Friday, June 10, 2011

The Author Brand

My third book 'I have a dream' hit stores all over India on the 8th of June. And I am told that as per A C Nielsen, the book was #2 even before its release, based on orders placed by the trade.

It is deeply humbling and amazingly feel-good that so many people out there are placing their trust in me. Rather, in the author 'brand'.

When retailers pre-book a title, or customers do so, it is with the belief that they will like what I write. Based on what I wrote before this.

This is not very different from the manner in which people buy other kinds of products. Like Colgate toothpaste or Kissan jam - tried it, liked it, now don't want to *think* every time about this purchase.

A brand is thus a mix of preference and force of habit. It makes the process of navigating a world with too many choices, a little bit easier.

But the 'Author Brand' is a slightly different animal. The tube of Colgate you buy from one month to the next will remain *exactly* the same (they change the packaging slightly, maybe once in a decade!). But every new book an author writes must be the same - yet different.

By this I mean there should be enough in the book to identify the author brand and yet it must not feel like 'Bah, I've read this before!'.

So how does one achieve that? Well, I have a simple formula - encapsulate your Author Brand in 3 words. What do you stand for?

If I look at Stay Hungry Stay Foolish I would use the words 'Inspiring', 'Real Life', 'MBA Entrepreneurs'.

So Connect the Dots was a natural extension - 'Inspiring', 'Real Life', 'Non MBA Entrepreneurs'.

And 'I Have a Dream' extends the brand as - 'Inspiring', 'Real Life', 'Social Entrepreneurs'.

The really important elements, to me, are the fact that the stories are inspiring and real life. The term 'entrepreneur' I define far more broadly than a Peter Drucker. To me, an entrepreneur is anyone who has charted out his or her own destiny.

Yes, setting up your own business is the most visible form of entrepreneurship. But you can be an entrepreneur in the social space, creative arts or even the spiritual arena.

I know there are hundreds of amazing stories out there, and these stories will come to me - as I need them.

Of course the 'Author Brand' is not so rational. As with music, where every singer is distinct and identifiable, the true strength of a writer lies in his or her 'Voice'. A certain style, a manner of expression.

My style of writing - from the very beginning - has been simple. I prefer small words to complex ones, small sentences to big ones. I often twist the rules of grammar (not because I do not know them) but because I want the words to flow as if they are being spoken.

And of course, I mix a bit of Hindi with the Queen's English. It doubles my vocabulary and makes what I write more accessible and relatable to the aam aadmi. (yes I know some of you strongly object to it but that is the way the words flow out!).

So why am I sharing these thoughts? To guide those of you who are embarking on this path - struggling to find your way. Wondering what will make your writing 'sell'.

I can only say that you have to be true to yourself, above all else. Don't worry about failure. Don't get carried away by success.

Those are not the reasons you want to become a writer in the first place.

You write, because you have to. Not for recognition or readership, but for your own selfish pleasure. When you write in that state of mind, your heartfelt passion and joyous energy and will spill into the pages.

And create happiness in the world.

P.S. 'I have a dream' is available in all stores and also online at Flipkart , Infibeam , Indiaplaza and Dial a Book.

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