Waiting, a poem

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Whispers in the Wind carried my poem, Waiting. It is a great community of poets on the web and seems very friendly too.

Waiting

I wrote it earlier this year when our little bit of winter was turning into spring. Mumbai, of course has hardly a winter. Enough for a slight chill and enough to bother cats who really like it warm. We do have a spring. Trees shed their leaves and get new shoots, all in the space of a week. Summer fruit trees start to bud.

In Mumbai, winter is the best season, pleasantly cool and a long way from the heat of summer. Spring is beautiful and full of flowers, paving the way for the dazzle of summer’s scarlet Gulmohar.

Doing my own cover

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One of the delights of self publishing is that you get to do your own cover. Even if you don’t do the artwork you get to conceptualize it. And the final say is always yours.

This is a very pleasant task especially if you have worked with publishers. Publishers don’t consult lowly writers on the cover. You may not even see it before the book is printed. Worse, you might just hate the cover but you have absolutely no power to change it.

So, doing it myself was a delightful change.

I could have found a cover artist and probably will for the next book, but for this one, I decided to do my own and had lots of fun playing around with my cover.

Here it is. Do take a look and give me some feedback.

The book is called To Catch a Falling Star and its a collection of 24 stories, some published and some unpublished. Also 14 articles on writing, some published. Several years of work in writing, submitting and publishing.

edited kindle - small
For this book, my first ebook I wanted to do everything myself and learn everything by doing it, even if I make mistakes, even if it takes me longer and some parts get quite tedious. In the end it’s immensely satisfying.

The book is done. I am waiting for the two things I opted not to do myself. The blurb and the conversion to ebook kindle format.

The very last lap. I can now see the finish line ahead and the date on it is still June.

……………

What is more this is the hundredth post on this blog, another milestone right next to self publication.

post-milestone-100-2x

A Boy and a Wolf

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I have been so busy with my book that I have not been working on stories much these days, but one or two which I had sent earlier and being published now.

This story came from a real experience. I was waiting outside a building which had a nursery school and a small child was clutching his mothers hand and crying because he had seen a dog.

What, I wondered, did it look like from the boy’s eyes? The dog was a stray dog,  going about his own business but even that mid sized stray was bigger than the little boy.

I found myself writing a story and here it is. The Journal of Microliterature published it. Click on the picture.

a boy and a wolfHow is the book going?

Almost done. The very last formatting stage. I have to figure out how to convert it myself or get someone to do it.

The very last lap now. Soon, very soon.

You just can’t please everyone

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After I put up that post on self publishing, I’m taking the self publishing plunge, I got a lot more feedback than I expected. People who barely knew what self publishing was, were congratulating me as if the book was up already.

(It is not up. Last lap. I am a week or so away.)

The most unexpected people were coming up to me to say, so you are self publishing. Even if they had no idea what it meant they still approved. Many were curious about the process. What is it, how does it work? They asked questions and listened when I tried to explain.

The few people who did not ask and, I learned later, did not approve, were writer friends. Self publishing is vanity publishing was their tired old mantra.

It was no use trying to tell them that the two are very different. In vanity publishing you pay a company to publish your book and then stash the pile of unsold books in your loft. Vanity publishing is not about readers at all – it’s just for the writer’s self satisfaction. There are plenty of people who just want to hold a book with their name on it. It makes no difference to them if anyone reads it or not. Usually no one does because quality does not count.

In self publishing you take your ebooks to market, and hope that readers will like them. You put up your goods. The readers decide. It’s all about the readers which means you have to produce the very best book you can and the moment is up, you are writing the next one.

It’s a new dream, not the old dream but for some it has not changed a bit.

They are still holding on to that old dream – the grand trio, finding a publisher, an agent and shelf space in a bookshop.

It is still possible.

You can find a publisher and you may not have to sell your soul.

You might get an agent – they have changed their tone of late and are talking of reaching out and communicating as never before.

Bookshelf space is not so easy with so many shops collapsing.

You can hold on to that dream. You can also deny ebooks and pretend that ebook readers don’t exist. Only the good old things, the dead tree books crammed into the eroding shelf space of the few remaining bookshops for them.

There was a time when I wanted to see my book on bookshop shelves too.

I did get to see it.

For a day or two at most.

Most bookshops order one or two copies and when those are sold, they just don’t re-order. On an electronic shelf, online, you book is there for as long as you please, or forever. No one will soil it. No one will return boxes of it to the publisher. No one will tear off the cover and junk it.

And I don’t have to live around the corner to the bookstore to find and read books from all over the world. I don’t even have to go to the bookstore. It comes to me.

But you just can’t please everyone.

Least if all writer friends who can’t understand why you are wasting your time painting your own cover when you could be writing another trying-not-to-be-desperate query letter which, most likely, will go unanswered or just add to that shoebox of refusals.

Been there, did my time.

It’s a different world now.

Editing and editing and editing

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Editing and editing and editing

Life seems to have shrunk to the next comma, the next misspelling, the para indent, the page break. Changing capitals, removing unnecessary colons, correcting the tenses seems the most important thing in the world right now.

Some people put a capital after inverted commas and some people don’t. Now it all matters. Lines crawl by, consuming hours and days.

Will I ever finish, I wonder?

This is not the part I enjoy – all the more reason to make sure it is done right.

Coffee and poems, sev puri and paintings

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Mumbai is so full of events that if I went for them all, I would never get any writing done. But there are a few I like to attend and last Friday there were two of them.

Get your coffee, shut out the world and listen to some good poetry. That is Cappuccino Readings at Starbucks, Horniman circle. It was their one year anniversary and so the room was full of poets and poetry lovers. What better way to spend a summer evening?

One year anniversary of Cappuchino Readings

One year anniversary of Cappuccino Readings

A friend, Archana Mehta, held an art exhibition at Coomaraswamy hall, as part of a group exhibit on spiritual art. Mixed media. I specially like the one behind her, the one with the sun. The textures are delightful.

Archana's exhibition

Archana’s exhibition

Both venues are just lovely. The grand old building at Horniman circle where poets read amid Mocha and Ice blends and the wonderful green gardens of the museum complete with a very Mumbai snack of Sev Puri – both are a treat.

A full dinner for the soul.

No more query letters

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There was a time when query letters ruled my life. Once you finished the months or years of writing the book, then you had to learn how to write a query letter. You had to study the websites or read the books with instructions and then go through many drafts to write your own.

They were painful and nerve-racking things, these query letters. It took months to figure out how to write them and more months figuring out whom to send them too. Once you sent them you waited many more months for replies.

Everyone needed a query letter, publishers and agents. Many never bothered to reply. Most just sent form rejections back. Time that you might have spent writing the next book was spent writing these letters.

You had to sell your book. You had to tell them why you thought it would sell, what was there in the market and why yours was better or different. Since mine was nonfiction the publishers who answered my letter did not know the subject.

Give me a list of similar books, said the publisher.

I did. I put together a list of everything similar.

Send me the books, said the publisher.

What? It took me years to collect those books, many of which are irreplaceable. I had a hard time sourcing them and many are not even in English translation. Am I to hand my whole library to some editorial assistant and risk never getting it back?

It was easier to get another publisher, which required the whole process to begin again with more progressively frustrated letters.

Of course, there are publishers who are not as arbitrary and high handed. Still the nicest thing about self-publishing is to be able to say – no more query letters, thank you.

Formatting is fun

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This is the part everyone scared me about – dont even think of doing it yourself,  it’s too difficult, get a professional. I thought about that and looked around. I talked to several people. Eventually, I thought, why not give it a go myself. How hard can it be? Let’s try it out.

I downloaded an ebook, Building Your Book for Kindle and followed all the steps, discovering so many things I had no idea about – page layout and page breaks and headers and how to use those formatting marks. To someone who knows this may seem simple but I did not know any of it. To me, it was all a revelation.

It’s not tough at all. It does need patience though and lots of time – maybe that is why so many don’t seem to like it. I don’t mind spending the painstaking hours in formatting and editing – more than worthwhile to get a book at the end of it.

I love it. What do I like about it? Watching the mess of lines and words take shape and begin to resemble an ebook, beginning to turn into something publishable – it’s like watching a baby’s first steps. Who would want to miss it?

Maybe I am enjoying this so much because I never had any of it. When you send a book for publishing there are months, half a year or more, when you just wait, hearing nothing, wondering what they are doing and what kind of cover you will get.

Now I am there, delighting in every step. No matter how many books you write, this will never get old.

I am glad I made the decision to do it myself. The real test will be when I upload it, of course. That is yet to come and I will blog about that too.

I am writing this blog because I could not find anyone to tell me what it was like before I began. So, if you are one of those people, like I was, who is hesitating at the edge of the formatting pool, have no fear, plunge right in and have a blast.

Is self publishing ‘real’?

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Almost immediately after I put up the self-publishing post someone asked me, but that is not real publishing, is it?

There is a question here – what is ‘real’ publishing?

Is it ‘real’ publishing when I spend five years researching and writing my book and then have no choice but to give it away for 10%? Is it real then, because if that makes it real do I really want that?

I agree that the success or failure of a book is not decided by the writer. The real question is who decides? Is it a small group of gatekeepers or it is the readers? Is it an elite club or is it everybody? Is it more real because it is approved or because people can lose themselves in its pages?

Living in the biggest democracy in the world, I believe in people power.

Let the readers decide.

Let them have the final say and tell me if it ‘real’ or if I have miles to go before I write the next one. That is real enough for me.

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