Self-Publishing in S. India: A Guest Blog Post by Nadira Cotticollan

Traditional publishing, the kind that engages literary agents and monolithic publishing companies, has always been a challenge for writers. In my quest to find either for my soon-to-be-released novels, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat” and “Tango & the Sitting Cat,” it feels akin to winning the lottery. Fortunately, self-publishing is rapidly becoming a mainstream empowering alternative. What’s your experience with either buying or publishing self-published novels?

A blogger/novelist from India, Nadira Cotticollan, shares about her venture into releasing fiction on her own (and check out the blog version of this h-e-r-e)…

When she’s not writing novels, Nadira Cotticollon loves being a grandmother.

“The Winnowing Waves” and Self-Publishing by Nadira Cotticollan

I belong to a  Muslim community from the coastal state of Kerala in South India. We are said to have been winnowed out from the rest of the Kerala populace by the inter-marriages that took place between the Arab traders and the local women. Most of the cultural aspects continued to be picked up from the customs prevalent in Kerala, with some changes to create a distinct identity.  But there was a marked Arab influence as well.

During the years I grew up, there were many changes that were happening which were, in fact, slowly erasing the differences in dress and lingo and the social mores of confining women indoors, etc. A female like me, therefore, got the benefit of education, which was a rare thing during my mother’s generation and almost non-existent before that.

Then, there was a  turn towards more strict observance of the religious customs although there was no going back on the education, fortunately.  In part, this had to do with the political changes that saw an upsurge of right-wing sentiments and the political events that they ushered in, as also with the influx of the Wahabian influence brought in by those who had found a livelihood in the Gulf countries. These attempts at aggressively establishing religious, political, and cultural identities between the Hindus and the Muslims, is now gradually bringing in a subtle divide and disturbing the harmony that had existed for thousands of years.

My novel has been woven through this backdrop, but it is in no way discourse on any of those aspects. It creeps in through the different characters, of course, but not stridently so.

The story is told from a woman’s perspective for the most part.

I am sixty-two now, and I have always cherished the idea of getting something that I wrote published. After finishing this novel, I did tentatively explore the regular publishing route. I realized that it would take a very long time and that there was no certainty of any of the established publishers taking it up. So I decided to look for self-publishing platforms. My children offered to bear the cost.

Notionpress, who I approached, came across as very professional, with a good team who managed the different aspects of the publication process. I chose the minimum package which would take care of the formatting, the cover design, the copyrights, and the online listing on their online store as well as on Flipkart and Amazon India. The editing is a facility available with a higher package. So I did the editing myself. They did allow for post-publication correction of the grammatical and spelling errors and a couple of errors in the names, etc. The whole process was completed in two weeks.

They do not do any promotion with this package, nor will the books be available in the bookshops.

But I’m happy.

My friends were the ones who read the book first and gave me feedback. They have liked it and assure me that they can relate to it, that the flow is smooth, that it speaks to them of what I had wanted to convey and so on.

With the money I earned in the last two months, I decided to upgrade the package, which would make the book available outside India on Amazon.com

The pricing they suggested appeared to be almost the same as that of many well-established authors, and I expressed my doubts to them about that. I was told that my book would be printed only as per demand, which would hike up the production costs, as compared to the mass production of the books of established authors.

The royalty I get on the sale of one copy after they deduct the production costs and half of the profits (that was the agreement) is only about 2/5th of the MRP if purchased through the Notionpress store and much less (about 1/8th) if sold through Amazon and Flipkart.

But what’s more important to me is that more people get to read the book.

da-AL’s kind offer to let me put up a blog post here about it is therefore very much appreciated.

I do hope some of you will pick it up from Amazon.com and give me your feedback after you’ve read it. Go to Notionpress here. Go to Amazon here.

Thank you all very much for reading this ☺

What’s your experience with buying or publishing self-published novels?

75 thoughts on “Self-Publishing in S. India: A Guest Blog Post by Nadira Cotticollan

  1. Well done in describing your country, your reasons for writing your book, and your self-publishing decisions and results. It’s a “mixed” bag, self-publishing. I’ve gone that route as well, despite having an agent and books that are mainstream (commercial) fiction (two romantic suspense) and two illustrated children’s books, and one (flash) memoir. The mainstream publishing process is too cumbersome for most of us, beginning with trying to get an agent who has the time and resources for “more mature” authors like we are. I don’t have time for them taking their time to decide whether my book will make enough money for a publisher to decide to “go for it.” Write and publish from the heart is my motto, and from reading your post, I can tell it’s your motto too. Best of luck with your book.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. It must be tense dealing with both Wahhabism and the BJP’s Hindu nationalism in a religiously-mixed state. At least, as you say, the benefits of education cannot be taken away, once acquired. Hopefully that will be enough of a counteracting influence to eventually overcome that division and disturbance.

    Was there a particular reason for writing your novel in English rather than Malayalam? If it mainly uses local culture and history as a backdrop, I would think the local market would be potentially large.

    What’s your experience with buying or publishing self-published novels?

    I’ve bought quite a few self-published books, though only one was a novel. The main difference between them and books published the regular way is the lower standard of proofreading. All the authors were native speakers of English (British and Australian), so that wasn’t the issue. With self-publishing you’re just more dependent on yourself to do things the publisher would normally do.

    My few experiences dealing with conventional publishers and editors have been terrible. They seem impatient and harried and anyone new or anything deviating from the established tropes they’re familiar with gets short shrift. I’d rather just blog. That way there’s nobody standing between me and the reader, no one else whose standards I need to worry about.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much for this response. The reason why I wrote this book in English was that I had done my schooling in an English medium school and from the onwards to college also in the same medium and afterwards worked for a stint of 25 years in Delhi in a Central government Ministry , where too the working language was mainly English. although is a policy in force to encourage working in the official language, which is Hindi . That is to say, that although I am familiar with Malayalam and have done a lot of reading in that language, I had never written in Malayalam. For me, the ease of expressions , vocabulary, speed et all, came much more effectively in English. I also felt the way it was written may be too familiar and hence boring to the readers of Malayalam and they would quit reading it after a few pages. And I wanted to include every bit because I felt it was also a kind of documenting of the times and social climes I grew up in, particularly with reference to girls and women.

      The book was picked up by my own circle of friends first . Surprisingly, many of my friends in Kerala, also mentioned that although they had friends belonging to the mappilah muslim community, the descriptions in my book gave them a more closer peek . The truth is that even the present generation in my community may not be really aware of the distance travelled since then , because in the present day, girl children are not deprived of education and Kerala has taken long strides in that direction across the cross-section of the social spectrum. In other areas, things are changing, but very slowly.

      Yes…other things have changed too and that is worrying. Again, that is one more reason why I wanted to write this book. I grew up in times when we were more accepting of the cultural differences. Differences were there…but there was no antagonism. Thankfully, Kerala is a state, that still refuses to let the secualr fabric being destroyed. Wahabism too has left its impact in nurturing the desire for a distinct “identinty”.

      It has been two years since the book was published and the sale has been around 700-750 copies. Hopefully, more would have read it , borrowed from friends who ordered it 🙂

      Many, who read it, felt that it should be translated into Malayalam. I was reluctant at first, because , honestly speaking , I felt that the readers in Malayalam are much more demanding and that my way of writing would fall short of the general standards. The styles have changed and there was always this fear that it would fall flat. But slowly, when more and more readers told me, particularly, young girls from my community, that it was so relatable and honest, i slowly started thinking about it. Long story short , I have now completed it and am in the process of giving the draft one final reading. The possibility of getting it published the regular way is remote as the lockdown has severely affected this field as well. I did make a few tentative enquiries and came to understand that publishers would now rather opt to publish works of established writers , where the sales would be guaranteed , rather than take a risk with new, unheard of writers.

      I also learnt that some of the well established publishers are prepared to consider publishing a work , if the production costs are borne by the writer. So, probably, I would be looking at that, although from what I heard the projected cost are a bit intimidating for a pensioner like me. My children have told me not to worry about that and that they would pitch in. So that’s the scene now. I am hoping for the best.

      Liked by 3 people

        • Nadira, it warms my heart to hear that your children are supportive! To my mind, many people love reading of things that are familiar to them — & they love learning new things — so I doubt anyone would find your writing from the heart boring ❤

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  3. Dear friends,
    Thank you all for all the appreciation here and thank you so much da-Al for introducing me here. It is indeed an honour , believe me.

    The responses I have so far received has been extremely heartening. They have said that it is a story well told and that the descriptions have made it come alive for them. Not everyone in my own country are quite closely clued in to the social and cultural details of my community and for that reason , they have found it engrossing. I would really love it if some of you picked it up online to read it and give me your take on it. It would be interesting to find out if you can relate to the emotional content of the novel even when the characters and their lifestyles are so very far removed from your own.

    Much love to each and everyone of you.

    Liked by 4 people

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