When I had the manuscript of my first book Stolen Reflections ready, I was impatient to get it published. I was in such a hurry to have my book listed on Amazon and for people in all corners of the world to buy it, that I didn’t even do proper research. I did not understand the difference between Amazon (KDP – Kindle Direct Publishing) and self publishing in India.
Now, when I look back, the biggest regret I have about my publishing journey is that I spent all my savings on a self publishing service for my first book — thousands of rupees. I have no way of recovering that money solely through book sales.
If you are in the same boat as me and have just completed your manuscript, don’t make the same mistake as I did. Pause, take a moment and read on for a detailed comparison between the vanity and self publishing options in India. If you are interested in Traditional Publishing, you can learn more about that on our blogpost on Traditional Vs Self Publishing in India.
When deciding between KDP and self publishing in India, first consider Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). KDP is a great tool of self-publishing. The best part is that you have to invest nothing and you can start earning royalties within a few days of publishing your eBook.
- Before publishing
KDP offers a free tool called “Kindle Create” that lets you view your books as the reader would — in the format of different e-readers. You can design your manuscript to fit the eBook format for phones and Kindles. Here, you can take care of pagination, paragraph breaks, and spaces on the margins.
There is also an option of creating a detailed Table of Contents which lets you add a link to all the chapters in your book. You can also style chapter titles as per your choice and give your book the aesthetic appeal you desire.
Kindle Create is a simple, easy-to-use software that lets you design your book to suit the sensibilities of your readers. Amazon has an easy-to-follow tutorial that guides you on the ways you can put Kindle Create to use.
- Cover design
KDP also has a free Cover Creator tool to design a cover for your book. The tool allows you to customize your cover with options of hundreds of layouts and fonts.
The Cover Creator tool automatically adds the book’s ISBN to the barcode area of the back cover of your book. You also have an option to choose an image from their free image gallery or upload your own cover picture.
- During publishing
In India, KDP only publishes books in eBook format. Here are the benefits of publishing with KDP-
- Distribution: KDP delivers your eBook to all countries where Amazon is operational.
- Royalties: You can earn 70% royalty on the list price you set (if your price is INR 99 or more). In case your list price is less than INR 99, the royalty you get is 30% of the MRP.
- Rights: As the writer, you retain complete creative control and own your copyright with Amazon’s non-exclusive agreement.
- Speed: Once you hit the publish button, your eBook will be available worldwide within 24–48 hours. You also have the option to create a countdown so readers can pre-order your book.
- ASIN: ASIN stands for Amazon Standard Identification Number. It’s a ten-digit alphanumeric code that identifies all products sold on Amazon. It’s unique for each book and is assigned when you create a new eBook in Amazon’s catalogue.
- After publishing
Once your eBook is published and available online, here are some of the best parts about publishing with KDP:
- 100% availability: KDP ensures that unless you remove the book from circulation, it will always be available to readers in all countries.
- Giveaways: If you enroll your title in KDP Select, it allows you to make your book available for free for up to 5 days in every 90-day-period. Hosting free book giveaways draws a lot of traction and attracts readers who would leave reviews on your books.
- Promotion: If your book performs well in the initial few days of publishing, Amazon runs some promotional offers where the MRP of the book will be slashed, but your royalties will remain the same. This is subject to the rules of Amazon and keeps changing from time to time. The only thing you need to keep in mind here is that: sales fuel more sales.
Self Publishing in India
The other option when choosing between vanity and self publishing in India is Vanity Publishing also – very confusingly – called self publishing by some people. We are calling Kindle Publishing self-publishing. Vanity Publishing is like self-publishing, as in most of the work in editing, pagination, cover design, etc. has to be done by the author. The only difference is that you have to pay an upfront fee to the publishing house for getting your book published on paper.
In India, there are several vanity publishing houses that offer deals that sound appealing to first-time writers. Some of these are White Falcon, Kalamos, BecomeShakespeare, Xlibris, EvincePub, Buuks, and Notion Press. The prices of these platforms vary depending on the services they offer.
As I have worked with Notion Press, here are the services they offered-
- They had options for distribution in 150+ countries.
- Delivery to remotest corners of the world.
- Listing across Amazon, eBay, Kobo, and Book Depository.
- Cover design services (the covers they design are not personalized. All they do is use some stock images and put your name and the book’s title on it — something you can do for far cheaper in Canva or any free designing app).
- Options to create attractive book posters for marketing your book on social media.
- Discount coupons that offer up to 50% discount on your list price (with the glitch that your royalty will also be cut by an equivalent amount, sometimes even reduced to 0).
- The so-called guided publishing
Some of the so-called “guided publishing” packages on these platforms can go as high as INR 2,50,000. In this case, you will have a dedicated team of cover designers and proofreaders assigned to your book. In addition, the company will take steps to promote your book on social media.
Some of the measures they take are developing a book trailer and publicizing it on YouTube, promotional posts on social media, and a book launch event at a bookstore or in a literary festival. Most of these are one-time affairs and I haven’t come across any platform that promises long-term marketing services.
The only benefits I got from publishing with Notion Press were-
- The copyright for my book was registered (the fee covered in the package I had chosen).
- I got an ISBN. For the initiated, the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a unique International Publisher’s Identifier number, required for books to be sold in bookstores or catalogued in libraries. You can sell your books online without an ISBN, but for book fairs and literary festivals, an ISBN is mandatory.
- Copies of my book were available in a paperback format all over the world. That is always a win, irrespective of how many (or rather, how few) people buy them.
- The royalty was 40%, which is more than most traditional publishing houses offer. Even then, with such huge investments involved, it was difficult for me to recover the amount spent.
If you are a writer looking to self-publish your first book, please don’t commit the same mistake I did. Analyze all the offers that come along with the printing options. They might sound attractive but need not be applicable to you.
Say for e.g.: Notion Press says- Distribution options are available in 150+ countries.
This is brilliant. However, it also means ‘someone’ has to be interested in your book in these 150+ locations. So, how does this happen? Through social media!
Yes, online and offline promotions go hand in hand. Opting for either of these is not going to work in the long run. Let’s be honest, how did you discover your last read? There lies the answer to it all.
But say you are someone like Saloni Chopra – An actress and a social media influencer with 450k followers across the globe. For someone like her, having her book available in these 150+ countries does make sense. She has followers from different countries. So when she announced her book ‘Rescued by a Feminist’ through Notion Press it was important for her to have a global delivery partner as her followers wanted to read her work. For someone like her, Notion Press was a perfect choice.
It need not work similarly for a writer in India who has just started writing and also dabbling in social media as a newbie.
Read our blog post on How to sell your book India to understand how book marketing works
Because, as a published writer, I can tell you this: There will be no sales without marketing. And the onus of promoting your work lies only on you. Because for you, this is THE book while for any publisher, this will always be one of the many books they decide to publish in that year.
Instead, you can try self-publishing through Amazon KDP. However, if you would like to have paperbacks of your book and not only eBooks, there is another option.
Getting paperbacks published in India
A third option exists when deciding between various self publishing options in India. That is to self-publish on Amazon, but enable “Print on demand” as well.
Most Self Publishing platforms also have an option of publishing a paperback for free on a print-on-demand basis (as in, no inventory of your books will be maintained and a new copy will be printed only when a customer places the order). These books can be ordered online, but unless you pay them a fee (some of the most basic packages start at INR 4,999/-), your books won’t be available on any leading e-commerce website and can only be ordered from the websites of these publishing houses.
Apart from the ones mentioned above, Print on Demand is also an option that can be considered by authors. In this, your book gets printed only when a new order is placed, and no inventory is kept to cut costs. There are several companies that offer this service including Pothi, Book Bazooka, Online Gatha, etc.
With these you can choose to:
They have paid services for editing and design. However, if you choose to take care of these yourself, you can get your book published for free.
They have print-on-demand models, but should you wish to opt for it, they have options to print up to 10,000 at once. There is no minimum order quantity.
With a nominal fee, you can opt to sell your books on Flipkart, Google Books, Smashwords, Shopclues.com and Amazon.in. This is called the Extended Online Distribution.
If you don’t wish to pay, you can still sell your books on their online store with no investment.
o Earn royalties
The MRP of the Book is set by you.
- For Sales through their Online Store: Profit = MRP - Production Cost. The profit is split 50:50 between the service provider and the author.
- For Sales through Amazon, Google Books, Smashwords, Shopclues.com and Flipkart: Profit = MRP - Partner’s Share – Production Cost. The profit is split 20:80 between service provider and Author respectively.
As the retailer margin also needs to be factored in when a book is being sold through one of our partner sites, the minimum MRP of a book which is in Extended Online Distribution is higher than the minimum MRP of the book when it is being sold only through their Online Store.
You can also choose to avail their services only for eBooks.
The only minus in Print on Demand is that the MRP of the physical copies is higher than the usual printing options simply because here the publisher/service provider/printer is not printing a certain number of copies of your books and storing them for sale. The copies are printed as and when orders are received, which increases the printing costs.
As an author who is starting out, it is natural to be confused with so many options staring right at your face. In such a situation, it is always prudent to carefully weigh in your options and consider all possibilities before jumping to a decision.
As a quick summary here is a comparison between all three platforms of self-publishing available to a writer:
- Amazon KDP where you don’t need to make any monetary investment and your eBook will be published within 48 hours with worldwide distribution. You can earn up to 70% royalty on the list price.
- Vanity Publishing with platforms like White Falcon, Xlibris, EvincePub, BecomeShakespeare, Buuks, and NotionPress. These platforms require considerable investment on your part and involve some delay in publishing. You can publish both eBooks and paperbacks and enjoy 40% royalty on the list price.
- Print-on-demand platforms like Pothi, Book Bazooka, Online Gatha etc. which involve less investment and publish both paperbacks and eBooks. There is lesser royalty compared to other self publishing options and the time taken to publish is more or less the same.