Webinar on Author Branding: Masterclass with Sangram Surve

The German Book Office featured a webinar on author branding with Sangram Surve last week. Surve kickstarted his informative session with a famous quote by Jack Welch:

“Control your destiny or someone else will.”

Some Author Branding Lessons from the session

  • Understand that whether you have a traditional publisher or you are the publisher, books do not get the kind of production budget that movies and music get, so the onus of investment is on the publisher or you.
  • You can be writing a genre or for a particular target audience, but the author brand is key.
  • Make your digital presence felt.
  • Find unconventional ways to promote the book. Always look for the next big idea and it is always in the book you have written.
  • See if your marketing idea is shareable and if collaboration can further your brand.
  • Plan to market the book at least two months in advance.
  • Create a detailed content plan. If your book is a fiction, you can decide to introduce your main characters, feature illustrations if any and feature your book trailer.
  • Once the marketing is done and preorders come rolling in, decide on an impressive launch. In times like these, a digital launch is also a good idea.

So if you’ve written a book, the journey has just begun!

The much hyped ISBN

We often get queries which desperately ask whether we can assign ISBN to their books. Some others almost seem to say that its their dream to publish their book with an ISBN.

We have not quite been able to figure out what image of the ISBN an average self-publisher carries. Still, before we proceed on this topic further, let me clarify this about the ISBN. ISBN is a useful thing, but it is not something you need to dream about. It is just a number to help cataloging of the books worldwide. You don’t have to do something to ‘qualify’ for it. You just need to approach the right people with the details of your book and they will issue you an ISBN. Do not get psyched out by the information on the Internet, mostly put up by the parties with financial interest, which make ISBN seem like a prestigious award for your book. Its not!

The above is particularly true of India. In many other countries, you will need to pay to a reseller to get an ISBN for your book. In India, ISBN is handled by a government agency. In an effort to promote the adoption of ISBN, they issue it for free.

For more information on what the ISBN is, assignment of ISBN and how to get one for your self published book in India, read the following excerpt from our Self Publishing Guide.


ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number, a unique code that can be assigned to a book. This is a system developed and adopted by the International Organisation for Standardisation to uniquely identify each published book.

Assignment of ISBN

Each country has their designated ISBN agency which is responsible for allotment of ISBNs for the books published in their country. In some countries there are also resellers of ISBN apart from the agency. In India, the only agency authorised to issue an ISBN is Raja Rammohan Roy National Agency for ISBN, which comes under Ministry of Human Resource Department. As of now, there are no authorised resellers of ISBN in India.

Who should get the ISBN

ISBNs are issued to publishers, who can then assign them to the books published by them. No one other than the publisher should assign an ISBN to the book. For a self publisher in India, it means that they should not get an ISBN from anybody except directly through the agency issued in his/her name. That would be the correct way of getting the ISBN. The process of getting an ISBN assigned is simple and it is explained later in this article.

Importance of ISBN

  • ISBN helps in compilation of published book in directories and bibliographic records.
  • It helps everyone in the distribution chain track the movement of the books.
  • It helps in collection of sales data of books.

In India, however, the ISBN is yet to be adopted by the majority and many parts of the distribution process are not automated. So, the real advantage of ISBN is not that high. However, if you want to go through the traditional distribution channels for your book, it would be useful to get an ISBN. Most organised and online retailers need an ISBN assigned for a book to be sold through them.

ISBN for Self Publishers in India

As mentioned earlier, ISBNs are given to publishers to assign to the books they publish. Earlier ISBNs were allotted only in blocks. But the good news is individual ISBNs can now be allotted to individuals who are self publishing. And getting an ISBN in India is free.

You need to send an application to the Raja Rammohan Roy National Agency for ISBN with the details of your book, photocopy of the cover page, identity proof and a self-addressed envelope for return communication. A template for ISBN application form is available on Pothi.com.

[Self Publishing Guide] Self Publishing Your Book – Step 4: Distribution

This post is an excerpt from our Self Publishing Guide for Indian Market. If you have not, you may want to read the following post in this series before starting on this one

Distribution should not be confused with marketing. Marketing creates awareness and entices the reader to read the book. However, the book has to move from the printing press to the book store for the reader to buy it. Distribution is the process by which the book is made available to the reader.

In a typical chain, the book travels from the publisher to the distributors. These are comparatively bigger stockists who usually look after a region or state. From the distributor, the book goes to the retailer (your nearby book shop is a retailer) where it is purchased by the individual reader.

Typical margins* (known as ‘discounts’ in the industry) are 40-60% of MRP to retailer and 10-20% of MRP to the distributor/wholesaler. This implies that for a book with a printed price of  Rs 100, Rs 40–60 is pocketed by the retailer as profit and Rs 10-20 is pocketed by the distributor. The books are also generally distributed on a “fully returnable if not sold within a specific period (e.g. three months)” basis. This means upfront payment from the distributor is rare and they take no financial risk whatsoever. These numbers often surprise first timers, but these are the realities of the publishing industry. Online as well as offline retailers work with similar margins.

Without contacts, getting a distributor is difficult for a self publisher. Distributors are picky about the books since they have to store the copies and sell it to the retailers. Even when you find a distributor, often they don’t really do a good job of getting your book to the retailer, i.e. the bookstore.

The above information is not meant to discourage, but to give a realistic picture to the independent author/publisher.

Options for Self Publishers

  • Offline Distribution:
    • The best bet is to start with your local bookshops. Give away the book even for free at this stage. If it picks up, try and get to a distributor through the bookshop.
    • Sell it yourself, through your family and friends. Don’t give in to relatives asking for free copies!
    • Ask people around to explore the possibility of institutional selling (for example, company/school libraries). Works better for non-fiction books on specialised topics.
  • Online Distribution:
    • Make your own website and sell the book through it. You can accept payment through PayPal (in dollars) or through cheque, demand drafts and electronic transfers.
    • There are self publishing companies (like Pothi.com) which operate online book stores specifically for self publishing authors.
    • Get a distributor in a similar way for offline distribution. Check with them if they can get you listed on online book shops.

As mentioned earlier, the distribution option you go for would also decide which printing technology is better for you. If you can get into traditional distribution, to get the prices right (refer to the margins above), you are better off going with bulk printing through offset technology. If you are selling yourself or through self-publishing company’s website, Print on Demand is a better option to avoid inventory and logistic hassles.

* For English Language publishing