Photograph: Rohit Gautam
|MULTIPLE STAGES A host of processes are involved before your book reaches you
A quote by American poet Edna St Vincent Millay aptly describes a lot of publishers: “A person who publishes a book willfully appears before the populace with his pants down. If it is a good book nothing can hurt him. If it is a bad book nothing can help him.” There have been instances when a single book turned someone into a best-selling author and some when a book has not lived up to the promise. Hence, publishing can be a risky business just like films.
According to a May 2011 Business Standard report, around 90,000 book titles are produced every year in India by almost 19,000 publishers. Industry players visualise Indian publishing industry growing at an estimated 30 percent a year. These include both fiction and non-fiction books. The latter can range from educational and self-help books to children’s books and autobiographies. You also have books in English, Hindi and regional languages. This industry growth can also be attributed to an increase in the reading habit in rural and semi-urban areas where people are looking forward to read on different subjects, as well as online book shopping.
There are multiple stages before a book makes its way to you. In the world of educational books it all starts with conceptualisation, and studying the feasibility and profitability in a market. Next, a subject matter expert is identified, and once he or she is on board, they must propose a Table of Contents (TOC) and write some sample chapters. Feedback is shared with the author on its basis who then proceeds to create content for the book. Once all chapters are received along with the TOC, it is sent for editing and proofreading. The final ‘form’ is sent for review to professors teaching the subject. Actionable changes are suggested to the author and changes made. Once the manuscript is ready after typesetting and designing, it is reviewed by the management before printing. Then the marketing, distribution and sales teams take over.
The process is very different in the case of fiction writers, especially for aspiring writers. In this case they approach the publishers. When targeting bigger publishing houses, one may face a series of rejections before finding one. A good agent can be a boon in this case.
|When an author wants to reach out to a larger audience and is not finding a publisher, he can look at self-publishers. Self-publishers charge an author for every individual task they do. The works include editing, formatting, proofreading, cover designing etc as well as book distribution. Some self-publishers include Cinnamonteal, Power Publishers, Little Fairies Publications, Humming Words Publishers, Bibliofili. Some online portals like www.pothi.com use technology to help an author get published.
A comparatively new arena in India, it is not fully developed in its structure. Yet it presents various opportunities for professionals. Digital Publishing has two dimensions - electronic versions of traditional media through CD-ROM, E-book, Electronic journal, Online magazine, Online newspaper and PDF. This means you can read your favourite book on Kindle or your morning paper online. The other dimension is content created especially for online or electronic consumption including blogs, mobile apps, podcasts, games and more. Working on new technologies is a part and parcel of digital publishing.
Cyril Ferry, Director, UTV Indiagames Studio, explains the process in games. Once the developed product is received by the publishing team, it is first uploaded on a Content Management System (CMS). From the CMS, it is made available to all operators through a WAP page like vodafonelive.com or an app store and finally a customer downloads it. Cyril adds that a CMS or a Service Delivery Platform (SDP) is adequate for uploading content and developing WAP pages to take content live on a portal.
So what kind of aptitude does one need to have to fit into the world of a digital publisher? Since, there’s no dearth of editorial space as is the case with print, one must be able to think multi-dimensionally - text, images, videos and games, to name a few - when it comes to content presentation. Engaging one’s audience is key. Be enterprising and strive to stay ahead of the curve as technology is changing everyday.
Content solution providers
Outsourcing has originated as a major business model in this industry for publishing houses abroad, who seek solution providers who offer a range of services from content development to proofing. Sarika Gupta works as a Project manager with a content solution provider. “I have to check the quality of work at each stage of the production process before passing it on to the next stage or to the client. This involves guiding and monitoring production to avoid costly mistakes and rework,” she says. Her job provides an insight into the life cycle of a book, and so far she says, it has been a wonderful experience. There are many such providers in the market like McMillan, Laserwords, Cybermedia, Element, Thomson Digital, Q2A, Sage, American Devices and Premedia Global.
Job functions on offer
Broad profiles a person can choose to work on can be listed briefly as:
- Editorial: In the world of publishing, content is king and hence this is a core department. One can work as a content writer, subject matter expert, copy editor, researcher, author, bloggers, proofreader or translator.
- Graphic design & multimedia: Creativity, knowledge of softwares and being tech-savvy can give one an edge. Roles include graphic designer, animator, illustrator, photographer, video producer, to name a few.
- Public relations & marketing: Promotion of new products is as important as a good product. The rise of eCommerce has added another dimension to roles here.
- Specialists: Some professionals prefer to focus on one area only, often as independent professionals. These include cover designers, soft skill trainers, talent identification officer, indexer, children’s book writers, etc.
Can an MBA take up an editorial job?
Training and attracting talent
It turns out that a person with a qualification in almost any field is welcomed in the publishing industry, because it’s an activity that involves structuring content in a manner that the customer wants, appreciates and is willing to pay for. So, it’s the qualities of the individual as opposed to the qualification that can help create successful products.
“Being able to interpret data, understanding customers, the ability to read trends, the habit of winning and so on, are critical yet general abilities someone in publishing must possess. Beyond this come the specific functional skills that align one to job roles,” says K Srinivas, AVP & Publisher: Higher Education, Professional & ELT, Pearson Education. He shares that Pearson recruits people of all backgrounds and educational qualifications, who have the ability to work in teams and can be trained on the functional requirements of the role.
Rewards: Are they worth it?
The one drawback about publishing is the remuneration. “The young generation wants money, and publishing pays very less. Hence, only creative people join publishing,” says Harsha Basu, who after pursuing a PG Diploma in Journalism at YMCA’s Institute for Media Studies and Information Technology, Delhi, joined a publishing house, which produces educational books. So, what made Harsha take up the job? She loves the feeling of educating the masses through books. So, it’s a yes for those who are passionate about the work, and no for those who want to make a quick buck.
Silvi, an MBA graduate from IBS Hyderabad who has been working as an Editorial Researcher in the industry for a while, has a different take. “Publishing is mostly about business. There is almost no scope for creativity. A shred of it may exist in pedagogy features but that too cannot be termed as creativity,” she opines. Silvi is now looking for a career in branding or research Public Relations (PR).
Though a flair for languages, an analytical bent of mind, attention to detail and an aesthetic sense are attributes for a publishing professional, some formal training could give freshers exposure. Some universities offer diploma and certificate courses, though it is difficult to say how good they are. Graduates and professionals seeking entry in the industry could look them up. Kolkata-based Seagull Books has launched the Seagull School of Publishing, which offers a four-month certificate programme in Publishing. In month one, a student gets an overview about the industry, while in the next three, he can choose to specialise in editing or design and production. The course comprise lectures, presentations, field trips, special sessions and master classes by visiting faculty.
Sunil S Patki, Director of Notjustpublishing.com, believes that enough effort is not being made to attract youth to this field. “I don’t think any publishers go to institutes for placements,” he says. He also underlines that not only should more universities offer a degree course in publishing but the government should also pitch in. “We do not have any State in India that has set up a proper recognised publishing institute,” he says.
Director, UTV Indiagames Studio
“In Digital Publishing, the publisher should have all the rights of the content before publishing it. An agreement with the IP holder is also important to avoid any legal issue.”
Dean of Design, Seagull School of Publishing, Kolkata
“A course helps you streamline your career choice by detecting your natural aptitude. You come to know the aesthetics, techniques and logistics of book publishing.”
Project Manager with a Content Solution Provider
“We check the work quality at each stage of the production process before it goes to client. This involves guiding and monitoring production to avoid costly mistakes and rework.”
AVP & Publisher: Higher Education, Professional & ELT, Pearson Education.
“Pearson recruits people of all backgrounds and educational qualifications, who have the ability to work in teams and can be trained on the functional requirements of the role.”
”Believe in your writing!”
Author of Cold Feet and Revenge
Q: How did you get published?
A: I bumped into (my current) publishers at the Delhi Book Fair when they were looking for new authors. I showed them my work; they liked it and my first book came about.
Q: What stages did your work go through before turning into a book?
A: It was a non-stop month-long process. There was an entire exercise of going through the manuscript and choosing stories out of the collection. Then came typesetting and a lot of illustrations were placed. Cover was designed, proofreading was done and the book came.
Q: Did you take any kind of licenses/permission and how about the cost?
A: No, as my books feature original artwork. For pictures one needs to get copyrights. Don’t copy-paste, it may land you in grave trouble (legal). The cost mostly is of the paper quality, binding and number of pages. Some books are expensive, but they have a longer shelf life too.
Q: Did you experience any instance of falling out with your publisher?
A: The first question ideally a publisher asks is "can you really write?" He is an investor who has his money riding on you in form of your book. He places his faith and trust in you. While you are expected to keep your ego in place, there are times when you may need to give in and sometimes they may need to do the same. At such points, it makes most sense to sort out things in a cordial manner.
Q: Your advice to aspiring authors?
A: Believe in your writing! Don’t try to ape anybody. Try to find your niche and your style of writing. Write the best that you can and spend time perfecting and polishing it. Then, it is time to head out and find a publisher!