How To Make a Living Out of Writing a Book?

21st Dec 2012
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The answer is relatively simple. Write a book that sells. The moolah will begin to flow in but that's not going to be enough. So follow it up with another book that sells. Get it right the first two times. Don't worry about your third. It'll sell anyway and bingo! You'll be rich and famous. Think J K Rowling. An unemployed, newly divorced, single mother living on social benefits, who is advised by her publisher to get a day job — "there is little money to be made

on children's books." Enter Harry Potter, and the Forbes magazine declares her as the first person to become a US dollar millionaire by writing books. So rephrase the question, shall we? How to write a book that sells?1. Sell your heart: In a letter dated November 1938, F. Scott Fitzgerald, of The Great Gatsby fame, told a budding author, "You've got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner. This is especially true when you begin to write, when you have not yet developed the tricks of interesting people on paper, when you have none of the technique which it takes time to learn. When, in short, you have only your emotions to sell...literature, even light literature, will accept nothing less from the neophyte." Pick up any of Dickens' works and you'll find it peppered with people, scenes and places from his own life. Samuel Coleridge claimed that Milton is visible in every line of Paradise Lost. Manto's stories reflect his experiences and reading of the Partition. Attributing her success to her mother, Rowling said, "The books are what they are because she died...because I loved her and she died." And so Rowling felt and captured the meaning of love and loss in her stories.

2. Sell your head: If you are a successful entrepreneur, sports person, dietician, beautician, designer - essentially, a successful anyone, you can be as pedantic as you wish or simply recount your journey thus far. People will lap it up. And if you haven't made headlines yet, don't fret. Here's plan B. Talk about your daily trials and tribulations. Experience too sells!

3. Be Novel or Be Real: Fiction requires novelty — of plot, of characters or style. But if you can't be original, be real. Let your readers find themselves in your story. This seems to be the secret behind the success of the new wave of Indian authors. They write love stories and campus stories that you & I can relate to.

4. Mind your language: There's no need to intimidate your reader with big words or complex sentences — no one likes to read with a dictionary. But do revisit your high school grammar books. Get your punctuation, prepositions, conjunctions, tenses and articles right.

5. Charge less, not more: Few people will shell out 500 bucks to read a debut novelist. Start modest. Learn from Chetan Bhagat. Once you hit big time, you can always revise prices.

6. Select a publisher who believes in your book: We may all dream of being published by a HarperCollins or a Random House, but if you don't make the cut, don't sweat. The important thing is to find a publisher who believes in your book. Try one of the smaller publishers — there are 19,000 academic and general publishers in the country. They spend much more time and effort on marketing every single title that they sign on. And if that doesn't work out, try self publishing or e-publishing. There are 7 lakh authors doing the same worldwide. Just ensure that you have a good editor. If your work sells, the biggies will gather at your doorstep. Christopher Paolini self published ‘Eragon’; ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ initially came out as an e-book and a print-on-demand book. Closer home, the best selling ‘Immortals of Meluha’ was first published by Research Press. Ravinder Singh was signed up by Penguin after the success of his ‘I too had a Love Story’, and Random House snared Preeti Shenoy post ‘Life is what you make of it.’

7. Act, React, Interact: Just writing a book is no longer enough. Not with the slew of debut novels that are flooding the market. You have to market it right. Create a video, tweet, run contests, engage with your readers on Facebook. Interaction is the key. At INDIAreads, we run an author-student engagement programme called Literathon. Interestingly, we found that even when the students have never heard of a book or an author, they pick it up after they interact with the author. All you need to do is make sense. And of course, if you are a glib talker, you could also charge for giving talks and lectures a'la Robert Kiyosaki or Shiv Khera.

These seven tips were from a person who has closely observed the publishing industry trends over the last few years. But from a fellow author to another, I have just one piece of advice: Write a book because you want to, because you believe in it, because there is something that you need to share with the

world. Write from your heart and it'll strike a chord. As Stephen King Said, “Writing isn't about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid or making friends. In the end, it's about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It's about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.”Gunjan Veda is the CEO of INDIAreads.com, a pan India online library cum bookstore. Her book, Beautiful Country: Stories from Another India, was recently published by HarperCollins India and was on the list of bestsellers of The Hindu for 8 weeks in a row.

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