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The saga of a first-time author

Realisation strikes on the typical book-buyer’s psychology and mindset

It took all of five years to research and publish my first book: it dealt with the theme of finding a compatible marriage alliance for one’s children. When I held the book in my hands for the first time, the relief and ecstasy I experienced should have been similar to what a first-time mother would feel. But the comparison does not end there. Just as the mother faces a huge challenge to bring up her child, I too had one – selling the book. And the ensuing experience was memorable; it also had an unexpected ending.

My research involved talking to a lot of people to gather real-life incidents. During subsequent meetings, many of them would eagerly enquire about the book’s release. One lady who had daughters in their teens said she would be the first to buy one, though she would need it only after years.

Selling tips

My exploration on the subject of how to sell the books revealed that emails, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and so on are good fora to do so with zero expenditure. The enthusiastic response and tips gave me the confidence that my book would be a best-seller.

And so, immediately after the release I sent the details, including where and how to buy them, to more than 500 contacts through email; about 300 of them through WhatsApp, about 350 via LinkedIn and 300 on Facebook.

Power of compounding

As I requested each of them to share with all of their contacts, a simple ‘back of the envelope’ calculation indicated that information about my book should reach at least 50,000 people (heard of the power of compounding?). On a conservative estimate, even if 10% of them buy, the sale should be 5,000 to begin with – a grand opening indeed.

But nothing of that sort happened. All those who had said they were eagerly waiting for the book suddenly went on ‘silent’ mode. And what was more, only a few took the ‘difficult’ task of sharing and forwarding the details of the book to their contacts. None of the hundreds of “Likes” on Facebook or the thumbs up icon on WhatsApp was converted into any sizeable sales.

Reader strategies

I was puzzled why even those for whom the book was intended were not buying it. A friend spent Rs.150 on taxi first to borrow and then to return the book, which cost Rs.140. A long-lost relative suddenly came home, for a ‘courtesy visit’, sat down and read the entire book and left after promising that he would buy a copy one day. Among those whom I showed the book, many simply walked away with it. Others took pains to reason out why they don’t need the book while trying hard to conceal their inner joy.

After a long pursuit, I found the answer ‘within’ (as the wise men have said for centuries). This was that, all these years I too was reluctant to buy a book and looked to either borrow or get a copy for free. Peace then descended on me.

The breakthrough

Then came a breakthrough. A distinguished editor of a magazine, in his review of the book, compared my writing to that of R.K. Narayan in terms of its simplicity, humour and ability to retain one’s attention. This opened the floodgates and sales picked up.

But the biggest ‘achievement’ was something I never expected. As writing a book is usually considered an intellectual act, many, including my wife, are now inclined to believe that I am probably an intelligent person — something that I have been trying hard to prove all these years.

soraiyurvraman@gmail.com

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 10:23:43 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/the-saga-of-a-first-time-author/article18190853.ece

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