Sunday, April 02, 2017

Pages from an Unfinished Autobiography

You write poems. Very good. But how do you make others read it. You summit them to journals and get rejection mails. You try to get them published as a book. There are no publishers, except self-publish service providers. But they charge more cash than you can afford, and don’t give you any creative control. So what do you do?

Your friend suggests he can design the book; and also, he wants to get into publishing and so he will take care of printing, you just pay him the printing cost. But after so many terrible, disappointing experiences, you don’t want to depend on someone else, even if he is a dear friend. So you go to RK Puram and apply for ISBN numbers and start a publishing house of your own. You ask your friend to draw some graphics. You ask your friend to design and help with the printer and you do the book the way you want it. Traditional publishing be damned!

After a year, the books (500 copies of them) are in your hand, and you are faced with the same existential crisis. How do you sell the book?

You set up an account even though you know it’s unlikely anyone would buy it. You send messages to your friends that your book is available online, it’s just Rs 100 and they should buy it. They all reply congratulating you about the book, but hardly a few click the purchase button.

Then you decide to give the book away as gifts. You want the book to reach as many households as possible, and everybody loves a free book. You imagine, not today perhaps, but 100 years down the line someone somewhere would find the book and ‘discover’ you, even when you would be long dead. So in two years, you give away the copies of your book to every person you meet and empty your inventory.

On the way, you encounter some silver lining. A friend writes a glowing review online. An editor of a print magazine offers to review the book. A stranger purchases the book online and writers to you praising the book.

The best was saved for the last. Two years after the original publication, the book somehow finds its way to renowned author Ambai, as CS Lakshmi is known, and she finds the book interesting and does a humbling review in The Wagon Magazine. You stop and realise, this is the moment of your recognition, 100 years too soon.

The book is now history. Read the review here.

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