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Self-help books: Hooking the Unhooked

Self help and motivational books have emerged the largest sellers in the category of general books.

india Updated: Sep 27, 2006 13:48 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India

They promise nirvana from lifting sagging spirits to working you way around a mean boss, tips on dealing with pesky in-laws to anger management and even talking smart at a social do. Self help and motivational books have emerged the largest sellers in the category of general books.

They contribute nearly 30-40 per cent of sales in the mass market category that is books other than fiction and text or technical books, says Shobit Arya of Wisdom Tree.

They are primarily targetted at those between 18-35 because it's the age when people are willing to change but also the time when lethargy just begins to set in as does the need to conflict between the material and spiritual, he explains.

Talking about their popularity, Renu Kaul Verma of Vitasta says, "We live in competitive times with few role models and these books act as leaders whom people can follow." Books dealing with ways and means to work one's way up the corporate ladder or dealing with work related stress are hotsellers, she adds.

Essentially a trend popularised in the West by Dale Carniege through How to win Friends and Influence People, in India it was Shiv Khera's successful You can Win that created a buzz around the category with a lot of Indian authors jumping into the fray.

Shamshir Rai Luthra, popular radio personality and author of

Talk to Win

quips "I think the West is too much into copywriting a suggestion they make in their book while Indians are into copying everything the West says," he says.

Ultimately, the idea of a self-help book is that you never have to read another again says Arya. " These books are selfless in a way that they lead you onto to a certain path."

Agrees Luthra, while confessing "self-help books may compress years of learning in a comprehensive form, but don't expect them to give away trade secrets."

So how important is it for the author to be well known for him to write a self book? " Well a known author certainly helps," says Kaul

In fact she confesses that this is perhaps the only category that doesn't require marketing muscle. Says Luthra " It's a goldmine for publishers because it's a passive income."

However, Arya feels that ultimately content is the king and as a category, it survives on buzz. In this direction his publishing house has come up the novel idea of preview booklets which provides a brief on the author along with a few chapters of the book.

But why do all these books typically follow the anecdote-elaboration-summary route? " Lazy thinking, " argues Luthra. Kaul agrees and says that the books are so popular that publishers don't feel the need to innovate.

So what is the author's motive behind a self-help book ? " Itis about reachability. In person I can touch base with a few but through my book I can help many reach realise their potential," says Luthra.

As Choudhary says, "There are two kinds of advice - moralistic and Machiavellian. Those who follow the former will never succeed, those who follow the latter will rise fast but thier fall is inevitable. A self-help book puts you on the path of wisdom and creativity."

First Published: Sep 26, 2006 15:43 IST