Wondering how to publish a book in India? A candid look at my journey through the writing, pitching, publishing and marketing process.
I can hardly believe that just over a month ago, my debut book, The Shooting Star, finally hit bookstores. All those years ago, when I scribbled in my diary that my dream was to become a writer someday (among other dreamy professions like astronaut and detective), I never really meant it. I never really imagined that I’d have a published book with my name on it.
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve walked into plenty of bookstores, pinching myself as I saw
my baby The Shooting Star on their new arrivals and travel / non-fiction shelves. I’ve met plenty of you, my readers, at book launches, feeling a bit spellbound at being called an author and asked to sign copies.
Last night, I received an incredible update that The Shooting Star has already sold 10,000+ copies (in just over a month), acquiring the status of a “National Bestseller” in India!
Also read: My journey from the cubicle to a nomadic life – now in a book
While this journey has been surreal, the challenges of writing, publishing and marketing a book in India are real. Having sometimes cruised (and sometimes bruised 😉) through this journey, it’s time to share some secrets that authors seldom talk about:
Writing a book is a lonely journey
Even though The Shooting Star has been available on Amazon and in bookstores for just over a month, it has been a large part of my life for over two years. While many authors typically pitch to publishers before starting their first draft, I couldn’t bear to deal with the pressure of writing under a deadline. So back when I started working on this book, I had no idea if it would ever be published or read.
As I wrote and re-wrote, edited and re-edited multiple drafts through the years, my mind felt a storm of emotions and thoughts. Sometimes it erupted with words that filled sheets of paper (word docs actually); sometimes it bred self doubt and no words poured out. And yet those who knew me had no inkling of these inner storms… it was my journey and only I could walk it for myself.
Also read: Practical tips to break into freelance travel writing
The chances of making money off a book are shockingly slim
I feel extremely lucky to have been introduced to an editor who understood my work right away – and saw the potential of a book that can seek to challenge societal conventions that many of us have l grown up with. And yet, when it came down to the economics of writing a book, I was quite shocked.
The common perception is that if you publish a book, you can live off the royalties for the rest of your life! Well, turns out, only if you’re Ruskin Bond – and even in his autobiography (Lone Fox Dancing; incredible read), he writes about his struggles as a newbie author. Turns out, you already need to be a celebrity or famous guru for your first book to take off in huge volumes.
The harsh reality is that the royalties offered to authors are startlingly low, publishing budgets are scarce and the book industry is in decline. It blew my mind to learn that only a small handful of people can afford to be full-time authors in India.
Also read: How I’m financially sustaining my digital nomad lifestyle
Yet there is no greater feeling than holding your book in your hands
And yet, despite the fact that I spent years working on my book and harbor no illusions of making money out of it, I can’t quite describe the elation of holding a physical paperback copy of The Shooting Star in my hands. It still feels absolutely surreal that the words that poured out of me are inked on its pages, and will burn into the eyes (and hopefully hearts) of anyone who reads it. It still feels absolutely surreal to hear from those who’ve already read it, that this book, my book, made them contemplate a different path in life…
Also read: How I Conquer My Solo Travel Fears
Marketing is a bitch
During all that time I spent writing and editing the book, I dreamt of the moment the final manuscript would go to print so I could think about marketing and leverage my digital skills as a travel blogger. But when I got to that phase, harsh realisations fell on me like boulders I was unable to escape.
The first shock was learning that newspapers and publications are bombarded by an insane number of books to review every month – and you have to be really lucky to get a genuine review in the severely limited editorial space. I’m really thanking my (shooting) stars that last week, The Shooting Star got a review in The Hindu – one of India’s most widely read publications – written by veteran journalist Vijay Lokapally!
The second was learning that bookstores in India receive 10-20 new books every week – and the chances of a new author getting prominent shelf space, even in new arrivals, are disappointingly slim. A real low for me was walking into a prominent bookstore and finding the entire stack of my books hidden away in the “adult colouring” section. Yes, hilarious in retrospect 😉
The third, that Indian publishing houses don’t tend to spend sizeable resources (money, manpower, time) on marketing. Not surprising then is the mind-boggling statistic that 90% of books in India don’t sell more than 2000 copies!
Also read: How Croatia compelled me to rethink travel blogging
Writing a book is an addiction
After 2 years of working on the book and a month filled with book launches and promotions, I feel exhausted – and full of admiration for authors who are able to create one beautiful work after the next. I’ve sworn many times in the past few weeks that I’ll never write a book again. That I’ve invested too much of myself (and my time) in The Shooting Star and I could never do it again.
But then I wake up in the middle of the night with ideas for my second and third books! I subconsciously find myself searching for a quiet place to park myself to work on the next one. I try to visualise how it’ll feel in my hands. Turns out, writing a book is a bit of an addiction; I don’t know if I’ll fight it or succumb.
Also read: How travelling inspired an Indian street kid to chase an impossible dream
Somehow a book reaches the right people
Meeting so many of you over the last few weeks at my book launch and travel meetups in Mumbai, Pune, Dehradun, Delhi and Goa has convinced me of one thing – The Shooting Star is somehow, almost magically, reaching the right people. Those of you who dream of doing life differently, seek meaningful travel encounters and can’t contain your wanderlust. The rebels, the dreamers.
Although I’ve had this travel blog for over 7 years, I feel like it’s only now that I’m finally connecting with my true readers. As I continue to spread the message of the book through talks and travel meet-ups across India, I’m dedicating this blogpost to:
- The guy who drove early morning from Pune for my Bombay book launch, and back for the Pune book launch.
- To the girl from Bastar, Chhattisgarh who came to Bombay to convince me to visit her state (promise, I will).
- To the guy who journeyed all the way from Manali to attend the Dehradun book launch.
- And to friend and fellow blogger Mariellen of Breathedreamgo, for attending the back-to-back book launch events in Dehradun and Delhi… and penning a heartfelt review of The Shooting Star that had me in tears.
Have you written a book or do you dream of publishing one someday?
Connect with me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to follow my adventures live.
Order your copy of The Shooting Star on Amazon or Flipkart.
Welcome to my blog, The Shooting Star. I’ve been called a storyteller, writer, photographer, digital nomad, “sustainability influencer,” social entrepreneur, solo traveller, vegan, sustainable tourism consultant and environmentalist. But in my heart, I’m just a girl who believes that travel – if done right – has the power to change us and the world we live in.
Congratulations! That’s an awesome achievement. Thanks for the interesting insights on writing and getting a book published.
Thanks Caroline! Happy to share the truth behind the glamour 😉
Love from Ahmedabad. Firstly congratulations to your baby’s (The Shooting Star) achievement. I am hoping to have a baby of mine too. Thanks for the push, though. Do update if you wish to visit Ahmedabad anytime soon. Much love.
Congratulations! You are an excellent story teller, and I look forward to reading the book. I hope we can buy the book in USA soon! (Amazon India has no courriers coming to Seattle).
Aww thank you Erika. Working towards international publishing of the book now (fingers crossed!)
A big congratulations…It’s a lot of work and that’s after you have the travel experiences.
Wouldn’t be worth it without all that hard work!
Congratulations Shivya. Such a heartfelt post as always:)
Thanks for reading 🙂
Dear Shiva, I have followed your blog from almost the beginning of your travel adventures, probably like 8 years ago, anyhow, I can’t express in words how happy I am for you. I am elated that your have accomplished ” The Possible”, your dream, even it won’t pay you the royalities you deserve. Congratulations travel sister.
Aww thanks Cornelia! I’m so overwhelmed by all the love and support that the royalties really don’t matter 😉
Shiva, is your book hitting the market in the USA???
Not yet, but I’m working towards it!
Let us know, please.
Congratulations, Shivya! I have been reading your blog for 5 years now and now seeing pictures of your book – I feel so happy. So I can imagine your elation and euphoria 🙂 I will get my hands on your book for sure and while I don’t do reviews, I will share the love my way.
Looking forward to reading you in print!
Aww thanks Parul! Hope you enjoy reading it, look forward to hearing what you think 🙂
Congratulations Shivya. You’re an inspiration to many. 🙂 Is your book available on Kindle?
Thanks Jheelam! And yes it is, you can see it at the Amazon link above (switch paperback to kindle), or just google The Shooting Star kindle.
CONGRATS DEAR. OVER THE YEARS YOUR JOURNEY HAS BECOME MY JOURNEY TOO. KEEP INSPIRING WOMEN TO SHIFT BOUNDARIES IN PURSUIT OF THEIR DREAMS. ALL THE BEST. TONI FROM SOUTH AFRICA
Aww thanks Toni; so grateful for your company on this journey, and more power to you too!
Congratulations, Shivya! I will look out for your book next time I’m at a bookstore!
Let me know if you find it 🙂
Congratulations — this is the same problem for authors all over the world unfortunately and the amount we earn is becoming less and less
Isn’t that insane? Though I guess it just means that money will never be the driver while writing a book.
I admire your courage, writing a book is a hard thing to do. Great article!
Thanks Susan; hardly courageous, but the calling became so strong that I just had to go through with it…
I am working on my first book 🙂
Awesome, all the best Shivali!
So interesting hearing about the struggles and loneliness of book writing, and yet, a true influencer and artist that you are, you can’t help but share! The more I write my blog posts the more I’m thinking that a book is a real life possibility in my life! Cray!
I was lucky to speak to some writers and authors along the way, and learn that these struggles are not mine alone. Misery likes company too 😉 Hope you’ll make your book a reality someday; I’ll be waiting to read it!
Congrats on your book, I don’t know how many of your posts I read in a single day after I read your book review, good stuff!
A great job done by you! A new milestone! I am also dreaming of choosing a new life path!!!
This is the same problem for authors all over the world unfortunately and the amount we earn is becoming less and less.
i love this post! i always wanted to write but never made the time – i’ve started small with a baby blog but it’s been a great way to be more productive & practice my writing – it’s very hard to convey what you want to say in the way you want to say it! congrats on the book! hope you can check out my latest post (19 things to do before 2019)
Thanks Steph! It’s not an easy process but it certainly is satisfying, and the best part is, we’re always learning, always evolving. All the best with your blog and writing – keep going 🙂
Yes, I too have a dream of writing a book some day :). As I am not a full time traveler like you, it would get me years to get the sufficient amount of ‘travel content’ to be converted into a book. My plan is to gather content may be over next 20 years, write it, publish it and then read it myself when I am old enough not to travel long distances There is one thing travel has taught me – Dream big as some dreams do come true 😉
Btw congratulations on success of your book 🙂
Congratulations Shivya…! You are truly inspirational in so many ways and i am very happy for you…Looking forward to read your book..
I’m so happy for you Shivya! It’s inspirational to see your story playing out in such exciting ways – and it’s also really interesting to get a glimpse of what the publishing industry in India looks like for a first-time author. Here’s to your second and third books, and many more after that! Lots of love from London xx
Just got this book….will read when the time comes…:-)..best wishes to you Shivya
Organizing your thoughts so that they can be translated into words is a huge challenge. So, more power to you Shivya for accomplishing this feat. Congratulations!
Congratulations Shivya. Such a heartfelt post as always. Keep it up!
Thank you for such an informative post. Your words show the real Aspect of self publishing industry.
Such an engaging article!
You have covered lots of tips about book-publishing .If i have to suggest someone to read any blog about book publishing i will definitely recommend yours .The way you have written is so relatable and all the pictures making it more beautiful.
Thanks for sharing!