My Jakarta: Bagas Sugiharto, Publisher
Publishers and writers rely on each other, but sometimes even talented authors are unable to get their manuscripts published. This can be because the publisher doesn’t think the book will sell, the author isn’t famous, the timing isn’t right and so on.
Bagas Sugiharto recognized this and had an idea: why not set up a publishing company so that authors who would not usually see their work in print could produce books? The result — Indonesia Self-Publishing — has gone from strength to strength, allowing authors to publish even single copies of their manuscripts. He talked to the Jakarta Globe about his nonprofit venture.
Tell us, how did you get into the self-publishing business?
First, I myself love to write and I’m still writing books about general self-enrichment. After spending quite some time in the industry, I feel that I had been quite exposed to the A to Z of publishing, starting from the manuscript to production and sales. So it just hit me that everyone can basically have any of their books published and sell them themselves or through others.
But self-publishing for me is not just about making a profit. It’s about sharing the creative experience of seeing how your own work can become a book. Because the experience of reading a physical book can never be replaced by an e-book.
What if doesn’t sell? Surely there’s a high risk of that happening?
In my opinion, a novice writer certainly has a much greater motivation to work, although the results may not be sellable, let alone best-selling. Many of these writers publish only for their communities and sell only to a small circle.
I believe first that it’s the satisfaction of seeing your own work in book form. To have that sense of completion. Other accomplished writers cannot share that feeling with you so you have to experience it yourself.
So you publish this for yourself and then have it read by other people for their opinions and input for your next project. And for this, you don’t need to wait for any publishers to give you that opportunity. Only then do you have to think about the profit and the sales.
But don’t you lose money if the book doesn’t sell?
Well, we as the publishers don’t receive any profit here. So the cost-benefit analysis really depends on the writers themselves. This is why they always have a problem in determining the selling price. To have your writing published as a quality book that you might find in a bookstore, yet only in a small quantity, the production cost is certainly higher. Yet, if eventually your book does sell, then the profit goes entirely to you.
Do you handle large-scale publishing also?
Yes, we handle both small- and large-scale publishing. We can print as few copies as you want and tailor them to your needs. And if the printing job is on a large scale, we use printing machines like any other publisher. But for big jobs we usually cooperate with a printing company so that the price can be further reduced.
Do you provide the option to use environmentally friendly paper? If so, is it much more expensive?
Yes, of course. Along with the increasing awareness of the environment, many of my friends are choosing the type of paper that is now commonly referred to as “book paper.” It is thicker, so you won’t strain your eyes reading a book made from it, although it’s a bit more expensive. It’s thicker, but overall it makes the book lighter.
Have you had any annoying clients who demanded too much from you?
It’s quite a common thing. Usually it arises because their overall expectations are way too high, thus, the initial explanation of what I can do is crucial. A few people still need to understand that the spirit of this business is to share the opportunity to ultimately gain satisfaction as a writer. I edit the raw manuscript into a book that is ready for sale.
We always talk about this every time at the beginning of our cooperation, as well as the risks that may follow. Thus, most of my clients know what to expect. They can then decide to say yes or no.
Do you have any plans to expand your business?
My wish is that not only will my own business expand, but that the self-publishing industry at large will as well. Self-publishing can be done by anyone, encouraging more people to work as writers. Great ideas must come from people who dream, and books are one means of spreading dreams.
Bagas Sugiharto was talking to Ecep Heryadi.