How to self-publish in India and sell books on Amazon? It is easier than you think. But before we go into how to self-publish, let’s first understand what self-publishing is.
Do you know what’s common between Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Stephen King, Virginia Woolf, Mark Twain, William Blake, Walt Whitman? They are all literary giants who self-published at least one of their books. So self-publishing is nothing new, and it is not for inferior writers only. It has been there since ages, and numerous great writers have used it to kick-start their literary career. And now technology has given it a new spurt and expanded its reach and popularity.
What is self-publishing?
Self-publishing is where the author takes complete ownership of a book’s publishing and distribution process. The author is responsible for every aspect of book publishing. Editing, proofreading, book designing, cover designing, distribution, etc. are all done by the author or professionals hired by the author. This gives authors the freedom to develop, design, and price their book as they want. They are directly responsible for the book production expenditure, but they also get a greater share of royalty.
The rising popularity of self-publishing:
In recent times, self-publishing is proving to be the fastest-growing segment of the publishing industry. A study in 2014 found that 30% of eBook sales come from self-published authors. This number has increased significantly now. A report also found out that self-published authors are now earning nearly 40% of all eBook royalties on the Kindle store. And over 30% of Amazon eBooks are self-published.
Till some years ago, people looked down upon self-published books. It was a common perception that books are self-published because they are not good enough to be traditionally published. But with the rising popularity of indie books, that perception is dwindling now. If you scroll through the romance books bestseller list on Amazon, many trending titles would be independently published.
Self-publishing is no longer ‘the last option’ for authors. Many authors take this route by choice. Believe it or not, some successful indie writers have rejected million-dollar deals in favour of self-publishing! Many have even made self-publishing their business.
Why is self-publishing becoming so popular?
There are many reasons leading to the rise of independent or indie publishing worldwide. Many writers are choosing to self-publish in India too.
Self-publishing takes less time. You don’t have to wait for months or years to see your book in the market. You earn bigger royalties and can edit the book, change its price, put up discounts whenever you wish. And you have complete ownership of the book and complete creative freedom. Whether you have a one-page story or an epic-length book, you can publish it.
The easy availability of self-publishing services is another reason for the rise of indie publishers. With just a few clicks, you can upload your book on Amazon and become a published author.
In a country like India, writers are increasing but readers are decreasing. This creates a tough challenge for writers to get accepted by good publishers. Self-publishing provides an easy option to get your book into the market. Then, it depends upon your book’s quality and your marketing skills to make it a bestseller.
Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing?
Self-publishing is no longer only the last resort. It has become a matter of choice now. Of course, many of the independent authors would love to be traditionally published. Traditional publishing means less hassle and more prestige. And achieving success through the Indie route is still harder than the traditional route.
Yet, as I mentioned earlier, there are also authors who rejected lucrative publishing deals to stay independent. Because success through self-publishing is possible if you have the skills to achieve it.
There’s too much competition in traditional publishing. And many good writers may never get published if they don’t go indie. Also, while self-publishing can be expensive if you hire professionals for cover designing, editing etc, traditional publishing often costs money too. Many publishers in India now ask money from the author to publish their books. Whether it’s in the form of buy-back copies or ‘partnered publishing’ or other ‘helpful suggestions,’ the author may have to pay money to get published. And I have seen that traditional publishing is no guarantee of error-free book.
Also, traditionally published authors have to market their books by themselves too because the publishers spend promotional money only on their star authors.
The traditional publishing does have some advantages over the indie route. The author does not need to bother with the publishing process. This includes getting the book edited and proofread. It is said that a book which is not already famous has less than 1% chance of being stocked in an average bookstore. The traditionally published books have a better chance of winning this precious shelf-space.
How to self-publish in India?
If you have the book ready, there are several ways you can self-publish in India and sell it on Amazon.
Buying a publishing package:
There are many companies now operating in India that will publish your eBook and print book and put them on Amazon, Flipkart, etc. They offer various packages bundling different services for writers like cover designing, editing, etc. If you don’t mind spending some money, you can google for self-publishing services in India. You’ll find many. Research about a company carefully before giving it your money. Check their reviews, books on Amazon. Some of them might not be as ‘helpful’ as they promise to be.
The benefit of this route is that it has less hassle. You give money and have your book published. On the negative side, the service delivered might not meet your expectations. Do thorough research before going this way.
Self-Publish in India on your own:
In this route, you have to take responsibility for cover design, book formatting, editing, proofreading. But since you are in total control, you know what you will get.
Tip: For cover designing, you can hire a professional cover designer. Search for them on social media channels like Facebook, Instagram. Or you can use free designing tools like Canva.
Self-publish in India – eBooks:
There are several services available to help you publish your eBook for free. Smashwords and Draft2Digital are two free services that put your book at various retailers like Kobo, iTunes, Scribd, etc. You just need to upload your file in their publishing tool, fill book details, and hit publish. To publish on the Kindle Store, you need to use Kindle Direct Publishing. Just create an account on these services, follow their guidelines in formatting and uploading your book, and publish.
Self-publish in India – Print books:
You can give money to the above-mentioned self-publishing services. Or you can get your book printed at a local printer. Then set up a seller account on Amazon and Flipkart and start selling.
What I prefer is using a Print On Demand service. These POD services print copies of your book only when there’s an order for it. So, no initial investment is needed for bulk-printing the books. These services take a cut from the royalty. They also put the book on Amazon India and Flipkart.
If you want to go this way, I’d suggest checking out pothi.com. I’ve found their service honest and print quality excellent. You can use their Cover Creator tool to design a cover for your book.
For a nominal fee, they even make the book available on Amazon India and Flipkart. There are some other similar POD services available. You can Google and see which you like.
The drawback of using a POD service is that the books are not bulk-printed so they are expensive to produce. That means, their selling-price is high. A 150-page book would sell for 250 rupees or so. This high price might discourage many readers from buying the book.
Tip: If the Print On Demand service you choose does not provide ISBN, you can apply for it yourself. It’s free and easy. See How to get ISBN in India.
How to sell books on Amazon?
If you buy a publishing package from a self-publishing service, they will put your book on Amazon and other popular retailers like Flipkart. Make sure of this before you pay them money.
If you print your paperback or hardback book copies at a local printer, you can create a seller’s account on Amazon and sell the books yourself. This method might get you more profit but will also mean more hassle.
If you publish your print copies through Print on Demand services like pothi.com, you can buy their distribution package which will put your book at Amazon, Flipkart, etc. These packages are usually very nominally priced and easily affordable.
If you want to sell your eBook on Amazon, publish it through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). That will automatically put your book on Amazon India and other Amazon marketplaces. You can remove any country where you don’t want to sell your book. You can also set different prices of your book for different countries.
Also check out: How to use Kindle Create to design beautiful eBooks
How to be a successful self-publishing author?
While self-publishing is easy, becoming successful as an author is a different story. I’ve read that an average U.S. nonfiction book sells less than 250 copies per year and less than 2,000 copies over its lifetime. The competition is even tougher for fiction. The availability of thousands of free eBooks has made selling a book even harder. Why would anyone buy a new, unknown book when there are numerous free options available?
Ultimately, whether you self-publish in India or anywhere else, success depends upon the author’s marketing skills. A best-selling indie author I know states it clearly that success as an author is ‘20% writing and 80% marketing.’ Marketing for author involves social media, blogging, guest posting on other blogs, seeking book reviews, reading sessions, and more. The harder you can work at marketing, the greater are your chances to succeed. Otherwise, even a literary masterpiece would fail if nobody knows it exists.
The rise of author promotion industry.
The trouble is that most authors are not good at marketing. But they all are desperate for success. They need marketing help. And this has given birth to a huge industry offering ‘help’ to authors. Some of these help-givers might be genuine, but most just prey on the authors’ desperation. These include vanity publishers asking a huge amount of money and delivering poor service, fake book awards, dubious digital marketeers, bulk review providers, social media influencers, and so on.
Even many young readers have now joined this bandwagon to pull free books and ‘reading money’ from the authors in return of brief and often generic reviews. I’ve even had Instagram accounts dedicated to fitness, parenting, and celebrity fan clubs asking money with offers of promoting my books. The authors need to be careful in using such services or they end up wasting their money.
So, if you have decided to self-publish in India, be very careful of people offering you promotional help.
Self-publish in India: My Experience
My first novel Dream’s Sake is traditionally published. My other books Lemon Girl, You Came Like Hope, and #JustRomance are self-published. So, I’ve experience of both routes. The traditional publisher put my first book in bookstores and book stalls at airports, railway stations, bus stops. But it had taken me six years to get that book published.
So, I decided to try self-publishing for my next book. I’ve self-published three books till now. My indie books are only available online. But they don’t lack in quality, have received great reviews, and are performing as well as my traditionally published book. In fact, my second novel Lemon Girl is even listed in an international wiki list of ‘9 well-written books that put women front and centre.’
Self-publishing is a quicker process than traditional publishing. It saves you from the heartbreak of rejections. It gives greater freedom and bigger royalties to the author. The number of best-selling indie authors is steadily rising. But becoming a famous writer is a hard battle, no matter which publishing route you choose.
The competition is immense, and the interest in reading is dwindling. Even Ruskin Bond said in one of his interviews, “I think with so many people writing now, there is a danger of having more writers than readers.” To be a successful author, it takes a lot of hard work, great marketing skills, and that mysterious magic called good luck. And, of course, good writing helps too.
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