While celebrity and Bollywood books have been a regular fixture in the publishing calendar for a long time, never before has Bollywood exercised greater influence on publishing.
These days, hardly any submission package is complete, offer certain and deal final without promises or assurances of support from some luminary from the film industry.
Forget a plain vanilla endorsement or a foreword, many authors can now be seen posting intimate selfies with some Bollywood star holding their book or retweeting the tweet from a star’s official account about their book with the mandatory Amazon India link.
A book launch is often considered pointless and beyond most publishers’ ever-dwindling marketing budget, unless a Big B or King Khan deigns to grace it. Several books represented by Writer’s Side have been launched by big Bollywood stars and rarely has the author or the book benefited from it.
On the contrary, both take the backstage and the launch becomes all about the star’s past, present and future love interests, perennial controversies and films.
At the book launch of one of my most promising commercial fiction writers, the media questions were all about the reading habits of a certain Bollywood hunk and whether he had read the bestselling book on which his forthcoming film was based.
At another launch, a yesteryear actress was asked when she planned to pen her autobiography. The media coverage is also dismal unless you consider Fashion Scandal, PinkVilla, Glam Sham, Business of Cinema, Miss Malini and so on… the best way to reach out to serious, discerning readers.
While I haven’t personally attended many high-profile book launches I am told that the level of discussion is also quite superficial because many a time, celebrities don’t bother to read the book they are so heartily and publicly endorsing.
At times, the whole exercise seems like a packaged, collective fanboy moment rather than a focused, target-driven marketing initiative.
In my experience, after social media celebrities, film writers are the most difficult ilk to deal with. It’s even worse if they have a full-time job in a hectic news daily. Not only are they mini celebrities in their own right with a formidable social media following, but I feel a book features at the bottom of their scheme of things that may include more lucrative propositions like film making, film and television writing, organising film festivals and so on.
They are not to be blamed entirely as film stars make for the most difficult, temperamental and unpredictable subjects.
I have seen first hand how formidable journalists have been brought down to their knees by the ever-changing conditions, restrictions and schedules of the stars.
One of my authors, a senior journalist, is given an appointment for his book only when he tells his senile subject that he would be carrying something about him in his famous tabloid. Another writer was given permission by a star for a book on him only if he wrote about his cinema and not his fraught personal life.
A highly respected film writer refused to collaborate with a star on his autobiography because of his worsening drinking habits. Of course, there are exceptions and some writers and personalities like Twinkle Khanna and Vikram Bhatt are dead serious and disciplined about their books.
Overall, however, Bollywood books are the trickiest books to agent, write and publish.
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