04 June 2014

On Fairness Creams and Self-Publishing: Guest Post by Rasana Atreya, author of Tell A Thousand Lies

Tell A Thousand Lies by Rasana Atreya
Audience/Genre: Indian Literature
Publication: March 8th 2012 by Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing
In a land where skin colour can determine one's destiny, fraternal twins PULLAMMA and LATA are about to embark on a journey that will tear their lives apart. Dark skinned Pullamma dreams of being a wife. With three girls in her family, the sixteen year old is aware there isn't enough dowry to secure suitable husbands for them all. But a girl can hope. She's well versed in cooking, pickle making, cow washing -- you name it. She's also obliged her old-fashioned grandmother by not doing well in school. Fair skinned and pretty, her twin sister Lata would rather study medicine than get married. Unable to grasp the depth of Lata's desire, the twins' Grandmother formalizes a wedding alliance for the girl. Distraught, Lata rebels, with devastating consequences. As Pullamma helps ready the house for her older sister Malli's bride viewing, she prays for a positive outcome to the event. What happens next is so inconceivable that it will shape Pullamma's future in ways she couldn't have foreseen. TELL A THOUSAND LIES is a sometimes wry, sometimes sad, but ultimately realistic look at how superstition and the colour of a girl's skin rules India's hinterlands.

I'm pleased to have Rasana Atreya at the blog today. Rasana's self-published her latest novel, Tell A Thousand Lies , through Kindle Direct Publishing and it's an Amazon bestseller :)

Here's a brief outline of her book: Tell A Thousand Lies revolves around fraternal twins Pullamma and Lata, who are about to embark on a journey that will tear their lives apart, living in a land where skin colour can determine one's destiny. Dark skinned Pullamma dreams of being a wife. With three girls in her family, the sixteen year old is aware there isn't enough dowry to secure suitable husbands for them all. But a girl can hope. She's well versed in cooking, pickle making, cow washing -- you name it. She's also obliged her old-fashioned grandmother by not doing well in school. Fair skinned and pretty, her twin sister Lata would rather study medicine than get married. Unable to grasp the depth of Lata's desire, the twins' Grandmother formalizes a wedding alliance for the girl. Distraught, Lata rebels, with devastating consequences. As Pullamma helps ready the house for her older sister Malli's bride viewing, she prays for a positive outcome to the event. What happens next is so inconceivable that it will shape Pullamma's future in ways she couldn't have foreseen. “Tell a thousand lies” is a sometimes wry, sometimes sad, but ultimately realistic look at how superstition and the colour of a girl's skin rules India's hinterlands.

On Fairness Creams and Self-Publishing

My mother was a beautiful woman. Years after she passed away people still talk about her elegance, her grace and her poise. It is only recently, thanks to the barrage of fairness cream ads on Indian television, that I realized that my mother was, in fact, a dark-skinned woman – quite a contrast to my tall, handsome, fair-skinned father.

The effect of these ads has been insidious. I know of parents who – even in summer – will not allow their children to go swimming, or leave home without full-sleeved shirts and long pants, so fearful are they of their children getting tanned. Based on my observation, bullying of dark-skinned children is on the rise. In today’s world a person’s decency, her innate kindness – qualities my mother possessed – count for nothing if her skin isn’t the right shade of white.

What does this have to do with writing, and my writing in particular?

These ads, and the message they are perpetuating, are toxic enough that I felt the need to draw attention to it. I decided to create a character who is not only a dark-skinned child in a family of fair-skinned children, she is also tall and awkward. I also made her funny and kind and principled. And my novel, Tell A Thousand Lies, was born.

I’ve been fortunate that my novel has been well received. Since the time of publication it has been a bestseller in my genre. I have a lot of reviews that attest to this. The interesting thing is that I sell a lot of copies in the West, particularly the UK and the USA. Not so much in India. Does our bias carry over to the book? I wonder.

The manuscript of Tell A Thousand Lies was shortlisted for the 2012 Tibor Jones South Asia prize. I even had a publication contract. Why, then, did I choose to self-publish?

A lot of successful authors, almost all based in the West, were doing it, and doing it well. The fact that the success, or failure, of the book would depend entirely on me also appealed.

On a different note, there is a lot of misperception about how book marketing and promotion work. A lot of writers tell me that they are looking for traditional contracts because they want publisher backing for marketing and promotion. And I tell them that unless they are Chetan Bhagat or Amish Tripathy, they can pretty much expect to do their own marketing and promotion - including seeking reviews and paying (or sharing costs, if they’re lucky) for the book launch. I figured if I was going to have to do all of this anyway, I might as well do it on my terms.

Amazon was a natural choice for self-publishing my book because it is a retailer with a huge reach. Even though Tell A Thousand Lies is available for sale on various platforms, Amazon is still where I sell the most. And, at 70%, the royalties are not shabby, either.
If you’d like to know more about self-publishing, you can check out my blog post: http://rasanaatreya.wordpress.com/self-publishing-basics/


Rasana Atreya is the author of Amazon bestseller Tell A Thousand Lies. She is also the mother of six-year old author Aamani Gurajada, and her illustrator-brother Sunaad Gurajada. Their book is called The Mosquito and the Teapot. She blogs at http://rasanaatreya.wordpress.com


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