‘One of those guys who refused to enter temples’
Bear with me, I want to quote an author to you at a little length:
My books are historicals. They’re set in the India of 4,000 years ago…My books are based on a premise that Lord Shiva was a real historical man, who lived 4,000 years ago, and his grand adventures gave rise to the myth of the god. So I’ve written on a Hindu god. But I was an atheist, eight or nine years ago. Today, I’m a very devoted Shiva worshipper. But eight or nine years ago, I was a committed atheist. I was one of those guys who refused to enter temples. It’s been a really long and strange journey.
On Wednesday, the London Book Fair’s opening conference — called Publishing for Digital Minds (#PDMC15) — held an advance event. Conference Director Orna O’Brien and her staff in London, supported by Midas PR’s Chris McCrudden, staged an eight-hour series of events, a “Virtual Stream” that included events via Google Hangout, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more. Here’s the full list of events. The day started at 5 a.m. Eastern and was finished by 1 p.m.
I was asked to handle the 90-minute India segment on Twitter. We started with a 45-minute interview with Hachette India’s Managing Director Thomas Abraham and with Penguin Random House India’s Children’s Publisher Hemali Sodhi. These were terrific interviewees, beautifully prepared, firing off tantalizing details of one of the most vast and complex books markets on Earth.
- Sodhi, for example, knew precisely how to tell me the reach of the young readers’ market in India: “More than half our population,” she said, “is under 25 years old.”
- And Abraham nailed the promise of mobile reading on smartphones in India: “Look at the potential, Porter: The number of telephone subscribers in India rose to 970.97 million at the end of December 2014.”
I would interview Sodhi and Abraham again in a heartbeat. They were efficient, personable, fascinating, and they were all that in what is actually a difficult format, the live Twitter interview with two simultaneous guests and a host.
But it was yet another of those nearly-one-billion Indian phone subscribers whose chat with me was even more compelling. And for a very different reason. At its heart — maybe in his heart — lies my provocation for you today.
‘An earthy and frankly rather cool God’
The second 45-minute segment of my India section was a Twitter interview with an Indian author named Amish Tripathi. If you’re Indian, you know him simply as Amish. On Twitter, he is @AuthorAmish with more than 90,000 followers and not even 5,000 tweets on record. I probably made him tweet more than he’s ever done in 45 minutes.
I want to bullet out for you the technical facts of this man’s writerly success quickly, so you have the context.
- Amish Tripathi is 40, based in Mumbai, married and a father.
- He has three books to his name: The Immortals of Meluha, The Secret of the Nagas, The Oath of the Vayuputras.
- These three books form his Shiva Trilogy. The first book in his new Ram Chandra series is to be out later this year, The Scion of Ikshvaku.
- The Shiva Trilogy has sold more than 2.2 million copies, bringing in more than US$9.4 million to date.
- Film projects are in the works on The Shiva Trilogy both in India and in Hollywood.
Tripathi and his agent self-published his first book, The Immortals of Meluha. Reports say it was rejected as many as 40 times by publishers. “I stopped counting after 20,” he tells me in our interview. With a lot of inventive presentational marketing — high-end physical publication of a sample chapter given away free in bookstores, etc. — Tripathi and his agent leveraged the 5,000 self-published copies enough to draw the eye of the publisher Westland, which now has bragging rights on a very smart move.
For the record, Tripathi isn’t really a self-publishing story, by which I mean he’s not about self-publishing and doesn’t want to be. Self-publishing 5,000 copies to draw the attention he needed to Book 1 with some aggressive, smart marketing was the way to what he wanted, a contract: the means, not the end. This is something I wish more of our authors today could consider instead of falling into the distraction of self-publishing as some sort of crusade. But that’s for another provocation. Suffice it to say that when I referred to his self-publishing phase, he made it clear that it was just that: a phase: [Read more…]