I put down the book with a sigh, once again. It’s a Booker winner and honoured all over the globe. It’s a best seller and a debut novel. It’s been touted as ‘fine literature’ and what not. It’s being translated into umpteen languages including my own and I just missed the assignment. Was it THAT? Am I jealous of the whole thing? A younger person, a debut novel and so much adulation, and the wannabe writer in me protesting ‘It isn’t fair!’, was that it?
Rational thinking tells me, it isn’t that at all. There are books one can read in one go. There are others which take hours, and days and weeks altogether. Quite rarely does a book run away from me every time I open its pages. But the sad fact remains that there are plenty of such books being published and sometimes are acclaimed to a great extent, hyped beyond its scope of entertaining and cheats a selective reader into spending good money on the book.
All debut writers aren’t so lucky. I came across a couple of them lamenting how his book wasn’t being given a marketing thrust and wasn’t ‘moving’, even in its 3000 copies print-run. A second debut writer was sad that his book was not being picked up for a higher print-run abroad; in spite of the good reviews it got over the country. ‘I wish someone would pick my book up and say I will give a 10K print run to this one, and my life is made.’ Another debut writer didn’t have a marketing person allotted to his book at all. He doesn’t even know what’s happening to his book. Is it being sold? A third debut writer is worried about when his book is going to be published. It’s all ready but the ‘right’ time for the release is still being debated. I couldn’t offer my empathies there, because I know how, as a reader, I have ignored a book when there were too many new ones to look at in a specific month. If you fear competition, it’s better to wait. If you need some relief, think of the slush pile and the writers waiting to metamorphose into what you are at the moment, ‘a debut writer’.
That brings me to another topic. What books do you really buy? Which ones do you borrow to take home for a feel of it? Which ones do you flip through at a library? Most of us go to a book shop or book fair with a specific book or two in mind. We ask for the latest book of X or Y and while we wait for it, we glance through the displays. Actually I like to play the book sellers game right back to his goal post; I always ignore the books on display and go on to the shelves at the back. To this day I have found my best book-buys on these unobtrusive corners. But once I did miss out on the discount offered on a favourite book offered directly from a publisher on the first hundred buyers, and by the time I was back at the counter with my ‘finds’ , the bargain had been concluded.
That takes me back to the book I tried to read, I still think why did I ever purchase this book, in hard bound too, why didn’t I wait till it had arrived in paper back at least? That is another story, the one of hard bound and paper back and print runs.
Suneetha is a writer by passion, profession and hobby. She writes fiction in English, poetry in her native tongue Malayalam and journalistic features in both. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org