The meeting with Nikhil Sharda was definitely a special one. Nikhil, Managing Editor of eFiction India has been a wonderful host, as the meeting took place at his home. eFiction India is an online fiction magazine available for subscription from the FictionMagazines website. eFiction India is a literary magazine with rich content from writers and artists from all over India and abroad. It is a very special addition to the growing online reading space in our country. With close to 10,000 paid subscribers in less than a year of inception, eFiction India has already set the trend. Nikhil has some very innovative ideas and he has set some unique policies in place in terms of the management and operation of the magazine.
In our meeting with Nikhil which happened over beer and some amazing mutton delicacy cooked by Nikhil’s wife Sakshi, he talks about eFcition India, his work, his vision and lots more.
I was in the 10th standard when Doug Lance and I used to write for a website called writerscafe.org – it’s still there, but back then it had just started. Doug is the founder of eFiction Publishing and FictionMagazines.com. We both were completely new writers and we started talking. He had an idea of this huge fiction magazine kind of a thing – where every genre would have a magazine and every country would have a magazine in different languages. He proposed that I start a magazine in India as well. But at that time, online magazines or even online reading in India was not there at all. The concept of people buying something online in India was not there at all. So I figured it wouldn’t work out then. Last year, after so many years he said it again that why not we start it now, as people are now buying online, Amazon has come to India – people are buying Nook and Kindle. I thought let’s see how it would go and we started out. Every magazine on FictionMagazines follows a particular style. eFiction India is house style. So I got some people together that I knew who write to start off with me. Now these have become my editors.
It is my policy with eFiction India that if a famous author or writer wants to write for eFiction India, he/she will not be entertained. Our magazine is not for famous people – it is for normal people to get famous. That’s the basic idea behind it. What happens normally is that when a magazine starts off, it starts with unknown people, and then known people jump in which more often than not results in the unknown people getting neglected. So we made it a standard procedure to never let that happen. Even if it means a lot of money or something of that sort, it will not happen. And this thing has caught on. People are happy that their place in the magazine is secure as a writer.
The eFiction way of work:
When you write to a publication as a writer, they don’t get back to you. So if you submit an article to a major publication daily, you’d never know whether it was published or not. And if published, even then you’d not know when was it published unless you call them up or go to their office and find it out yourself. And if they don’t publish your article, they won’t say why. These are the two things that bothered me as a writer. And with eFiction India, I’ve resolved these issues. I am in touch with all my editors via email or chat. I’ve given them my BBM pin and told them that even if it’s 3 in the morning and you don’t know what’s happening – ping me! So the relation between the publisher and the writer is very strong here. Also, as a reader of eFiction India you can ask me to join the editorial board. And I will give you a secure password and you become the editor and help us out. The reader becomes the editor. It’s a community based thing, you know.
And product wise, we also have a POD (Print on Demand) option. If you order a copy of eFiction India in print, we print it for you and get it delivered at your doorstep. The whole process takes about 10 days after the order is placed. For the online version we are there on Barns & Noble, Infibeam, Flipkart, etc. apart from obviously the FictionMagazines website.
We are also doing a very exciting thing lately. We are converting the poems sent to us into full fledged songs. Some of them are there on our YouTube Channel. This is a one-of-a-kind initiative. And we are very excited about it. And the fun has just begun. We are working hard to make it a success over the time to come.
We already have our own domain for eFiction India which we will be launching soon. FictionMagazines uses a payment gateway called PayPal. The RBI in India has a regulation against PayPal to receive money from foreign countries. So for me, selling on the website has become a problem. So, the people who don’t have an international credit or debit card can’t buy the magazine. I have not yet received any complaints for buying, but I’m sure it’ll come. So we will be launching eFiciton India on our new domain which will have domestic payment gateways. eFiction India is huge in comparison to the other magazines on FictionMagazines. Now, 60% of the people that come to the site are Indians. So we require space. We need our own website. Also, there is confusion between eFiction and eFiciton India. eFiction India is in Indian context – names of Indian cities are mentioned, common Hindi words like chai(tea) being mentioned maybe. So it is imperative that we have our own website now.
We are also going to start a radio show very soon. It’ll be a podcast on iTunes dedicated to literature. No music, nothing at all. We’ll just be talking about literature. You can call up and talk about literature or tell your story on live radio. We want to see how it goes. It will initially be free for a year maybe, and then if it catches on we will put it along with the subscription for the magazine. When someone buys the magazine, he/she would get the subscription for the podcast along with it. We are also making an audio version of the magazine for blind people, schools and institutions for the blind.
Online Reading in India:
Reading online in India has not caught on much. What has caught on is audio – audio books and animated videos. Video book trailers are catching on. Most people don’t sit in the computer and read. I have got feedback from people that when they get the magazine, the e-version, they take print-outs of it and they read the print-outs when they have time. People do buy online and want something physical to hold. Buying of virtual commodity has not caught on much in India, but it is in a transitional phase, I suppose.
There’s a supplementary magazine that we offer for free download on the site that people can read in leisure. In India a lot of people download that magazine. But in countries like the US, UK and Australia, it’s the completely opposite – they don’t even download the free supplement, but they buy the main magazine. So I did a short survey to understand this particular problem that I was facing, because I’d like a lot more Indians to buy the magazine. In the west and developed countries, they feel if they’re paying for something, it’s worth it. A free download would probably be a sub-standard thing or could even be a virus. So as I said, things are catching up, market is changing and people are buying the magazine. We look forward to great things!
As the Indian consumer moves online to fulfill their reading needs with a plethora of blogs at their disposal, it’ll be interesting to see how a pay-for-subscription high-quality online literary work is received by the masses. We, at LifeBeyondNumbers, wish Nikhil Sharda and eFiction India great successes in the times to come.