Creating a best-seller: Just a fluke or a clever marketing ploy?

  • KumKum Dasgupta, Hindustan Times, Jaipur
  • Updated: Jan 24, 2016 20:28 IST
From left: Jai Arjun Singh, Ravi Subramanian, Ravinder Singh and Anuja Chauhan during the session The Craft of the Best seller at the Jaipur Literature 2016, in Jaipur, on Saturday. (Sanjeev Verma/HT Photo )

In an entertaining session on Saturday, attended by a large number of young readers and wannabe authors, three popular authors -- Ravi Subramanian, Anuja Chauhan and Ravinder Singh -- spoke about best-sellers and about whether the creation of one is a fluke, a clever marketing ploy, or the confluence of market demands and credible narrative.

“They are a part of a movement of writers that are changing the goalposts of India’s publishing industry,” said author Jai Arjun Singh, who moderated the session.

While each of the three authors has different parameters on what qualifies as a best-seller, they agreed on two points: There is no foolproof formula for writing a best-seller, and a book can be labelled a best-seller only if it sells and readers love it.

“My understanding is that a book becomes a best seller only when it is pirated, sold on footpaths and at traffic lights,” said engineer and MBA Ravinder Singh whose debut novel I Too Had a Love Story rewrote Indian publishing records.

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Revenue for the publisher, the book’s longevity and the buzz around it all featured in IIM Bangalore alumnus and banker Ravi Subramanian’s definition of a best-seller.

On the question of whether authors should get involved in marketing their books, “author by chance” Singh said that he looks at himself as an entrepreneur and of publishers as venture capitalists. “I don’t feel ashamed to use social media to promote my book… I will even go ahead and sponsor posts,” he said.

Subramanian said that he has done many “shameless things like going into a store and putting my book in the front row”. “An author is the CEO of a company. S/he needs to take charge. A book is a package so I like getting involved in every part of the process…Jo dikhta hai who bikta hai,” he added.

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Anuja Chauhan, often described as a “literary pop-star of our time”, agreed that promotion is necessary. “But so is genuine feedback. Even when a book is shortlisted for a prize, that’s also self-promotion,” she said.

Much to the delight of the audience, all three had plenty of writing tips for emerging authors: Don’t copy trends but write about an area you know best, follow your heart, and don’t think about marketing but “write the damn book first”.

For more JLF 2016 stories click here.

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