Zahid Hussain, writer of the thriller Iswarer Mukhos gives his two cents on the profession — “Writing is not an easy job. One must solely be driven by the passion for the craft if he wants to succeed. You have to convince publishers that your book is good enough. Then you need to convince readers that your book is worth reading. Often the monetary rewards are far too modest, but if this is your dream, keep at it. Big breaks are rare but they aren't impossible.”
If you are trying to establish yourself as a published author, the first thing that should do is research. Make sure your fiction idea is original, and published books in the genre do not have similar storylines. In case of non-fiction, make sure you get enough references to back your idea up.
Once you start writing the book, you'll find that it's quite a laborious process. You have to spend many days brainstorming, planning, writing, and then editing your work. Go back and review your earlier chapters every few days. Type it on a computer so that you have a neat manuscript. But when you're proofing, it helps to get print-outs.
What does a publisher do?
Publishers aren't there to just print the book; they edit the manuscript, design the cover, and compose the write-ups. They also handle the promotional activities and distribution. What you must remember is that their main goal is to make money, and you might not have full creative freedom when publishing through this channel. But If you're just starting out in this industry, it help to have an experienced publishing company at your side, as they'll make sure that everything goes smoothly.
How does it work?
Your book is only as good as the first chapter. Publishers get tonnes of manuscripts daily, and they only read the first few pages. They look for original ideas in popular genres, but usually steer clear of controversial topics. Publishing houses also prefer authors who already have an established fan-base or authors who plan on further publications with the company.
“If we like the manuscript, we arrange a meeting with the writer. We provide feedback on their work and discuss some important details such as the number of copies we plan on publishing, and the amount of royalties. We usually give 8% to 15% as royalty.” said Dipankar Das, proprietor of Batighar Prokashoni.
Editors bring the content, quality, and length to a standardised format. Fictions undergo heavy editing by the copy editors, who work closely with the writer to refine the manuscript. Experts are called to ensure that facts coincide with the storyline in historical fictions. For non-fiction, every single statement is cross-checked with the provided references.
This is a crucial step because potential readers will judge the book by its cover. Go through the works of short-listed artists before selecting someone. Publishing houses often employ graphic designers who will do the work for you. Make sure the designer understands the content and audience of the book. Of course, you (or the publisher) can suggest changes.
Marketing and Distribution
Publishers use social media ads, blog posts and reviews on newspapers to promote the book. Bigger companies such as Prothoma and Onnoprokash carry out over-the-line campaigns. Rokomari plays a huge part in establishing fan-bases for new authors with heavy marketing throughout the country.
Publishing houses have distribution channels countrywide. They partner with businesses, bookshops, educational institutes and online book stores. With fiction, it's a make or break kind of deal. You either hit the bestsellers in a few days or you barely sell any copies. Non-fiction books typically aren't instant hits and sell more slowly due to the target audience being students, researchers, and experts.
“We still have a massive gap between the readers and writers regarding promotions. Unlike Western countries, book signings and other platforms where the readers can interact with the writer is rare. This makes it even more difficult for struggling writers to create fan-bases as they are unaware of what the readers actually want.” explained Kingkor Ehsan, author of the book Swarnabhumi.
Alternatively, you could consider self-publishing, where you'd have to do everything on your own. You can hire a professional editor to help you out or you could rely on your group of trusted friends. However, if you are part of a writer's community, put that to good use and ask them for advice. Invest heavily on the cover design since that's what makes the sales. In this age of social media, marketing the book through online channels and sponsored posts is easy. Self-publishing takes a lot of effort, but it has high rewards. You won't have to share the profit with anyone, or give up the rights to the final product.
Getting a book published won't be a breeze, but I promise that when you finally get it done, it will be the happiest moment of your life. You can get more information on local publication houses on www.publishers.com.bd.
Adiba is a junior at BRAC University.