Shobhaa De’s top tips for aspiring writers
Here's an exclusive excerpt from How to Get Published in India
LET’S TALK turkey: The world’s first ‘bestseller’ was The Bible. It remains a top seller even today. Wonder which canny marketing team marketed and sold it after its first print run? The Bible outsells most commercial books globally. Over centuries, readers have been hooked to this one religious book which comes with a single absorbing tagline: God created Adam and Eve. Sheer brilliance. Try topping it. Go on… give it a go.
Bestsellers are born naturally, not constructed in a petri dish. It is not possible to ‘predict’ the birth of a best seller, or even guess its sex. It comes with its own DNA. And even the world’s savviest, canniest analyst cannot clone it.
During my long experience as a published author and publisher, I can only pass on this bit of useless advice: Write from your heart…. lungs… kidneys… even bladder. Do not waste a moment worrying about your precious book’s fate. It is not in your hands. Remember: It is not in your publisher’s hands, either. There is just one pair of hands that matters – the readers. You, as an author, can never know your reader. You may think you do. But books have an uncanny way of meandering into hands whose existence you are not even aware of. Respect the mind of that anonymous reader. The one who has bought YOUR book over millions of other books. Your reader is your God.
Pay zero attention to critics. Most don’t have the guts to write their own book. Books need guts. Of course, there are critics and critics. Do share glasses of your favourite wine with them. But they will still loathe you. The best critic is just you. Only you. If you love your book, others may love it, too. If you display diffidence, give in to uncertainty, you are dead. Never apologise for your thoughts and words. Own them. Take criticism on the chin. And start your new book instantly.
Don’t treat your book like a premature baby. Do not molly coddle. Or even potty train. Like kids say, “Shit happens!’’ Let it happen. Books are tougher than you think. They survive! Some even thrive. Their good health is not your problem, after they leave the womb. They belong to everyone. Books, like street urchins, manage to get ahead and survive against terrible odds. That is the real kick, my dear – watching your urchin conquer the world.
Writing a book is a little like making tender love to yourself. You really don’t need an extra pair of hands. Or two brains. You know your G-Spot. Just get there and get on with the job. Do you count orgasms? Or create spreadsheets for your matings? You just go ahead and make love, right? So… when in doubt, simply get between those sheets, or inside a bath tub and do what you have to. Think of your book as a lover. A sensitive lover. Not a demanding beast. The sensual act of writing a book and making ardent love are a lot alike. Both provide unimaginable pleasure and create beautiful memories. What? You don’t like sex? Why are you a writer? Open a candy store and sell bon bons. Leave bon mots to others.
Excerpted with permission from Amazon’s #1 bestseller How To Get Published in India by Meghna Pant (published by Bloomsbury), available online and at your nearest bookstore.