Friday, December 01, 2017

Confessions of an Entrepreneur on Kindle Direct Publishing

Kong in Shillong sells #Kwai,
while reading on her Smartphone 
Key Point

The digital platform has changed the way we look at Media per se. If Newspapers are read online, then, why can’t books also be read online? And with a little investment, you are your own boss; you determine your working hours; you decided, to whom your book is targeted to and you can change your audience at any time. You are empowered. You don’t need a hand-holder. You, do-it-yourself (DIY) and you decide what you want to write about, what treatment you are going to give your book, who you will use as your cover designer, your editor, proofreader, beta reader…in short, you are master of your own product. The success is yours!

Graduating from editing School Magazines to the first published article in The Junior Statesman, edited by Desmond Doig, I was already overjoyed and strutting around with a swollen head when I came across my first job as a Copywriter in an agency.

Being in an environment where reading, writing and commercial art was the only thing I did – in those days, we copywriters, artists, visualizers and all, were a protected community) – I found my pen scribbling away at all times. Poems flowed like Coke and stories took birth in my head, faster than I had ever thought, they would. I wrote, and wrote, and wrote until I found a collection had come about. A few books of poems and stories, traveled from one city to another, as part of my belongings. Then, one day, the computer happened. Data operators sprung up from all quarters and I gave my books of stories to be neatly typed and systematically placed together. I always wanted to publish them.

But that too sat in CDs and in my Gmail account! Bless Gmail! Such a fabulous place to store your thoughts and writings, in a folder called MYWRITINGS!

Then, one day, someone asked me, do you have a blog? What’s that, I thought? And right enough, I was soon on one - was the beginnings of my dreams come true. Whoever said, that you had to slog for your money?  The brilliant concept started by Satya Prabhakar and Sangeeta Kshettry, found content without paying for any. Pages upon pages of stories, poems, ideas, discussions on any and every subject under the sun, made one of the most successful companies. All you needed to do was to open a blog and start to write. Needless to say, I was hooked immediately. I wrote as if there was no tomorrow and the feedback was enormous - I got instant high from the LIKE and comments and long discussions ensued between me and the readers. Why do we need the #JaipurLiteratureFestival? I was addicted. Here, I met awesome authors, whose books I would hold and review in days to come.

But that was way back in 2007! By 2009, I saw many authors of, publish their books. But we are talking of 2009 – that is way, way back! Soon, we were going to see a sea change in publishing.

Vanity Publishing, or what was looked upon as a poor cousin of REAL PUBLISHING, like being published by Penguin and Bloomsbury, and the FAT OLD MEN of publishing, was going to see a sea change. As publishers rushed from UK, USA to the new country India, with a colonial past, hoping to get their share of the mullah, Amazon’s Direct Publishing Platform, Kindle Direct Publishing came and slowly started making their presence felt.

Then, success stories started to filter in. Rasana Atreye, a software engineer in the US, of Indian origin, had sent her story “Tell a Thousand Lies” to over 100 agents in the US and got no response. Finally, the story was shortlisted for the 2012 Tibor Jones South Asia Prize. Publishing houses began to chase her, but she chose to go it alone. She chose, KDP, Kindle Direct Publishing as her platform to publish her book, giving all the traditional publishers a rejection slip! She had 17,000 downloads on the day, her book went up for sale on KDP! And downloads continue, unabated.

Writing as a Profession

There are a few things every writer wants – readers, people who buy and read their books, people who review, comment, appreciate their work. And most of all, their book must generate revenue for them.

A writer spends hours of their day or night, invested in their book. They certainly are writing because they have a story to tell, but most of all, they are investing in terms of money and time on these books, which they then want to sell for a living. A book which has been written and put up for sale, with no readers and no downloads, may dry out funds put aside and make the fertile mind a dry desert.

Hence, to sum it up, if one has spent one year to write a book, then one must calculate what one has had to give up to keep writing. The ROI, return on investment must clearly, be enough to generate revenue that can go back as an investment into the next book series.

Bitten by the Entrepreneurial Bug

I look at my books as products of my mind. Hence, I have set aside money for publishing. While I may not follow all the Digital Marketing tools, I would certainly join Facebook and have 1 Page for all my book, have a LINKEDIN profile and join writers groups there, join TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, PINTEREST, and all other discussion forums, that talk of books, book publishing, and marketing. I would also be conscious of trends – more and more, people are reading nano-writes, #TerriblyTinyTales, short stories, and small titles that cost as good as a coffee at CafĂ© Coffee Day. So, if your book costs anything between Rs 35 to Rs 150 and can be read on a device like a Handset or Kindle, the better it is. It takes, 45 minutes to travel from HUDA City Centre Metro Station in Gurugram to Rajiv Chowk in Central Delhi – can you give your reader a 40 minutes complete story, point to point, which he has paid only Rs 50 for? That works!

Obsess! Obsess! Obsess!

Hot selling authors need to feel the pulse of the reader, all the time. So they must be obsessed with them. What are they doing? How do they engage? WhatsApp? Whatzup, with them? So, as authors, we need to keep our ears to the ground and remember content is king if you have spoken to that dude in his language (lingo). Last but not the least - size matters!

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Julia Dutta is a digital marketing professional who writes on weekends.