Books are a central part of our lives. Not only are they a form of entertainment and knowledge, they are the carriers of ideas and innovative thought. Mark Zuckerberg’s New Year resolution for 2015 which includes starting ‘A Book Club’ and his Facebook page, ‘A Year of Books’, that has already garnered a massive response, is proof of how the culture of reading is very much alive and buzzing.
Books will always be in vogue but the form and format will change, says Rashmi Bansal, the Co-founder of Bloody Good Book and the author of entrepreneurial books and her latest Take Me Home.
Rashmi says, “Younger readers (below 25) are very comfortable reading books on screens whereas the older ones still prefer the feel of paper. So the delivery and distribution of books is increasingly digital. Though India lags behind compared to other markets, it will soon catch up!”
As an author, Rashmi receives a couple of manuscripts every week from budding authors wanting advice on how to get published. That's when she realised how difficult it is for a new author to get noticed. “Often good books are rejected by the best of publishers. This has happened even to the likes of Amish and J K Rowling. That gave me the idea to start Bloody Good Book -- a democratic platform where it's not just an editor with a Ph.D. in English literature who decides what is published. At Bloody Good Book what you and me want to read and like to read gets reflected,” she says.
Rashmi got together with Niyati Patel and founded Bloody Good Book in 2014. The website was launched in June 2014. It is an initiative to help, support and promote new writing talents as well as discover original and path-breaking books through the power of crowdsourcing and crowd curating to create an online ecosystem of writers and readers across India, who collaborate with them to find the next great book.
“We decided to call it Bloody Good Book because it expressed and reinforced our aim to publish extraordinary books. Books that make you exclaim, “That's a bloody good book!” says Niyati.
There are no limitations to themes and subjects and it is a free for all. The demography or the readers and reviewers pans book lovers, writers and readers of all shapes and sizes. Fortunately, the authors have found a diverse audience for their manuscripts on Bloody Good Book. “There is some amount of editorial control we exercise before any manuscript is uploaded on the website. We intend to carry this practice forward as we grow, so that our members get interesting and well-written manuscripts to read,” says Niyati.
After writers submit their manuscript, the first three chapters are shared online with readers and reviewers. The 10 best reviews and 10 most popular books are reviewed every month. "We intend to publish approximately five books a year since we're a small publisher and would rather spend our limited resources on making the books we have chosen more successful. Therefore, we only choose books that are loved by the members of Bloody Good Book, and have that X factor: a unique voice, an interesting style of writing and original content."
While Rashmi looks into business development, Niyati runs the day-to-day operations. However, they discuss each issue together before reaching a decision.
With over 5600 members and over 2400 reviews, the first two books to go into publication are an action-packed, racy crime thriller called ‘Brutal’ and a lighthearted, fun recipe book for Indian students abroad called ‘Roomies/Foodies’. ‘Brutal’ will be released in the coming months by Bloody Good Book as an eBook and by Westland Ltd in print. The partnership with Westland entails that any book chosen by Bloody Good Book for publication (e-book), Westland gets the first right to publish as a print book. “That book becomes a co-publishing effort where we pool our resources to market and distribute the book to a large audience,” says Rashmi.
While the aim is to discover and e-publish the Next Big Author who has evaded the radar of conventional publishers, they do hope to make money for the author and for themselves in doing this. Rashmi shares, “In addition, we have a custom books publishing division which takes up select projects for corporates (eg biographies for CEOs). This is the 'bread and butter' part of the company which allows us to take a risk with publishing new talent, which few publishers wish to do today.”
Rashmi’s networks as an author have helped to spread the word around about Bloody Good Book. However, to reach out to the larger audience they are planning on-ground activities at various colleges, including short story writing competitions and writing workshops. “We also want to start a 'book club' movement to promote love of writing and books in campuses across the country,” says Rashmi.
We asked Rashmi that there is a whole trend that people are not reading much, browsing the net, reading short stories and how all this gets reflected in the diminishing of bookstores and what does she feel about it.
“I write long form books with a collection of stories (so you can read one and it's complete in itself). It's one of the reasons my books have more appeal -- you get to read 20 mini-biographies versus reading one in-depth story on someone's life. According to her, “Authors and book formats will need to evolve, so will bookstores. Right now bookstores are struggling because their 200-year-old business model is broken. The same happened when VCRs first came to India, people said theatres will shut down. Instead, they bounced back with a bang.”
Bookstores will need to reinvent themselves as a space which is a 'club' or public forum where people gather, meet, discuss and feel part of a 'community', she feels. Her list of favourites includes R K Narayan, Louisa May Alcott, Judy Blume and Alexander McCallSmith (‘No 1 Ladies Detective Agency’). Among business writers, Rashmi loves to read, Malcolm Gladwell, Po Bronson, Michael Lewis (“love his take on Wall Street!”) and also Devdutt Pattanaik for connecting mythology and business.
Website - www.bloodygoodbook.com.