‘Lockdown helped professionals refocus on book projects’

By Siddhi Jain

 June 13: During a time when creativity seemed to be at its peak across art forms, despite a medical crisis unfolding, an Indian self-publishing platform continues to churn out over 2,000 books a month, which is almost one book every twenty-five minutes. But, why are writers, especially first-timers, going the self-publishing way?

According to Notion Press, over 30,000 writers have published their books and sold books worth Rs 50 crore till date. Its authors range from the age of 7 to 94 — giving life to their mission of putting the power of publishing into everyone’s hands. These authors range from students to educators, entrepreneurs to bureaucrats, home makers to professionals — all of them writing on topics of passion and expertise. Writers can publish their books in English, Hindi, Tamil and other Indian languages.

The platform provides an interface that enables writers to design their book and set it up for global distribution. It has 3,50,000 writers who are part of their community in various stages of writing their books. Notion Press also provides an ISBN for each version of the book and distributes books across the globe. Writers on Notion Press get instant access to their book sales data enabling them to understand who is buying their book and where it’s popular, says the platform.

While speaking to Naveen Valsakumar, CEO and Co-Founder at Notion Press, for insights on self-publishing:

Q: The trends for self-publishing during lockdown are positive. Why do you think this is?

A: Writing a book is a long-term commitment and for most writers it takes a minimum of 3 months to complete. Over the years, we have observed that although there are tens of thousands of aspiring writers who start writing their books each month, they would not be able to complete as life/work takes over. The lockdown imposed due to Covid-19 helped a lot of professionals save time on commute and refocus on their book project, leading to a massive uptick in the number of books that were published on the Notion Press Platform.

Q: What are some key challenges of routing your book via a conventional publishing house?

A: You have to think of a conventional publishing house as an investor. They typically have a certain amount of funds set aside for acquiring new books and also a mandate for the kind (genre) of books that they want to invest in. More often than not, their new title acquisition is structured around celebrities who turn writers or well-established writers, as these are less risky investment options. Another reason why writers don’t like conventional publishing is the long lead times to wait for their book to be published — it can take upto several weeks to even get a response to a book submission and can take anywhere between 6 to 24 months to publish the book. Some other factors that discourage writers from conventional publishing are having to give up their Copyrights, getting only an quarterly/annual sales statement and very low author earnings.

A platform like Notion Press levels the playing field by enabling all writers to get access to the market and then let readers decide which books should do well. In that sense, we are more democratic. Also, an author can publish an edited manuscript and make it available to readers within couple of days. The author can also iteratively improve the book based on feedback from readers. They own all the rights to their book, get access to real-time sales data which enables them to take action to promote their book based on the most recent information. Writers also earn 70 per cent of the profits from book sales.

Q: Is the platform free? What is your business model, if yes?

A: The Notion Press platform is completely free to use for an author to publish their book. Any aspiring writer can design their book’s cover and Interior files using our self-service tools. They can then set a price for the print and eBook versions of their book and sell them on top eCommerce channels in India and across the world.

Our business model is to co-monetize with the author. We take share of profits from book sales, with authors earning 70 per cent of the profits from their book.

Q: How much does an average author earn and what is the maximum an author has earned through Notion Press?

A: We have published over 30,000 writers so far. How much a writer makes depends on the book’s topic and how well-written the manuscript is. Our self-publishing platform is only two years old. We have several hundred writers who have earned more than Rs 10 lakh from their book sales. Our top writers earn well-north of Rs 25 lakh.

Q: Specifically, how does self-publishing help regional writing and writers?

A: The Indian language book publishing market is extremely fragmented and suffers from a broken supply chain. It is also more opaque and you come across a lot of instances of writers being short changed by publishers. Self Publishing platforms like Notion Press are a boon to Indian language writers because of the access to India and international markets, transparent sales reporting, higher earnings potential, and prompt payouts.

Q: Finally, what genres are going strong? Who is your average reader and what does she or he like to read the most?

A: Some of the biggest genres for Indian authors are under Fiction are Mystery & Thriller and Romance. Under Non-Fiction books the best genres are Business Self-Help, Personal Finance, Marketing, Entrepreneurship, and How-to guides. Under Academic books, the biggest genres are test-prep, technology and reference books.