Goa-based CinnamonTeal (http://www.cinnamonteal.in/) founded by Leonard Fernandes and his wife Queenie Fernandes, is India's premier self-publishing house; with comprehensive services from editing, book cover design and printing. In 2010 CinnamonTeal won the Young Creative Entrepreneur award from the British Council.
CinnamonTeal brings Print-On-Demand technology to the table, making it easier to bring out a book, and not worry about inventory. They have a tie up with online bookstores, and take world-wide orders. The secret behind their success has been passion and innovation - this is what drives them to take great risks and forge ahead in such a shaky industry. Here's a wonderful chat with Leo.
Can you tell us about CinnamonTeal and all its associated services?
Leo: CinnamonTeal publishing provides the following services:
a. Pre-press services: including copy and substantive editing, cover design, illustrations, typesetting, typing and indexing
b. Printing (both, on-demand and offset)
c. Post-press services: including distribution through physical and online bookstores (with global order fulfillment options)
d. Ebook development: for EPUB, MOBI and PDF/A formats
e. Digitization and retouching for old books and manuscripts
f. Development of website and other marketing collateral for authors
You were into IT & Consulting. It must’ve been a huge risk getting into an offbeat business. Tell us more about your journey.
Leo: After completing my MBA at The Ohio State University, I wanted to return to India and start a business of my own. Queenie and I (she was in the UK and we were still not married) brainstormed a bit and came with the idea of having an online bookstore for used books. Thus dogearsetc.com was born in 2006. Consequently many of our authors approached us to publish their books and hence we decided to launch CinnamonTeal Publishing in August 2007.
In hindsight, what happened was a natural progression.At that moment it just seemed like the correct thing to do so we did it. It became difficult to pay the bills initially so we worked out of home to save costs and took up teaching jobs on the side.
Why did you choose self-publishing business model? What were the challenges in setting up a traditional publishing house, or even a literary agency?
Leo: When authors approached us to publish their books, we wondered why they would do so when there were statistics that said that about 16000 odd publishers operated in India. We tried to understand what authors were looking for and realised that they craved for more than what was derisively called “vanity publishing”. They actually wanted more control in their hands - control over the appearance of the book, its pricing and its availability in stores. We realised that a POD-based self-publishing model achieved all that.
At around the same time, Lulu was making it in the news as an efficient and successful self-publishing model. We decided to replicate it in India. We found editors and designers to work with but finding a printer who could deliver on the POD model with consistency in quality proved to be difficult. It took us around 5-6 months to find such a printer and we have worked together ever since!
Since the self-publishing model came in response to author queries, we never considered any alternate model. In hindsight, any other model may not have worked for us, cash-starved as we were.
Do you think the traditional publishing houses do not address a certain market – say genre fiction, poetry, regional languages etc – and this is where companies like CinnamonTeal step in?
Leo: I think traditional publishing houses play it safe as far as genres go. They like to go by what is tried and tested - rather their perception of what may and what may not work in the market. In that sense, the self-publishing model works well because the author, having put in his or her money into the book, will be more eager to see it work and perhaps work harder towards the success of the book. Along the way, the author will need some help and expertise, like with typesetting or cover design, for example, and that is where companies like CinnamonTeal come in.
You have quite a few foreign authors as clients; they prefer you over Amazon or Lulu. What are your differentiators?
Leo: The obvious differentiator is cost - especially for pre-press services such as cover design and typesetting. But cost is a finicky differentiator as anyone with lower costs can upset your cart. So we have consciously tried to develop more differentiators. Like our customer engagement, for example, that ensures that all their concerns are addressed. We also do not offer package-based services and this flexibility to accommodate client demands have particularly endeared us to many clients. For example, there was this man from the US who wanted his book packed in a golden box with loose sheets and a pencil. That is something no Amazon or Lulu would do because they do not have a package for it.