By Vidya Pradhan
What do you do when you have a great idea for a book but no idea how to find the right person in the publishing world and how to market the idea? Why, publish it yourself!
Enakshi Choudhuri, who lives in Plymouth, Minnesota, came to the US to do her Masters in counseling. After a PhD in Education, she hesitated to commit to a full time job because her daughter was very young. When Ishani was about 3 she started peppering her mother with questions about why her grandparents couldn’t visit more often and why she couldn’t go to India whenever she wanted. As Enakshi tried to explain the time difference between India and the US and how day and night were reversed in the two countries, the idea for Naina’s Adventure was born.
“Identity development is so important to young kids,” says Enakshi. “Even just a few years ago there were hardly any books in the US where the characters looked Indian and that Indian kids could identify with.” She shopped her idea for a bilingual book with Indian characters and Indian illustrations to many publishers but hit a brick wall everywhere.
Fortunate to have connections with the publishing industry in India, Enakshi decided to self-publish. She taught herself Adobe publishing tools, found an illustrator in Chennai and went to Calcutta for a crash course in the printing business. “Some stuff I learned through some very expensive trial and error,” she laughs ruefully, “like the fact that 8 pages are printed at a time and the colors need to match. And where the binding cuts the illustration off.” One character in her book ended up being decapitated by the binding in early trials!
Enakshi decided to go with offset printing as opposed to digital because of her contacts. In retrospect, she feels digital might have been a better choice. “The advantage of digital printing is that I can print fewer copies whereas offset printing works for larger orders.” Going with offset meant she had to commit to a minimum print number.
After the books were printed, Enakshi had to learn about setting up her own website to distribute her book and figure out payment mechanisms and shipping. She has tied up with Amazon and has distributed it to a few bookstores in the Twin Cities area where she lives.
“It was a tremendous learning experience,” she says, “but I wouldn’t advise others to go through it. I was lucky that I didn’t have to make money off it right away. If I had to earn my bread and butter doing this it never would have worked. My biggest challenges are distribution and marketing. I am still looking for a distributor who will work with small publishers.”
Still, now that the learning curve has tapered, Enakshi has plans for many more books featuring Naina, her young heroine. In the works is a book of Naina’s adventures in Egypt.
“The idea is that kids can take something away from the book besides the entertainment value,” adds Enakshi. “My aim is to give them a little taste of world culture.”
Review of Naina’s Adventure.
Naina’s Adventure is a colorful story of a little girl who travels on a magical train from the US to India with her grandfather, whom she loves and misses a lot. In India Naina’s grandparents teach her about the time difference between the two countries with the help of simple home experiments.
Apart from the Indian theme to the story, Naina’s adventure also has many phrases in Hindi which are trans-literated( written phonetically in Hindi). It gives an authentic Indian feel to the story but may be a disadvantage in appealing to mainstream American audiences even though each phrase is followed by its English equivalent.
At $14.95, the hardcover book, aimed at ages 4-8, has high production values with illustrations on every page and makes for a good gift. It is available with free shipping at Orbolo Books and also at Amazon.