I finally took the plunge. No, not marriage. That happened a long time ago. Not swimming either. That goes further back in time. It was the big question that most authors have on their mind – ‘Which is better – traditional publishing or self-publishing?’
My dilemma was a little different though. My MBA book (Beyond The MBA Hype) was already published in India by a mainstream publisher about 1.5 years back. The dilemma was related to my ebook.
Originally the book was written for the international reader. It’s about the generally unwritten and undiscussed aspects about management education. If your family members, friends, colleagues have been threatening to go abroad for studies, tell them to read it. The content, I always felt, was relevant to anyone considering an international MBA. However, along the editing process, the content was tweaked for the Indian reader. But I still wanted to get it out in the international market.
Outside India, I’m still a no-name author. Doesn’t mean that I’m a major phenomenon in India, sharing ideas with Vikram Seth on what we can jointly do to not return our million dollar advances. But in India, due to my little online platform, the right folks still know about my advisory work. That helps in creating awareness about the book. The same online platform also attracts international readers.
So instead of embarking on another wild goose chase with international publishers, I wondered if I should experiment a little in the self-publishing space. At best, the book reaches out to a global audience. Worst case, I still have an interesting blog post to share here with you.
There are some hard truths that I learnt from my experience in the print space that made the decision easier:
– Printed books will not make you rich.
You know about the royalty rates in India, right? No? Here’s a refresher – Book publishing industry: How the revenue pie gets shared
– Printed books will not allow you to scale across borders
You have country rights and then you have world rights. Your fight for visibility in your motherland is nothing when you consider the bigger market. How will you ensure that your printed book generates the right buzz in other countries?
– Printed books will struggle for shelf space in bookstores
Even after my book got an encouraging response (sold out twice and entered into a second edition), I still struggle to find my own book in stores when I go hunting (for a nice ego massage, rather than the book itself). After dodging the huge piles book bearing familiar names (Shri Dan Brown, Shri Bhagat and Shri Amish-ji), I go to the modest sections where the one-off copies of not so popular authors might be placed. When I don’t find it after 10 minutes of frantic searching, I ask for help. The confused look on the helpers’ faces is the least of my worries. The bigger issue is when I tell them the name of the book and they repeat it as if I came from Mars. “What was the name, saar? MBA Height? MBA Night?”
After a few minutes, I’m confused whether I wrote a book on management education or health or erotica. If neither the author nor the helper can find the book, why would an impatient reader spend valuable time. He’ll just pick up another related book and leave.
That’s the reality for small-time authors like you and me. Unless you break into the top 0.1% (randomly generated number), shelf space will be a constant uphill battle.
But this isn’t about saying printed books aren’t worth considering. Of course they are. The point here is – what’s there to lose if you skip the print medium and go green?
So, I went ahead and got the book published on Amazon under the shiny new brand – Booksoarus. The content editing, formatting, layout, cover page, testing for device compatibility yada yada was managed by the Booksoarus team.
I wasn’t sure what the reception would be.
Folks in India don’t like ebooks, said many articles. Ebook readers like Kindle don’t sell in India, said many more. And all those facts are true. So I told myself, most of my readers are used to reading my work online anyway (through my MBA blog). And no one needs a Kindle to read ebooks. Amazon provides free Apps to read the ebooks on PC, laptops, iPads, iPhones and all kinds of devices.
Despite all those self-assurances, I was still tense about the ebook and whether it’ll have takers.
Then in a week I checked the Amazon statistics to see how the book published by an unknown writer, through an unknown publishing brand was doing. Here are the results.
I understand this might be book’s fleeting 15 minutes of fame and the ratings / rankings will change over time. But I’m happy that the experiment has not been a complete failure. Gives hope to other chota-mota authors (like me) that there’s another credible avenue that you can explore to get your work in front of folks who really matter – your readers.
If you found this post interesting, read what happened next in this follow-up post – Book marketing plan that got Business Doctors sold out in under a year.
Have you been considering self-publishing on Amazon? What are your concerns? If you have already been published, what’s your experience?