This question and answer session is all about my book publishing. It was to be published in a newspaper a few months ago, but it never happened. So, I am publishing it in my blog.
1. What is your book all about? How long did it take for you to put it together?
My book is a romance, something in the style of a Mills & Boon novel, set in India – Mumbai, in fact. It’s about a wedding arranged between the hero and heroine and how they adapt to the idea of an arranged marriage.
My first draft got completed in barely 25 days. I have to mention something here. I am a commerce graduate and although my spoken English had always been very good, I never could string two written sentences together. I had just left my job in the year 2000 and was sitting at home doing nothing. My writing skill happened like a bolt from the blue. I just came home one day from my walk and started writing.
Then I had someone, an ex-journalist, check my book. Shankar read it and gave me a critical appreciation – what would work and what would not. He also told me that my book was a long way from being published. I never believed at that point that he could be so right.
A typical Libran, I wanted to rewrite the novel. Then again, I wondered whether it was worth the effort. It was my husband, Venkat, who persuaded me to give it a shot. He told me that since I had come this far, I should not give up.
Then, it took me about six months to complete the final version – with additions and deletions, of course.
2. How did you approach publishers and what was their feedback? Did they ask for a publication fee?
• My first choice was Harlequin Mills & Boon Ltd. I wrote to them for a brochure on the rules to be followed by new author submissions. I was required to send them only a synopsis to begin with. I got a letter from them stating that they liked my synopsis but that did not mean that they were committed to publishing my novel. I had to send the first three chapters. And that unfortunately did not meet with their approval.
• I took out the yellow pages in the directory and called every single publisher who was listed in Mumbai. No luck.
• Delhi-based Rupa & Co. sent back my material within 24 hours, saying ‘No’.
• I tried to find out about publishing agents. Not too much luck in our country – at least, not in 2001 and immediately after.
• I went to book shops and took down names of publishers, along with their postal addresses – made a big list – and sent the synopsis of my novel along with the first three chapters. These were all foreign publishers and all of them preferred the old method of handling things – by post or courier. No soft copies were encouraged. I spend quite an amount of money, taking printouts and on postage.
• I have 27 or 28 rejection letters as a result of my effort.
• At that point, I had not known that Penguin had started a branch in India. It took the Penguin office in South Africa to point that out to me. I wrote to them too. No luck again!
• Then there was this offer from Minerva Publishers. They told me that they were impressed with my work, but I had to pay money for publishing it. This was some six years ago. They had a list of authors – George Bernard Shaw being quoted as one example – who had had to pay to be published. I went again to bookstores, mostly branches of Crossword, searching for titles by Minerva. I found Zilch. I think I had a lucky escape there.
• Then, the editor of Frog Books made an offer. He wanted me to pay 60,000 for printing 600 books and marketing them. I went to meet him and asked him if they would publish all the manuscripts that they received, if they got a sum of money. He told me that it was not so and he had selected mine because he found it marketable. I also asked him if he took money from all authors. He did tell me that that was not always so. I was not convinced that I should pay and get my book published.
• Amidst all this, you can guess the number of people who would have given me their two-bits. Almost everyone was of the opinion that an author should not pay for her work to be published.
• By then, I had landed a job with Mumbai Mirror and I thought, here I was in the media and surely something would click. No such luck!
• Then, there were a couple of other publishers who were ready to take up the project but for different amounts. I was worried that I will have to shell out the cash and then run behind them for the marketing part of it.
3. How did you get to know about Raider? How did you check on their track record?
Seven and a half years after my search for someone to publish my book, I found Raider Publishing International quite by chance while I was browsing the net. I have to mention that on that same day – 18th September, 2008 – I found two publishers. One was Raider and the other was Dorrance. Both had made it clear that I would have to pay a nominal amount for their services. I wrote to both of them.
Dorrance came back saying that a writer’s work was their responsibility and they passed no judgement on it. They were ready to publish any book that fell into their hands.
While Adam Salviani from Raider was clear that they should find the first three chapters impressive enough and only then would agree to publish the novel.
I obviously liked the idea of publishing my book with Raider. And after their approval of the first three chapters, things just snowballed.
I found a few blogs in the internet with people’s comments on Raider’s services – most of them positive. Adam himself gave me the contact of an Indian author – Amol Chawak, who has written Back to the Holocaust, published by Raider – at my request. I wrote to Amol and he was all praise for Raider’s services. I also checked many web bookstores that stocked books published by Raider.
And, somewhere, I felt, I needed to have faith that my book should do well. If I don’t have the faith in my own work, then how can I expect a stranger (publisher, in this case) to believe in it?
4. How exactly is your book being put together and how has the experience been so far?
Once Adam Salviani and I agreed that the book would be published by Raider, he sent me a contract (thank God, that everything happened via email). I had it thoroughly checked. I had a number of questions and Adam was patient enough to answer each and every one of them. I wanted to make a couple of changes that was agreed upon. I paid the requisite amount – it was very less compared to what the other publishers had asked. (I also thought that the years were passing, without anything happening. And this is one time I needed to take the risk.)
The publishing process began immediately:
• The contract reached Adam the third week of November, 2008.
• The third week of March, 2009 – the proofreading was completed by them and approved by me with a few other changes. The cover design was ready and the formatting done and the book sent to the printers.
• Everyday morning, I used to run through my email, eagerly looking for a mail from Adam or Barbara from Raider, regarding the progress of my book. I was rarely disappointed.
• Second week of May, 2009 – I HAD MY BOOK IN MY HAND.
The experience has been euphoric. All those years of waiting – I have already forgotten them. I sincerely believe that ‘Today is the first day of the rest of my life’.
5. How will your book be marketed and sold?
Raider has a network of bookstores, both online and shops around the world. Based in New York, the company has a branch in London too. I expect the marketing of my novel to happen mainly in India, the USA and UK. For my part, I will have to attend book signings that the publisher has promised to organise. I did send them a list of book outlets such as Crossword, Landmark and Oxford Bookstore.
The rest of the show, I need to wait and watch. I have great faith in the Almighty who has brought me thus far.
6. What is your learning from the entire exercise?
I have shed many a tear in the whole process. But, looking back, I feel quite happy with myself that I never gave up.
This reminds me of a small story from the Mahabharata that my mother used to tell us when we were small. About Arjuna, the Pandava prince – when Dronacharya held an archery contest between the Kauravas and the Pandavas, they were expected to shoot the eye of a parrot sitting on a lush tree set against the blue sky. When the Guru asked his students what they could see in front of them, each one said that he could see the bright sky, or the green tree, or the beautiful parrot and so on. It was Arjuna who said that he could see an eye. And of course, he won the contest. Such was his focus.
I used to tell myself this story each time I failed. I believe that one should never give up with creative attempts. Success is very probable. As in this case, there are so many people who read books and those are people with varying tastes. So why should not a few millions want to read my book?