Having spent close to a decade in the publishing industry, I have been witness to a number of crazy things authors do (some of them, even I do). Authors are really crazy people. How else do you justify anyone sitting hours in front of a screen typing away? How else do you justify someone spending hours away from family, at times doing nothing, but just staring into wilderness? How else do you explain someone haggling with a vegetable vendor for five rupees but throwing away precious hours in the quest to find the perfect way to kill someone? Writing does not pay, except for a few. I have done multiple blogs on the lack of commercial wisdom in taking up writing for a living. Yet everyone wants to get published. Yet everyone wants to write that bestseller (well, just for the record… you don’t write a bestseller… what you write goes on to become a bestseller.). Yet everyone wants to see his or her book on the bookshelf. His or her name on the cover. This is one obsession that can only be justified if it can be put down to a crazy, weird personality disorder that is inherent in authors.
Lets look at a few crazy things authors do. This list is by no means exhaustive.
- Authors Google themselves excessively – to the point that calling it an OCD may not be incorrect. Not only do they Google their names or titles of their books, they also Google for variations in the spellings of their names. Subramanian can be wrongly spelt as Subramaniam or Subramanium, Ravinder can be Ravindra or Raveendra, Preeti can be Priti, Dutta can be Datta, Anita an be Aneeta or Anitha too, depending on which part of the country you come from. Authors don’t want to miss anything that is said – good or bad about their book (or about them). Not only on google, they also search for mentions on Twitter and all over social media. Have you ever been surprised when you got a response from the author on your tweet about the author or the book, specially when you never marked him or her in the first place.
(* the names mentioned above are just for representation.)
- Most authors lie about advances and book sales : When I was a kid, I had heard a saying – Never ask a woman her age and a man his salary. (Of course those were days when such sexist remarks were the order of the day). Today you can add a third leg to this … Never ask an author his sales figures. You will never get a right answer. If he doesn’t tell you or says that he hasn’t got the report from the publisher, then you know – he doesn’t want to tell you the numbers. In the remote case that he shares the numbers with you then you can safely bet that the numbers are not accurate but significantly padded. How padded? Well depends on the authors conscience. A heavy conscience is never a result of heavily padded overstated numbers in the world of books.
- Some Authors buy their own books – If film stars / distributors block seats at multiplexes to help prop up the box office collections why not authors? Buying a book helps prop it up the bestseller lists. Many authors clandestinely do this. I think this is like popping a pill before a medical check up so that the medical test results come out good. Who are we fooling? We are only fooling ourselves. We are only losing the respect we have for ourselves. At least one book that has been in the Nielsen top ten in the last six months has been propped up in this manner. An author in the recent past put up a FB post saying 50K copies sold in 75 days and the next post was 70K copies sold in 85 days… and a few days later said 100K copies sold in 100 days – pretty much like a Sehwag innings.. 75 days for the first fifty and twenty five for the second. The industry suspects that the author buys own books through a network of people. Yet no one talks about it.
- Secretly stalk media: Many authors stalk journalists. A journalist once confided to me in private that the day she covered an author for the first time in her life, she got seventeen mails and twenty six Facebook friend requests from other authors wanting to send her their books. Many authors have an excel worksheet, of media personnel who have covered other authors and for which newspaper/magazine. Helps them reach out when they need a little bit of ego massage.
- Don’t speak the truth on public forum: One must not trust most of what authors tell you on a public forum: Authors are more open on one on one chat. Not on a public forum. When you hear them speak at festivals or any other event, they largely say things, which are politically correct, or stuff, which the audience wants to hear. Always listen to them ..but do what you want to do.
Remember there are no rules for writing a book. Do what you are comfortable with. There is no right or wrong. Eventually whatever sails your boat will take you to the destination. And what sails your boat may be very different from what sails someone else’s.