Controversy pays in the book industry, especially if it involves characters in Delhi’s high-politics in the heat of election season.
The latest author to prove this is PM Manmohan Singh’s former aide Sanjaya Baru, whose book has sold out in Delhi, less than three days after its release on Friday.
The book –The Accidental Prime Minister: Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh – kicked up a political storm, claiming the PM was ‘defanged’ after the 2009 polls with Congress president Sonia Gandhi deciding cabinet portfolios against Singh’s wishes.
HT on Monday asked about half a dozen book stores in the Capital whether the book was available with them. The uniform answer was no since all copies of the book had reportedly been sold within a day. Most booksellers felt the high demand was fuelled by the political controversy generated in the media.
“All the books have been sold out,” said Ashutosh, an employee of Jain Book Store in Connaught Place.
“The media coverage of the book and its timing are the reasons behind its high demand,” he added.
All copies on the book were sold out on the online retailer Flipkart as well. Amazon, however, had some copies of the book for sale. The timing and coverage of the book were part of a clever strategy by the publisher. Baru had originally wanted to publish the book after the elections to ‘avoid embarrassing the PM’.
But his publisher, Penguin, felt the interest in Singh would diminish afterwards and the best time to kick-up a storm and thereby generate higher sales and visibility would be during the polls, sources said.
The gamble paid off and both the publisher and the author are smiling all the way to the bank.
Caroline Newbury, vice president of marketing and corporate communications, Penguin-Random House India, told HT, “We are delighted with the sales and a reprint will hit stores on Wednesday.” While she refused to disclose the number of initial copies, publishing industry sources estimated it around 5,000.
The small number of initial copies, however, angered retailers, who have sought more copies but haven’t heard on when the new batch of copies would be dispatched. Booksellers believe this was ‘poor management’ on Penguin’s part.