Chennai-based Notion Press is inverting the publishing paradigm with Xpress, which lets authors produce their own book in quick time.
Instant coffee, instant pasta, instant sambar, and even instant paneer butter masala… In a world of immediate gratification, why not an instant book?
Chennai-based Notion Press has an answer to that. Its platform, Xpress, enables writers to publish their book, either in the printed format or as an e-book, in 30 minutes or less. Naveen Valsakumar, CEO of Notion Press, claims Xpress is a first-of-its-kind platform in India.
But why a speedy self-publishing platform? According to Naveen, the sheer number of authors approaching Notion Press (about 3,000 to 4,000 per month) each month got the team thinking.
“Xpress was our answer for aspiring writers and authors who want to get their book published. It enables writers to convert their stories and ideas into books that people can hold, read and connect with,” he says.
Xpress currently allows publishing of English and Tamil titles; Hindi, Bengali, Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada, Marathi, and Gujarati will be added in the coming weeks. At the Xpress launch late October, Naveen said almost all Indian languages would be covered by 2019.
Notion Press was co-founded by Naveen Valsakumar, Bhargava Adepalley, and Jana Pillay in 2012. It began as a self-publishing platform and then expanded into services for international publishers, distribution and mainstream publishing as well. Notion Press covers the entire value chain in the publishing process and has tied up with international bookstores, both offline and online, enabling the company to distribute its books across 30,000 outlets in 100 countries at present.
Publishing a book is a time-consuming process. It involves writing the content, editing the manuscript, designing the pages, editing the artwork, laying out the pages using pagination software, designing the cover, and more. Once the book is print-ready, it is sent to a printer or converted into an electronic format to be published as an e-book in PDF format or for a platform like Kindle.
Typically, it takes months to run a book through the publishing process. The author is involved in making the decisions with a team of editing, artwork, design and layout professionals to finalise production.
Xpress inverts the paradigm and - through pre-loaded templates - gives the author the power to choose and produce her own book in a DIY format. An editing function is not built into the platform and the book has to be edited (if the author chooses to) before it is run through Xpress.
Bhargava Adepalley, CTO of Notion Press, explains, “The Xpress publishing platform provides a seamless user experience where the author can design their own cover and inside pages using pre-set templates and create his or her book.”
The fine print
How does it work? Once you have your edited content segregated into chapters and have the pictures, figures and tables ready, you can start loading it on to Xpress. The software runs you through each page and lets you choose the layout design (including size of the book, font type, page format and also the paper quality if you are going for a print book).
The last steps include the design of the cover page and inside covers. Then a set of rigorous checks are performed to satisfy publishing requirements. An error report is generated based on this check. Once you fix the errors, your book is done - in under 30 minutes!
If you encounter a problem, the Notion Press team is at hand to help. The process of printing or converting the manuscript into an e-book format doesn’t take long. “You could have a few copies of your book in a matter of hours if you choose Xpress,” Naveen said.
“We worked on this platform for two and half years,” Shiraj, Head of Development, Notion Press, told me over a chat. Before the launch, the platform was beta-tested with 700 authors and within a day of launch, the number has shot a little over 1,000.
The speed of production is mind-boggling, but the team claims it has sorted out a majority of the problems likely to be encountered in the beta-testing phase. After the demo, I felt Xpress was ideal for text-heavy content, but you may need technical help from the Notion Press team if you book has photographs and pictures (although the right resolution is indicated during the loading process). Still, placement, sizing, and editing would need an expert hand.
After you finish the book, you can choose a price for the book. The production cost per book is indicated as soon as your book is produced, but Notion Press has set a minimum price of Rs 180 for a book produced on the Xpress platform.
If you sell the book through Notion Press, you are not charged for creating or distributing the book and you can wait for the royalty of 70 percent on sales. Payments automatically go to your bank account. But if you choose to distribute your book through Amazon, Flipkart or Infibeam, you have to pay Rs 9,999. International distribution in 100 countries costs Rs 14,999. Notion Press has partnerships with 30,000 offline and online bookstores across the world.
The DIY differentiator
“Most offerings have only print on demand if you have print-ready files. But Xpress allows you to create the book from scratch,” Naveen says.
How Xpress differs from Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing is that both print and e-books can be produced on the Notion Press’s Xpress platform. KDP only allows electronic books in Kindle format to be produced and sold on Amazon. Xpress-produced books can have a worldwide reach, across online and offline distribution channels.
Notion Press had raised $1 million from high net worth individuals (HNIs) in 2016, and Naveen says it is profitable at present. The company has no plans to raise funds now or in the near future as its books are doing well in the market. Its challenge seems to be how to cater to the growing number of writers and authors seeking its services to produce and publish their book. “Most publishers don’t think of scale in my view,” Naveen explains.
Notion Press is now prepping and positioning itself for scale. The aim is to grow exponentially in the next few years.