Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Guest Post - Publishing in India by Suresh Chandrasekaran

About the book

A hilarious pseudo-history of marketing management, which explicitly denies resemblance to any actual history, and which will be horrified if some semblance be found. The story of a man who discovered that the path of life is strewn with treadmills and, if you get on one by mistake, you could keep running all your life to stay in the same place. The story of how a businessman may just be minding his…err…business and the ‘Invisible Hand’ can cause unexpected consequences to arise out of his innocent actions. There is no point blaming the tale for being exaggerated because that is precisely what it seeks to be – an ‘exaggeratio ad absurdum’ of some facets of the world. Anything you learn from the book – be it the basics of marketing management or a satirical view of Society – you do at your own risk.

Book Links

Print Book (FlipKart): http://www.flipkart.com/dog-eat-dog-food-world-english/p/itmedgc7fzspxy9q?pid=9789384315030                                                                    

Publishing in India

You know how it goes – you have not even cooked the biryani and you are already dreaming and drooling over the taste. So, when I looked up the ‘Submissions’ page of publishers, I had really not even put down one single solitary word. As usual, I was certain that I was going to write a masterpiece but exactly what that masterpiece was going to be about, I still had no clue.
Then, I look at the details on the page and I had the shock of my life. One of the things they wanted me to fill in was my marketing plan. Huh! “That is your job”, were the words that sprung to my lips and, thankfully, there was no-one in front of me to laugh at my idiocy. In my naiveté, I had assumed that only the writing was my part of the job when, apparently, the entire world knew that only the printing and distributing was the publisher’s job, while all the rest was for the author to do.
To be sure, it was not all like that. If you were a celebrity author (meaning an Amitabh Bacchan) OR an author celebrity (a Chetan Bhagat), Publishers did fall all over themselves to market your book. It seemed a bit like the bookseller running with the books to the houses of the readers ONLY when he was sure that the readers would also be running to the bookshop to buy that book. If the reader hears of a book and stays put at home, with no interest in buying it, the bookseller would also sit in his shop waiting for the readers to come and buy that book themselves. Seemed a bit illogical but what do I know? I am no businessman leave alone a Publisher.
But then there is always that issue. You know, like Indian movies get released on every single screen that they can get all at once. If the movie is a big yawn, the viewers come crawling out and make a beeline to the pharmacy for aspirins, and, as a consequence, there is no further viewership, the producers would still have recovered their money. Maybe something similar lies behind this attitude of the Publishers. Maybe they just want to sell as many copies of the celebrity’s book before the reviews start walloping the crap out of the book. If that is the case, it does not seem like a great vote of confidence in their own abilities to vet a book, leave alone the writing skills of the author.
What, then, if their celebrities lose their hold on the audience, if nothing worse? The next rung that they would depend upon would have to climb up there much like the current lot did. Effectively, they would have to be able to market their books well enough to hit the second rung, nay become celebrities in their own right, and, then, when they are capable of marketing their books themselves, the Publishers will fall all over themselves to market their books for them.
The whole process seems somewhat like being called for an interview to become a computer programmer and, then, being asked to play a piano to prove your skills. If a good author proves to be a dud at marketing, he has little chance of getting Publishers to back him with sufficient marketing efforts even if they do publish him. They would send across the book for newspaper reviews, probably hold a book launch or two, give out a few review copies on social media and, then, leave the author to fend for himself.
Enter Self-Publishing. Authors, naturally, feel that if they have to both write as well as market their books, they might as well go the whole hog and be publishers themselves. The problem, though, is that self-publishing has no filters. You could, in theory, not even write coherent sentences and put out a book. With everyone and his uncle self-publishing a book, any book gets drowned out in the flood of verbiage that spews out every day.
A telling commentary on the fact that even most authors, who swear by self-publishing, plonk down their money to buy traditionally published books but are wary of buying self-published ones even by people with whose writing they already are familiar – except their friends. It is not that there are no good self-published books. It is just that there are so many bad ones that it is difficult to know which one is good. Traditional publication has put out some rank bad books too but the hit rate is better there. Also, you do have relatively reliable reviews to go by when you pick one.
Ergo, self-published books have to shriek far louder, and without the ready benefit of traditional media reviews, to be noticed. Marketing! Marketing! Marketing!
We seem to be headed for a situation where only an author+marketer can bring out a noticeable book. The odds being against the same person being a great author as well as a great marketer, what we are looking at is a world of Indian books that are relatively mediocre, with possibly better ones drowned out due to their writers’ inability to market their books.
The only saving grace is the fact that a lot of small publishers are coming out to bridge the gap. A lot of people in the Social media are also voluntarily serving the cause of publicizing good books. The problem, though, is that the self-publishing phenomenon is also spawning a lot of fly-by-night operators, who have determined that there is more money in ‘helping the author to distribute/market’ than in writing itself. It remains to be seen how soon the scavengers get unmasked, leaving behind the genuine ones.
Besides, there is also the hope that traditional publishing will realize soon that, if publishing is a business and a book is a product, it is in their interests to ensure continued production of good books; and it is the businessman, not the artist, who is supposed to do the marketing.
Meanwhile we write…in hope.

About the author

Fiction has been an addiction but the need to make a living took Suresh through Chemical Engineering and a PGDM at IIM-Bangalore and, from thence, to a long 16 year stint in the area of finance with specific expertise in fertilizer subsidies at IFFCO and a further two years as consulting expert in the same area. That, in his words, about sums up the boring part of his life, except for the people he was privileged to meet.
Born on 27 September 1963 in Chennai, Suresh can be a dithering Libran most of the times. A company town upbringing at Neyveli and Engineering at Annamali University, Chidambaram was leavened by management education at IIM-Bangalore and, later, working life at IFFCO, New Delhi. Having decided very early in life to write full-time after securing a financial future – which also incidentally meant that he remained single in order to make it as early as possible - he quit employment at the age of 41 and his consultancy at 43, and returned to Bangalore.
Otherwise, he can be described as a mess of contradictions – a bookworm but avid trekker; alone but never lonely; enjoys solitude but loves company; lazy but a perfectionist, the litany is endless. Trekking, which side-tracked him from the writing for which he quit his job, is a major passion and he does, at least, one trek in the Himalayas every year in addition to numerous local treks.
He reignited his passion for writing with a fairly popular blog www.jambudweepam.blogspot.in. The blog has been rated among the Top 5 humour blogs in India, twice in succession - in 2014 and 2015 - by BlogAdda, and has also been listed third among the Top Humour Blogs by Baggout.
He also has a short story published in a collection “Uff Ye Emotions” and has edited and written a novelette in an ebook anthology “Sirens spell danger”. On Facebook, where he is more active, he can be accessed at https://www.facebook.com/suresh.chandrasekaran.75. He does have a twitter handle - @CSuresh16 – but he has no handle on using it regularly.


  1. I was a Chemical Engineer too, (BHU 1962), but for a few months only since I joined the Air Force soon after (for the lure of the blue uniform) , which had nothing to do with the bloody Thermodynamics. Those guys didn't know the difference between a Chemical, Civil, or Mining Engineering; as long as you had an engineering term attached to your degree, it was good enough for the Air Force. (Yeah, we had Civil chaps also).
    I agree with you wholeheartedly.Destiny has made me a jack of all: From Chemical I became Armament Engineer, then Aeronautical Engineer Mechanical...a musician, a painter, a golfer...then a published author(Lovers' Rock - Rupa Pubs)...but they failed to make me a salesman because I didn't learn the tricks of the trade from door-to-door salesmen selling detergents or condoms! My books are gathering dust in bookshops because I don't have an Aunty or Uncle in the media to put in a good word, and I don't have a pretty face, which helps a great deal, by the way.
    Now, after receiving loads of rejections, I'm taking the easier course to go digital...or maybe select a reliable setup.
    My blood boils when I see so much crap doing the rounds as 'best-sellers'. I'm no great writer, but at least I tell a good story in a language that we understand.
    I don't think the publishing scene in India is going to change for the better.
    Nice meeting you.

    1. Leave me my illusions :) Maybe the illusions may outlast my lifetime, without getting busted by reality :)