After self-publishing 30+ books over at Amazon US through the KDP and Createspace system, I wanted to release my books in India. This describes my author / publisher journey. For a couple of years, I aspired to be a self-published author in India, but the process of applying for an ISBN at Raja Rammohun Roy National Agency (RRRNA) required you to print the book and send the cover via post to their address in New Delhi along with a complicated application letter.
Thankfully in April 2016, the system was transferred online and now you could send a soft copy of your book, and apply online for ISBN. Please note that only Indians can apply for ISBN via this online system. If you are from outside India, you will need to use a traditional or vanity publisher to publish your book.
You will need to furnish your identity and address proof by providing a copy of your Passport or Aadhar card. (I had uploaded my Passport, but I think they wanted both sides and rejected it. I then uploaded my Aadhar card and that was accepted.) Then you have to upload your Book details in their application form (Author Name, Book Title, Description, Cover Image, Title Verso page, Number of Pages and Price). Please note that you can’t use any special characters in your Title or Description. My book had a colon and an apostrophe (I Am God: World’s Oldest Story), but it wasn’t accepted, so I had to remove them.
The other thing to note is that the file size of your cover image or identity proof jpgs cannot exceed 100kb. It will give an error message if you try to upload. You will need to use a free photo resizer software or Photoshop to get a smaller image. Finally, after you save, you have to click on the button ‘Submit to Department’. Your application is not initiated till you do this. They have a ‘How to Apply’ FAQ which gives more details.
The website indicated that the time to receive an ISBN is 30 days. In my case, it took me 76 days. Most of the time spent was communicating back and forth on understanding their requirement of a Title Verso page, which was one of the prerequisites in the application.
What is a Title Verso page?
It is a page in the book you see right after the title and author name. It lists the publishing year, printing company details and legal information. I had included all that information, but my application was still rejected because they wanted ‘a proper Title verso’. They didn’t specify what ‘proper’ meant and it was up to me to figure it out.
I sent an updated version the second time; and they again rejected it asking for more clarifications. I updated it for a third time, but got rejected. A fourth time… and again rejected! It took me five tries before my title verso page was approved.
To save you the trouble (and wasted days), I have created a Title Verso template that you can download. The file is in Microsoft Word format, and will help you save the hassles when you apply on isbn.gov.in. You only have to fill in the relevant details and upload it along with your application.
How to select a Publisher?
You can choose three routes to publish your book. You can go for a traditional publisher like Westland, Penguin, Rupa, etc. You don’t have to pay any money to them, in fact they will pay you a royalty to publish your book. The advantage is that they have a wide reach and can get the word about your book out. The disadvantage is that it’s hard for your book to get selected, and after that it will take another two years before the book is published.
The second option is vanity or hybrid publishing. You pay upfront money to a vanity publisher like Notion press. They will help you with the cover, editing and publishing aspect. The advantage is that if you are not familiar with the book publishing process, this is the easiest way. The disadvantage is in not knowing whether you will get a return on the money spent; plus you’ll have to do the marketing yourself.
The third option is self-publishing your book. The advantage is that you have complete control over each step of the publishing process. You can publish your book as soon as tomorrow once you have the ISBN. And out of the three options, this is the cheapest and quickest way to publish your book. The disadvantage is that you have to be familiar (or know someone who is familiar) with MS Word formatting, content editing, creating book covers and marketing. You will be the lone ranger having to figure everything out.
I chose to self-publish my book with Pothi. Out of all the Print-on-Demand (POD) options available in India, so far I found only pothi.com to be a pure POD company. You can print one copy or one hundred based on your requirements.
For self-publishing the Title Verso requires the author’s address and the printer address. If you go with Pothi, their postal address is not given on their website. I had to email support to find out:
Mudranik Technologies Pvt Ltd
#634, Ground Floor,
5th Main, Indiranagar 2nd Stage,
Bangalore – 560038
Once you submit your application to isbn.gov.in, if they have any clarifications, they will ask within the website itself. Please note that you will not get any email notification about it. You will have to log into the ISBN site daily and see if they have commented on your application.
If they ask for clarifications, respond to them appropriately. It took them an average of 6 days to reply to each response. So set your expectations correctly. And after my fourth response, I didn’t receive a reply for four weeks!
I then sent an email to firstname.lastname@example.org indicating that I had provided all clarifications but there was no response. Within 24 hours my application was approved. So, if you get stuck, keep that email handy. I logged in to find a new link to update my book details, but this required fewer details. And in another 24 hours, I logged in to find that I had an ISBN assigned to my book (Hurray!). Note that I received no email notification with my ISBN number. I had to log in to discover it was allotted.
Convert the ISBN to a barcode
Once you get the ISBN, it has to be converted into a machine-readable barcode format. Some websites provide this service for $70, but you can get it done for free from here. Just enter the ISBN number and submit and you will receive a zip file with the barcode in PDF and EPS format.
Next is to test the barcode. If you have a barcode scanning app on your mobile, simply scan it the ISBN number. I installed Barcode Scanner by ZXing on Google Play and it worked fine. After it scans, confirm the ISBN number matches what you’ve been given.
Finally add the ISBN barcode image to the rear of your cover using any photo editor software like Photoshop.
Yay! You are now ready to publish your book.
Hope this helps in your publishing journey. All the best with your book; and I hope it turns out to be a best-seller. Good luck!