Ever since the release of Shikhandini, 2 years ago, a lot of people – readers and others – have asked me this question very often – How much did you pay to get your story in print?

I have never been able to answer this in a single word or line. Because I have spent a lot in terms of creative energy, time and effort. Although it took me 2 years to write my first novel, the idea was developing in my mind many years prior. So there is no definite answer to how much I have spent. But I know that is not what my readers want to know.

In this post, I have attempted to give a near-satisfying answer to my readers and other curious souls.

After completing the final draft of my first novel, I spent about a year submitting my manuscript to all the big-small traditional and vanity publishers (Click on the words to know more about different kinds of publishers) in India. I was a newbie and did not know the difference. I had also submitted to some less known printers (disguised as publishers) without realizing that they were vanity publishers. Their responses had questions like

 “How many followers do you have on social media?”,

“Would you be able to buy 1000 or more copies yourself?”,

“Do you plan on a celebrity book launch?” etc.

Opinion: Pay-to-Play Publishing | The Scientist Magazine®

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They also made it clear that all costs would be split between them and the author. Imagine working on a book for years and then having to pay to get published. It was a clear No to me.

It was hard-hitting to know they did not care for the quality of the content as long as they knew it would sell.  One of the main reasons why we have so many authors being published every year is because many of them can simply afford to pay vanity/hybrid publishers. There are also many authors who buy 1000s of copies themselves to earn the title of ‘bestseller’. Awards are on sale too.

I had to reject dozens of such offers in the first few months because it felt like an insult to pay for my book to get published. Self-publishing seemed like a better option but it was too much an effort – Editing, cover design, marketing, promotion, distribution etc. I neither had the money nor the network to take up something this big.

Shikhandini
Warrior Princess of the Mahabharata (Leadstart, 2019)

After 13 rejections from the top traditional publishers spanning months, Leadstart accepted my manuscript. They chose it solely based on their liking of the unique storyline and narration. I was only 22, hardly a social-media presence and definitely no celebrity connection. They put their faith in me and my work. They also printed 2000 copies of the book in the first go. Eventually, the audiobook was also picked up by a producer who liked the story.

Leadstart did not ask me any questions unrelated to the story, nor did they ask me to pay anything. From multiple edits to a beautiful cover, everything was taken care of by them. They also took my opinion and suggestions at all relevant stages.

Here’s what they said about my upcoming novel

A feel-good story about self-love, acceptance, happiness and life!

Like me, they have given a chance to many young writers whose work they saw potential in.

So my short answer to the question in the title is ‘Zero’. I have never paid to get my work published. Nor do I plan to do so in the future.

Some principles I follow when it comes to my books

  1. Never pay to get published.
  2. Never pay to become a bestseller.
  3. Never buy awards.

To the young writers in my reader list, please ensure you choose your publisher wisely. A lot can go wrong if you make a hasty choice. If you believe in your work, the right deal will come your way eventually. Don’t settle for anything less.

All the best!

Love,

Ashwini

You can connect with me on:

  1. Instagram: ashwinishenoym
  2. Facebook: AuthorAshwiniShenoy

You can buy my books here:

  1. Shikhandini – Warrior Princess of the Mahabharata (ebook and paperback)
  2. Those Girls – A Tale of Perspectives (ebook)