How many of us dream of becoming a writer but don’t know how to begin? The website www.pothi.com, which is owned by Bangalore based Mudranik Technologies Pvt Ltd provides a platform for publishing to anyone who wants to write. One can make use of innovative options like Print on demand, Self-Publishing, and other extra services like typing, editing, formatting, cover designing etc and fulfill their dream easily in a very short time. Here is an interview (mailed questionnaire) with Jaya Jha, the founder of the company Pothi.com who thought “out of the box” and ventured into this business.
VP: When and how did you get into this business?
Jaya: I started working full-time on Pothi.com since March 2008. The idea had first come to us (me and my partner Abhaya) around April 2007. It was the time when I was looking to publish a book of my own Hindi poetry. I quickly figured that traditional publishing would demand too much effort and my aim was only to publish for people around me. So, I started looking for self publishing options and I did not come across any in India. At that point of time, we thought it would be a good idea to start it on our own. We always wanted to start-up on our own anyway. And this looked like the right idea!
VP: Did you have any prior experience in this field?
Jaya: Neither of us is from publishing background. But both of us are Computer Science graduates and the idea was to bring technology into publishing. So, relying on our capabilities in that field, we decided to take the plunge. Plus we had always been very interested in reading and writing. So, we were happy and keen to learn things.
VP: What were the initial problems you faced?
Jaya: Figuring out operations of producing the book was the biggest challenge in the beginning. Firstly, we had no idea of the industry. Secondly, the concept of Print on Demand that we were trying to bring in was new to the industry itself. So, existing vendors were not of much help. We started off by doing everything ourselves.
VP: How did you popularize the company?
Jaya: We have mostly relied on limited online marketing, Search engine optimization and word of mouth.
VP: Tell us about the team behind Pothi.com?
Jaya: Abhaya Agarwal and Jaya Jha (myself) are the co-founders of Pothi.com. Abhaya is from Lucknow and has done his BTech in Computer Science. He got an MS from Language Technologies Institute, School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University. I belong to Bihar, and have done my B. Tech in Computer Science from IIT Kanpur and then my MBA from IIM Lucknow. Both of us have been working full time with Pothi since 2008.
VP: How do you raise funds?
Jaya: We have bootstrapped the company with our savings and some small investment from family and friends.
VP: Why should people choose Pothi.com?
Jaya: The first question people need to ask is, of course, whether they want to self publish or go the traditional publishing route. This is a separate question and I would skip answering it here.
Once people have decided to self publish, Pothi.com is an extremely flexible platform for the same, which gives the authors maximum control over their books. You are free to prepare the book on your own, in which case there are no upfront investments. However, for those who need it, very reasonably priced typing, editing and designing services are available. There also are free tools available for cover designing and converting your blog to book. We’ll continue to enhance our tools so that people can publish without any upfront costs.
Authors also decide their own royalty. They can choose to list the book on our store and sell through it or they could simply use it for closed group circulation. They also keep all the rights of their book.
VP: Do you help the authors in marketing and sales?
Jaya: We provide an online store, through which they can sell their books for no upfront cost to them. Besides paid online marketing services are available to help them increase the visibility of their book. Finally we keep coming up with other opportunities to help them distribute their book. For example, we are putting up a stall in Bangalore Book Festival that starts from Nov 6, through which not only Pothi.com authors, but also other self published authors can sell their books.
VP: How are the author’s earnings fixed? Do the writers get sole authority over their published work?
Jaya: Author royalty is decided by the author himself. The price of the book is decided by production cost and author royalty. Writers get the sole authority over their published work. They retain all the rights and are free to send the book to other publishers, put the content online and do whatever else they want with the content.
VP: Tell us about some of the best books published so far?
Jaya: As the number of books has increased, it is increasingly difficult to talk about ‘best books’. But there are many interesting books on Pothi.com, which range from fiction to self-help to business to new experiments in publishing.
Bharath Murthy has published an autobiography in comic form called learning to see.
Eleven years old Nandhika’s book, Sally’s World, published by her father, made her a celebrity in her home-town.
Ajith Kumar’s book The Best Seamless 3D is a collection of Stereogram images, which are three-dimensional images hidden in two-dimensional pattern.
Prof. B. C. Chattopadhyay’s book ‘Growing Towns in India’ is about physical planning of Growing Towns.
Vivek Kumar has a book on Birthday Messages.
We have teamed up with Network Theory Ltd. UK-based publisher of books on Open Source to bring their books to India at Indian prices!
Dr. M. G. Bokare Foundation, Pune brought out the second edition of the book ‘Hindu Economics’ through us.
VP: Do you also help to publish in regional languages?
Jaya: Absolutely. We support all Indian languages for printing. We also have typing and other services for many Indian languages. People have already used our platform to publish books in Bengali, Marathi, Hindi, Telugu, Kannada etc.
VP: Tell us about the growth of company and response of people from the time of its formation?
Jaya: In a little over a year (we went live in July 2008), we have over 250 titles. More than 150 authors have published through us. We have also worked with traditional publishers to bring their out of print books back in market.
VP: Where do you see the company in future?
Jaya: This Company will act as a platform for independent publishers, organizers and others to express themselves. As we add more tools and services, we move towards our ultimate mission of making publishing accessible to all!