‘Creating’ a book? ‘Write’ ‘Print’ ‘Publish’ were the words I was familiar with, but ‘Creating’ a book? Well, anyway that’s how my new publishers referred to the process.
I would write blogs to newspapers, magazines (print as well as ‘e’). People would read them and give their comments. When I had enough bulk, I would compile them into books. Thus my first three books were published by a publisher in Kolkata who was known for encouraging beginners. He was justifiably proud that most of the work in the books was hand made__ the hand-operated press, the hard binding with a South Indian handloom saree, the calligraphy etc. Each book would be sent for proof reading only twice by speed post (in amateur and quixotic cases like mine, three times). Though he took his own time over it, the final product would be a classic one worthy of any library or coffee table.
Unfortunately, by the time my 4th book was ready for printing, the old gentleman had left this world and I had to look for a different one. Though his family was continuing the business, their marketing was a niche affair, whereas I was keen to test my mettle in the open market. I knew that none of the ‘top drawer’ publishers would accept my work, it being an already published material .But still, I was on the look out for one at the risk of being told off as a ‘vanity publishing author’.
At that time, one of my friends (the editor of an e-mag to which I had been contributing) published her first novel through a self publishing forum. This was an IT organization with a very well designed website where in every detail about publishing was given and all the FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) had been answered very well. I thought I would try my luck with them. Since it was a ‘Do it yourself’ type of job, the question of approving or not approving my script did not arise.
There was an option between doing all the things myself (according to their specifications) and of giving them the contract to do the job on a piecemeal basis. As for the editing of the script, I took the whole responsibility on myself. But, for interior formatting and designing the cover, I gave them the contract, the latter being developed on my own idea. Every bit of the business was carried through e mail. Telephone transaction was totally discouraged.
First, I was asked to install a drop box. Being a total ignoramus in the field of computer jargon, it took quite sometime for me to master the technique and install one in my computer. In the middle I had even given up in frustration and had asked them to send me the material for correction by way of old fashioned attachments. (But, I am glad that they did not listen to my request). After installing, I found that nothing was dropping into the drop box. Next day, I learnt that it was because the lesson was only for installing it. The uploading was done the next day and then on the job was so easy that even a child could manage it.
As for the proof reading, one did not need to be a professional proof reader, like the one who leaves the mysterious coded signals all over the manuscript. The file they had sent me could not be tampered with. But there was a pro- forma in my drop box where in I would mention the page no., line no. and the correction in a table. Hey presto, by evening, the required corrections would be done in the script and sent for my approval. What a contrast to my previous books! For this book I had the script and the cover sent to me 6 times patiently for all the corrections. After doing the editing to my satisfaction, I dropped it in the drop box thinking that my job was over. That’s where I was wrong.
They asked me to upload the file. Before that, I was asked that if it were ‘pdf’, not to send any corrected file but otherwise to send the corrected file. Oh, God! The jargon again. What was pdf? How should I know which one to upload? The names of the files appearing on ticker tape were all new to me. In the meantime, my technical expert, grand daughter Aparna dropped in. I asked her what pdf was. She told me that those are the files, which unlike those of ‘word’ could not be edited on the spot. I surmised then that the files I was getting were pdf ones and hence I didn’t need to correct the last file again. (Probably it was meant for people who did their own formatting). Then I clicked on some file and switched on ‘upload’. Something was getting uploaded. For all you know it was perhaps my first unedited manuscript! But, as luck would have it, the uploading which was going on very, very slowly packed up once for all. I was so desperate. First of all, I did not know whether I was uploading the right file (In between, I had got a message saying the name of my file had been changed ! Changed from what to what? Heaven knows). Secondly, the speed of my broadband was not enough for the high tech job.
So, at one point, everything stood still. No one to advise me as to what was happening. When I rang up my friend for advice, she said she did not remember doing any such thing as uploading. Oh, God, oh, God, these modern high tech improvements.
In sheer helplessness, I just sat and recited the 100 and odd shlokas (verses) of Vishnu sahasranamam. By the end of it my mind calmed down. I said why not write to the publishers and ask for their help. Even if it were to be paid for, I was prepared for it, rather, I was ready to dip into Ramu’s bottomless pocket.
So, I wrote a pathetic e mail to them saying that I was an old, arthritic woman of 74 years, with no technical help at home and that I was feeling absolutely helpless to do what they asked me to do. Very sweetly, they e mailed back saying that they would do it for me from their end and within 2 hours, my book was ready to go for printing! (They did not charge me extra)
When the printing was over, I asked them to send me one copy first (hangover of the traditional method). I found it good and passed it. Then only I ordered for the first bulk consignment of 52 books (Why 52? More than 50 meant discount). Incredibly enough, the whole thing from A to Z had not taken more than three months!
To my luck, this consignment which was to come from Mumbai, got stuck in an accident/traffic jam and arrived only 24 anxious hours later. As it is, our antiquated method of sending money through checks was causing quite a bit of delay and now this.
Anyway, once the consignment reached me, I started selling my ‘creations’. Since the publishing company was doing only ONLINE marketing, I was left to do all the OFFLINE marketing, a totally new field for me –one who did not know the difference between In-voice, Inner voice or Active voice or Passive voice. I am still learning.