Self publishing in India


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Now that self-publishing has arrived on Indian shores and now that a few Indian authors are taking that route, I see some coverage in the media. But most of the time the media calls it ‘vanity publishing.’

Self-publishing is not vanity publishing.

The two things are poles apart, one is a derogatory term and the other is a legitimate avenue open to writers today.

Several years ago when I was looking for a publisher, I met all kinds. It took me frustrating years of writing query letters and waiting months for answers. I had very little idea of what I was doing so some of the publishers whom I approached unawares would have fit the ‘vanity publisher’ label. What I mean by that is they asked me to fund the publishing.

It’s done in many ways. They tell you that they will do you a massive favor and make you a partner so you can reap more benefits. Run in the other direction. It’s just vanity publishing. They will charge you enough to make a profit and publish the book and forget about it. You will end up with a dusty pile in one corner of your room and not much else.

Others ask for a ‘buy back’. You buy back a certain percentage of the books at a discount. Usually a large percentage of the first print run, like 40%. Once again the money is coming from you, the author and once again, you are left with a dusty unsaleable pile of books.

Vanity publishers don’t need to sell any books and many won’t even try. After all they have already made their profit from the author. Not only is it your work and effort but it’s your money too. You get the satisfaction of calling yourself an author, the ‘vanity’ of it. That is all you get.

Self-publishing is not a scam designed to take gullible authors for a ride; it is a real publishing opportunity. The author does all the work. You get the manuscript written and thoroughly edited. You make a cover, but you do not pay to publish it. You upload your precious book for free and when someone buys a copy you get the major share of the profit.

The site which hosts your book, like Amazon Kindle direct or Smashwords function like a marketplace. It does not ask what you bring to market. If its good quality it will sell, if its bad quality it will sink, but there is room for all kinds.

It’s a new and exciting opportunity, giving authors, for the first time, control of the whole process and a very decent share of the profits.

Nothing vanity about it at all.

What I like about Flash Fcition


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For a while now I have been writing flash fiction. FF is very short fiction, though the length may vary. It ranges from six word stories, to the 100 word drabble, to shorts of 250 or 500 words, all the way up to 1000 words. Loosely it’s all flash fiction.

Short stories start at 1000 or 1500 and go up to 10,000 or so. Beyond that it’s a novella and after 40,000 it’s a novel.

It’s the short length of a flash which makes it both easy and difficult.

The easy part is the first draft, a quick scribble which takes very little time. Rewriting it, polishing it, making it a good story – that is the difficult part.

Anything does not go. A short description or an anecdote is not flash fiction. There has to be a story, progression, conflict and some kind of resolution. Usually two characters which can be stretched to three. More than that would overload the tiny form.

It’s not easy to write, a mistake those who have not tried the form often make. Poetry is short too and no one thinks it easy. Neither is flash. Writing a good flash has a steep learning curve and takes a long time – years of work, like everything else in writing.

The length I like is 1000 words maximum. It’s roomy enough for a little character development, a little – very little- backstory – and a surprise or a twist to bring it to a satisfying ending.

Ironically the shortness of the form gives it the largest scope to experiment and innovate. Because it is so short you can try all genres and various styles. It is refreshing to try things you can never do in the novel or short story you are working on.

The real delight is the experimentation. You never quite know what will show up on the page and often you are very pleasantly surprised. Because it’s so short you can write hundreds of stories. Most will be rubbish but there will some gems in the debris which you can rescue and polish later.

Every story helps. I suggest to those who are starting out – write, write and write. After your first five hundred, or your first thousand – something will change. You will discover you have grown and so have your stories. Just like riding a bicycle. One day it’s effortless, but that day comes only after many hours spent despairing, thinking you will never get it, picking yourself up, once again, from the dust.

Why do You Write?


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why 3

Its a question writers and non writers ask all the time and there are as many replies as there are people. Here is my answer to this very important question.

This little piece was first posted on my blog, then I submitted it, in revised form to Fl;ash Fiction Chronicles and they accepted it. They published it yesterday – take a look -

Why do You Write?


Submissions for the Summer Issue


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Submissions are now open for the Summer 2014 issue of World Haiku Review.

whr-smallSend up to ten haiku and the suggested themes are War or Summer subjects but you do not have to stick to the themes.

Please read the complete guidelines HERE and follow them.

The deadline is 17 August, 2014. You have plenty of time so go ahead, get writing and submit your best.

Spring submissions


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Submissions are now open for the Spring 2014 issue of World Haiku Review.

whr-smallSend up to ten haiku and the suggested themes are romance or spring subjects but you do not have to stick to the themes.

Please read the complete guidelines HERE and follow them.

The deadline is 6 April, 2014. You have plenty of time so go ahead, get writing and submit your best.

Cold and Short and Busy


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That is what February was. Cold – it caught the tail of the bad weather up north and got as cold as Mumbai can get. Short – where did it go? Busy – yes, work done, and lots happening as well, enough to fill all the early dusk days.

A good month. My articles ‘Muses have no sense of time’ was published and an interview as well. Several submissions await responses, some overdue by now.

A writer’s life, another month of it, most of the day at the notebook and keyboard, words filling up the hours late into the night.

W1S1 February 2014- Fahrenheit



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ResolutionMy new year story Resolution was the top story for January, and today Flash Fiction Chronicles carried an interview with me, about writing it and about flash fiction in general.

Check it out HERE

That story seemed to strike a chord – I got such good feedback on it.

The original post is HERE and the update is HERE.


Resolution update


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On the first of Jan this year I blogged about Resolution, my story which Every Day Fiction carried as its new year story. I mentioned that there was an actual kitten and put up pictures of the cute and famished inspiration.

The earlier post is HERE.

Perhaps it was the kitten but my story ended up as the story of the month and a lot of people asked me how the kitten is faring, so here is a kitten update. Naturally my sister named it Resolution.

Resolution grows upHe looks so innocent when asleep but innocent he is not. His favorite occupation is leaping on other cats and chasing their tails. He whacks anything which passes, much to the displeasure of my dog Toffee – but he does not put out his claws so no one gets hurt.

So that is the story!



Are Indian Literary Festivals Relevant?


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When a literary festival hits town I always take those days off and spend them listening to the talks and meeting whoever I can. I have been going to Mumbai’s Literature Live since it began and this year I attended Jaipur literary festival, which bills itself as the biggest free literary festival in the world. It certainly lived up to its billing. I have never stood in so many queues in my life.

Crowds everywhere at Jaipur

Crowds everywhere at Jaipur

Jhumpa Lahiri speaks at Jaipur

Jhumpa Lahiri speaks at Jaipur

Of course, I enjoy it. Listening to writers, discussing books, interacting with the literary community – which writer does not enjoy that?

In the last year or so literary festivals have been booming in India, every small town is proudly holding them. Srinagar had a literary festival. The Bombay Gym club had a literary festival. They are everywhere and extremely well attended. Jaipur had two lakh people this year.

So of course, they are cutting edge, right? Well, no. Not really.

It’s not what they are saying. It’s what they are not saying.

Literary festivals in India – I have no idea about anywhere else – are a closed eco system – shut off from the outside world.

Inside the festivals you have thousands of young writers, dying to catch the nod of an agent or publisher. Outside, in the real world – publishing is in the throes of change and not doing well at all. Privately, even publishers admit to that.

In the festivals every young author who has got a three book deal is invited to grace the stage, but some things are never mentioned. No one talks of eBooks, or the internet – or worse – self publishing. The changes which are sweeping the world are non-existent here.

The bookshops sell physical books, which is fine, but they don’t sell Wink, Infibeam, Kobo or Kindle eBook readers alongside. Here, however, they don’t exist.  

It bothers me when the panelists in a session know nothing at all about the subject they are supposed to talk about. Who choses these panels?

In the Mumbai festival there was a panel on fantasy writing – a favorite read of mine – and at one point the foreign moderator asked, “Does fantasy sell?” What was she doing on the panel if she did not know the answer to that? Well, no one answered that question that day.

If you want to know the answer it’s only too easy to find.

What sells superbly well in India, even though publishers until a few years ago were saying, no one will read it? Mythology.

What sells all over the world despite the mystification of the publishing world? Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings. The biggest bestsellers lists of any time have a very healthy dose of fantasy.

This year in Jaipur there was a session on short stories. I had to stand in queues a mile long, in the rain, to get in and then I had to stand in the back for quite a while. Was it worth my while? 

One writer on the panel said openly, I don’t know why I am here because I don’t write short stories. Another writer, who had published a book of shorts a long time ago, said there was no market for short stories.

And she was right. Publishers don’t publish short stories. There is no print market for them.

That is, if you ignore the internet, where there are hundreds of websites which – gasp – pay – for short stories and whole communities devoted to them.

But, of course, the internet does not exist in the minds of Literary Festivals.

It’s a world of publishers and the authors they publish.

Never mind that publishers are struggling under the costs of bringing out print books which they will then sell to physical bookstores which are cutting back or closing.

The physical book is in trouble under the assault of the eBook.

Bookstores are in trouble under the sweep of the one click shopping sites.

Publishers are feeling the heat from self publishing.

But go to a literary festival and you will see none of that.

 So are literary festivals relevant? For entertainment, yes, always. Just don’t mistake that gated community for the whole wide world.



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