WRITING and PUBLISHING: MYTHS DEBUNKED by Mehek Bassi
The video clip above just gives a brief walk through into the writing and publishing industry
of India. There’s a lot more that goes on beneath the layers of outstanding book-covers and
stunning book launches.
Publishing industry of India has become just like any other industry, which runs on money,
for money and by money, and maybe that is why the quality of Indian books is degrading as
well. But who is to blame – The authors? The publishers? Or the readers who demand such
books, and are given in abundance in return? Let’s find out!
The journey of a book from folders in a laptop, to book-shelves in stores is a long one, and
there is a lot more involved than a common man can even think of. Completing a book is
merely getting 5% of the task done. Rest 95% is getting it edited, typeset, formatted,
corrected, getting the cover designed, hunting a publisher, going through all the rejections,
hiring an agent, waiting for the publisher to give you a timeline, and then waiting for your
book to get printed. By the time a book hits the stores, the author himself forgets what his
book is all about!
New authors think that they completed the book so half of the job is done. The real task
begins after the rejections start to follow and you realize where you stand. Either you can
resort for self-publishing, pitch some money and get your book published, or you can wait for
traditional publishers to respond, which can even take as long as forever! The third task is
hiring an agent who can get you into a publishing house, but even after that – you are on your
own! If your book is romantic college fiction, the young-adult readers are going to love it, but
the mature ones are going to call you a wannabe ‘Chetan Bhagat’. If your book is different
from romance, like if it’s a thriller or a horror story well frankly, it’s going to be even tougher
to make it visible. Majority readers want to read what majority publishing houses are already
providing them – sugar coated romance, with sex brimming on top of it, doesn’t matter if the
story has an iota of reality or not! Try writing something like a political drama, and you will
be bashed again, and don’t even go for science-fiction. Brilliant sci-fi authors have been
eating dust since their books hit the shelves. And that is the blatant truth of Indian book-
Talking about publishing industry – well nobody has become a millionaire just after
writing one book, and that’s another truth. Usually the royalty that a traditional publisher
gives to the author is around 5-9% of the book MRP, and in self-publishing you can get
around 10-15% (when your own money is involved) but even that isn’t enough. It means if
your book is priced Rs 200, you get only Rs 30 if you self-published it, and Rs 10 if it came
from a traditional publishing house. No, the publishers are not at fault. They need to cover the
expenses of getting your book edited, typeset and finally printed. The paper and ink – cost
them money! So, those who think that after writing one book they might not have to work
ever in their lives, they are simply living in a fiction themselves. We have amazing authors
who, even after getting the title of national bestsellers, are still doing their regular jobs, and
haven’t left it to join writing-books full time, just for the same reason, that writing hasn’t
started to pay their bills yet! Lifestyles are lavish, expenditures are too much, especially in
metropolitan cities like Delhi or Mumbai. Petty royalties cannot do justice to your lifestyle!
Even in a marriage, you cannot expect only the husband to work and the wife to sit idle –
both the partners need to work, then how can you leave your regular job with a constantly
flowing income, for something as uncertain as writing?
Yes miracles happen, and yes Chetan Bhagat and Amish Tripathi did become overnight
superstars, you think. But in reality it took them both more than a few years to become
‘overnight’ superstars, ironically! Where Chetan Bhagat completely transformed the Indian
literary market, Amish added to it by his introduction of mythological-fiction, and portrayal
of Shiva as a human-being. Since them both, many authors have tried their hands at romance
and mythology, and failed miserably. The fault is not of the authors, neither of the publishers,
but you can say it’s more of a ‘luck-game’ here that favors some and leaves the rest.
Readers are ultimately smitten with few popular names, and some aren’t even willing to read
I asked many of my friends why they buy all the books of only one particular author and the
reply was ‘His first book was amazing!’ So, either you write one-amazing book (with lots of
unrealistic scenarios, and unwanted sex) and you get a permanent readership, because the
readers start expecting the same magic in your further books as well – or you try your hand at
different genres and pray to the Gods that your luck somehow favors you!
The reason why; authors are writing hopeless romance is simple – money! They have
bills to pay and they are not wrong if they are trying to make a living out of it. Its the readers
who should be more accepting and give a chance to new ideas, new books and new genres,
and if an author is trying something new – support him, buy his books and read him so that
his writing is encouraged! If you won’t do it, it’s obvious that he will die out, and change his
career. And later if you discuss the degrading quality of Indian novels at a tea-party in your
friend’s house, remember that you are equally responsible for the degradation when you
bought a famous Indian author’s college romance book ,over a new author’s science fiction
As brutal the competition is in the writing industry, the publishing industry is even more
merciless in India. With new publishing houses blooming in every nook and corner of the
country, the choice is endless, but for a new author, it becomes impossible to decide where to
With new names, and humongous promises that new publishers make to popularize
themselves, a new author is confused upon what to do?
The solution is – even getting a big-name won’t make you a national bestseller, so go for
quality and not just a brand-name. The truth is that the biggies are more concerned towards
the famous names, of course they give them good sales, so they are more focused and
dedicated towards the authors whose books are sure to touch a national bestseller mark
overnight. Rest, all authors are on their own once the book is published even by a top
publishing house of India.
Nobody is going to tell you these things, because nobody likes to admit the truth these days,
but this is what it is. I know it all because I have seen and experienced everything very
closely, during and post, the production of my first book ‘Chained’. My second book,
‘Letters to Aaradhana’ is in the pipeline, co-authored with a noted author Subhasis Das. I
wish all the readers here, and the upcoming authors, a very good luck for all their future
endeavors. Just don’t lose hope and keep your eyes open all the time!