A friend of mine wrote a great book about a man who gets trapped in a city of ghosts. Not vampires, ghosts. It was an interesting story, well written, but he had a problem finding a publisher. One of them said he should include a sex scene in it. With a ghost. Like necrophilia be damned, let’s fuck around in the twilight zone.
After much waiting, he landed a publisher. Payment, only one lakh rupees. “That’s quite less, don’t you think,” I asked. He stared at me and said, “I didn’t receive. I paid.” I stared back. He waited till I was done expressing my shock and then said it was industry practice. To cover reading and printing costs.
The book tanked. Inspite of a ghostly blowjob in the barn. For three months after the ‘official launch’ of the book, attended by ‘friends and family’, the book was like a ghost in bookstores. Invisible. When the publisher was confronted, he blamed my friend for lack of marketing. When we asked him what exactly his part of the bargain was, he said he couldn’t possibly ‘invest’ in all the titles he published. We fought. And we lost. My friend had signed on the dotted line (publishing contract) which precluded the publisher from all acts of grace. “How can you not read the contract? You’re a writer,” I later told him. He shrugged his shoulders. "I was too happy it was going in print," he said softly.
Anyway, that little incident opened our eyes. We started observing the publishing world minutely. And we realized that a bestseller book is made of two words. Bestseller + Book. By merely writing, all you’ll have is a book. In order for it to be a bestseller, it needs a whole lot more.
And so we made a list of things you MUST do to be featured on the cover of TIME magazine for your writing. The Seven Commandments, we call it. And they’re:
1. Get money:
If you can’t get past this hurdle, don’t bother reading further. Publishing is trade, not art. And to ply it smoothly, successfully, you’ll need money. It doesn't matter whether you get an angel to invest in you, or a devil to screw and pay you. Whatever you do, get the money lined up, before you write the first line of your novel.
2. Get PR:
"Be in the eye till you hurt like a sty."
It’s simple. If they know you, they’ll pick your book. It’s the Salman Khan syndrome. What you create is incidental. Who you are is important.
What can you do to be in the eye?
Get sexy: If you’re a guy, get those abs, get a portfolio, and get featured in GQ. Pay to get featured in GQ. If you’re a girl, speak to Poonam Pandey. And then go the less cheesy way. Or more, depending on how high you want the book to rise. Remember, Sunny Leone is an actress in this country, so anything goes.
Get intellectual: Have an opinion. On everything. Usually side with Arnab Goswami so that you become his regular on the Random Debate. Rant. Everywhere. On Social. In newspaper columns. Pick fights. They don’t have to be intelligent. Side with the rebels. Become their voice. No, impose yourself as their voice even when the rebels rebel against you and say you're not.
A helpful tip: Rebels=Young India=cliche=#workseveryfuckingtime.
Get on Times of India front page. And make flipkart pay for it.
3. Get visible:
The book has to be everywhere. Every bookstore. Every online store. But that’s not all. It has to be visible. It needs a ‘Face up’ as against a ‘spine up’. Ensure there's a mountain of it. A river, lake, pond, anything really.
It needs to be on the bestseller. Even if you’ve bought your way to it. And believe me, you’ll have to buy up a lot of these spaces.
4. Give Speeches:
That’s the latest. Give talks on TED. Become a youtube sensation. You won’t on your own, so you’ll have to buy clicks. There are click farms in Dhaka which your PR will know. If they don’t, fire them. They’re no good. Talk bullshit in your speech, but talk assertively. Here’s an idea. Read out this post.
5. Create a Hate Wave:
That’s easier to create than a ‘love wave’. For love wave you need seriously good shit like A Suitable Boy. For a hate wave, you just need to pack your real shit in softcover.
A rule of thumb, never stop the hate wave. Always stoke it further. Pay people to hate you. Pay people to hit you. If you could get someone to throw a shoe at you when you’re giving a speech that would be a masterstroke. But remember to duck at the right time. Nothing sexy about having a shoe stamped on your face. Get punched during a press meet. Don’t duck. Bloody noses look sexy in print. There are ‘hate farms’ in Dhaka which your PR should know. If they don’t, fire them.
After successfully garnering all that hate, look pained. Practice that look. There is huge power in sympathy.
6. Whore around:
(I'm sorry if this is random. I didn't have a real point 6 and I had to complete the Seven Commandments. And so I put the one thing that's always on my mind. Besides, your book is going to be about sex (yup, thats decided) so the experience will come handy.)
If you’re single, good. If you’re not, divorce. Divorce before you become too big and avoid the alimony. Say, “we belong to Land of Kamasutra” if anyone asks the secret to your promiscuity. Say it even if they don’t. Say hello to Bollywood.
Whore around would also mean selling your product everywhere. Right from every street side lit fest to alleyways in bookstores (you'd be standing in that little gap between shelves and spring upon unsuspecting browsers with a wide grin and your book and convince, cajole, beg, plead, threaten them to buy).
7. Finally, write:
But not too well. It’s tough to be successful with a good product. Believe in the power of mediocrity. Democratize language. Fuck literature.
PS: If you can’t help but write well then hire a ghost writer. My friend is available. He looks like a ghost too. (His third book failed so he eats only mondays, wednesdays and fridays.)
And there you have it. A seven point guide from someone who couldn’t even practice one. But then again, I was only mildly less successful than my friend. Why would you listen to me? Why, indeed?
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