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Jaswant's book set to ride 'controversy' sales

By Suveen K Sinha & Bhuma Shrivastava in New Delhi
July 27, 2006 11:57 IST
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Rupa & Co will be glad that former External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh dropped his plans to publish his memoirs, A Call to Honour, on his own.

Trade circles say the book, in the market for a week, is on course to selling 50,000 copies. That will put it on a par with the last non-fiction bestseller, President APJ Abdul Kalam's Ignited Minds. In India, any book that sells 5,000 copies is a success.

Kapish Mehra, publisher with Rupa, which eventually brought out Singh's book, says he is confident that the book, priced at Rs 495, will go into a fourth re-print.

The industry is largely unanimous that the controversy around Singh's book -- which talks of a Central Intelligence Agency mole in the Prime Minister's Office during P V Narasimha Rao's regime -- has a big role to play in the sales of the book.

"There is much merit in the book. However, increased public awareness certainly helps," concedes Mehra.

Anil Syal, vice-president (marketing) with Safexpress, the logistics company that handles book supplies, says a controversy "can increase the sales of a book by 100-200 per cent".

But then, controversies always have helped sales, starting from Taslima Nasreen's Lajja.

Ira Trivedi's What Would You Do To Save the World? published by Penguin India, has sold 7,000 copies in just a month since its launch and is going into a re-print.

The book, an uncharitable fictionalised account of beauty pageants, has generated quite a cat fight on the front pages of city supplements.

Penguin earlier hit the jackpot with Khushwant Singh's Truth, Love and a Little Malice, which generated plenty of heat and 30,000 copies in sales. "It is now out in paperback," says Penguin's editor-in-chief Ravi Singh.

Even Girja Kumar's Brahmacharya, Gandhi & His Women Associates, which raised hackles, has already sold 1,100 copies. Interestingly, 1,000 copies of the Rs 695 apiece book, published by start-up Vitasta, are being supplied to Pakistan.

An extreme case is of How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life. Little, Brown Company has withdrawn all editions of the book by 18-year-old Harvard student Kavvya Vishwanathan after the Chennai-born girl admitted to plagiarism from several sources.

However, Harper Collins India Head P M Sukumar says there is a big demand for pirated copies of the book and it continues to do brisk sales on the pavements.

"A controversy ensures that the book becomes widely known. For example, many more people -- three to four times -- have become aware of A Call. That straightway would help in sales," says Sukumar.

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Suveen K Sinha & Bhuma Shrivastava in New Delhi
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