Ashwin Sanghi’s fascinating story from self-publishing to traditional publishing

 


Earlier in 2016, Amazon bought a significant minority stake in Westland.  
 ( Ashwin Sanghi and I were discussing publishing, his pseudonymn “Shawn Higins” and his own amazing success story. His first novel The Rozabal Line was published by Lulu.com. Later an Indian publishing house based in Chennai, Westland, offered to publish his book. His latest novel Sialkot Saga has recently been released. http://bit.ly/1UEe1lq

Read on about Ashwin’s incredible story. This extract is from the first draft of 13 Steps to Bloody Good Luck and has been reproduced with permission. )

Extract from original manuscript of “13 Steps to Bloody Good Luck”

After being rejected by most publishers, I had self-published my first novel The Rozabal Line via a US-based self-publishing platform called Lulu.com which had just set up shop. The year was 2007. There was no Kindle and self-publishing meant POD (Print on Demand) in which the book is listed on websites and a customer order triggers a printing and delivery of the book. I designed my own book cover and hired a freelance editor to work on the manuscript before I uploaded the PDF to Lulu’s server.
The average self-published book sells 57 copies during its lifetime (the long tail is very long indeed). I started blogging and became active on social media. I created a YouTube trailer for the book and managed to sell 900 copies in the first year. I was one of Lulu’s best selling authors even with those meagre numbers!
I soon realized that the platform was selling my books only via American online retail channels such as Amazon.com (the India channel did not exist) and BN.com. My titles remained unavailable in India. My attempts to get published the traditional way in India had come to nought and I was at a dead end.
I started visiting bookstores to find out if they would be willing to stock my books but they refused. They said that they would only deal with distributors. Unfortunately I knew none of the distributors. My mother knew someone at a publishing company and was happy to introduce us. Unfortunately that person’s company had already decided to decline my work (like many others), but she introduced me to Vivek Ahuja, who had worked for eighteen years with a large book distribution entity in India, UBSPD.
The incredibly helpful Vivek advised that I would have to import my books from the US and supply them on consignment basis to a few Indian distributors. Giving me a list of some 75 Indian distributors, he advised me to write to each of them individually, enclosing a copy of my book. One of the distributors on that list was East West Books. No one called or replied to my letters and books.
Months later, I received a call from a lady who introduced herself as Hemu Ramaiah. I did not know it at that time, but she was the founder of Landmark Book Stores and her company had just created a joint venture called Westland with East West Books. Hemu said that she had loved The Rozabal Line that I had sent to East West, but it would be impossible to import the book from America and then expect to sell it in the Indian market at a reasonable price. Would I be willing to republish it in India? I jumped with joy at her question. I had been turned down by almost every publisher on the planet by then.
Hemu then introduced me to Gautam Padmanabhan, CEO of Westland (my current publisher). Gautam liked the book but was not sure about its commercial viability. He created a target group of ten readers (including his own father) to read the book and give feedback. Luckily for me, the majority opinion was favourable.
We signed a contract two weeks later. There were two conditions attached. One: that we do a fresh edit of the book. Two: that I drop my pseudonym.
The first print run was 2000 copies and we sold that lot in four weeks. We went into a second print run and have not stopped ordering reprints since then.
11 May 2016

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