Thursday, July 31, 2008

Publish your dream book yourself

Brian de Souza
Sunday, DNA, Mumbai, July 13, 2008 03:46 IST

Or you can contact some of the city’s small publishing houses who could make your novel a bestseller

He wanted to become a filmmaker but instead landed up being a homeopathic doctor. And several years into his practice, a story that a patient told him inspired him to put pen to paper and a manuscript Saturn and I, written over many weekends and sometimes well into the night, became a reality. But when Shailendra Vaishampayan, 31, sent his manuscript to the big publishing houses, he got either reject slips or no response at all. “One publishing house even asked me for a large sum of money,” he recalls. But Vaishampayan wasn’t going to give up. “It isn’t easy to get published if you don’t have the contacts, money and the PR machinery to get catch the media’s attention,” he said

Even in this age of the Internet and six-figure advances, a slew of small publishers are attempt ing at carving their own niche. Frog Books in Mumbai has been able to successfully harness the Internet to sell a range of non-fiction books. When he started out five year ago, Sunil K Poolani, Frog Books’ publisher, says the big names look only for marketable names when there is “actually quite a lot of talent that could be harnessed”.

And though he admits that he had done vanity publishing in the past, Poolani says he has been able to tap talent that may have never made it. A case in point is a book by John Mowat, a foreigner staying in India who wrote Strangers Ourselves-Paul Theroux’s Adventures.
“Today, I sell most of my non-fiction via the net through Amazon where I have my own account,” he says. There are also publishers like Zubaan who focus on niche novels written by women. By keeping overheads down and and cutting corners wherever possible, these small outfits are able to offset their expenses and sometimes earn a small profit. Preeti Gill, senior editor, Zubaan, says that for small publishers, it can help if a book they publish is a hit. In Zubaan’s case, the book written two years ago by Baby Halder and published by Zubaan, gave them a lot of mileage. According to Gill, having a niche can help because some publicity comes through word of mouth.

A Google search for Indian literary agents throws up names of publishing outfits, some of whom offer self-publishing services, editing resources, ghost-writing etc, for anything ranging from memoirs, small stories, hobby books to even poems, a category that is difficult to sell. Frog Books has a separate imprint just for poetry: Pe

Some small outfits are known to take money from a new writer who then earns a small royalty on the basis of the sale. Print runs are small -typically not more than a few thousand — and a reprint may be unlikely. In Vaishampayan’s case, an idea struck him when he dropped by a road-side seller near his clinic. “If I can get this book printed on my own, I will need a channel to distribute it. So why not use these guys who sell books on the pavement?”

Having decided to publish the book himself. Vaishampayam located a printing press and commissioned 1,050 copies of his own book. He got in touch with Jamalbhai, who heads the Newspaper Agents Welfare Association and runs a few bookshops himself. “I was eager to help him and so have stocked 20 copies of his book,” he said. To help coordinate with book sellers, Vaishampayan roped in Sushant, a long time patient who read Saturn and I and liked the plot. This informal network called Pavement Publishers, the name that one of his patients suggested, is beginning to go beyond Mumbai. “When you sell on the pavement, you may not always get the printed price of the book,” says Vaishampayan. Vaishampayan has now been contacted by two women writers keen to write books. It seems as if his dream will be fulfilled very soon.

In search of the new Rushdie

Joanna Lobo
Tuesday, DNA, Mumbai, July 29, 2008 03:52 IST

There's no dearth of new fiction writers, but what's missing is quality

There's a new breed of young, though relatively unknown writers, who are aiming to dislodge the Salman Rushdies and Jhumpa Lahiris from their pedestal. “The time is ripe to make our mark,” says Anjum Hasan, author of Lunatic In My Head. Her book was one of the finalists at the recent Crossword Book Awards. Though she did not win, the feedback she received was unexpected.

The past few months have seen an unprecedented number of books being launched by Indian writers in English. And while all may not achieve the same fame as Arundhati Roy did with her God Of Small Things, the trend is a positive one.

Today, publishing houses are churning out books by the dozen. But there is a catch: Some of these books would not have passed through editors a decade ago. So, have the basic rules of publishers changed?

"Of course it has. Over the last 10 years, publishing houses have opened shop here. An acute lack of good or even imaginative writing has not dampened their spirits in an attempt to tap the local market. They have to publish and promote run-of-the-mill work, which is in abundance" fumes Sunil Poolani, publisher at Frog Books.

So have publishing houses turned a blind eye to style and prose? Namita Devidyal (The Music Room) does not think so. "A well-written good story will always find acceptance," she says.

The majority of readers are no longer that judgmental. For instance, while critics trashed Chetan Bhagat's The Three Mistakes Of My Life, the masses loved it.

VK Karthika, publisher at Harper Collins, credits Chetan with the birth of a new of generation writers. "...People who speak and write English as their first language. They are reckless, brave and willing to experiment." Ultimately, it’s the reader who decides the 'saleability' of a book. Karthika says, "Readers are willing to try out new styles, and are not limited to literary pieces." With more competition, publishers believe that things can only better.