Tuesday, January 7, 2014

World of Books: It’s not demand that creates supply, it’s the other way around

In one of my recent blog posts, I had written that many Indian writers are going overboard with their social media book promotions. It gives me some relief that I am not the only one who thinks so. 
1. Anyone can publish a book these days, and just about everyone does. But if the supply of writers is increasing at a velocity unknown in literary history, the supply of readers is not.
2. Competition is rather fierce. Result: ceaseless self-promotion by eager beginners.
3. The poet Joseph Brodsky, who wrote that "in cultural matters, it is not demand that creates supply, it is the other way around. You read Dante because he wrote 'The Divine Comedy' not because you felt the need for him; you would not have been able to conjure either the man or the poem."  
Read the third point again. It tells us what we suspected all along. Readers aren’t a bunch of idiots who listen blindly to what authors tell them about their books. We don't fall for the most obvious bait – author’s marketing pitch - and pick up any book from the bookstore. We spend hours browsing through hundreds of books before we decide to invest our precious time, money and commit our heart’s attention to a book.
The clincher is this – it’s not just the bucks we are parting with when we invest in books. We invest a bit of ourselves in the books we buy and read. For the same reason, readers are not likely to cater to the growing tribe of publicity-crazy authors who have their eye on churning out best sellers come what may. 

Best sellers aren’t such a bad thing, provided they have real substance. But if you are telling me that many of the pulp fiction novels in Indian publishing are best sellers, I have to cross my heart and tell you something that every reader would connect with “I read for the pleasure of experiencing a different world – a better world – and not necessarily to read a rehashed ‘masala’ version of what authors think can sell.”
When authors sell, they need to know one simple thing – they become vendors. Not real writers like Anita Desai, Kavery Nambisan, Manju Kapur and Shashi Deshapande, to mention a few.  Publicity-crazy authors are not in the league of bookshop owners but they are pure vendors who are into the business of making money out of books. And the actual process of writing, as we all agree, is a creative function. Pure and simple.
So, if you are an avid writer or reader, I’d like to know this: How do you choose the books you read? Is it based on an author’s clai, “I am the best there is because my book sells better than anyone else” or is it based on topic, content, craft and so on?

I would like to believe that you choose to read the books you really, really like.

6 comments:

Locomente said...

It always based on it based on topic, content, craft and so on... I also think in the similar lines.

Asha said...

Swapna, knowing you through your posts, i am not surprised any more that you reflect my thoughts.

I read a similar article on The hindu" from Bishwanath ghosh, a journalist. I was glad he almost reflected my thoughts how some new authors oversell and push themselves on social media.

These authors are not open to criticism and in the name of emancipation, the things they churn out is simply immoral and unethical.

I read an author/book for her/his simple content. generally no fiction but if it is good, i pick up. One of the reviews i have heard is the purple lotus and other stories. I am wanting to pick it up. this book by ratna rao shekar, an editor of a local magazine is very popular has not advertised herself or her book. I hear from the reviews it is good.




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