A few copies of my book Mantramala are available at Kitab Khana, Fort, Mumbai.
Sadly, it may go out of print and is at the end of its second edition. It had been doing well and I get a lot of feedback about it. If you want a copy this is the time.
Has it really been a year since I began this self publishing journey? So much has happened in this short time.
Actually it took three years to come to 2015.
Before that, I spent decades in a world of publishers. In those days, the way was set and there was no other path. If you wanted to be published you had to find a publisher which could take years.
You spent a lot of time looking for agent and publisher emails. Some of them, yes, even today, want the old snail mail and not email. You had done your research and then you prepared your query letter as carefully as if for god. You waited patient or inpatient, but you waited. Sometimes, you got no reply. If you did get a reply it was often a curt dismissal.
Your self esteem, if you had any left, hit the floor. You took days and much effort to recover from a rejection but that, they told you, was the author’s way.
Yes, it used to be the author’s life and it was a very tough one. When you write, you are emotional and open. You are by yourself or among writing friends. Nothing prepares you for the publisher world when your tender butterfly meets the shark.
From the dreamy world of wispy imagination you now have to deal with the teeth of contracts and legalese, non competes and ebook rights and the terrible fangs of rotten contracts.
It’s a nasty road and very painful but who cares for writers anyway? It’s a self sustaining environment. You are told, over and over, that there is no other way. You need a publisher and you need their approval. Without that writing anointing, you are nothing. Your fragile child must be turned over to rough hands to be assessed in financial terms. mangled or rejected. And you must take it with a smile and say, thank you.
So, there I was, limping on the accepted path.
Then I heard the first murmurs about ebooks and self publishing as a viable option and not the notorious vanity presses.
I spent the next two years convincing myself that it could work. It’s tough getting out of the ‘only a publisher can sanctify a book’ to ‘you mean I can do it myself?’
I learned about Kindle Direct Publishing. Wow, you mean I can publish without cost, keep all the rights and get 70 percent of every book, with detailed accounts and regular payments?
Isn’t that a fairytale just too good to be true? Isn’t that a story made to snare unwary authors? I heard that from many people. It’s easy to believe. Writers have been so battered and abused that is hard to believe there are fair and decent terms out there.
But my own research showed me something. I read all the blogs and haunted the writing forums. It was true. Yes, it was true.
It took me three years to decide to take the plunge. In 2015 I knew I would go for it.
The first ebook was the toughest. I had to learn how to do it. I collected my flash fiction into a book. Figured out how to do the cover with a basic painting and some photo editors to give it texture. I edited every word several times.
But the big problem lay ahead – formatting.
I had no idea how to do it so I gave it to a company to do. In September last year my first ebook, To Catch a Falling Star, was published in silence. No fanfare, no book readings, nothing but a blog post and emails.
Nothing but a feeling of great and deep satisfaction.
Yes, I knew I liked this path. I had to figure out how to do it myself. I had to undertand the formatting so I downloaded the books and studied websites.
In December, a short story, A Handful of Rice went up. This was was even more satisfying because I had done it all myself, the cover, editing, formatting and uploading to Amazon’s KDP.
Book 3, whiskers and purrs, a collection of cat haiku went up in February 2016.
I put together a book of short meditations, 5 Minute Delight, which went up in May.
In July our haiku group published our first anthology, A Taste of Sea Breeze.
And in August, I published Life Crafting, Techniques of Self Growth and Creativity.
My sixth book in the first year. I thought it took a year to write a book but I discovered that it takes publishers a year, not writers. I started out with the idea of publishing one book and went on to do six. I thought it impossible but it was not even stressful. I enjoyed every moment of it.
Sales have not been great but they have been selling. I know this is a marathon and will build up slowly. I am in no hurry at all, as a I plod along writing the next book.
The strange thing is that when I was a child, imagining the writers life, this is what I imagined. The great satisfaction of writing and publishing just as I please. Then I grew up and ran head first into the wall of the publishing world. From then on, it was a struggle. Now the delight and the easy playful creativity is back without the stress and struggle.
The year was not yet done with me.
I do workshops at Somaiya Center for Lifelong Learning and I suggested one on how to publish your own ebook. I put together everything I had learned in the year so that others could do this too.
I had no idea what the response would be but there were lots of queries. The workshop was full, the people who showed up were really interested and Midday and DNA both covered it. This is the DNA article.
And so the first year ended on a high note, with a workshop. My first ebook expanded almost effortlessly into 6.
And now, a short respite, a trip or two and Diwali break, before I begin year 2.
I can’t wait!
I know it will be better than the first as my self publishing journey goes on.
Autumn is coming and another issue is on the way, only waiting for your haiku. The red leaves and the chill winds of autumn leading to the leaden skies and white world of winter. The best time to sit in the warmth indoors and write poems.
Submissions are now open for the Autumn/Winter 2016 issue of World Haiku Review.
The themes are lost love or autumn and winter subjects but they are only guidelines and you do not necessarily have to follow them.
The Deadline is Tuesday, 29th November, 2016.
Please send in your best – make sure it is not published elsewhere and please read the guidelines carefully HERE.
Look forward to reading your work.
She Dared to be Different
The first Kamala Das poetry awards
held in Pune, by Gyan Adab, 25 September, 2016.
This gorgeous wooden folding frame in black and gold was the prize.
From the Old Playhouse
You planned to tame a swallow, to hold her
In the long summer of your love so that she would forget
Not the raw seasons alone, and the homes left behind, but
Also her nature, the urge to fly, and the endless
Pathways of the sky.
The time – the turbulent 70s. India was in turmoil and everything seemed to be more intense. The decade began with a war and went on to witness the emergency.
Perhaps because I was in college, it seemed that everyone had a pet cause and was passionate about it. Emotions were running high, perhaps because India was emerging from the ruins of colonialism and trying to find its own voice.
It seems to me that the whole country was on one major mission to discover itself, in various ways, but with equal, rebellious passion.
Feminism was raging. Women were out burning bras – this in an era when their families could not even use that word in public.
Communism was raging too. Other students were living in communes, making posters, taking out morchas and generally making their presence known. A group from the colleges, with a perfectly timed attack, took over the Mumbai University for a day and appointed their own vice chancellor. I don’t even remember what it was about but those were very exciting times.
Others were publishing underground pamphlets and circulating them. It seemed there was always something going on
I read all the feminist books but took no part in the public displays, but there were other things for me. Poetry was thriving too and there were readings and lectures everywhere. I participated in every one I could find and revelled in them.
And my life was about to get even more exciting when I met a woman who made a huge impact on me – Kamala Das.
She lived just around the corner in Mumbai and very soon I was spending every free moment in her house which was a magnet for writers, artists and poets, playwrights, astrologers, scroungers and creative people of all types.
Every month she held the Bahutantrika, the many stringed instrument, an apt name for an endless evening of art and literature. I don’t think I missed one from the day I met her.
Those were the days of My Story, her book, which was being serialized in a Mumbai paper. She was treading controversial ground there and received both acclaim and brickbats. The censure hurt but it never stopped her and that remained true for the rest of her life. She lived her own way, daring to be different, completely unaffected by what others said.
This is what I really admired about Kamala Das – her intense passion and her courage.
The first thing you noticed when you met her was her intensity, her warmth and her generosity.
She wrote about topics that are often taboo in society of those times such extramarital affairs and female sexual hungers. In those days it was completely revolutionary and her open honesty is revolutionary in any age.
It took profound courage to follow her own path, however controversial. I think my life would have turned out very differently if I had not met her in those turbulent times. Which is why I was very pleased when I was invited to speak about her at the first Kamala Das awards ceremony, followed by the film of an heartfelt interview between Randhir Khare and Jaisurya Das, her youngest son.
Randhir Khare, director of Gyan Adab, whom I first met a long time ago at Kamala’s house, is doing work that Kamala herself would have understood completely because it is what she used to do all her life with a rare and beautiful generosity of spirit – encourage creativity in others, mentor the young and hold an open house.
I only hope that, if she is looking down on us from somewhere up there, she is smiling.
The Triveni Haiku Utsav which took place last weekend in Pune. Organised by Kala Ramesh.
A happy weekend catching up with old friends and making some new ones, listening to good poetry and watching dance and film. Waking up at 6 am was tough, and so was leaving Mumbai in the driving rain, thunder overhead, but the company and the poetry made up for it.
This is the Naad Anunaad Haiku anthology which was released at the Utsav.
There is quite a bit of interest in my workshop on how to publish your own ebook at low cost. Maybe because I don’t know any others who are doing this kind of workshop.
When I wanted to self publish my first book I had no idea what to do. It was a very confusing world and it took me ages to figure it out. Now I have six ebooks out and feel I know a little. I have been working on my notes to make this workshop as comprehensive as possible.
See you there.
Here are the details of my workshop.
If you always wanted to publish your own book but had no idea how to go about it, come across to Somaiya Centre on the 1st of October.
In case the details are not visible in the poster:
1st October 2016
At Somaiya Centre for Lifelong Learning
Saturday, 2 to 5 pm.
Fees, Rs 750.
See you there.
My latest book is up, Life Crafting, Techniques for self growth and creativity.
Available as an ebook on Amazon
These are the chapters in it.
The Art of Visualisation- tells you how to visualise, why, sometimes it does not work and what to do about it.
The Words we Use- do you know how powerful the words you use to yourself really are? You can improve your life just by changing your vocabulary.
Do you Love your Body- do you listen to your body’s needs or do you just drag it around like a machine? Methods to become more responsive to your most important possession.
Open up your Creativity- if you always wanted to be creative but had no idea how, here are a few simple methods to get you started and keep you going.
The Trouble with Stress- everyone talks of stress but what is it and where does it come from?
Synchronicity and Flow- you don’t have to live in a state of high stress all your life. There is another way.
Keeping a Journal for Self Growth- why keeping a journal can enhance your life and seven reasons to do it.
Mandalas for Self Growth- a few stray marks on paper can be amazingly revealing. Examples from my workshops to help you understand the language of self-expression through drawing.
People Skills- simple methods to help you improve your relationships.
The Power of Mantras- what mantras are and how to use words as mantras.
I have been publishing ebooks for almost a year and the first thing I realised is that most people don’t even know what ebooks are. I am talking of India and a very modern city like Mumbai.
They say, I would love to read your book but I don’t have a kindle.
Do you have a smart phone, I ask them.
They do have a smart phone but hold it out helplessly, totally unaware of what to do with it. To make an account and download an ebook is almost beyond their capacities. They ask sons or grand daughters to do it.
Or just shrug because its too complicated to contemplate.
I can understand most people being unaware of the online world, but this applies not just to the usual person who uses an expensive smart phone for nothing but making calls to their children abroad – it applies to other writers as well.
It will take time, especially for writers who have been around for a while but ultimately, they will have to deal with this strange and confusing new world. Their old world is dying. Bookshops are closing. The single narrow and crowded road which lead to a publisher contract is getting lost amid the brand new highways which are opening up for writers. Yes, you can ignore it – but it won’t go away.
In my book club the word ‘book’ still means the print variety. Now, however, a few Kindles have appeared. Most readers still order their print copies online or search the few remaining – and shrinking – bookstores.
I don’t like reading an ebook, its very uncomfortable, some of them say. I like reading a real book.
They are probably hunched in front of a computer unaware that the easiest way to read is an ereader. Or even a smart phone or tablet. No use telling them about it.
It seems that, for most people, the very vast and rapidly overwhelming online ebookstores are invisible. For them its still the few shelves crammed between colouring and children’s books. That space grows smaller as chocolates and gadgets grab the shelves once devoted to shiny new bestsellers.
I have news for all those people.
Ebooks is a one way street. Once you start reading ebooks you are not going back. Once you start writing ebooks, you may add print books or even publisher books, but it will always be ebooks. Like most technological advances it goes only one way.
I am lucky to be here so early when the whale has not turned – though that is due – so I can get a ringside seat as the seasons of writing and publishing change. With one difference. The old ways will not be coming back.
One world will shrink and shrink until its a pale ghost of what it was. The other will expand exponentially until it grows so overwhelmingly huge that it just can’t be ignored. I leave it to you to guess which is which.