review much to the dismay of the publisher. The plot loopholes and the grammatical errors were too obvious to be ignored. One thing led to another from there and before I realized I had my first project as an editor for a manuscript. That was 2013. Today I am the editor for Bloody Good Book, India’s first crowd curated publishing house. With around 15 projects under my belt till now, I can proudly claim to have witnessed the before and after of a book very closely. Holding a book in my hands had a very different meaning before I was part of the publishing industry. Now I can see the hard work that goes behind each book—beginning with the author and ending with the publisher’s marketing department.
As an aspiring author, it definitely feels good when you have a contract from a big publishing house waiting for you in your inbox. Well, let’s accept this scenario for a moment. We all feel we have the next bestseller in our hands and that it is purely un-put-down-able. We cannot seem to find one reason as to why someone will reject such an amazing read. It is when the rejection slips begin to pile up that we realize how grossly we had miscalculated it all. And when we cannot decipher the reason for rejection, it bogs us down.
There is nothing wrong in aspiring big. However, what is wrong is leaping high without seeing where you will land. Before approaching any major book publisher, one needs to ensure a few things:
- Ask yourself, do you really have something different to tell the world?
- If yes, what is so different in it that should make one choose it over the others?
- Why should one buy it?
When you have answers to these questions, that information will determine your further course of action, i.e., writing your book. Once that’s taken care of, you spend days and nights on your computer typing away to glory and, finally, have your masterpiece ready. What next?
The Indian literary industry is yet to warm to literary agents and, hence, most of the publishing houses are open to direct submissions and their requirements are very simple. Three sample chapters, author’s bio, and a synopsis about the story that you want to narrate. Sounds simple, right? Well, that is where the twist is. This brings forth many questions: which chapters should they be? First three, last three, or random chapters? Should the climax be disclosed in the synopsis? How much impact should the author’s have?
To begin with your sample chapters: Pick any three with a diverse range of writing skills showcased. This highlights you as an author. Add a synopsis that is equally intriguing, one that discloses the climax because that is when a publisher would know how exciting or not-so-exciting is your book going to be, which in turn becomes the bait that makes them ask for the whole manuscript from you. Keep the author’s bio as brief as possible unless you are asked for a detailed one, which runs into pages.
Fortunately for an author in today’s times, there are a lot of options available for consideration starting from sites like Amazon, Pothi, Smashwords, Wattpad, etc. There are a lot of books getting published without the need for a proper publisher in-between. Some of these sites also have a print-on-demand option available, making it easier for a reader to choose either between an e-book and a physical one. In short, the options to become an author are now available at the click of a button.
For a first-time author, such options can be valuable in terms of setting up a reader base. There have been writers who have put up their work at Wattpad for free reading. And then they have gone on to writing some of the bestselling novels. What they needed was to know that someone believed in their writing and Wattpad made it happen. The same is the case with blogging; blogger-turned-authors are creating waves in today’s literary world. Apart from this, it also helps that you learn from every feedback you receive and you must shape your work accordingly. Desperate in Dubai, an international bestseller actually started as a blog, which was later on turned into a book. It had become so popular that publishers approached the blogger themselves and the rest, as they say, is history. As long as your work has quality, everything else just falls into place.
There has been an eternal battle between a reputed traditional publisher, a self-publishing option, or small-time publishing. I have always told all my clients, it is not a crime to admit you are self-published. It just means you choose to believe in your worth when someone else did not. What else would you call the optimism with which Amish Tripathi, a best-selling author today, self-published his first book of the Shiva trilogy? Mythology as a genre at that time was unheard of, owing to which publishers did not want to take chances with it. But he believed in his story and, today, he has not only sold millions of copies of that book but has also started a new series for which he was paid a whopping advance amount, too. Not to forget a movie on the book is in the pipeline! Choose what you feel suits you the best. Just because you are represented by a reputed traditional publisher doesn’t mean you are a bestselling author. If a small publisher brings out your book, it doesn’t mean the end of your dream career.
What matters is good quality content and, of course, a very strong marketing plan to back it up. Amish Tripathi himself admits that it was sheer marketing that ensured his first book was noticed by so many, making him an instant best-selling author. Contrary to the popular beliefs, marketing of a book makes a lot of difference to its sales. The next question will obviously be how much is enough and the answer to it is: No one knows! No author or publisher can tell you in this world how much money is enough as a marketing budget. Some have struck gold with thousands, while some are still biting dust with lakhs!
Amidst the pressure to bring out a successful book, one key factor that most authors overlook is the need to constantly keep writing new books. Just to state the statistics, J K Rowling’s first book of the Potter series didn’t garner as much sales on its release as did the third one, or maybe the final one. So you see it takes time for an author to strike a note with the readers. Ashwin Sanghi’s Krishna Key was a superbly written, edge-of-the-seat thriller, making readers go back to his first two or three books, only to realize they were fabulous as well. You never know when a story clicks with a reader for a particular reason, making them fall in love with your writing.
Given these scenarios, one is bound to wonder if changing markets impact a book. Well, the answer is a yes and a no. A ‘no’ because Agatha Christie was magic then and is magic now. Even decades later, her level of suspense and mystery is something we all still love; it never seems outdated. A ‘yes’ because we are tired of the same love-heartbreak-campus love stories floating in the market. We badly need a change because the average Indian reader is experimenting, expanding her horizons by trying different authors. It won’t be long before most readers realize what they have missed. An author has to constantly keep evolving with the market trends. This is because today’s average readers’ attention span is very less and, hence, to attract readers the writer must try to grab their attention with variety.
Regardless of what type of publishing you opt for, what is important is that you write an attention-seeking content and manage to retain it throughout all your works. Nicholas Sparks has positioned himself as a romance author for so many years and when he writes romance, every love story looks so refreshingly different. On the other hand, we have authors who are unable to produce variety in the same genre and end up being repetitive. That is when they should try their hands at different genres.
After unraveling all the complications involved in publishing, I want to simplify things for you. Think—Analyze—Interpret—Understand—Question—Most importantly, just WRITE. You never know when a masterpiece is born!
For more stories, read Café Dissensus Everyday, the blog of Café Dissensus Magazine.