While the portal stresses on quality, no writer is turned away

A virtual space where every writer in a South Indian language is welcome
Features Publishing App Friday, May 13, 2016 - 20:35

For 9-year-old Prakalpa, who wrote verses between classes, having strangers read and relish her poetry was something she’d never dreamed of. Meanwhile nothing in the world could give 75-year-old CNV Nair more happiness than to publish handwritten scripts of his radio drama from the 1970s. 

Kochi-based virtual publishing house Valmeeki, a platform to showcase emerging writers, came to their aid, as it did for 300 other writers in the vernacular space.

The virtual publication start-up was founded in August 2014 by four entrepreneurs based out of Kerala. In July 2015, it was digitised into an app, and boasts of around 300 self-published titles in Malayalam, Kannada and Indian English.

“As odd as it sounds, the idea of creating a virtual writing space, struck me, when I was travelling in a train,” says Kuruvilla Chacko, Managing Director of Valmeeki. “It was a long ride and all I wanted to do was to read a good book. That is when I looked at the passengers in front of me, buried in their phones, and the simplicity of virtual publishing dawned on me,” he explains.

A travel writer himself, Kuruvilla Chacko met co-founders Vishnu, Suhair and Vishnu Unnithan, at an NGO, with whom he went on to formulate the endeavour.

While Valmeeki started off with just 10 writers, its application has now seen over 15,000 downloads in just 10 months. “Barging into writers’ groups and conferences, we started off our venture by scouting for emerging writers,” says Kuruvilla. Eventually, word of the portal began to spread.

While the portal stresses on quality writing, no writer is ever turned away. “Though we grade their work based on content, no writer is ever rejected. That would go against the very ideation of Valmeeki,” explains Kuruvilla.

Covering a wide range of genres from non-fiction to movie scripts, the app allows writers to get their work published free of cost, and also receive a royalty of 50 per cent for those books sold online. About 70 per cent of their shelves, however, are filled with alternative or experimental literature.

“We promote and market the work of struggling writers with original work, which resonates with the regional crowd. We wanted to connect these writers to the digital audience,” says Kuruvilla.

With short stories getting read most on their app, Valmeeki suggests concise writing, limiting material to 70 pages. “One of our most popular reads has been that of Arun Nair’s, a story spinning around the fanaticism of elephant clubs in the Kerala. Readers usually take to short stories very fondly,” adds Kuruvilla.  

Having a strong readership for Malayalam (250 titles) and Kannada (30 titles) authors, Valmeeki now plans to rope in writers writing in Tamil, Hindi, Marathi and Telugu in the next few months. “We are also looking to create an interface between directors and emerging script writers,” Kuruvilla adds.

While one of the scripts, published in the app is expected to be made into a film, renowned Indian scriptwriter TA Razzaq has apparently shown an interest in publishing one of his works with Valmeeki.

“We also have plans of expanding our firm to digitise established writings too. However, it would be a very small section, as our focus would stay put on the struggling writers,” says Kuruvilla.

 

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