The traditional publishing industry is a really slow-moving one. From the day I signed an agreement to get my first book published, it took more than a year to see the book alive and available on Amazon. I quickly realized that after signing the rights to my book, my publisher had to focus on other genres of books and my book was not the top priority.
At the same time, because I had signed a long-term agreement with the publisher, I couldn’t do much.
My publisher didn’t even share regular sales reports with me. Every month, I had to ask them for sales numbers, rather than them informing me. Initially, I was happy with numbers, but after the third month, there was no increase in numbers. This made me wonder if there was any effort put in by the publisher in the distribution and marketing of the book.
Books are author-centric – meaning the author has to be the best salesman for the book, but I expected some guidance from my publisher around how to market it.
I hated the lack of control. My publisher was controlling the pricing, distribution and marketing. They plainly refused when I asked whether the book would be available through a premium book retail chain in India, which would have been a big boost to the book’s brand.
All these reasons made me very unhappy with my publishing journey. At one point, I wanted to give up my book for free on the internet, but couldn’t do so, since my publisher has the rights to the book.
Thus, with my second book, I wanted to fix these mistakes.
One way to fix this was to find another publisher.
I approached more than 50 publishers in India for publishing my second book, most of them traditional publishers. I was talking to a few literary agencies as well, but nothing worked out. No one showed an interest in the book, after almost a year of scouting publishers.
This led me to think that the path of self-publishing might not be that bad.
After all, I had a chance of correcting the mistakes I made with my first book.
Self-publishing has its own advantages.
It gives you complete control and flexibility around what happens with your book. For example, right from pricing to the book cover to marketing materials, I have to look into every aspect and ensure that things look good. Though there is a lot more work to do, at least things are as expected. There is also the side benefit of learning about the publishing industry, which helps if you’re an author.
My job as a Product Manager helps. I work at Indeed’s internal incubator, where we have internal startups that focus on finding new business opportunities for Indeed. Treating my book as a product, I get to use a lot of the fundamentals of starting a company here.
For example – for consumer products, it is very important to form a community around a product. Getting customers involved in creating and improving the product is important. With my book, my goal is to form a community that thinks and cares for taxi drivers. My book, The Advisory Board, explains how cab drivers are some of the best advisors in the world.
But self-publishing comes with a lot of headaches too. For a person who doesn’t like to be on social media, maintaining a presence across Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn might be too much. Even though I hate it, I have to be active on Instagram, because my audience is there. I need to send a lot more cold emails, be a scout on LinkedIn and Twitter while carving out a growth strategy for the book.
The audience doesn’t care if a book is self-published or traditionally published, unless it is published by a big publisher. Not a single person I’ve spoken to looks at the publisher of a book before buying it. They look at the cover, the book blurb, and the author. If the content is good, people will share the book with others.
In fact, if enough people like the book, a traditional publisher would definitely approach me to acquire the rights. There are enough examples online that state how self-published books went on to be acquired by big publishing houses.
But this time, I am not going to rush this process. I will wait to find the right publisher and not the first publisher.
Right now, my goal is to get as many people as I know to read the book and provide feedback on the story. After that, I’ll focus on growing sales using online and digital marketing.
I don’t want to restrict myself to think like a traditional publisher, but expand my horizon to think of many ways in which the book could go viral. For example, usually, book tours and festivals help increase the reach of a book. In my case, book tours are logistically not possible because of my full-time job. My focus is going to be getting visibility online, instead.
I am planning to do virtual book tours, by going live in book groups on Facebook, thus connecting directly with different audiences.
I am happy to provide guidance around self-publishing or traditional publishing. Both have their benefits, and there is no right answer.
Wish me luck with the book. 🤞