By Shubhangi Sood
“My competition is apps like Candy Crush or WhatsApp,” says Chetan Bhagat. “I don’t see other writers as my competition at all. I want a share of people’s minds. I have to wean them off YouTube, movies and apps. I have to make them interested in books.”
Before Chetan (BC) was a time period in India where demand for literature was restricted to a segment of society with higher inclination for literature. An average Indian would seldom be seen with a novel in his hands. But Chetan’s entry into the publishing industry set things rolling. He has to be accredited with bringing Indian youth out of their reverie, lethargy and indifference to the act of reading, hence imbibing reading habits among them. But can he really be called a ‘writer’ ?
More than a writer, he has repeatedly proved himself to be a suave and spontaneous marketer, who has fine skills to market himself and his books. He doesn’t write to be read: he writes to sell. And he sure knows how to do it. He understood there’s potential in the Indian reading market and tapped the opportunity in a heartbeat.
In the words of an editor-assistant who received his manuscript for the first time:
“Out came a professionally bound manuscript with perfect layouts and typefaces. Even more interestingly, the first page had a CD stuck on it which said ‘Read Me’.
Swiftly and efficiently, it introduced me to the author (a hot-shot young investment banker) and his book (a coming-of-age novel about friends at one of India’s best-known colleges). But what came next absolutely took my breath away. A marketing strategy that would ensure the book became an instant bestseller: low pricing and buy-backs, tie-ups with the said academic institution and its alumni (all of whom, the author felt, would immediately want copies of his book). This author was clearly no pushover. If only he had written his manuscript with half the dedication he had put into his marketing plan!
He writes for the masses. Most of the people can’t read to save their lives. He writes in simple plain English for which they don’t have to refer any dictionary. Much like what Akshay Kumar movies do for you; you don’t have to exercise your mind. The fact that he un-complicates English is something which earns him extra cookie points. His characters are youngsters maneuvering their way through the labyrinth of stressful education system, career wards and relationship problems. The fact that he uses swear words so often, brings in sexual references in the novel, adds to his charm for the casual readers.
Plus, the books are thin. You can carry them wherever you want, whenever you want. This kind of helps, doesn’t it? The fact that he is present everywhere to voice his views, advertise the products and is active on the social media does include a lot of fame to his credit. He has also been writing editorial articles for Times of India, pertaining to developmental and political issues in our country, which does give him an intellectual weight in the world out there. But that is till date overshadowed by his carefree attitude to writing by critics. He does reach out to his fans, and not only when his books are slated to release. He ensures that his readers don’t forget him.
He makes it a point to stay in the limelight as consumers have a short attention span. Whether it’s by claiming that he will charge 5 lakhs for endorsing tweets like Shahrukh Khan does, or by appearing on national telelvision debates conducted on different topics quite frequently, he always has a space occupied in your mind.
Releasing a teaser for his novel ‘Half Girlfriend’ did raise the curiosity level of the public. Many of them started taking guesses at what possibly could the term ‘half girlfriend’ mean. Indian authors are not known to be proactive on social media websites as some of the writers from other countries are.The idea of releasing teaser videos, making up playlists, interacting with their readers is all very foreign to Indian publishing industry, for that Chetan Bhagat deserves all the adulation.
He has been criticized for being a non-serious, flippant writer who doesn’t have concrete writing style, inspiring words or substantial matter to feed a reader’s soul and mind. His is an easy to read writing style, which has actually won millions of hearts in India and abroad. Despite his feats, it will be literally incorrect to call him a ‘writer of quality’. He’s an amazing marketer and that’s all there is to it.
What his future has in store for him is something many people are placing bets on.
Shubhangi is currently pursuing Economics for undergraduation from Shri Ram College of Commerce. She has an insatiable desire for reading novels of all the genres world has to offer. Writing since she was a 12-year old, her ambition of life is to get published and share the stories that her mind can’t stop weaving. Primarily, her interest lies in foreign policies, culture, meeting new people from different cultures, and music
Edited by Namrata Caleb, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist