My 1st Book: Notionpress xPress publishing experience!

When I started writing my first book, the hunt started to identify a potential publisher who could take care of printing and distribution of the book. Being first time author, I was new to this process. So I took help from few friends- Srinidhi TG, Kavipriya Moorthy, Soori Hardalli and others who had experience in publishing their own books.

At a high level, first time authors have 3 options to chose from
#
Option
Pros
Cons
1
Approach reputed tier 1 publishers (like Penguin, Rupa etc)
1) Strong team of professionals to help with book preparation & launch
2) Strong sales, marketing n distribution network
3) High credibility & some sales guaranteed
4) Good online sales support
1) Long waiting period-several months to years
2) Not easy to approach and high chance of rejection
3) Usually very low loyalty


2
Approach tier 2 publishers
1) Easy to approach n quick to publish 
2) Fair amount of professionalism in design n publishing
3) You may get a few hundred author copies at low price.
4) Minimum but some physical distribution- libraries, few stores etc
1)We have to bear most of the cost
2) Near zero sales, distribution, marketing support
3) No online sales support
3
Self Publishing (NotionPress Xpress, Pothi.com etc
1) Design & Publish yourself- Zero upfront cost
2) Optional professional support at a fee
3) Good online sales support (order & delivery, offer) including Amazon & Flipkart listing
4) Possibly higher earning than #1 and #2 per copy
5) Quick turn around
6) No bulk printing-Can update at regular intervals without major disruption/cost
7) No need to follow up with publisher for your work

1) Pay for author copies also
2) Limited customization options
3) We have to do entire marketing
4) Less credibility than #1 as anyone can publish anything.
5) Print on demand-takes more time per order (7-10 days)
6) Zero distribution to physical bookstores
7) Have to live with some tool limitations

I analyzed my requirements and zeroed in on the following
1) I can't afford to wait till years. Need to publish asap when ideas are fresh and concept is new.
2) Online sales support is a must. Distribution to physical book stores is nice to have but if I have to chose between online and physical store, I will put my bets on online world. Physical distribution to every book store, waiting for people to walk in and buy, then keeping track of sales, recovering money from bookstore owners felt very time and effort intensive work without guaranteed success. Online is lot easier. Every home will have a person or two comfortable with online purchases- if online order facility is there it should be possible to sell good number of copies by requesting people to simply order online.
3) I don't want to spend a huge amount upfront on book design, book launch and various expense. Let me start with simplest way possible. If some sales happen and some money rolls in, can think of updated versions for future. This meant giving up on book launch function, compromising a bit on design and formatting due to tool limitations and a longer delivery timeline as book will be printed only upon order.

I was in touch with NotionPress team for sometime, I am familiar with the company and have read many books published by NotionPress. They had recently launched Xpress self publishing platform which I felt fairly suitable for my needs. After checking out options 1 and 2, comparing pros and cons, I decided to try NotionPress XPress.

NotionPress Xpress Self Publishing tool- Pros and Cons
It was a good thing that Notion Press's self publishing tool Xpress supports various Indian languages, including Kannada. But its mention as "Kannadam" was a turn off. Thankfully rest of the words were proper. Apart from that, we can do most of the bare essentials ourselves, without having to hire a professional.
Book design was pretty simple. I had to select size, give info like name of the book, author's name, intro etc and start designing the book.

I tried importing from a PDF file I had but it felt like a formatting mess. So I abandoned and copy pasted chapter by chapter. Unfortunately Notion Press's Xpress publishing editor is NOT WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get)- There's some differences between how text appears in editor and how it appears in final copy. We can't sense page breaks and line spacing in actual inside editor. It doesn't support tables as of now, so I had to import table as image. Typing in unicode has some issues- like I want to just remove the space between site and galu in below retaining all 4 letters, but it changes to a 3 letter word instead. So had to forcefully induct a character like ' or -
Above issue happens in blogger and various other unicode editors as well- it is not specific to Notionpress.

While proof reading, need to make manual note of which line/word needs correction. No bookmark option, can't note page n line number as editor content isn't organized that way. Notion press doesn't give final copy as PDF, doesn't support e-book as of now. So we need to prepare an e-book separately, manually.

Still, Notion Press self publishing tool is a great platform for first time authors. You don't need to chase a publisher, beg to give your book priority, follow up on a hundred different things and wait for sales/loyalty payment to happen. Everything is in my control, can decide the price, any promotions, discounts etc. Of course Notion Press does take a fair bit of Book's price towards their cut- printing cost, their profit etc but on a per copy basis you earn a lot more than what a traditional publisher would have paid you.

Notion Press has some options to avail professional services for resigning your book (INR 7500+GST) or a full package (Guided Publishing) deal ranging between INR 36000 to 1.5 lakhs.

Though I availed the free boostrap option, the turn around by NotionPress team was quick. They addressed all my queries and once submitted, published the book within few hours. But they print a book only after order is received and this induces delay. I feel they can speed up the process and save cost as well if they can print books in lots of say 10 or 20- this way orders can be shipped as soon as they come in. The small risk of last 10 copies not getting sold is probably worth it - or this could be done at Author's risk. (Update: I was told this is not feasible due to space constraint- Notionpress prints over 700 books per month, won't have space to store n manage 700*10 books)

A reputed publisher might be able to sell 1000 copies of your book priced MRP 200 purely based on their brand reputation and give you 10% loyalty, helping you earn 20000 INR whereas same book on NotionPress self publishing might get you around 20-80 Rs per book (depending on production cost, promotional expenses and retail price you set) but you may not be able to sell 1000 copies on your own- you may only sell say 300 copies- that will make you around 6000-24000 depending on how much you get to make per book. Usually it will be on the lower side because selling books is not easy and you'll have to spend a lot on various promotions, reducing net earning. Of course if you can sell a lot of books at high price then you can make much more. But that usually remains only as a dream for not so popular/first time authors. Notionpress won't compromise on any of their fees when we run a free shipping or discount campaign- it needs to be fully funded by authors. A small financial support from Notion Press's part (like X-5% commission) would have been great.

NotionPress didn't add my book under "New Releases" and "regional languages" section of their site. I am told this feature is not available to bootstrap authors. Only paid packages get more support. So I had to drive traffic to site 100% myself by promoting book's unique URL.

ISBN was assigned promptly but was drawing blank when I searched on ISBN search tools. I was told external tools take time to pick up new ISBNs. Hopefully these will be addressed soon. Pothi.com is another major player in this field.

Once again quick summary of pros and cons of Self Publishing
Self Publishing Advantages
Disadvantages
1. Near Zero upfront investment
2. Can be real quick- depends on how fast you are- near zero external dependency
3. Freedom to decide various aspects including price, controls to give discounts etc
4. Online listing, sales easier to manage

 1. Limited options for formatting, design etc or pay extra for professional help
2. Delivery takes 7-10 days time due to "print only after order confirmation" policy
3. No physical store distribution, launch event, publisher support for promotions
4. No backing of reputed publisher



I am yet to get full life cycle experience- like yet to see quality of printed book, feedback from readers on timely delivery, payment promptness etc. Will update this post later.

Read more about my first book in Kannada here and English here.

To order, visit this link https://notionpress.com/read/world-travel-in-low-budget or order on Amazon here

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