Flipping through the pages with Chetan Soni
When a person decides to write a book, getting the right publisher without hassles by far is the toughest job before him. Taking note of this dilemma, Half Baked Beans, a unique book publishing startup, was born, which saw an opportunity to bring such stories conveniently. Team Storiyaan talked with ChetanSoni, The Founder of Half Baked Beans, which happens to be an innovative publishing house that has bagged wonders in setting themselves apart from a traditional publishing house.
Read his interview to know about Half Baked Beans, his work, and life experiences as he turns pages from the book of his life.
Questions and answers
Firstly, let us start the interview by talking about your early years. What kind of equation do you share with your parents and sibling?
I grew up in a town called Saharanpur in U.P. I was the youngest child among two elder sisters, which resulted in a lot of pampering and love from my family. So, I had a typical 90’s middle-class childhood. My parents have always been supportive. They take pride in the fact that they focused on educating their children.
My sisters were protective of me in my early years. But I feel that I grew up when my eldest sister got married, and the other one moved out for college. After that, I had to take care of myself.
The name – 'Half Baked Beans' is catchy and innovative. How did you come up with that name, and is there any story behind it?
One day, a friend of mine and I were brainstorming on names, and he came up with the name – ‘Half Baked Beans.’ I shrugged the idea but gave it a thought later. I felt that it sounded cool and represented our motto of guiding upcoming writers and baking their ideas into books.
What kind of roadblocks did you experience in the initial years before HBB achieved the status of one of the fastest-growing publishing houses?
I can’t comment whether we have grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years, but I agree that there were issues in the beginning. There were a lot of formalities involved in registering a startup and setting up distribution channels. Gaining the confidence of the vendors and forming a community of readers and scouting talented writers were challenging. We made a lot of mistakes, but our team took it in stride.
Assuming a new writer wishes to publish their work with no prior knowledge on how a publishing world works, how would you summarize the publishing process for them when such a person comes to ask your advice?
Every publishing house has a different working mechanism. All publishers follow the first step. Apart from the profile, the author has to submit a detailed synopsis, sample chapters of the book, along with a cover letter. The subsequent procedures differ from one company to another. So we always advise newbie authors to look at each publishing house’s process before applying and have a vision of what they want to achieve from the book.
What kind of manuscript has the potential of being published in your publishing house? Do you look for particular elements?
As long as the manuscript has good language, it stands a chance on getting published. Apart from that, we look for the novelty of the idea and genre. As an author-centric publisher, it always helps if the author is aware of the intricacies of publishing.
Half Baked Beans is a partner publishing house. The concept is new and pretty vague. Can you shed some light on it?
Initially, there were two formats of publishing, i.e., i) Traditional and ii) Vanity. Due to the passage of time, the concept of self-publishing emerged, but that took a different turn when many publishing houses started offering packages of the same. Technically an author does not require a publisher if he/she wants to opt for self-publishing.
In partner publishing, we go through the proposals that have come our way and offer a contract based on that. We do reject manuscripts even if the author is willing to pay. Customized packages are also provided for authors so that we are invested in them, and the book reaches the right target audience. Since we publish a limited number of books, partner publishing helps us maintain the quality factor.
Half Baked Beans is revolutionizing the Indian literature, primarily through customized marketing services. How do you react when the publishing house finds mention in leading dailies and online mediums?
It’s pleasant, to be honest. It’s not often that a writer or a publishing house finds a mention in leading online and print media. This is one of the reasons why I think HBB is a cool publishing house.
How would you describe a day in the HBB office before the Covid-19 Pandemic and after it made its presence felt?
The team had been working from home for two years. So, it did not affect our organization in comparison with others. There were some issues as each of us had to strike a balance between work and household chores, but we somehow managed.
Scrolling through your timeline, it is evident that you are a pop-culture enthusiast. What are some of your favorite films, and why?
The films that feature on the top of my list are The Dark Knight, Scarface, Sholay,Agneepath, and The Departed. But after a point of time, I stopped maintaining a listicle because, to be honest, there are too many.
9. You are also the co-founder of startups like 'Green Rock' and 'The Big Bang Trip.' Do you have plans on starting another venture? If yes, what will it be about?
I am not sure if they would fall under the category of startups per se. There are no plans as such, but I keep looking for inspiration.
A particular one-liner of yours that caught our attention was, 'The key to a good life is knowing less.' Any particular incident in life that made you conclude that?
Probably, my experiences in life made me pen down that phrase. I feel that, at times, being less aware is good for our mental well-being. With so much toxicity and misinformation around, consuming content of such kind can prove to be harmful to the mind.
11. The Big Bang Trip curated many interesting trips. What qualities did you look for in a person to select them for the journeys?
When we started TBBT in the year 2015,
people would get very surprised by the idea of traveling with a bunch of strangers. The first thing we looked in a person was individuality as we were looking for people having diverse personalities accompanying us for the trip. That added to the fun. The main objective was to explore oneself on a road trip. It was essential for us that the fellow travelers needed to be open to possibilities.
What are some of the upcoming HBB releases? We understand that you can't reveal about the genre. But can you tell us something about the authors?
Some book releases were delayed this year, but from July, we will be listing the paperback editions on Amazon. Speaking about the authors who have written them, they comprise an engineer based in abroad, a retired teacher, and a government employee.
What changes would you like to incorporate in your organization in the future?
Become self-reliant. There should be this zeal to execute your ideas within the organization.
•One word that describes your team the best– Empathetic
• Favorite Food-Biriyani
• Favorite Travel Destination– Goa
• Favourite Book– ‘Kane and Abel’ by Jeffrey Archer
• Three words that you would use to describe your roommate–
Kind, Responsible and Patient