Marketing in 2015: Mobile Book Marketing Made Easy

A recent study revealed that the worldwide consumption of electronic books rose in 2014 and is expected to strengthen in the coming years, despite the lowering adoption of digital readings in the UK with reports suggesting that “eBooks may have had their day.” Data gathered by Pew Research Center revealed that three in ten adults are reading eBooks, where results from 2013-2014 showed a 28 percent jump from 2012. It also noted that the strong usage and ownership of smartphones and tablets worldwide have paved the way for an increase in eBook consumption. Therefore, many authors and marketers are looking at marketing their digital books as well as using their own mobile devices in running their campaigns in real-time.

If you’re planning to be a go-getter in 2015 by publishing and marketing your book/s via mobile devices, then we have some information to impart upon you. In this post, we will provide you with tips on how you can maximize this technology in selling your eBooks.

1. Email marketing
Given that you will attend various meetings and events, it’s always beneficial to email product information to influential people you have met at conferences. While the meeting is still fresh in their minds, introduce them to everything they need to know about your book, and why they (publishers) should invest in it.

Read this post by Forbes on how you can successfully run your email marketing campaign.

2. Reduction in overall costs
With the help of mobile technology we are given a new cost-efficient platform to sell our goods and/or services. Without the need to pay for print materials (paper, ink, labor, etc.), we are cutting costs and focusing more on how to market our published works. Being able to work remotely is also budget-friendly as you are able to work with your team online without the need to pay for expensive office space.

3. Be smart with your smartphone
During the marketing of your book, you will need to be online most of the time, especially when you have online queries you need to address. We highly advised you to use a mobile device with a bigger screen and powerful hardware. Today’s smartphones, such as the iPhone 6, sport large displays (4.7-inches or bigger) to allow on-the-go marketers like you to work efficiently while away from your office or home. O2 describes how the handset also has 64-bit processing power that allows users to install and use graphic-intensive and high definition apps without experiencing any lag or the dreaded frozen screen. This will be a great tool for an on-the-go marketer like you.

For apps, you can consult this list provided by Marketing Land on the top 20 applications that marketers should download this year.

4. Make it trend effortlessly
If you want your book to be the talk of the town, initiate an online marketing campaign. You can create a direct hashtag of your book’s title or its acronym (if it’s too long). Plan ahead with this campaign to gain the right amount of followers in time for your book’s release date. Take note that social media is a great way to connect with your fans and followers by responding to them individually. Thus, try to respond to them as much as you can to give a more personal feel to the release.

5. Target the right audience
Nowadays it is easy to find out the relevant information regarding your target market. How? Everything is available online. Since most people nowadays keep their own social and online profiles active, they are leaving information about them that can help you determine whether they are within your market range. Information about their favorite books, movie genre, likes and dislikes are some of the common data shared by people on their Facebook pages, for instance. Use this information when connecting with them and recommend your book to your target market in hope of them purchasing it.

Although mobile devices are a great platform to start marketing your art form, there are a few techniques that can only be done physically. In order to gain great success from mobile marketing, it’s best to maximize free marketing training courses or lessons available online to get the best results in your campaign. Good luck and by all means, share your knowledge below if you have time.

Written by Basha Berries
Exclusive for indireads

Indiwords Journal

The Journey of Voices, Old & New

It is the start of 2015 and in keeping with the time of year, the first book we are publishing this year is an anthology of short stories penned by a group of new and talented young writers. Some of these writers have been previously published, while the larger majority is being published for the first time—hence our title—Voices Old & New.

Voices Old & New encompasses the scope, values and aspirations of Indireads as a publishing house. The genres of stories are in the realm of popular fiction, the space that we occupy and aim to excel in and ultimately revolutionize by creating homegrown Sidney Sheldons, John Grishams, Nicholas Sparks and Nora Roberts. Romance, Drama, Crime & Mystery and finally Paranormal, the anthology provides something for everyone in all these popular categories.

Some of the stories are by writers we have come to know via our 1st Short Story competition, some are by writers and bloggers with whom we have developed ties over the past months, but fittingly, most are by new writers whose enormous talent we have been delighted to discover. All these gifted and passionate writers reaffirm our own faith, in our commitment to uncover new voices and showcase them to a global audience.

Finally, the winners, and this year we had two winners for each category, were offered the chance to work with us to challenge themselves and move beyond short stories to create a full-length novel. We salute them in this endeavor and commit to support them with all the learning, craft and experience we have garnered in working with over 40 new authors, some who completed the journey and others who found that they could not.

We begin the New Year with this brave new group of writers and hope that they will make it all the way to the top. And we present to you this year, an exciting new line-up of books by those who have already made the journey and have emerged victorious in this labor of love. Thank you for your support and we hope that you will show your love and appreciation to the new and exciting stories that will be emerging from our press—for you and your enjoyment. We toast you all, writers and readers and celebrate the New Year with voices, both old and new.


The Real Fairy Tales

I have to admit that I really, really, enjoy reading fairy tales. Yesterday, my mother found an old tattered illustrated book (or what was left of it) of fairy tales in a box. The book had no cover (I am not sure what happened to it) and the frayed and curled edges barely held the pages together. It was obviously well-read, if not so well taken care of. I think (though without the cover, I can’t say for sure) that it was Mother Goose’s Fairy Tales, since it included Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella.

This was the sanitized version of the tales, naturally. I wasn’t reading the Grimm brothers’ original tales as a child. These were tales from far-off lands, of princes and poor girls who found unlikely love, vanquished dragons and lived happily ever after. Wait a minute, did I just describe every romance novel ever written?

Let’s see. We have the main protagonist—a young, incredibly beautiful woman battling peculiar odds and seeking happiness (though she doesn’t always know it)—like Cinders and Sleeping Beauty. We have a charming Prince who, while he’s a leading character who will eventually rescue the heroine, doesn’t have a major role in the story unless it’s in connection to her. We have evil stepmothers/stepsisters (read jealous ex-wife, ex-girlfriend or meddling mother-in-law) who do everything they can to drive a wedge between the leading lady and her one true love. We have friendly souls who only wish the best for the heroine and help the lovers come together (the best friends, the romantically-inclined aunt or grandmother). And we have a dash of magic—the universe conspiring to connect these two lovers—that lights the spark, like the kiss that wakes up Sleeping Beauty or turns the frog into a prince.

This isn’t a new thesis. People have been comparing modern-day romances to fairy tales for decades now. In fact, the biggest criticism of romances has always been that they create unrealistic expectations in women who read them. Are we measuring every man we meet against our own Prince Charmings? Are we dreaming of castles and white knights, of seven little men who will wait on us hand and foot while we wait patiently for our hero? Which begs the question, are little boys forever seeking the most beautiful woman in the land for their bride, ready to ride high and low and across the world to find the woman with the prettiest foot that fits the glass slipper?

I wonder about ‘false expectations’ we should be on the look out for if our romance novels were modelled on Grimm’s original fairy tales. Do the critics of the romance novel worry about stories where a mother urges her daughter to cut off her big toe in order to cram her foot into a golden slipper (in the original Brothers Grimm tale, Cinderella wears golden slippers)? Or where a thieving husband readily gives away his firstborn to a wicked enchantress in order to save his own life? Do they worry that parents will be instantly driven to save themselves over their children, leading them into forests and leaving them to fend for themselves, if they read too many stories like Hansel and Gretel?

Rapunzel and Her Parents

From the Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault, Harry Clarke
From the Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault, Harry Clarke

I haven’t read all of Grimm’s original tales, but the one that stood out as being the most altered was Rapunzel. Unlike the Disney take in Tangled, Grimms’ tale is a vicious little story of a 14-year-old girl trapped in a tower. Her prince, when he comes, impregnates Rapunzel, sneaking into the tower at every opportunity. When the wicked enchantress finds out (through a stupid slip of Rapunzel’s tongue—“tell me, dame gothel, how it happens that you are so much heavier for me to draw up than the young king’s son”), she banishes the girl to a desert, ‘where she had to live in great grief and misery’. The prince, tricked by the enchantress to climb the tower, leaps out of it in order to save his life and falls into a bed of thorns. The thorns pierce his eyes, blinding him and leaving to roam the world in despair.

He does, in time, find Rapunzel, who is raising twins, a boy and a girl, in complete ‘wretchedness’ in the desert. And they do return to the prince’s kingdom to live happily ever after together. The enchantress, however, lives on. She isn’t vanquished by the prince (quite the contrary). And Rapunzel isn’t a long-lost princess whose parents are pining away for their first-born. Her father, in fact, got her into the mess by stealing rare rampion that his depressed wife desperately craved from the enchantress’ garden. When he was caught, he readily acquiesced to paying for the rampion with a child.

More than the obvious violence in these tales is the underlying callousness of human beings, parents in particular. In the original Cinderella, her ‘kind’ father is as much to blame for Cinderella’s plight as her stepsisters. When the prince comes seeking the mystery woman belonging to the golden slipper, Cinderella’s father describes her as a ‘stunted kitchen-wench which my late wife left behind her’. The miller’s daughter in Rumpelstiltskin faces death because her father, in an effort to make himself appear valuable to the king, lays false claim to her ability to spin straw into gold. And despite the clear evidence of the King’s greed, the girl’s fate (her happiness at becoming queen, perhaps?) is tied to his in marriage.

I have never read a modern version of Rapunzel that portrays her parents as anything except deeply saddened at the loss of their daughter. Several, in fact, suggest that they were desperate to get her back. Cinderella’s father was always clueless and distant, never in total agreement with the evil stepmother in any 20th century story I have read.

The more of the original Grimm tales that I read, the more I wonder at the mind that thought these were good tales for children. Or how they turned from homilies on the evil of mankind to stories of love, beautiful women, charming princes and fairy magic. It seems to be a pretty wide leap, a centuries-old game of Chinese Whispers that has stripped the darkness from the folklore.

Children, however, grow up. It’s easy to find the original tales. Fairy tales are no longer fairy tales, but fantastically grim twists on something we associate with Disney songs. This generation isn’t shivering at the thought of Smaug in his mountain, instead it’s dreaming of owning, as pets, Drogon, Viserion and Rhaegal. This generation is watching the (yet more) revisions of their fairy tales on TV (Once Upon a Time) and in the movies (Snow White and the Huntsman) and cheering on the grimy Huntsman in favour of a prince. This generation has already eschewed the sanitized versions of Disney’s Snow White for a sword-wielding warrior.

It seems that the only real fairy tales left anymore are the ones we find in romance novels. The only question is, how soon before they, too, embrace the darkness?


The Cinderella Dream (or Why Men Will Just Never Get it!)

The other day, I was having an argument with the husband and the son, both men who try very hard to see the world from the female perspective if only to anticipate what I am going to be up to next. The argument began because both of them were emphatic that wealthy men do not fall in love with their cooks, as my hero, Ranbir Dewan, does in A Scandalous Proposition (ASP).

“True romance needs an economic divide,” I told them. “The wider the gap, the better. There has to be love enough to bridge the gap. That’s why Pretty Woman works. Every girl is looking for a Prince Charming.”

“Not today’s girls?!” said the son disbelievingly.

“Even today’s girls,” I said firmly. “And it’s not just the traditional Mills & Boon TDH (tall-dark-handsome) formula they are looking for. [Nobody in India at least wants anything to do with dark, except retailers of fairness creams!] They want a man who will pamper them, spoil them and give them a lifestyle they can only dream about. They want their own fairy tale!

“Remember the nursery rhyme?” I continued. “‘Curly locks, curly locks, wilt thou be mine? Thou shalt not wash dishes, nor yet feed the swine, But sit on a cushion and sew a fine seam, And feed upon strawberries, sugar and cream’. That about sums it up.”

“So what’s in it for the men then?” asked the husband. “It seems to me like a lot of giving and very little getting.”

I had no immediate answer. The son may be grown up, but no parent is seriously convinced their child is not still impressionable, and the argument I was taking up was not travelling along a track conducive to producing a ‘happily ever after’ scenario for the young man in the car.

“It’s not quite as mercenary as I’ve put it,” I began slowly, belatedly trying to make amends. “See, it’s about biology [when in trouble, turn to Mother Nature!]. A girl will automatically be attracted to a man who is not only attractive, but also able to provide for her and her children. So, a rich man is attractive biologically too. But when a man is attracted to a girl, he looks at her body—breasts, hips, legs—again because those are the signs of fecundity, signs that she will be able to continue his lineage.”

The son gave me one of his famed ‘Really Ma?’ looks. The husband stopped himself from also doing so just in time.

“Well, let’s look at your own book, ASP,” he said. “What does Ranbir see in his cook?”

“First of all,” I retorted. “Mira is not Ranbir’s cook. She is an English literature graduate. She is working in the office canteen because she loves cooking and because she needs money to support her family. At Dewan Kutir, she enters the kitchen only when she is asked to. She is independent, ambitious and entrepreneurial, as she shows when she takes up the annual conference dinner proposal.”

“But what does he seen in her?” persisted the husband.

“Ranbir is a traditional-minded man, even though he does not realise it himself. He may be spoilt by all the attention he is used to getting, selfish like most young men his age are.” I ignored the piercing look I got here. “But he has been brought up by his Dadi and, somewhere along the line, her values were instilled in him. When he hears about Reema and Tarun, he takes Dadi into confidence and then moves ahead with the plan to get them together. He thinks Mira is a pest till he sees how devoted she is to her sister, how concerned about her well-being. It echoes his own feelings for Tarun. He is further impressed when he sees how tactfully she handles the situation with Maharaj.”

“But he’s so stupid he needs his Dadi to spell it out for him,” pushed in the son gleefully. “What a wimp!”

“He’s a typical man who can’t see what’s under his nose,” I said with a straight face. Both men were silent. Score one for me.

The son was the first to recover. “But you said women are naturally attracted to rich men. Mira’s not attracted to Ranbir because he is rich. She’s quite happy till he starts invading her space.”

I sighed. Sometimes, it’s tough being a woman among so many men.


Guides and Aspirations

For the past few months, Indireads has been celebrating one year of operations, one year of books, one year of authors from South Asia. In the grand scheme of things, it seems like we’re mere fledglings, babes in the woods that have a long way to go yet. We are and we do, but we see our first year a little differently.

We see it as one year of learning, one year of reading, one year of teaching and one year of making our mark. We see it as a way to understand how to be different, how to stand out, how to keep moving upwards. We see it as the first circle of existence, the first round of readers, the beginnings of great new authors and more books.

Few people know this, but with one exception, all of Indireads’ books so far have been by first-time authors—unknown, aspiring writers who have a story to tell and a passion to learn. They’re authors who have surprised us, even stunned us with their creative ideas, their talent, their desire to grow. Some of them had a single story to tell, but a few have proven to be exceptional writers, potential bestselling authors, even when they were writing for the first time.

We hope, we believe, that they will just get better with experience.

Indireads is still in the business, however, of nurturing new talent. Our Aspiring Author page has a number of excellent resources for first-time authors, including a short writing guide for beginners. The guide breaks down the daunting task of creating a plausible and compelling story into a series of easily digested steps. We also have a general Indireads Guide for Authors that offers more detailed explanations for those writing for the first time, or even for those in need of a quick refresher.

Here’s a quick snippet from the Indireads Writing Guide for Beginners (PDF, opens in a new window):

Revise Your First Draft:

You want your editors and publishers to view you as a professional, so be careful with punctuation, grammar and language. Review the first draft yourself and check for typos, spelling errors and formatting. If your editor is not worried about these things, he/she is more likely to concentrate on the plot and character development. Feedback will be more comprehensive and far more constructive as a result.

You may find that as you write, your story evolves by itself. That’s not always a bad thing, and you may make changes to the plot or a character as you go along. Editor feedback will point out any holes in your story, or weak elements that can be corrected. As objective readers, they tend to see gaps in a story with far more clarity than you will.

While the guide for beginners focuses on novellas, it has all the elements one needs to write any length story. The guide is now part of a new blog section we are working on, IndiWrite (Feedback Fridays is one part of this section). IndiWrite will offer resources, links, downloads and articles from authors, editors and the Indireads’ team for aspiring authors.

Happy Diwali!

Postscript: If you offer valuable knowledge or insight into what it means to be an author, or how to become an author, and would like to contribute to IndiWrite, please contact us with your idea, your article or your post.


How To Find A Good Book To Read

Growing up we had limited choices—one kind of bread, one kind of cereal, one children’s program on television per day—and life was a lot simpler. In these days of plenty, ‘too much choice‘ is a recurring problem and when paired with the modern ‘time is money’ dilemma, it results in continual decision-making stress.

To escape from stress (and housework and responsibilities) I have turned to books my entire life. Open up the pages of a book, new or old, and I am guaranteed several hours of happy absorption and oblivion. However, this aspect of my life has not escaped the ‘too much choice‘ phenomena and resulting selection stress. The books I am drawn to read these days are by South Asian authors and the sheer range and assortment of books being published is mind-boggling. Gone are the days when a few select South Asian elite authors held sway over the English writing market. Nowadays there is something for everyone and it almost seems like everyone has a book out there.

The problem then becomes which book to read? As much as I would like to, I can’t read everything out there, and in more cases than I would like, I wouldn’t want to read many of the books on offer.

After a great many cases of hit and miss I have finally perfected a three-point system that I am going to share since it might work for you as well. First off, I read the blurb of the book. A typo or a grammatical mistake here—and believe it or not a good eighty percent of books from the region mess up this critical element—ensures that no matter how good the story sounds, I will not go forward with the book. Call me elitist or over-critical, but if the author and/or publisher couldn’t be bothered to craft a good blurb, one of first points of reference for a reader and a primary marketing tool, what are the chances that the book was given the editing and attention it deserves?

If the blurb is well written and the story seems engaging, my next point of reference is to head off to Goodreads and check out a couple of reviews. I specifically go to Goodreads and not to Amazon since I find the reviews there to be much more balanced and more authentic. My strategy with reviews is to find a couple of longer ones, which generally tend to be written by thoughtful and articulate people. If you find a few of these and they seem favorable, there is a good chance that the book merits the review. My final step is to now move to Amazon and check out the preview of the book, such a wonderful feature and completely free. If the first chapter intrigues me, I happily add the book to my cart and proceed to checkout. If not, well, move onto option two.

While the process isn’t foolproof, it generally results in a good read and since I am planning to spend both my time and money into the book, I for one am happy to make the investment. Thank you Goodreads and Amazon!

Feedback Fridays

Untitled Manuscript IV

Constructive criticism is welcomed by all. However, any comments that are overly derogatory in nature will be removed. Please keep in mind that the author, while anonymous, will be reading your feedback.

Submissions posted here are not edited and/or proof-read by Indireads.

If you are an author hoping for some feedback on the first 800 words of your unpublished manuscript, you can submit your work here.

Genre: Romance


I wake up to the sound of big droplets of water splattering on my window. The sky is a dark grey outside and heavy rain is pouring down. I groggily look at my alarm clock and wake up with a start. Its half past 7 already and nobody bothered to wake me up. I have to take two tuition classes today and both in the exteriors of Vashi. I won’t even get an empty bus at this time and those stupid drains near the Corporation school must have also leaked out. So now I have to be stuck in the traffic for nearly an hour, inhale all the susu-potty the primary school kids did yesterday just to go teach students who have no interest in Hitler’s history and call him ‘chote moocho wale uncle’ instead. I should have listened to my amma and married the boy with the BMW. But on second thoughts even the idea of a fancy car does not make up for his extremely sexist views. Where is my early bird mother anyway? She usually glides in to the room every morning smelling of Mysore sandal soap and Cuticura talcum powder, complaining that Lalli aunty from the third floor came down again to fight for the newspaper. Somebody needs to explain to this Lalli woman that she is not the only subscriber to The Times. Her daily curses in a heavily accented Marathi wakes me up before my hello kitty alarm.

I suddenly realise that the house is unusually quiet. No annoying milk cooker sirens or washing machine noises. Even the TV is switched off. It looks like my father has for the first time in years missed out on his morning news with the half sleepy Mallu reporters. I cannot even hear our Lalita bai loudly humming a Dada Kondke number which she usually does while lazily sweeping the specked tiles. This feels creepy. Maybe I slept through a big storm and my whole family was washed away. Maybe when I open the door to my room, the strong currents will take me along as well. I can imagine my mother calling out to me for help, keeping afloat on our 10 year old woodpecker dining table.

Just when I am trying to convince myself that I must be hyperventilating and an extra hour of sleep is making me go crazy, a gush of water enters my room through the space below. Oh God!

‘Neetuuuuuu!’ my mother calls out.

My mother must be drowning and she does not even know how to swim.

‘Ammmmmaaa! ‘I scream.

She opens my door in one swift push.

‘Ae why are you screaming early in the morning?’ she asks irritated.

I check to see if her saree is wet and if there are any furniture floating behind her. But all I can see is Lalita bai squatting on the ground cleaning the floor, a big bucket of Dettol mixed water near her hand and an involuntary frown on her face. Okay I was clearly wrong but what in the world is going on here?

‘Lakshmii! There.. there. Look properly.’ My mother screams bending over bai’s gigantic cleavage, pointing at some non-existent spot of dust.

‘Amma! What is all this? Why did you not wake me up earlier? I butt in.

‘Oh, I did not want to wake you up so early and spoil your beauty sleep’

Which beauty sleep is she talking about? I just woke up to two black jamuns for eyes and a Lasith Malinga hairstyle.

‘Amma, I have two classes today and it’s also raining. How do I reach on time now?’

‘You are not going anywhere today. Call those people and cancel. Get out of the bed so that I can apply oil on your hair. Where is that pearl necklace Jia bought you from Singapore? It cost over 15,000, you know. So beautiful!’ she says rummaging through my wardrobe and giving side glances to the bai.

My mom has this weird habit. She drops in names of some of the most expensive items we possess along with their prices in her everyday conversations. Like for example ‘I have packed idly for your tiffin today. It almost slipped out of my hand; it was that soft you know. All because of that 30,000 ka butterfly grinder we bought last week.’

Lalita bai on the other hand, cranes her neck around in attention as soon as she hears any big amount because now; she has a hot new topic to discuss with the other maids who in turn feed it to their respective employers. So it’s no surprise to my mother when a day later Bindu aunty from Block B barges in demanding to taste the soft idlies. My mother just laughs and asks her how she knew. Oh amma!

‘What do you mean cancel? I can’t. Those kids have their exams in a months’ time and why are you taking out all my sarees Ammaaa! ‘I scream.

Feedback Fridays

Mira Devi’s Light

Constructive criticism is welcomed by all. However, any comments that are overly derogatory in nature will be removed. Please keep in mind that the author, while anonymous, will be reading your feedback.

Submissions posted here are not edited and/or proof-read by Indireads.

If you are an author hoping for some feedback on the first 800 words of your unpublished manuscript, you can submit your work here.

Genre: Young Adult


Anu had just turned ten. Her birthday had been celebrated with the usual lack of fanfare. Her mother had woken up fifteen minutes earlier to make the customary Payesh, which she was given the privilege of tasting ahead of her perpetually hungry brothers. Apart from this and an absent minded wish from her bookworm of a father, there was nothing particularly differentiating about the day that marked her entry into the world that was at the time too busy handling its newly found independence and socialist government to celebrate her journey so far.

She left for the park half an hour earlier than usual, alone, without informing her elder sister Alo didi. She thought of this solitary half an hour at the park as her gift to herself. Alo didi had recently turned fourteen and going to the park with her daily had swiftly transformed from a fairly pleasant aspect of her regular routine into a dreaded exercise. She attributed this to Alo didi’s newly acquired interest of paying attention to her physical appearance. She had grown to be a tall, slender beauty with skin as fair as Suchitra Sen; the hugely popular actress based on whose features artists allegedly modeled their Durga Ma idols.

The neighborhood boys had become aware of Alo’s fresh allure like sniffing dogs. Every time she left their home, the streets, otherwise dead, would fill up with an assorted collection of boys who would find some excuse to lurk around the grocery store where she had been sent to buy milk or the route she used to walk to school. The park, initially a safe haven for Anu, had been discovered as a place Alo didi would spend two hours of her time, and the boys had been pouring in, disbanding their usual fervor for football for make shift cricket matches in the sandy park or standing around aimlessly near the swings and attempting brave feats on the already rusting monkey bars.

Alo didi pretended to be blind to this attention, which Anu had initially found amusing until it became nauseating. She suddenly began to take more time to get ready, spending what felt like hours applying powder and Kohl, wearing only figure enhancing frocks. Previously, Anu and Alo would spend hours playing in the park, pranking other children and competing to see who could run faster, climb higher and eat more. Now, Alo didi would refuse to run around, lest her frocks got dusty and preferred to take slow walks around the park making suggestive eye contact with the better looking boys, assuming Anu was too small to notice anything. But notice Anu did and it became a regular source of irritation for her. The slow walks didn’t interest her and the swings were boring without Alo didi by her side, trying to out swing her.

So curious to explore her park alone, sans the weight of adolescence, Anu entered the park to find a few neighborhood children already playing around. She used the swing for a while, jumped a few hoops, tried playing hopscotch and hanging on the monkey bar. The initial excitement gave way to boredom and she sat down in a nearby shade, wiping her sweat away. This is why Alo didi never wanted to come out when the sun was so strong; the heat was too unbearable in its role as an assailant to her beauty.

Anu looked around, her face cupped in her hands, shoulders hunched, wondering how she would spend the remaining half an hour. She gazed around at the girls playing nearby, their mothers standing around talking, rubbing the sweat of their faces with their sarees.

She had recently begun noticing faces, their aesthetics, specifically how they were colored. Categorizing faces according to colors had become something of a pastime. The lady in the red saree was a light shade of yellow and her little daughter was dark brown. The lady she was talking to was brownish and the boy she was attempting to hold onto was white as milk. Her mother was brown, Alo didi was white, her father was a mustard shade of yellow and her brothers were wheatish during winter, browning slightly during the hot Calcutta summer.

It had started when she overheard a conversation between her mother and their neighbor Lata mashi, who had dropped in one afternoon after having completed her household chores. Her mother had made tea and the two had sat on the verandah, updating each other on the details of the houses nearby. She had sat outside trying to practice the difficult spellings of a particularly tough chapter in English. The conversation had been senseless noise until she heard her own name weaved into it.

Indiwrite Journal

Transitioning from Short Stories to Novels

Writing a novel is like running a cross-country race. You have to keep the pace, but in order to make it to the finish line, you have to make sure you don’t run out of steam too soon. Cross-country is a better analogy than a racetrack because along the way, there have to be alternate paths, diversions, scenic routes and pitfalls that need to be avoided. The finish line doesn’t need to be crystal clear, or anywhere in your line of vision when you start, and the road itself need be neither straight nor smooth.

A short story, in contrast, is a hundred yard sprint. It’s equally acceptable for the track to be crooked, but the finish line is always in sight. All that’s needed is that last burst of energy at the end that pushes the story into a glorious explosion of shock and awe.

The differences between the two forms are clear. With athletes, it’s rare to find someone with the training and adrenalin for short runs who is also a long-distance runner. One requires speed, the other requires stamina. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen—sprinters undoubtedly run long distances to stay fit, and triathlons and decathlons require speed and endurance to win.

There’s no precedence that says a runner can’t cross over into a different format, and when it comes to writing, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest a writer can succeed in any format he or she chooses.

Lewis Carroll wrote full-length tales that included poetry, as effortless and brilliant as his stories—his lesser-known Sylvie and Bruno is a prime example of the versatility of this man. C. S. Lewis, best known for his children’s tales, wrote several adult fantasy novels. As well-known and beloved as Asimov’s greatest novels are (Foundation, I, Robot), his short stories are extremely powerful (The Dead Past) and in some cases (Nightfall, for instance), far outweigh the value of his longer works. Just as talented, Kurt Vonnegut is known for Slaughterhouse Five and Cat’s Cradle, but also has several short stories to his name (Welcome to the Monkey House). George Orwell wrote novels (1984), novellas (Animal Farm) and short stories (Shooting an Elephant). Jane Austen is rarely known for anything other than her novels, but like other great writers, she wrote poetry, prose, short stories, even essays.

All these writers (and more, undoubtedly), were prolific, exploring all forms of writing not because they were exploring the form, but because their muse drove them in a certain direction. In some cases, they even crossed genres, because when a story needs to be told, it’s the tale, the plot, the characters, that dictate the length of the work. It’s the ideas that determine the number of words. Orwell’s allegorical Animal Farm would probably have lost much of its impact if he had forced it into a longer length.

The transition from one form to another is not a matter of skill so much as it is an understanding of how best to tell a story. If there were a set of rules for making the transition—and I’m sure there are—the first must definitely be this:

  1. The idea for a short story does not always work for a full-length novel. Short stories don’t necessarily include complete plots, and can be based on a moment in time, a quick glimpse that leads to something profound. So give your novel its own idea. Make it a big one.

The idea for a novel has to have (though not necessarily in a linear fashion) a beginning, a middle and an end. It should take a reader on a journey, preferably one that takes more than a few hours to read! Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is just a longer short story—it isn’t. The difference isn’t just in length, it’s the entire concept. But, because it’s a longer format, don’t approach it like a challenge. Look at this as freedom:

  1. Create subplots. The freedom you have in a novel is that it can be richly layered, with multiple characters, so you could conceivably create a network of short stories that work together, connected through a main character(s) and adding depth and consequence to the novel.
  2. Know your characters. Step inside their skins so that when you write, you’re examining several layers of personality. They’re going to be around for a long time, so make sure you love them too, just don’t make them perfect, because people never are. Or, kill them off early if you feel they can’t evolve. Because your characters, along with the plot, should evolve.
  3. Draw a map. Know your plots, subplots, characters and settings inside out. Use this knowledge to avoid lengthy exposition and work with dialogue and action instead. You may be a master of putting together a short story in your head, but novels are meant to be complex. Don’t make the mistake of leaving it all in the air. Put together a plan and stick to it as much as possible. Imagine that you’re putting down the sequence of events that happen in a movie you’ve seen. If you’re a planner, take the time to plan the details. If you’re not, make sure the broad strokes are in place before you start.
  4. Don’t worry about the word count. Short stories have boundaries, limitations that are a reassuring handicap and force a writer to establish discipline. When you start a novel, relax that discipline. If you’ve always wanted to write, then let the words flow. You can always edit it later. This leads naturally to another rule:
  5. Let your characters and plot dictate the next move. Sometimes, in the middle of a sentence, an idea will grab you by the throat and refuse to let go. Listen to that idea. There’s nothing wrong with letting characters write themselves, or plots unravel and destroy a plan you may have in place. Because rules, as you know, are sometimes meant to be broken.
  6. Once you’ve done that, however, keep track of the different threads you have flowing. At some point, either at the end or in a logical sequence, those threads need to be tied together. Unless you’re writing a series and intend to leave cliffhangers and unexplained threads that will find answers in the next book, your readers will want to know what happened.

Finally, have a little confidence in yourself. There’s no shame in taking ten drafts to write your first full-length novel. It’s not always going to write itself, but giving up is never the answer.


The Packed Punch of a Short Story

Alice-Munro-could-be-my-neighbourAfter seeing her books everywhere—she is Canadian after all—I finally picked up a book of short stories by Alice Munro. Let me state clearly that I am a big fan of the short story format. Gems like The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs, Jane by Somerset Maugham, The Lottery by Shirley Jackson and anything by Roald Dahl are touchstones in my mind, and I return to dwell on them fondly. But by and large, short stories are, in my opinion, quick, interesting short pieces of fiction that offer a pleasing journey and a satisfying conclusion. I expected nothing more or less from Munro.

From the first page of the first story I was hooked. The story came alive as I read it, characters and situations were presented with the intimacy and depth of a five-hundred page novel, layers of underlying meaning and emotions were unveiled and there was no need for the obligatory twist at the end; the conclusion of the story was more insightful and yet more unexpected than any twist could offer. Alice Munro richly deserves her Nobel prize—her stories are intricately crafted works of art, each unique, each containing a world within it.

Reading her stories rekindled my love for literature and the written word, and made me fall in love yet again with what I do, namely finding new and untapped writing talent. Some with a knack for telling stories, some with a burning desire to make a point, some who make you look at things a little differently and then the rarer ones, masters who work magic, wielding their pens like wands. To uncover this talent is a rare pleasure indeed and one that is my privilege and honor.

Towards this end, we at Indireads run a short story competition every year. This year we received over a hundred entries, out of which five stories were selected in the genres of Crime/Mystery, Drama, Sci-Fi/Paranormal and Romance. Each story was judged on merit alone, author names, gender, affiliations were withheld and each entry was reviewed several times. Not surprisingly, the stories that made their way into the shortlist were the ones that scored highest on style, content and impact time and again. The stories are written by new and not-so-new writers, who are not yet masters of their craft, but who someday might be. This is the start of their journey, so read their stories, encourage them and let their talent and confidence grow and bloom under the light of your attention. I hope you will take the time to read each story, vote for it and leave some words of encouragement for the authors. For who knows, you may just have come across a future Alice Munro.