Why I chose to self-publish : Adite Banerjie

Writers are dreamers but not without a spine of steel. After all it requires a lot of courage to send your written word out in the world for others to read and judge. And author Adite Banerjie is no different.

She began her journey as an author in 2012 when she won the Harlequin India Aspiring Authors Contest in 2012. Her debut romance novel, The Indian Tycoon's Marriage Deal, based on the winning short story, was published by Harlequin in December 2013.

Other titles followed. Trouble has a New Name, No Safe Zone – were published by Harlequin/Harper Collins.

But Adite soon got disillusioned with traditional publishing, their veil of secrecy that keeps authors in the blind about actual sales, marketing support and royalty earned.  An established author who has been published by reputed names in the publishing industry; Adite decided to self-publish. Her first foray into the indie arena is Destiny's Girl; this book was originally titled The Indian Tycoon's Marriage Deal, published by Harlequin/HarperCollins. She renamed and republished it. Her second self-published book Bombay Heights has just been released.

I spoke with her about her why she chose to go the self-publishing route and what she has learnt…

Why did you think of self-publishing?

Being published by a reputed publisher like Harlequin kick-started my career as an author. It was a great confidence booster and it reaffirmed my self-belief that I could write the kind of mainstream fiction that appeal to readers. However, apart from that, traditional publishing did not do much to boost my career as an author. Sales were lackadaisical, marketing support was zilch and as for readership, I'd no clue whether the books were even available in the stores and, if they were, who was buying/reading them. After five years of trying to battle it out with the publisher – on everything from editing quality to lack of transparency and 'misreporting' on royalty statements—Idecided I'd had enough.

I have several writer friends who have been self-publishing on Amazon and it seemed that the platform gave them a degree of control over their writing careers that traditional publishing did not. After talking to several of them and observing their book publishing strategies, I felt this was something I could take on. I also began to update myself on the pros and cons, the pitfalls, and issues related to marketing in order to prepare myself before I started my journey as an indie author.

Who edits these books? Tell me about AutoCrit and the editor who works on your manuscripts.

It's important one pays attention to editing as a self-published author. As a traditionally published author, one never thinks about this even though the quality of editing provided by reputed publishers is far from spectacular. And I'm speaking from my own experience. It's a common perception that self-published books are not well edited but that is changing now. Indie authors are hiring professional editors.

Besides, most traditional publishers outsource the editing of their books to freelance editors as do self-published authors like me. I also use online editing software services like Autocrit.com which helps me identify repetitive phrases/words, tense inconsistency, pacing, and many other grammatical issues.

How has the experience been so far?

Traditional publishing had effectively killed the joy of writing for me. The biggest plus point in favour of indie publishing is that I'm now back to writing and enjoying it immensely. I am still learning about the business side of writing and have begun to like the process of promotion and marketing as well. I'm just two books old in the self-publishing business and I'm sure I'm doing a lot of things wrong, but gaining insights is a long-term process. Hopefully, in a year or so, I'll have a clearer idea of how I could have done things better. And that will inform my future activities as a self-published author.

Your learnings?

One of the key learnings for me has been that-- just as in traditional publishing--display and visibility of your book is key to selling more books on digital platforms as well. It's not enough to categorise your book by genre and sub-genre but that selecting the right keywords and phrases can be critical to the ranking of your book. As Ashwin Sanghi famously says, "jo dikhta hai, who bikta hai". And that applies as much to digital platforms as to shelf space in stores.

What are the cons of self-publishing?

Doing everything on your own. You have to be a writer-publisher-marketer rolled into one.

How are you handling promotion and marketing of these books?

I learn from my fellow self-published authors and read up as much as I can on the subject of digital marketing of books. It's a fascinating area of study and I try to glean some best practices as I go along and put them into practice, in small manageable ways. But perhaps the biggest change has been in my approach and attitude towards book-marketing: I've begun to appreciate and enjoy the 'creative' side of marketing.

As a screen writer. How did this happen? Coaching Class and 7 Lives. The latter is being made into a short film. Did you always want to be a screen writer?

I always wanted to write scripts. My father was in the movie industry and I caught the storytelling bug from him. Those days there were no screenwriting courses in India but about 10 years ago, I found them online. So I started learning the craft of screenwriting. Somewhere along the way, I met with Runjiv Kapur, an ad filmmaker who asked me to write a script for him based on the life of a passionate environmentalist. That film never got made but he later commissioned me to write a short film for him, on organ donation, titled 7 Lives. The film is based on a true story and is awaiting release.

Coaching Class was the First runner's up at Finish Line Script Competition. Tell me more about this. How did this happen? How did you think of the story? It's really a good story, worthy of being made into a film.

Coaching Class is a spec script and it was inspired by a real life incident about the education mafia. I slogged on the script for more than three years, but didn't find any takers for it. So, I decided to enter it into contests, if only to find out if the screenplay was strong enough it would make it to the top ranking scripts.

When I came across the Finish Line Script competition –which offered contestants the opportunity to rewrite their submitted scripts based on their professional feedback – I decided to enter the contest. Their feedback was truly excellent and helped me to improve my script. After it emerged as a first runner-up, I felt confident enough to enter it into the Academy Nicholl Fellowship, which is the most prestigious screenwriting contest. Coaching Class emerged as a semi-finalist in Nicholl Fellowship 2017. Given that it was among the top 350 scripts from the 7000-odd scripts that had been entered in the competition, I am very excited and proud that my script made it to that level.

Screen writing and writing a book; how are they different? What are the nuances of both? Difficulties?

They are similar and yet different. The most obvious difference is that when writing for the screen you need to keep in mind that everything that you write has to be enacted by actors. So your writing needs to "actionable". You can't write "monologues" and "protagonists' innermost feelings". Pace is important in books too but critical for screenplays. If your script doesn't have the right structure, it will bore the heck out of viewers.

If someone wants to be a screen writer, how does one go about it?

Watch a lot of movies and read the scripts after watching them. There are plenty of online resources and some of the biggest screenwriters in Hollywood offer a ton of writing advice. Check out GointotheStory.com and Ted Rossio and Ted Elliot's Wordplayer.com. These days Screenwriters Association of India (www.swaindia.org) also offers courses on screenwriting and interactions with Bollywood screenwriters.

What next?

More books and more screenplays, Inshallah! J

To buy the book please click on this link: https://www.amazon.in/dp/B07FC2JGK1

To read more about her entry into the indie space, click on this link: https://www.pinkheartsociety.com/single-post/2018/06/06/Going-Indie