Everything else.. The Ins and Outs of Publishing a Book in Sri Lanka

The Ins and Outs of Publishing a Book in Sri Lanka

2021 May 10

Understanding where and how to publish a book is fundamental to any author, be it amateur or professional. As daunting as the task may be, there are several avenues in Sri Lanka to get your piece of writing published depending on your budget, time and personal preference. The whole concept of publishing involves a nuanced and patient process that comes with its own set of perks and perils, whether it be directly through a publishing house, through self-publishing or through a digital platform.

Sri Lankan author Vihanga Perera, an active and well-established writer in the genres of fiction, poetry, biography and memoirs, recalls his own personal experience through the publication process and suggests different ways you could go about publishing a book as a Sri Lankan author.

Taking a more traditional route

Writing a manuscript is only the first step, and many tend to misconstrue the time, effort and energy required after the writing process. This is where a publishing house comes into play. Essentially, traditional in-house publishing follows a clear-cut process whereby the publisher offers a contract. This generally entails buying the rights to publish the book, and also paying a fixed percentage of royalties to the author based on the sales made.  

“They have an in-built system through which your work is channelled, and that’s how the final product comes out. Starting from commissioning agents to editors to proofreaders, people giving you feedback on the work, to the physical printing of the work, it’s pretty much well set”, Perera said.

In some instances, he notes that it is about pitching something that appeals to the editorial tastebuds of the big fish and knowing what sort of content will get published in Sri Lanka. With certain publishing houses, it can often be a hit or a miss.

Nevertheless, working with a publishing house would leave the stress of having to work out the logistics, finances and technical aspects of physically printing the end product. It saves you time and energy as you are placing your trust in those that are designated professionals in the arena.

Here are some of the established publishing houses in Sri Lanka that you could delve into:

Perera Hussein Publishing House

Contact number: 0114 858 972
Instagram: @pererahussein

Wasana Book Publishers

Contact number: 0317 212 979

Tikiri Publishers

Contact number: 0777 997 774

Self-publishing can be just as effective. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Self-Publishing, as the name suggests, offers total autonomy and control. Even if you have no prior experience, are a first-timer, and have no concrete step-by-step knowledge on the fundamental processes that self-publishing entails, it is most definitely a method that has garnered much attention in recent years.

Perera has first-hand experience with self-publishing, having started out as a young writer who wanted total autonomy and less interference with his publishing process. One mechanism that he suggests through this often intimidating process is to create a formula for yourself. His current approach follows; re-writing the manuscript, having a compatible editorial team with you, coordinating with a printer that works for you, working alongside their technical team and then at the post-production stage, dealing with bookshops.

“I would actually share some of my writing with people I know can give me the kind of feedback I can move forward with. So that is my hand-picked editorial team. And then I would once again go back to the drawing board and work through the manuscript a few more times”, he said.

Unlike traditional, standard publishing, self-publishing requires a hefty initial investment as you would have to bear the brunt of editing, layouts, design, cover, printing, and distribution via contacting individual bookstores and so on. You are essentially replicating a system that a conventional publishing house might have and finding a home-grown structure that is catered for your preferences.

Today, self-publishing is not simply seen as a last-ditch attempt or an ‘alternative’. It has evolved into a method that is very much effective to authors both globally and locally. The stigma that authors who self-publish are amateur and not professional is often misguided. For those of you who are considering self-publishing, take it from an author who already has years of experience, it is definitely a path to consider.

Following the digital frenzy

Sri Lanka has been part and parcel in embracing the growing and fast-paced digital culture. The opportunities of engaging with a wider and more diverse range of audiences have become easier with the introduction of e-books.

There are a plethora of sites to publish your book online:

Kindle Direct Publishing – Owned by Amazon, it allows you to publish your e-books that can be read on Kindle devices or on the Kindle app.

Barnes and Noble Press – Known as NOOK Press, it offers free services to help you publish your book online or on print.

Lulu – Offers a complete guide on creating perfectly formatted e-books.

Perera goes on to note that in terms of prestige and acceptance, especially in a country like Sri Lanka, the physical product carries some weight. Yet, it can be a good way to test the waters and gauge your potential before investing a lot in a conventional publication. There are many writers in Sri Lanka who in recent years have published their work digitally before publishing their work physically.

Publishing your book online follows a much simpler process and does not require a tech-savvy professional, so anyone can do it in just a few simple clicks.

Now more than ever, the opportunity to write, express and share has become accessible to all, with new methods of publishing leaving you with options to gauge the right fit for you as a Sri Lankan author.