I wrote the below quoted write-up few days ago, but didn’t post it in here for no real reason. Now, with the announcement of Amazon Kindle in India, I guess most of the problems I discussed there have been resolved. The books are priced in Indian Rupees. The Indian authors will get their royalties in Indian rupees. The author’s royalties, if it is above 500 rupees will now be EFT-ed directly to any Indian bank account number as specified by the author. The author need not wait to reach the royalty of 100 Dollars to get a cheque all the way from US. The only issue is that the maximum royalty an Indian author can get is 35%.
So, Memoirs of a Rahmaniac is now available on Amazon Kindle.
Traditional publishing through an established publishing house is the one and only option to publish a book in India. As long as people prefer Print books, self-publishing isn’t a viable option for writers. There is of course self-publishing and print-on-demand, but, neither reader gets value for his money nor the writer earns any decent money in this model. The only profiteer in self-publishing print-on-demand model is the company that prints the book on demand. Print on demand self-publishing isn’t an option. E-book is the way to go.
Book readers in India largely prefer Print books to e-books, mainly because of the general perception that one must sit in front of a computer to read an e-book. Who would want to do that, after having spent the whole day in front of a computer in the office? Also, avid book readers generally romanticize a lot over the touch, feel and smell of the physical print books.
Going by the number of Smartphones, tablets and e-book readers I see people carrying in public places these days, I am sure the mindset will change or is already changing. With these devices, you can read an e-book anywhere, anytime – lying in your bed, in the lunch break in office, in the loo, in the Metro, in the bus, while waiting in a long queue and generally any place where you are idle. For the first time, I finished reading a whole book on my Samsung Note. I read the book mostly while commuting to office in the bus.
But, for publishing and selling e-books, there are very few options in India. I know only of Pothi.com (chillibreeze.com has stopped publishing e-books), where writers can publish their work as an e-book and sell. But, a buyer has to create an account in Pothi.com to be able to buy an e-book, which is a huge turn-off. The one who come to buy in Pothi.com wouldn’t know if he would visit the site ever again to buy another e-book, so the buyer wouldn’t want to waste time in creating an account and logging in, unless the content of the book and the author are irresistible. Also, there are no popular and reliable e-publishing sites like Amazon’s in India. I heard rumours about Flipkart planning to start selling e-books this year. Even if it is true, I am not sure if it would venture into something on the lines of Amazon Kindle where anyone can self-publish.
There are many international e-publishing sites where one can sell their books – lulu.com, amazon.com, smashwords.com, barnesandnoble.com. But, if you are a non-American writer, there are many hassles that you must face. First of all, 30% of the royalties are withheld if you don’t have a social security number. If you are a writer publishing in any of these sites from India, you have to get an ITIN (Individual Tax Identification Number) to get back the 30% of your royalties withheld by the publishing sites. From what I have read, though application process for getting an ITIN is simple, it might take forever to get one. The maximum royalty one can get from any of these sites is 70% and in that 30% will not be yours until you get an ITIN.
Amazon Kindle, without a doubt, is the most popular of all the e-publishing options. But, publishing in Amazon kindle has an additional problem. If a buyer is from India, Amazon automatically adds some additional cost to the list price of the book fixed by the writer. If $2.99 is the price fixed by the writer, if a buyer from India wants to buy the book, he has to pay $4.99. The extra $2 goes only to Amazon; the writer has no share in this extra amount. It is an unfair deal. The higher the price of the book lesser is the sales.
Ever since I published my first e-book, I have been searching for that one place where a writer can sell the book directly to the readers without facing any of the aforementioned problems. I guess I finally found one - www.gumroad.com. There are many other sites like this, but I found gumroad.com neat and simplest of all to use. It isn’t actually a book publishing site. It is a site where you can sell anything that can be digitally delivered to the customer through e-mail – photographs, paintings, music, short films, documentaries, magazine, books etc., The buyer doesn’t need to login into the site to buy. Payment using Credit and Debit cards is secure. The buyer has to provide his e-mail Id and payment details and the product would be directly delivered to his e-mail. There is also refund facility.