"The world needs more storytellers, and that's the principle Timeline Publishers work on," says Akhil. While that might sound like the standard spiel of most publishing houses, it sounds entirely different coming from a student in the third year of his Engineering degree in Kerala.
It gets even more interesting when you hear that Akhil’s partners in this cause are Hisham, a techie from Bengaluru and Midlajj, a short story writer from Kannur, and that the trio met on Twitter.
The three-member team recently started Timeline Publishers to promote new writers and the concept of self-publishing. And their first collection of 11 short stories, titled Neelachumaru (The Blue Wall), is set to be released on Saturday at Chai Cofi in Kochi.
From tweeting to publishing
The journey that Neelachumaru and Timeline Publishers took from 140-character conversations on Twitter to the world of paper and ink is an exciting story of its own.
It was a common interest in politics, travel and literature, that bonded Akhil, Hisham and Midlajj four years ago on Twitter. Soon, RTs and comments paved way for more detailed discussions on a variety of topics.
25-year-old Hisham, a techie who works in Bengaluru, tells The News Minute that a tweet from Akhil in June last year marked the beginning of Timeline Publishers.
"All the three of us were individually planning to go on a North-India tour and Akhil's tweet that he was going on one came at the right time. Midlaj and I joined him and we made a three-week long journey covering most of the states in the north," Hisham says.
Along the way, the trio talked about everything under the sun, eventually stopping on literature and writing, Akhil chimes in.
The resistance Midlajj faced from publishers while trying to get his book of short stories out then became the centre of the discussion, and brought the trio around to the idea of starting a platform for new writers.
"The world needs more writers but freshers most often end up facing resistance from the publishing world. It’s either the cost or the unending waiting period that prevents them from getting a platform to get their work published. And then they get limited to blogging alone," Akhil says.
The trio launched Timeline Publishers in August last year to bridge this gap.
Getting the works of new writers published in a cost effective manner is what the firm aims to do, explains Akhil. One of the firm’s key principles is also that the royalty for each work lies completely with the author, he points out.
Born from a Twitter group, it was only natural for the book to be called Neelachumaru, after the familiar colour scheme of the micro-blogging platform. The 100-page book features short stories from 11 new writers.
Unsurprisingly, the contributions to the book also came through Twitter.
"Entries from Twitter users were called for and in two months' time, we had nearly 200 entries. After shortlisting 50 of them, we entrusted them to three renowned authors to shortlist the final 11 short stories that would go into the book," Hisham explains.
How it all works out
The team says that the entire cost of setting up the firm and printing has been met with personal contributions and support from their circle of friends. At every stage, their friends pitched in to help the venture.
"The cover page of the book has been designed by a friend. Same is the case with our website. We have now associated with H&C books and Mathrubhumi books to get our books distributed," Akhil says.
In the long run, Timeline publishers also hopes to set up a book cafe. The firm has already signed on International Chalu Union (ICU), an online community that publishes internet memes, to work on a coffee table book.
Director Jibu Jacob will release the book on Saturday. You can order the book here.