Penguin India’s first self-publishing platform, Partridge, is good news for all the struggling writers, who, henceforth, would not have to rot in the slush-pile of rejects, or pay hefty sums to the literary middlemen. Self-publishing is already a viable option in the West, with several ‘success stories’ of best-selling books, which were self-published initially, doing the rounds in the literary market. Because the author has full or substantial control of the array of processes involved in self-publishing, such as copyright, freedom of content, designing, formatting, marketing and distribution, this model has become extremely popular with first-time authors, who would, otherwise, have had to go through the herculean ordeal of finding themselves a suitable publisher. Self-publishing also puts to use the ‘print-on-demand’ technology that ensures that the author can keep a tab on the number of prints that are ordered via channels such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other smaller distribution forums. Because the cost of publishing few copies at a time is significantly less than printing copies in bulk, the model works well for début writers, who could not have afforded the price paid to the literary agents who cut the deals with publishing houses on behalf of the authors and pocket in a chunk of the royalty that is agreed upon.
Launching a self-publishing platform in India is an exceedingly clever move by Penguin, which is now one half of the world’s largest publishing behemoth after the (still on-going) merger with Random House. India has one of the world’s largest reading markets for works written in the English language, which is also growing at an exponential rate. Further, the boom in lighter genres such as metro reads, books for and by the young adults, women’s writings, including ‘chick-lit’, and the rise of the Indian narrative non-fiction books, point towards an ever-growing and heterogeneous mass that is hungry for all kinds of literary and non-literary books. With the gap between writing and reading vanishing rapidly, with the advent of interfaces such as blogs, microblogging sites, social media platforms, etc., and the rise in the popularity and availability of e-books, self-publishing is the only remaining frontier in the Indian publishing scenario that needs to be conquered by the eager pen-pushers scribbling away in the bustling metropolises of India.