How To Write, Publish And Sell A Successful Book In India
May 13, 2019
If you’re an aspiring writer – and who isn’t? – you’re most likely struggling with many doubts, like how to write a good book, how to find the best publisher for your book, and how to make your book a bestseller. Sadly, there is no one to help you out. Fret not! In this article, I share my most valuable tips on how to write, publish and sell a book.
Don’t Forget To Edit
Once the first draft (the first copy) of your book is ready, you must take out the time to edit your manuscript. This is a crucial step that will help you check the voice and flow of your book, and discover flaws in the plot, grammatical mistakes, awkward sentences and typos before you send your book out to publishers. Edit on your laptop, hand-edit, do a read-aloud and try to get an objective person (if you can) to read your final draft. If you’re tech-savvy, you can also use the Voice Dream Reader, the Read Aloud with VoiceOver app, TalkButton and NautralReader. A rule of thumb: for every day that you spend writing your book, you must spend a day editing your book.
Word Count For Every Genre
The first question you’ll be asked when you introduce yourself as a writer is, “In which genre do you write?” The genre is the theme of your book. Different genres have different word counts. Yes, the industry norms keep changing, there are many exceptions to the rule, and a good book is a good book regardless of its length. But when you start out, it’s better to follow these broad guidelines, as per current publishing standards, to enhance your chance at success:
- Commercial Fiction Book – 90,000-120,000
- Literary Fiction Book – 80,000+
- Non-Fiction Book – 70,000+
- Romance Book – 55,000-60,000
- Thriller Book – 70,000-75,000
- Short Story Book – 50,000-70,000
- Young Adult Book (12-18 years) – 50,000-70,000
- Novella – 10,000-40,000
- Poetry Book – 15,000
- Children’s Book (8-12 years) – 30,000-50,000
- Picture Book – 500
Deal With Writer’s Block
Writer’s block is a writer’s biggest nightmare. Many writers go hours and days and months without being able to write a single word. Some are filled with such self-doubt that they quit writing for good! First, don’t be over-critical of yourself or your work. Whatever you’re writing, you’re doing your best, and that’s all that matters. Cut yourself some slack. Second, get organised. Often times while researching your book you get inundated with information. You can use tools like Scrivener, Ulysses, Google Docs, Evernote and FocusWriter to organise all your data. Third, take a break. If you feel yourself burning out or getting uninspired, put the manuscript aside. Read, travel, binge-watch Netflix, walk around your city or town, meet friends, chill. Fuel your imagination and come back to the manuscript only when you’re completely ready to write again.
Get Your Submission Package Ready
Publishers receive hundreds of query letters a week, sometimes even in a day. On average, a publisher will receive a new submission every ten minutes in a working day. This means that – due to their other commitments – they can give your submission attention for only a minute or two! Therefore, your query letter (i.e. email to the publisher) must immediately catch their attention so you don’t end up in the slush pile. With 95% rejection rates, sending a good submission package is almost as important as writing a good book. Most submission packages contain a chapter synopsis, a table of contents, sample chapters and an author bio. Check your publisher’s website for their specific requirements.
Identify The Right Publisher
India has over 9,000 publishers and counting. Before approaching them, check online for their updated submission guidelines, editor names, and preference for genre. For example, don’t send a poetry book to a non-fiction publisher. Some of the best-known publishing houses are Bloomsbury Publishing India, Penguin Random House India, HarperCollins Publishers India, Westland Publications, Simon & Schuster, Juggernaut Books, Aleph Book Company, Rupa Publications, Hachette India, Roli Books, Jaico Publishing House, Zubaan Books, Speaking Tiger Books, Srishti Publishers, Tara-India Research Press, Manjul Publishing House (Amaryllis), Pan Macmillan India, Leadstart Publishing, Fingerprint Publishing, APK Publishers, Grapevine India Publishers and Grey Oak Publishers.
Do You Need An Agent?
Unlike the U.S. and other markets, 60-70% of books in India are picked up without agents, since the majority of publishers accept unsolicited manuscripts. This does not take away from the agent’s significance, of course. An agent is ideal for someone who has never been published before, and for those authors who would rather focus on their writing than get caught up with the rigmarole and paperwork of getting published. An agent will guide you and fight for you when you most need someone by your side. Agents are also abreast of the goings-on in the publishing world, unlike us isolated writers, so there’s that. You will not be worse off without an agent, but you will be better off with one. Some of India’s top agents are Mita Kapur, Kanishka Gupta, Sherna Khambatta, Shruti Debi, Anuj Bahri, Jayapriya Vasudevan, Suhail Mathur and David Godwin.
How To Self-Publish
In today’s world, the barriers to entry for publishing have been lowered. This is all thanks to self-publishing, a way by which a book can be published without using conventional methods or a traditional publisher. There are many platforms in India like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), Partridge Publishing (Penguin), The Write Place (Crossword Bookstores), BooksFundr (White Falcon Publishing), Notion Press, Pothi, Cinnamon Teal Publishing, Power Publishers, EBook Sutras, Bookmann India, Kobo, Smashwords, Google Play, Scribd, Become Shakespeare, 24by7Publishing, Matrubharti and ScholarGram. A caveat: keep in mind that, on average, a self-published book only sells around 50 copies!
Why You Need To Market Your Book
There are around 82,000 new books that get published in India every year, of which around 22,000 are in English, and only 2% of these books make it to bookstores. There are around 2.2 million books that get published globally every year. Around 75 million books already exist on this planet. You are also competing for people’s time. You are competing with Twitter, Whatsapp, plays, comedy shows, iPads, video games, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Peppa Pig, Taylor Swift, the 10,000 movies that come out every year, and the 75,000 music albums that release annually, to catch the reader’s attention. Why will a potential reader buy your book among these millions of choices? Because he has heard about it! That’s why, in today’s world, jo dikhta hai wo biktha hai.
The Best Marketing Tools
Some popular practices in book marketing today are author websites, book excerpts, book giveaways, book trailers, online ads, book launches and Amazon’s marketing services. Getting movie or web-series deals, or winning recognised awards, boost book sales. Also, involve yourself in the writing community. Meet and reach out to other writers by reading their book and sharing (positive) feedback. Join book clubs in your city or town (like Caferati, Bombay Book Club, Goodreads, Mumbai Book Club, The PEN, The Gurgaon Connection Book Club, The Delhi Book Club etc). Be involved with book launches, book fests and literature festivals (until you get invited, you must attend) where you can directly interact with other authors and readers.
How To Use Social Media
Be present on social media but don’t waste precious hours whiling away your time on it, time that you could spend writing. For example, I dedicate 15 minutes in the morning, afternoon, and late evening to social media. On days that I’m writing, it’s less, a few minutes a day, if at all. Other authors dedicate much more or much less time, while some have chosen not to be present on social media at all. Allocate the time spent on social media in proportion to your ROI on it. Is tweeting helping you build credibility as an opinion maker? Is Facebook helping you connect with people from the publishing world? Is Instagram helping you share your life as an author? Find a reason to be on social media (not for time-pass). Your purpose must be to learn, engage and contribute. Be productive. At the same time, don’t use it only to post links to your books or articles. Would you follow someone who only talks about themselves? Give as good as you get. Good luck!
And now you’re ready to go! Just remember to polish your manuscript, approach publishers the right way and promote your book, all the way to the bestselling lists!
Meghna Pant is a multiple award-winning author, columnist, speaker and journalist, most recently of the Amazon #1 bestseller HOW TO GET PUBLISHED IN INDIA (Bloomsbury, 2019), India’s first and only comprehensive book on how to write, publish and sell a book. You can get your copy here.
Read her articles here.