Tough to Make it Financially—But Soul Satisfaction Counts!
By Koshy A.V.
I have ten or eleven books under my belt in the sense that my name is there on the cover as author, co-author, or co-editor, but getting a ‘so-called’ proper contract seems further away from me than ever. I guess I am just not savvy as to how to go about it and do not feel the need to, as I get publishers anyway, if I don’t bother about the big guns. I have been published through LLAP Lambert Academic Publishing, which was my first formal publishing attempt. The earlier one was self-publication without even an ISBN, from a local press, of a collection of poetry called FIGS. LLAP was from Germany and gave me a proper contract, including royalty and two copies, but it offered no editing or layout services. Moreover, they overpriced the book. The book was called Wrighteings: In Media Res, a book which included one essay by my brother and me while they rest were all my own. It was an interesting failure as an experiment. What impressed me was that they put it online all over the world. While I sold nothing, a few people read my book and gave me good reviews. My second or third publishing attempt was with a small American publisher, Kelly Boykin Pocan, who passed away after that. She made my book available on Createspace and as a kindle offering and on Smashwords. It also came out on Barnes and Noble and Kobo. It sold somewhat well. It was published in India by AuthorsPress as Art of Poetry and it is still selling in both its ebook version as A Treatise on Poetry for Beginners and as Art of Poetry. It’s my only bestseller so far, mainly.
I do not think literary agents are necessary for today’s new writers, unless they are aiming for the biggest or best publishers. In which case, yes. In my case, LLAP sent me an email asking for my thesis but as I only had a book of essays ready then I sent that and was accepted. I approached Kelly of Speak Up Publishing directly and AuthorsPress through a friend, who gave me the publisher’s number, and I adopted the same direct approach with my other three publishers.
The marketplace today is changing too fast. I think the genres of self-help books and books on networking for creating value and wealth are more in demand than other genres. Niche books like erotica sell. Human interest stories will matter, always, of course. I mean stories on love, hard luck changing as in rags to riches, doing good and improving society, overcoming disabilities, etc. Originality and experiment with form still count. My Art of Poetry is an example as it was written first as Facebook posts. Two other books followed using the same trajectory or methodology, the first one knowingly and the second unknowingly. The first one, Wake Up: India Essays for our Time by myself and Bina Biswas and the second, Santosh Bakaya’s Ballad of Bapu. She wrote without knowing of my attempt but the same way, writing often directly on to Facebook, which fascinated me!
The Significant Anthology was another superb experiment which was a project by Reena Prasad and me, with Michele Baron as sub-editor. The book is a collection of literary works with contributions from all in the Facebook group, ‘Rejected Stuff’. This is my and our second bestseller in our modest terms and bigger than my earlier one.
Smashwords and Createspace make a lot of sense for beginners, as does Amazon kindle and ebook epub.
In India, if one publishes with small publishers, one has to spend on buying one’s own copies, pay for editing or else plan on doing the editing himself/herself, cover the expenses of book launches and, later on, market and distribute to a great extent. This is because many publishers bring out a good quality book but then leave it to the author to take care of its marketing and distribution. This happened with some of my books, such as Samuel Beckett’s Poem in English, Wake Up, India: Essays for Our Times, and Mahesh Dattani’s Plays: Staging the Invisibles. My newest book, The Significant Anthology, too, is going through the somewhat the same process. However, one does have some measure of control over things, if one opts for a small or middle-of-the-road publisher. In this case, the success and failure of the book would depend more on the author. If the author is willing to work hard, he/she can drive it to success. The process involves making posters, video trailers, etc., which could be made at affordable costs now because a lot of it can be done for free, if done only online. Following this model, many popular indie and self-published authors are successful in the West now and will be soon in India, too.
There is a lot of pressure on writers to churn out books non-stop, as people want change constantly in today’s world. I don’t know how it helps their careers; bringing out so many books has not helped mine, although some of these books are academic ones. I do write books for love and pleasure, as I am crazy about writing. I have finally made a mark as my writing is read heavily online, especially in journals such as Learning and Creativity and on Facebook. However, I have made nothing from all this financially. I hope my luck changes as an investor with The Significant Anthology, as this book contains all that I have learned from my previous publishing experiences.
The changing marketplace affects us in that we are on a constant selling mode, which takes our mind away from the actual process of writing. This is because one keeps trying to be visible and popular and make an impact every day, rather than write. The writer has to be always in the news and keep churning out new stuff.
The silver lining is that good writing still makes a mark – if not in terms of money, at least in terms of being read, shared, liked, commented on, discussed, and noticed. My personal experience proves that.
My suggestion to new writers would be that collaboration with like-minded people for growth is the way forward at every level.
Dr. Koshy A.V. is an Assistant Professor at the Department of English at the College for Arts and Humanities for Girls, Jazan University, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He has written, co-written, or co-edited books of criticism and poetry to his credit with many well-known or expert authors. His numerous accomplishments, which are too many to list in detail, include being a Pushcart Poetry Prize nominee (2012) and twice Highly Commended Poet in Destiny Poets UK ICOP (2013, 2014). His last three books were Wake Up, India: Essays for Our Times, co-authored with Dr. Bina Biswas, Mahesh Dattani’s Plays: Staging the Invisibles, also co-edited with Dr. Biswas, and The Significant Anthology, co-edited with Reena Prasad and Michele Baron with 177 global contributors. He is also currently working on a number of new publications. He hopes to create an Autism Village, which is his dream and lifetime project.
For more stories, read Café Dissensus Everyday, the blog of Café Dissensus Magazine.
Experiences leave one richer and even reading about them does. This is a great account of the practical side of the literary ‘business’, an honest appraisal of what succeeds and what does not when a finished piece of art goes into the market based on the author’s experience. Thank you for writing this Dr Koshy.