Shalini Gupta: Simplifying Book Publishing

Shalini Gupta | Founder & Director | Zorba Books[book publishing]
Shalini Gupta | Founder & Director | Zorba Books[book publishing]

Indian art and literature space have given some absolute gems to the world, especially women. From the devotional verses of Meera Bai, the agape love in Amruta Pritam’s work, the everyday emotions in Sarojini Naidu’s work to the contemporary and hard hitting take on society by Jumpa Lahiri, the women power is there to see. But every author needs a platform to showcase her work and that is where the publishing houses come in.  But in this sector too, women have had their own share of fight. Determined, to make their own mark in the field of publishing, few Indian women left no stone upturned to make the most out of it. They are making a difference with their creative ideas, running successful ventures, and giving rise to a new sustainable ecosystem. Each of them is scripting her own new story in today’s world. Hats off to all these women entrepreneurs. 
In the following interview, we get to understand one such creative and prolific entrepreneur, Shalini, the Founder and Director of Zorba Books which is one of India’s leading self-publishing organizations.
The excerpt below showcases Shalini’s experiences, about what it takes to build a thriving business, to learn about Zorba Books and what it offers, and some insights about the current state of self-publishing in India.
Kindly brief us about yourself, your initial journey since the beginning of your career?
We had an exciting beginning. It began with a love for writing and reading books and led quite naturally into setting up a traditional publishing business. When we set up Zorba Publishers eight years back, we started from scratch – getting to know the book publishing business, building relationships with dealers as the primary distribution channel, etc. We were in for a surprise because though India has moved into the 21st century, in the book trade people seemed to be still stuck in the twentieth century, if not the nineteenth! It was haphazard and women were certainly not welcome. There was an element of discomfort and a casual attitude towards women. In Europe and elsewhere self-publishing was at its peak. The three years of trying to fit in and apply modern practices to the traditional publishing business did give us a lot of insights and connections in book publishing. We decided to move into the 21st century with book publishing services and in 2014, Zorba Books was born.
State your passions, aims, and goals.
The fact that we were ruled by outsiders for centuries never sat well with me. Even after the British left, MNCs rule the roost. I aimed to combine books and business practices that were superior to those of an MNC. The warmth and customer engagement of an Indian business combined with the emphasis on honesty, transparency, quality, and timeliness of an MNC. Zorba Books, book publishing services are already far superior to those offered by the largest MNC offering publishing services to Indians!
Please mention the challenges, issues you have faced in your professional journey and your efforts or solutions you have identified to overcome the challenges.
There were many challenges in the early part of our journey. The first challenge was to introduce to the Indian market the concept of self-publishing or taking publishing services from experts in order to publish a quality book. This model is well-established in Europe and North America and many famous authors have tasted their first success through the self-publishing route. In India, we have Amish Tripathi who first tasted success through that route and many others have followed them. In India, aspiring authors were not aware that books can be published in a services model. We were the pioneers, we started by creating a lot of noise around self-publishing, reached out to the media and they supported us by writing about it in their newspapers like ET, TOI, HT, and others. Since authors stay far from the publishing house, it was a challenge to convince authors that Zorba Books is reliable and functions better than an MNC. Testimonials from our authors from all walks of life, the First Lady Air Marshal Padma Badopadhaya, Ambassador Prabhu Dayal and many many others helped.
Kindly describe in detail about the company and its unique services and products.
The uniqueness of Zorba Books is in the attention to detail and the passion we bring to each book. Since we are professionals and book lovers, with vast experience in the book publishing industry, Zorba Books can offer the authors a world-class product with highly effective promotion and worldwide distribution. We have an expert’s eye for storylines, book layouts, the manner in which the cover page and the synopsis should be crafted to attract the reader, the choice of the book’s title, the market positioning of the book to get the most traction for the book from the reader. The result is there for all to see.
Our book Sirri was announced as a bestseller at the Jaipur Literary Festival in 2018, several of our books are in the Library of Congress the US and many of our books, because they are so professionally edited, formatted, etc they have been picked up by traditional publishing houses for release under their banner. Lots of our books regularly hit the Amazon bestselling charts too.
Share the vision and mission of your company.
Offer Indian writers exemplary, professional and transparent book publishing services to produce a world-class book that they can be proud of.
Share with us the noted milestones, accomplishments of your journey along with highlighting the company’s achievements under your leadership.
Our journey as traditional publishers began in 2011 as Zorba Publishers. We took our first step in publishing services with Zorba Books in 2014. In 2015 we introduced free self-publishing software. As pioneers in the field of paid publishing services, the task of creating awareness of this relatively new concept devolved on us. The years 2015 and 2016 were marked by creating awareness of the concept of paid publishing services in India through media stories devoted to self-publishing. In 2015, we were invited to the Gurgaon Literature Festival. In 2016, we were invited to take part in the Delhi Literature Festival and in the same year, our books were showcased for the first time at the World Book Fair, Delhi. In 2017 we put up our first stall at the New Delhi World Book Fair. In 2019 we are ready to launch a new platform called Poet and Author Spotlight where budding writers can upload their work free of cost and generate awareness of their talent at no cost to them.
Brief us about the industry scenario from your perspective.
While there is an awareness of using publishing services to publish a book in the Metros, we have a long way to go in spreading awareness in larger parts of India. As awareness grows, we expect to see a great future for self-publishing.
What is the one thing that is acting as your motivational tool? Or, who is your role model and how the person inspires and motivates you?
My motivational tool is myself, with huge support from my husband. I don’t believe anyone person can be ideal. I admire people who have worked hard and honestly to build businesses from the ground up like Kiran Majumdar, Rohini Nilkeni
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Before I give one piece of advice, I would like to say that it is a combination of factors that help you succeed. Dedication, hard work and experience in the field in which you would like to work in are necessary conditions for success, which combined with a never-say-die attitude, leads to success
How are you foreseeing the future in terms of expansion of your business, the advent of new technologies and increasing tech-enabled players in the market?
Yes, technology is already playing a big role in self-publishing. Selling books online, reducing the role of the less organized distribution sector. Also, in terms of reach for authors with the reading public, through technology-enabled social media. With growing awareness and growing literacy in India, there is no reason the sector should not grow too.

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