Is India the Wildest West in the World?

 

IndiaA few years ago, here in Paris, I met one of the most memorably optimistic and entrepreneurial people I’ve met in my life. Nick Booker-Soni’s English, but he’d been living in Delhi for years, where he and his wife run a business called Indogenius.

I knew I’d just met someone who saw the world in an unusual way from his reaction when I mentioned I lived in Istanbul. “Istanbul?” he said. “We just visited. First time! But you know, we were a bit disappointed. Just not that much history there.” No one had ever said that to me before. Was that supposed to be dry British wit? A “Boston’s not a big college town” kind of joke? I looked at his face. He was dead serious.

So I asked a few questions, and pretty soon I realized I was speaking the first person ever to lament that Istanbul lacks in history, the first Westerner since the 1930s to believe that the key to the mysteries of the scientific world lay in the Rig Veda, and the only profoundly optimistic Westerner I’d met since the 2008.

This is Nick’s introduction to India, and it’s also a pretty good introduction to Nick:

He’s absolutely persuaded that India is the new land of opportunity for Americans. I was a bit doubtful, as I’m sure you are. But he invited me to see it for myself. And so I did. I was sufficiently intrigued that I pitched an article about it to City Journal.

I was a lot more persuaded by Nick’s optimism than I expected to be.

I wound up writing a book about it. Now, I wasn’t supposed to do that. I’d been asked for an article of 4,000 words. But it was impossible. I just couldn’t say everything I thought at a minimum should be said about a country of 1.3 billion people and why Nick might be right.

So I’ve had the book sitting on my computer for a while, unpublished. I figured conservative publishers wouldn’t be interested in a book about India — for them, that’s a left-wing hippie book. Mainstream publishers wouldn’t be interested in a book about Indian entrepreneurialism, innovation, and private medical care — for them, that’s a right-wing radical kook book. Just no niche for a book about the entrepreneurialism and ingenuity of the Indian middle-class. It doesn’t fit neatly into any publisher’s idea of “a bestseller.”

Publishers tend to like this kind of book about India: Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity. That’s deservedly successful, by the way. It’s riveting and beautifully written. I recommend it highly. What’s frustrating, though, is that there’s more to India than poverty, injustice, and  telegenic suffering. There’s a reason the venture capital’s flying to India these days. It’s the wildest West in the world.

It didn’t occur to me just to publish it myself until I saw how enthusiastic people were about Brave Old World, which I haven’t even written yet. I figured by self-publishing Screw the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Pleasant, Middle Class, Gated Community in Delhi I’d at least learn something about how to format and design a book for Kindle, how to package it, and how to do it without editors, copy-editors, graphic designers, publishers, and a sales force.

I have to say I miss them a bit. If a major publishing house buys your book, it tells you that at least one other person with a personal, financial interest in the book’s success thought it was interesting. I’ve got no idea whether anyone but me will find this book interesting. I’d feel much more confident in saying, “Buy this book!” if I knew that someone who buys books all day for a living had already read it and decided, “This is a winner.”

On the other hand, publishing this way allows me set the price really low. I’d rather sell it for $.99, which is roughly what I’d pay to buy a random book on Kindle about India, but Amazon won’t let me publish it for less than $2.99. Maybe that’s low enough to be in the impulse, “what the heck” zone. Especially if people have already got one-click set up.

I just saw that Nick gave a TED talk about India. You’ll be able to see pretty quickly why we he and I hit it off:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0j6XkQ_B9MQ

If you’re interested, I’m sure he’d be delighted to join us for a discussion about India on Ricochet. Shall I invite him?

If you buy the book, would you give me your thoughts? Do you think things like this are interesting enough to publish? I’ve got volumes of similar stuff sitting on my computer. I could publish many more books like this; they’re basically already written.

Does it seem as well-produced as a Kindle book published by one of the commercial majors? If not, why not? Is the editing up to snuff? Did the cover appeal?

Any other suggestions?

 

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  1. TeamAmerica Member
    TeamAmerica
    @TeamAmerica

    @Claire- “If you’re interested, I’m sure he’d be delighted to join us for a discussion about India on Ricochet. Shall I invite him?”

    Yes, definitely, please do, and I just purchased your book. (FWIW, I see books for sale on Amazon for $.99-1.99)

    My impression is that as the US goes in the direction of a stifling, bureaucratic/administrative state, India has been there/done that and has learned the economic consequences. Afaik, Narendra Modi, India’snew P.M. is a sort of sub-continent Reagan, advocating for de-regulation.

    I’d also like to see Bharka Berman’s and Zafar’s take on India’s new trajectory.

    • #1
  2. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    TeamAmerica: Yes, definitely, please do, and I just purchased your book. (FWIW, I see books for sale on Amazon for $.99-1.99)

    You can’t enroll it in Kindle Select unless you set the price at $2.99. I’m not sure exactly what that does for writers, but Amazon seems to recommend it.

    • #2
  3. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    TeamAmerica: I just purchased your book.

    Thank you!

    • #3
  4. TeamAmerica Member
    TeamAmerica
    @TeamAmerica

    Claire, a few years ago an Aussie writer, John Birmingham, was reviewing a book by Andrew Roberts. A.R.’s book, ‘A History of the English Speaking People Since 1900,’ was written as a continuation of Churchill’s book, ‘A History of the English-Speaking  People to 1900.’

    Iirc, the thesis was that the British Empire and the Pax Americana were in effect, a continuous era of  English-speaking democracies maintaining world peace, however imperfectly. At any rate, I suggested to JB that India might eventually be the U.S.’ successor in that role, an idea he found intriguing. Given our current cultural rot, crushing debt, and entitlement mentality, I fear my prediction might be coming true sooner than I had assumed.

    • #4
  5. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    TeamAmerica: At any rate, I suggested to JB that India might eventually be the U.S.’ successor in that role, an idea he found intriguing. Given our current cultural rot, crushing debt, and entitlement mentality, I fear my prediction might be coming true sooner than I had assumed.

    With a bit of luck, that could be our biggest hope, not our biggest fear. It’s too soon to say, but I argue it’s possible.

    • #5
  6. Israel P. Inactive
    Israel P.
    @IsraelP

    Has Asok seen this?

    • #6
  7. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    I just tried to buy your book, but got a ‘not for sale’ message – is it available to the non-North American market?

    • #7
  8. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Zafar:I just tried to buy your book, but got a ‘not for sale’ message – is it available to the non-North American market?

    Of course it is! Obviously it is, given my argument about the size of the educated, English-speaking consumer market in India. What could be causing this? Can you tell me exactly what happens when you try to buy it?

    • #8
  9. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Zafar:I just tried to buy your book, but got a ‘not for sale’ message – is it available to the non-North American market?

    Try this link: It works in France, I just checked. Is anyone else having trouble?

    • #9
  10. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    anonymous:

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: You can’t enroll it in Kindle Select unless you set the price at $2.99. I’m not sure exactly what that does for writers, but Amazon seems to recommend it.

    This book is available for free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers. This is one of the benefits of enrolling a book in KDP Select, and much appreciated by readers. In order to be enrolled, the digital edition of a book must be exclusively available in the Kindle Store.

    Perfect.

    I’m now stewing because on re-reading, I found two typos. I can’t just fix them. You have to re-submit the whole book, and then it takes a day to update.

    I’m glad to be learning how this works, though.

    • #10
  11. Lucy Pevensie Inactive
    Lucy Pevensie
    @LucyPevensie

    I just bought the book because I like owning a nice big library of Berlinski books, even though I could have borrowed it on Kimdle Unlimited.

    • #11
  12. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    I bought it and decided I wanted to read it on my PC.  So I installed the Kindle app, and now that book has been sitting at 3%, page 1 of 43, for about fifteen minutes.

    I’ll try again later.

    Normally I don’t care to read books on Kindle. This will be the 2nd or 3rd one. But I am interested enough in your topic to want to read it one way or another.

    In the meantime I’ll go back to reading Bryan Lorber’s account of his recent bike tour in India at the Crazy Guy on a Bike site.  (https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?o=tS&doc_id=16910&v=18g)

    The web site is primitive, but a lot of long distance bicycle tourers post their stories there. I’ve known Bryan on the internet for several years.  He tends to be a fastidious guy where I can be a slob, but I enjoy his perspective.  I started looking at his photos from his India trip, then decided I needed to start over from the beginning and read the story, too.

    • #12
  13. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Now I see that I simply needed to advance the page.  There was a completely blank page at the beginning, and I mistakenly thought it meant the book wasn’t loading.

    • #13
  14. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Zafar:I just tried to buy your book, but got a ‘not for sale’ message – is it available to the non-North American market?

    Try this link: It works in France, I just checked. Is anyone else having trouble?

    I bought the book. It turns out Amazon no longer loves the tech level of my Kindle, and informs me that this title is not available for download.  I got it fine on Kindle for Windows.

    • #14
  15. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    It may be an issue with my Amazon membership.  Not to panic. I’ll try again and report back.

    • #15
  16. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Lucy Pevensie:I just bought the book because I like owning a nice big library of Berlinski books, even though I could have borrowed it on Kimdle Unlimited.

    Thank you!

    • #16
  17. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Percival: I bought the book.

    Thank you! I just checked the seller report to see how many copies it sold, and it’s telling me everyone who’s bought it so far is in India. I’m puzzled by this. I know you’re not all in India. What do you think this means?

    I’m delighted Indians are reading it. It suggests that my thesis about the vast promise of that educated, Anglophone market is correct.

    • #17
  18. Richard Finlay Inactive
    Richard Finlay
    @RichardFinlay

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: I could publish many more books like this; they’re basically already written.

    By all means, publish!  The most common comment I’ve heard from authors is that your backlist will continue to provide income for a long time.  The more titles you have, the greater your monthly trickle.

    • #18
  19. starnescl Inactive
    starnescl
    @starnescl

    Just purchased and looking forward to reading it.  I distinctly remember your prior article on this and liked it.

    Again, I like where you are going with all of this.

    Why not publish all the rest of your books sitting around on your computer and present and link to them on your Brave Old World site?

    You might sell more than you think.  (note – just saw Richard Finlay’s post immediately above and I agree.)

    And of course you could add your traditionally published books, which would lend credibility for those not familiar with your prior work.

    It would be neat to see it not as just a list of things you can buy but as a presentation of things you’ve looked into and, therefore, someone else can too.  More about exploration than hawking wares.

    Britain (Thatcher), Europe, Turkey, India – it’s a rich and interesting set and gives a sense of the perspective you can bring to a topic.

    • #19
  20. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    starnescl:Why not publish all the rest of your books sitting around on your computer and present and link to them on your Brave Old World site?

    I may very well. Why not? The stuff doesn’t do any good sitting on my computer. The only argument against it is that it’s time consuming to update, proofread, fact-check, and format — doing it takes a couple of days, and now that I’ve found typos in this one, I see that it should have taken me even more time. That’s time that won’t be devoted to learning and writing something new.

    • #20
  21. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    I owe you $2.99. You can take it out of the royalists on your up comming book,I borrowed the India book. I couldn’t figure a way to pay for it.

    • #21
  22. MLH Inactive
    MLH
    @MLH

    Purchased but had to send to my tablet and I don’t seem to be able to put on my Kindle. . .

    • #22
  23. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    PHCheese:I owe you $2.99. You can take it out of the royalists on your up comming book,I borrowed the India book. I couldn’t figure a way to pay for it.

    It’s a gift, then.

    • #23
  24. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    I passed this story on to some Indian friends – hope they pass it on and so on – I’ll let you know if there’s any feedback – does the book include the story about your intro to the medical community in India, i.e. the nose story?  I know it was awful, but it was so damn funny!

    • #24
  25. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey
    @AustinMurrey

    TeamAmerica: At any rate, I suggested to JB that India might eventually be the U.S.’ successor in that role, an idea he found intriguing.

    If I recall when Narendra Modi was elected PM, Kevin Williamson congratulated him on being elected leader of the free world since he was now the prime minister of (by far) the largest democracy.

    • #25
  26. Pilgrim Coolidge
    Pilgrim
    @Pilgrim

    Bought it with one-click easy-peasy.  How can I get it autographed?

    Edit:  Got message  “format not compatible with this device” on a new-ish Kindle Paperwhite.  I can read it on my android tablet.  I asked Amazon tech support for help and will get a response in “12-24 hours”

    • #26
  27. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Front Seat Cat: does the book include the story about your intro to the medical community in India, i.e. the nose story? I know it was awful, but it was so damn funny!

    It does indeed.

    • #27
  28. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Pilgrim: How can I get it autographed?

    Good question. Anyone have any ideas? How are other writers signing their books in the digital age?

    • #28
  29. Jules PA Inactive
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    anonymous:

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: You can’t enroll it in Kindle Select unless you set the price at $2.99. I’m not sure exactly what that does for writers, but Amazon seems to recommend it.

    This book is available for free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers. This is one of the benefits of enrolling a book in KDP Select, and much appreciated by readers. In order to be enrolled, the digital edition of a book must be exclusively available in the Kindle Store.

    Perfect.

    I’m now stewing because on re-reading, I found two typos. I can’t just fix them. You have to re-submit the whole book, and then it takes a day to update.

    I’m glad to be learning how this works, though.

    Make your adjustments, keep reviwing and do a “second edition” in a month. ?

    • #29
  30. Jules PA Inactive
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    Note, it is very difficult to quote a portion of a comment on an iPhone, and harder still to edit/truncate a quoted comment.


    • #30
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