Episode 61 : India with Amar Vyas
In this interview I talk with the host of the MyKitaab Podcast and self-published Indian Author Amar Vyas about self-publishing in India.
How easy is it to self-publish a book in India at the moment, both in terms of eBooks and paperbacks?
You need to talk about two distinct markets – in English and in the Indian Languages (such as Hindi). In English it is as easy as in the rest of the world for eBooks. Print is the bigger market in India. While Print on Demand options exist (for example Ingram Spark), there are issues with cost that make it difficult for self-publishers.
Do English books sell in India or should people be looking at getting their books translated into one of the many Indian languages?
About 40-45% of the $4bn Indian Book Market is sold in English. However of that, about 60% is text books and fiction only represents about 10-12% of that market.
Does Kindle support any other the non-English Indian Languages?
They don’t and it is a big challenge. The script is very different for languages like Hindi. There are a lot of startup companies supporting it for eBooks now. Amar didn’t know if Kobo supported it, as Kobo isn’t that big in India. While they have acquired the eBook stock of Flipkart, a large Indian company,they haven’t done anything with it yet as far as Amar can tell.
Which eBook platforms are the best to consider using in India?
Do these platforms have self-service interfaces and how easy is it to get your eBooks onto them?
There are real issues with creating Indian Language eBooks, but Daily Hunt have gone to the lengths that even if you have a paper version of a translated text they will create an eBook from it. Mathubharti needs you to give them a properly formatted word document, but again they will create an eBook from that. There are still issues with actually paying international authors from these services, though Amar reckons Daily Hunt are the most advanced in this area.
In terms of pricing eBooks and paperbacks what things should self-publishers consider?
The rule of thumb is 1 rupee per page for a paperback (at the moment that is $0.015 and £0.012). For eBooks the price is about 60% of the paperback price. It’s not at all uncommon to see book distributors discount books up to 50% though from traditional publishers where they are off-loading unsold stock from the rest of the world. You won’t be able to compete just on price in India because of this. Lots of books which were best sellers in the West 10-20 years ago are still best sellers in India because of this discounting. For children’s books especially there is a lot of dumping of unsold inventory from the United States.
Are there any special issues you discovered as being a self-publisher in India to Indians trying to get their books out to the rest of the world?
Amar suffered because his English language book contained sections in Hindi to represent speech and a lot of overseas readers didn’t like that. Also in Indian English terms like “I will revert back to you” or “no issues” that aren’t grammatically correct or used that much outside of India he had to ensure weren’t in his book. Editing is a way around these issues. Amar had to get his book looked at again because of things like this.
What have you learnt from running the MyKitaab podcast?
There are two main things Amar has learnt. His guests did not just have blind-faith in the written word, they all dealt with things as a business in an extremely professional manner. The other thing he learnt was the importance of investing in marketing your books.
Are there any successful self-published authors in India?
Amar says that most of the most successful Indian self-publishers have gone on to become hybrid authors also working with publishing houses to create paperback copies of their self-published eBooks. In terms of international authors (he mentions Anna Erishkigal who he will be interviewing on his podcast soon) there are a few who Amar knows sell large amounts in the Indian market. Amar does say that relatively non-fiction is easier to sell in India because they are more popular.
How can people find out about you?
His author website is http://www.amarvyas.in where you can find out about his books. He has recently started blogging again there. His podcast is at http://www.mykitaab.in/. The word Kitaab is the Indian word for book, in case you wondered.
If you liked this show then you might like Selling Books in the Spanish-Speaking World with Cristian Perfumo (Episode 32) or What’s Hot in the Kindle Store with Alex Newton of K-Lytics (Episode 33)