Art & Culture

What it takes to be a bestselling writer in India

Ruchita Misra
Ruchita MisraFeb 13, 2016 | 15:54

What it takes to be a bestselling writer in India

So you are rushing through the airport to get on that two-hour flight. You pause by a WH Smith, you look at your watch, you still have 10 minutes to spare. Why not browse through the books, you ask yourself wisely. There are hundreds of books looking expectantly at you asking to be read. You dismiss most of them and pick up one you might have heard of, or like the title or the cover or well, let’s be honest here, the author picture. You do this, blissfully unaware of the blood, sweat and pain the authors of the books have gone through to get their babies on the shelf.


I am an Indian mass commercial fiction writer and I am here to talk about all that goes into writing a book. It begins with my favourite part of the whole process, the writing. I typically get obsessed by a story and eat, drink, sleep, walk it for at least a year or two that it takes me to write it.

As I write romances, I also typically fall madly in love with the protagonist in the process. I unfortunately, distinctly recall what happened after I called my husband "Samar" (lead in my latest book, Second Chance at Love) by mistake for the third time. Not my fault really, any woman in her right mind will fall for Samar, I recall telling my husband who did not quite seem to get it.

A lot of Indian fiction writers keep full-time day jobs. Different authors find time in different ways. Some work late nights after work, others in between meetings (yes, I know of at least two authors who have done this, their names shall go with me to my grave, of course). Being far more creative than others, I use my time in the tube commuting to and fro from work to write. If you happen to be in London and see a formally dressed Indian girl on the tube, alternating between staring into the void and typing furiously, do come and say hi.


So you have poured your heart and your soul into an 80,000-word manuscript that you value more than your spouse and your child put together. You have also told anyone who would listen that you have finished your book. Your family might have already begun the celebrations but you know what is needed next. A publisher. Oh, the elusive perfect publisher!

Most authors will have a story about how they found their first publishers. And it’s never without its share of drama and emotion. Remember JK Rowling who saw her Harry Potter manuscript rejected by 12 different publishers before Bloomsbury decided to publish it, but not without a warning: That Rowling should get a day job, because she wouldn’t make any money writing children’s books!

Or Graham Greene, who saw the manuscript of his third novel becoming his first book — the first two could be published only after he became famous. The first book with the publisher is like a blind date — it can be wonderful and you may find the love of your life, or you will be seen screaming, pulling out your hair and running for the hills. Good luck.


Most publishers, today, appreciate an email submission. Though you would like to believe that the only logical reason the publisher has not come back to you in the three weeks it has been since you made your submission, is because they have obviously not read it.

Please note that they have people whose job is just to go through the manuscripts that come into their inbox. So be patient. Once all that is out of the way, and you have decided who your publisher is going to be, come in the edits. You discuss the plot with your editor, who should by now be on speed dial on your phone, and agree to changes in the story.

A clever editor is very capable of changing the climax on its head while making you believe that you are the one taking the final decision. When the editing process starts, you pretty much look at each word, each comma and every full stop about a million times or till your eyes begin to bleed. And then there might be other challenges.

Second Chance at Love is a 90,000-word book that we edited 7-8 times. My son was about two-week-old when I started the edits (the last thing I did before I went into labour was to send the final manuscript to my publishers) and I remember doing the edits with one hand, through the nights in between feeds and diaper changes. The real madness begins thereafter.

These days books are as much about books as they are about authors. Marketing of both the book and the author is increasingly becoming the deciding factor in the success of a book. Extensive marketing plans are drawn, strategies discussed and brand partnerships formed well in advance of the release. I recall exchanging emails till 3 in the morning.

Close to the release is the perfect time to shed the reclusive author garb and get on Twitter and Facebook. An author friend once told me that I have to be shameless when the book is about to release. You put up post after post and tweet after tweet about the pre-orders, the release, and the launches! You then travel to various cities, be at lit-fests and give interviews. Is it all worth it, then?

The euphoria I felt when Second Chance at Love debuted on #8 on the AC Neilson chart is unparalleled. However, I have realised that while it is great to be a bestseller, my books mean so much more to me. They are my babies: You don’t really care if your baby comes first in class, though it is great if he does.

It is the love that I get from my readers, through emails telling how happy the book has made them feel, how they could not put it down, that really, truly make it all worth it. And of course a big royalty cheque. Did I say that out loud?

(Couresy of Mail Today.)

Last updated: February 13, 2016 | 15:55
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