Sunday, December 29, 2019

9 Things I Learned as an Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Author

2019 is ending. Another glorious year as a self-published KDP author. I wish to share with my readers the things I have learned as an Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing author.

My debut novel 'Without You' came out in June 2015. The paperback had been published by Write India publishers. Then in September 2015, I self-published the eBook version on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. Within a day, my book went live. I began to get readers from around the world within hours. What followed after that was an unforgettable journey. Over the last four years, I have published seven novels, two short stories and three children's books on Amazon. 

So, what are the lessons I learned via my journey as an amazon bestselling self-published author?

1) The myth that writers can't earn through writing is a myth

For my debut novel, I had invested a few thousand rupees in getting it edited, the paperback published and marketing. Overall, I didn't get back even 1% of what I had invested. The only perk was that it had won the hearts of most of the readers who read it. 
But once I published the eBook version, I began getting a regular income as royalty every month. I have earned manifolds of whatever I had invested initially in getting the paperback published from the sales of that book alone.
With every book I add to my published list, I gain more readers and earn more. A few months ago, I quit a well earning day job to concentrate more on what I enjoy doing best. Writing!
Many indie authors earn more than what traditionally published authors are paid as signing amount for a book in just a month. 

2) Readers will read your books in any format if they like what you are writing

Among the readers who have written to me, I have had staunch paperback fans who are slowly discovering the advantages of eBooks. Just because eBooks are relatively new, it is not true that you won't have readers. Going by the status of my own books, I am blessed to have many readers who have discovered the advantages of eBooks via my books.

3) Visibility via Kindle Direct Publishing is constant

You invest your time in writing a book, spend hours marketing it once it gets published as a paperback by a reputed publisher and then after a period, the book just disappears from the shelves of bookshops. Unless you are an established bestselling author, your paperback just vanishes from the market.
But via Kindle direct publishing, your books remain for purchase even years after it has been published. Amazon itself creates promotions for older, popular books and talks about it to readers across the world via their newsletters. 'Without You' my first book along with three of my other books are now part of Amazon Prime Reading, via which Amazon allows subscribers to read for free some selected books published on Amazon.

4) The taboo associated with self-publishing is slowly vanishing.

Initially, when I started publishing, none of the traditionally published authors was ready to even consider self-publishing via Amazon. Now I personally know at least six or seven authors who have successfully experimented with self-publishing. According to them, the plus points in self-publishing are the freedom, transparency in sale statistics and the higher royalty rates. 
In traditional publishing, even the top publishers often don't give you clear statistics about book sales. But via KDP, you get to know the sales and pages read instantly via the KDP author dashboard.
In traditional publishing, the max royalty for eBooks is 25%. On KDP, it is either 35% or 70% depending on how we price the book. To get 70% royalty, the price has to be Rs 99 or more. Anything less earns you 35% royalty.
Of course, there is this reality that a self-published author would never be invited to any literature festival. There the taboo still exists.

5) Readers are the gatekeepers of good literature

Be it traditional publishing or self-publishing, readers are the gatekeepers without a doubt. Many books rejected by reputed traditional publishers have won the hearts of readers via self-publishing whereas readers have rejected many traditionally published books. As a reader myself, I do not look at who the publisher is when I buy a book. Mostly it is the author. If it is a new writer, I often read through the blurb, sample etc before buying a book. I have never ever bought a book just because it is published by a reputed publisher. I guess it is the same logic that drives other readers.

6) Indie books undergo the same kind of publishing standards as traditional books.

When I publish my book on KDP, I use an editor, a proofreader and beta-readers to make sure it lives up to professional standards. Though I design my covers myself, many other indie authors use professional cover designers. 

7) Reviews matter but they don't drive sales

Initially, I used to think that the number of reviews affected sales. Some say that Amazon algorithm actually considers the number of reviews before promoting it. In my experience, that is not the case. The keywords, category, genre and popularity of the book matters

8) You decide the content, cover, title of your books.

Being an Indie author, I can decide what I want to include in my book. Even if an editor suggests a change, it is up to me to decide whether or not to accept the corrections. I don't think that is the case with traditional publishing. The editors have the upper hand. 
The case is similar for the cover layout, title, etc. Also, with self-publishing, we can change the content, cover photo and even title without much ado even after the book becomes available for purchase.

9) You publish more.

I published three novels and one book set this year. I don't think any traditional publisher would publish more than one book by an author a year. It is just not viable for them. 
But with KDP, you can publish as many books as you can if you have the manuscripts ready. I know indie authors who publish a book a month. Especially authors in the West. 

I am grateful to have discovered Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing and I hope it will bring light into the lives of many more authors in the coming years. 
Hope you found this article helpful.
Have you tried Amazon Kindle Direct publishing? 
How was your experience?

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

On Writing with Rajesh Konsam

Today on 'On Writing' we have Rajesh Konsam, a young software engineer and writer. A geek at heart, he loves programming and feel-good novels in equal measure. He also enjoys writing poems and occasionally dabbles in dance. Although Rajesh hails from Manipur, he works in Chennai after completing his B.E. in Coimbatore. Bittersweet is Rajesh’s debut novel, and he is working on his next.

Let's welcome Rajesh Konsam...

Was becoming an author always your dream or was it a particular event or incident that gave birth to the author in you?

I guess the writer in me was dormant all along. I was never the voracious reader to begin with, but I was always creative and expressive as a kid. Despite maintaining a journal like most people do, the thought of completing a novel and then publishing it never occurred to me.
It was on this one day, during a trip to Mysore with my college friends, that the idea behind my debut novel ‘Bittersweet’ germinated in my head. I discussed it with my boys, and they encouraged me to execute it. As an ambitious young man who was standing at a crossroad and still figuring out his life, there were noises in my head, and I just wanted to vent off my feelings somewhere. So, I picked up my pen and paper, typed my heart away and eventually began enjoying it to the fullest.

How important are the names of the characters in your books to you? Do you spend agonizing hours deciding on their names?

I do a lot of research while deciding the names of my characters. 
For starters, my male protagonist is soft at heart despite having rough exteriors.  
Roshan was a meaningful name, and it didn’t sound too contemporary or traditional—just what I wanted.
Secondly, I wanted to bring in a bohemian female lead, and for that, I created ‘Shanaya’. I wanted her to be half-Indian (despite not mentioning that fact explicitly in the book), so I looked up various surnames belonging to people living in Goa. That’s how I named her Shanaya Pinheiro, envisaging her as an Indo-Portuguese girl. It adds to her personality.

What is your writing process like? Do you write every day? Is there a favourite place to write?

I write only on the weekends or on national holidays as I zone out on weekdays with a job I equally love. Hence, it’s hard for me to come up with a new book. I do enjoy this slow process and try to remain consistent. I love writing in dimly lit rooms. Just me, my laptop and no one bothering me.

What is different about ‘Bittersweet’? 

I have been told by my readers that the story is very real and relatable.
‘Bittersweet’ is about a group of young millennials, led by Roshan, who struggle to find footholds in the creative industries, as they tackle first jobs, financial independence, second relationships, compromises, loss of identity and fear of failure.
Coming to the romance subplot of the book, I used the love story between Roshan and Shanaya to deepen their relationship. As two creative people looking for their big break, they share a common flair for creativity. The support system they have for each other during predicaments is what most of us yearn for in life.

While still being character-driven, it offers an exciting plot and is even packed with surprises.

Who is your favourite character in the book and why?

The protagonist Roshan is my favourite character in the book because he is real, headstrong, unapologetic, flawed and na├»ve but stands up for himself when he needs to. The kind of thoughts that cross his mind reminds me of the time when I was struggling in life.
I created him at a time when I wasn’t even aware of the publishing industry and poured whatever I had in my mind.

Which do you prefer as a reader? EBook or Paperback?

I have a split personality while choosing books. I prefer reading half of my books on Kindle with the night light turned on because I read at night and I travel a lot. But with my most favourite books, I make sure I own the beautiful hardcover editions and nothing less.

How long did it take to finish writing ‘Bittersweet’? 

It took me two years, as I was straddling between the manuscript and my college projects.

How important do you think is marketing in today’s world for any book?

Marketing is pivotal for the success of any book because for the initial word-of-mouth which many authors rely on, the book must reach its first set of readers. 
Secondly, when people talk about marketing, I think about creativity. It’s important that we spin up unique marketing plans. When everyone else is doing the same thing, how would you make a difference? Quality over quantity, anytime!
Another important thing is that, as authors, our writing should speak for ourselves. Come up with the best book titles, book covers, blurbs and first paragraphs. That’s marketing. 
Lastly, an author should not have any wrong notion about marketing, as it’s proven that it’s beneficial to any author. 
As someone who doesn’t like sharing his photos on social media unless there’s an important event in my life, it was a life-changing decision to come out and promote my book.

Please share a passage or quote from ‘Bittersweet’ for our readers.  

You acquire taste. You soak them in little by little. A soul that has appreciation for art continuously expands itself to new dimensions. Enjoy the natural learning process. Just because some critics ask you to ‘learn the craft’ you shouldn’t force everything down your throat. Every successful man we know initially started off with the dumbest ideas. And when you feel you’ve learnt to some extent, break free. You will surely find your forte, your unique voice. You’ll do well, young heart. Now, go and flourish.” 

What are the three tips you have for readers of this interview who are aspiring writers?

1) Read a lot. Go out of your comfort zone and read books from different genres. One might teach you how to write a satisfying plot twist, and another might inspire you to write beautiful prose—all of which are important to surviving in the industry. Learn from different authors and aggregate all qualities into your book. 
2) Spend time developing your characters and focus on both the internal growth and the external goal. Characters are the driving forces of your story.
3) Write what you love, not what people insist you to read or write. 

Thank you, Rajesh. Wishing you the very best in all that you do.

Get the book here:

Sunday, November 17, 2019

The Girl at the Wedding : Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Puvattur, March 17, 2007

Kishore woke up to the persistent chirping of a single sparrow at his balcony window. Unlike the pigeons that daily created ruckus outside his window in Sharjah, this little songbird didn’t annoy him. Its song served as a reminder that this morning was different. One of leisure. Today he wouldn’t encounter ready-mix concrete trucks or concrete pumps or rebars. Nor would the unforgiving desert sun scorch him.
Kishore pulled the cotton blanket over his head and sank back into the bed. He would sleep a little more. Heck, he had earned it.
For the last two years he had been forced to cancel his vacation in favour of work. His company had rewarded him with a three-month break this time. He would enjoy it to the fullest.
Hours later, the scent of hot coffee wafted into his room along with the familiar smell of neer dosa and kadala curry. His stomach growled and his eyes flew open. His mother knew exactly how to wake him up. He dragged himself up and plodded into the bathroom to shower.
After thirty minutes, Kishore was wolfing down neer dosas in the kitchen. He hadn’t even waited for his father and brother to join him, or bothered to sit at the dining table. Instead, he sat on a low wooden stool next to the wood-burning stove where his mother stood making the dosas. Exactly the way he used to during his school days. The position had two advantages. One, he could chit-chat with his mother as she worked. Two, he could get piping hot neer dosa served right onto his plate without any delay.
Wrong move. He shouldn’t have.
He realized it only after the damage was done.
“You are eating like you haven’t seen neer dosa in years,” said Uma, his mother, as she served him yet another hot dosa.
“I haven’t. Who has the patience to make neer dosa? I mostly ate burgers for breakfast.”
“But you said there were good Malayalee restaurants in Sharjah and Dubai. You could have eaten from there.”
“I could have. But who has the time?”
His mother had no idea how hectic his days were. When the company vehicle came to pick him up at six in the morning, breakfast was the last thing on his mind. He would have attended at least ten phone calls by then, consulting with the night-shift engineers or dealing with their clients. By the time he reached the site office, there would be papers to sign and emails to send. That would be followed by visits to their construction sites. Mid-morning, his office boy would pop in to ask if he needed breakfast. On his nod, he would fetch a burger from the nearby cafeteria, and place it on his desk along with some hot tea. That was the only breakfast he had been accustomed to in Dubai. On Friday, his off day, he would sleep till afternoon. Then he would end up at a friend’s or colleague’s home for a pre-arranged brunch. Being a workaholic, he hadn’t truly missed the noisy and sumptuous breakfasts at home.
“That is why I said you should get married,” Uma said and then wiped her eyes with the loose end of her saree.
God! How could she jump from food to marriage so fast? Time to flee. But the prospect of eating a few more neer dosas prompted him to talk his way out of the situation.
“Please, Mom. I told you. I can’t get married now. Not at this phase in my career. It would be difficult for the girl as well. I leave at six in the morning and arrive back at ten at night.”
“That is perfectly fine. Your father is never at home. Have you seen me complaining? We, women, are resilient. We adapt to any situation, unlike you men!”
“Mom, what if my wife couldn’t cook?”
“It’s okay even if she doesn’t know. You need a companion to make you eat on time.”
“But Mom—” Kishore began, but Uma cut him off.
“I don’t want to hear anything. You’re not going back this time without getting married. Do you hear that?”
Kishore knew it was prudent not to argue further, especially as she might stop making the dosas if she got upset. So, he sat there and allowed her to nag him. Once his stomach was full, he fled from the kitchen.
He found his brother Vishal in the living room, engrossed in the replay of a cricket match. They were discussing India’s chances in the ongoing cricket world cup when their mother ambushed their peaceful get-together.
“Knock some sense into his head. Unless he gets married, you won’t be able to marry,” said Uma, addressing Vishal. Clever! She knew exactly which button to push.
Vishal immediately changed his allegiance and joined his mother’s side. The cheater. “Yeah. Get married. Clear the way.”
“You can’t get married for another two years. Who will marry you? You will need to complete your MD for any girl to consider you as a prospective husband. You get that?” said Kishore. Vishal was doing his MD in paediatrics at the nearby medical college.
“Want to bet? If I put my mind to it, I can find a willing girl tomorrow. You don’t know your brother’s star value,” challenged Vishal.
“Enough. Not another word,” said Uma, swatting Vishal on his upper arm. Perhaps she was scared her younger son might bring a girl home, just to prove his point. Then she turned to glower at Kishore. “You are getting married this time. That’s it. I will tell Amma to look into the matter. She has already shortlisted a few good girls.”
A groan escaped Kishore. Her Amma, their grandmother or Ammamma as they called her, was Cupid himself in disguise. She was the mastermind behind every arranged marriage in their family. Once she took it upon herself to take away the freedom of some hapless chap, she rested only after the guy had given up every ounce of his freedom.
But Kishore loved his Ammamma. She was an award-winning poet and writer. All his friends adored her because of the love she showered on them. He didn’t want to be deprived of her company just because his mother wished her to be his marriage-broker.
“Mom, I promise. Give me a few weeks to enjoy my vacation. After that, you may drag me to any number of houses in search of a wife,” said Kishore. Uma beamed at him.
After two weeks, he was going on a backpacking trip to Europe. He wasn’t going to tell her that. Vishal cleared his throat as he knew Kishore’s plan. Would the traitor give him away? Kishore narrowed his eyes at him. Vishal extended his left palm towards him and then smacked his upturned right fist on it twice. He was signing discreetly for money.
 Kishore mouthed “Okay.”
 Vishal went back to watching the cricket match.
 “Okay. Don’t think we are going to sit idle till then. Let me go and call Latha. She might know some girls,” Uma declared and then walked away.
His mother had two sisters and all three were close. If his mother declared her mission to them, they would jump in without blinking an eye. Kishore let out a long sigh.
“Give me my money. Or…”
“Go tell, loafer,” Kishore snapped. He wasn’t in a mood to fight. So, he picked up the car key and walked out of his home.
His classmate Anil was getting married the next day. To Kishore’s neighbour, Lena. One more deluded young man was getting sacrificed at the altar of love.

Time to visit him.