Amish Tripathi received a million-dollar advance in March this year from his publisher, Westland India, for a forthcoming book -series.
For the best-selling Indian author, the deal brings his writing career full circle – when Tripathi tried to publish his first book The Immortals of Meluha, more than 20 publishers rejected it. Tripathi then decided to go the self-publishing way.
The book was a success and soon he had publishers bidding for his next book.
Tripathi’s conviction in his own work and his determination to reach readers paid off, along with his canny marketing tactics. His first book sold 45,000 copies within the first 15 days of hitting bookshops.
Tripathi's story is about how his entrepreneurial streak helped him clinch a million-dollar advance as well as a sales figure of almost two million copies for his Shiva trilogy.
The movie rights to one of his books were picked up by a popular Bollywood production house, Dharma Productions.
On being an entrepreneurial author
With new books flooding the market every day, the need for an author to take charge of his own writing career has never been greater.
While not every aspiring author can hope to match Tripathi’s marketing savvy, it is nonetheless important to keep his story in mind, if only as a reminder of how conviction and determination can take you places.
While discussing elements of his entrepreneurial book journey, the 38-year old, who studied at the Indian Institute of Management, says: "We made a virtue out of necessity. I was told very often that nobody likes to read mythological books.
“But we persisted. My agent Anuj Bahri from Red Ink paid for the printing costs. I paid for the marketing. And we partnered with Westland, my current publishers, when it came to distribution across the country.”
Upon his wife’s suggestion, Tripathi printed the first chapter of his book and asked bookstores to display it at cash counters and offer it for free to customers.
The resultant visibility was immense, says Tripathi. People who had read and liked the free pages came back in droves to actually buy the book.
Tripathi took charge of the distribution himself, he says. He made presentations to important countrywide retail chains, visited smaller stores in a number of cities and proactively kept up with airport bookshop displays.
He also went to the local distributor offices and sent regular updates by email.
To this day, he mails important statistics to bookstores – figures that offer information on books sold, new plans in the pipeline, etc – basically, information that helps bookstore owners check on where they stand vis-à-vis other stores and how they can improve.
Tripathi asked some of his friends to create a trailer for his first book. The trailer was uploaded on YouTube and promoted heavily. For his next book, he approached the ad firm Think Why Not and asked them to create a slick trailer in the style of HBO's Spartacus.
The clip was shot like a music video and was also shown on music channels to save advertising money.
It was made on a small budget but Tripathi also released it in movie multiplexes across the country where the movie Ra.One (2011) was showing.
Says Tripathi: “The target audience of the movie was pretty much the target audience for the book, too. So it made sense to release the book trailer through this movie.”
Tripathi says he regularly posted updates on his books on his Facebook and Twitter accounts, so his readers and friends are clued in.
The best tool is the book
Ultimately, says Tripathi, only a good book can be marketed successfully. So he advises young writers to write the best book they can. And that’s the best advice anyone can give an aspiring author.
• Write your truest book: a good book can only happen when you are true to your writing, says Tripathi. "Write a book that you truly believe in. If you are convinced about the book, others will be too," he says.
• Keep that day job: having a day job takes off the pressure while writing. "Finding a publisher or hitting the bestseller mark has a lot to with luck," says Tripathi. "There are any number of good books that never see the light of the day. Make sure you have an alternative source of income."
• Do your best: "I believe the saying in the Bhagwad Gita, the ancient Indian scriptures, that you must do your best without expecting anything in return," says Tripathi. "If you want fame or money and it doesn't happen, you end up losing perspective."
• Involve your loved ones in your project: "Your family will keep you going when you lose faith, but such support needs to be earned – if they only see you watching TV all day when you really ought to be writing, they won't feel motivated enough to support you."
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