The Journey as an author has many ups and downs. Same as any other journey and gives you as many insights into life and human relationships. Last month my book The Mouse Charmers completed one year on the bookshelves. This was the time to look back and reflect on the world of authors. What does it mean to be an author? How does it change your world or rather the world’s view of you? Should you publish another book with an established publisher or choose self-publishing next time? Should you write a book at all?
I had a rather smooth journey while publishing my first book. I never shared my idea with anyone except Random House (Now Penguin Random House). Within a week or so they agreed to publish the book. It was after that e-mail I seriously started working on the book. I could have done with a better editing of the book but otherwise, I have no other complaints with the publisher till the book came out.
After the book came out, it was my baby and my responsibility. The publishers probably did 4-5 updates on their social media channels and sent the regular review copies to publications and online reviewers. I got some interview requests that I was more than happy to oblige. A leading financial newspaper called the book a masterpiece – while the comment can be always debated, there is a segment of readers who found the book very useful. Biggest of this segment was entrepreneurs – both established ones and the new ones. A section of B-school faculty liked the book and it was inducted into their recommended reading list for courses on Entrepreneurship. Most reviews were kind, more than kind than I expected as a blunt reviewer myself. Biggest compliments came from some B-school professors who went to the extent of saying they almost remember the book by heart.
Journey as an Author
Did it change anything for me as a person? Not really. Did it change how the world viewed me? Will have to say yes. To elaborate I will have to take segments of people. For the people I interacted with first time – having a published work in market lends you certain credibility and people take you a bit more seriously. Though I must say my body of work online is far bigger than one book, but the book still carries the stamp of approval more than the blog. It conveys that a publisher thought you were worth investing into, while a blog even with a large readership is self-driven and has no official stamp of approval. I know the balance is shifting, but this is how it is at this point in time. The bigger the publisher, the more weight your book carries even with the same words in it.
From my existing set of friends, the reactions ranged from being proud of me to being envious. The reactions to the news of the publication of the book (for not all those who reacted have read the book) gave me a lot of insight into where people see me in reality. There were people who thought they always knew a book would come from me. There were people who questioned how did I manage to get a good publisher. Then there were people who judged the book without reading it or even holding it in their hands. There were people who came forward to spread the word. Some who refused to acknowledge the book. And finally, there were people who assumed that I would change because there was a book under my belt. I had not changed and it baffled them.
I never thought the book in a way would become a mirror to the world around me. It brought out a kind of transparency that nothing else has ever. It was so easy to see the genuine and faked reactions. Personally, it was the biggest return that the book brought for me.
The biggest myth I had to deal with is the popular perception that a single book can make the author at least a millionaire. There can be nothing further from this truth. Author Ravi Subramanian has done this brilliant piece for anyone who wants to make a living out of writing. My book has done reasonably well but the financial returns I got till now are negligible – they barely cover the cost of research – not accounting for all the time and effort I had spent on writing the book.
So, I took a conscious decision that if I have to do a research-based book, this has to be funded by an agency that benefits from the book. The next blueprint is ready and waiting for a writing grant or a funding agency. It is a book that I really want to do for it would benefit the businesses I write for, but then it would also involve a lot of research cost apart from at least a year of my time. Any leads would be really appreciated.
I got to interact with publishers – and their various teams, distributors, bookshop owners, PR agencies all of whom work in the value chain of the publishing industry. All of these people make their living selling books written by authors. Works of authors are at the core of their living. The author probably makes the least amount of money amongst all these people. It is the works of the author that feed so many mouths. No wonder the industry reveres the authors who sell well. I started looking at authors as artists or creators. Whose creation becomes the source of livelihood for anyone whose hands it passes through before it reaches the reader.
There is a persistent debate in my mind- if the authors should take a self-publishing route than going with traditional publishing. The sales numbers of ebooks in India are not encouraging. Till they gear up I guess to publish in India would make sense only with a traditional publishing house. However, if the audience is in the western hemisphere, going self-publishing route may be much better. But it requires excellent self-promotion skills from an author apart from an ability to pen a book. I guess this topic would call for another more thought through post.
Would love to hear back from you on this… Journey as an Author.