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Shiva showers this author with sales, cash

Vinay Kamath
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Amish Tripathi joins Chetan Bhagat in the million-plus league

Author Amish Tripathi is unfazed by all the attention he’s been getting. A book, The Oath of the Vayuputras: Shiva Trilogy 3, that’s seeing scorching sales, as well as a Rs 5-crore advance for his next few books, perhaps a trilogy as well.

Asked what’s helped his books, a heady blend of philosophy, mythology and religion, click in such a big way, Tripathi simply says, “The honest truth is while one can come up with a logical reason and post facto analysis, it’s the blessings of Lord Shiva really.”

It’s been a shower of blessings then. Publisher Westland Books, which printed 5 lakh copies, is already reprinting another 50,000, says CEO Gautam Padmanabhan.

Together with his earlier books, The Immortals of Meluha and The Secret of the Nagas, the trilogy has sold 1.5 million copies and the tills are ringing still. Online retailer Flipkart’s Ashwin Chandrasekaran says it pre-ordered two-and-a-half times more books than the last bestseller, which was Chetan Bhagat’s Revolution 2020. And the books are flying off the shelf, virtually.

unprecedented

Books and gifts retailer Landmark’s CEO Ashutosh Pandey says the 25,000 copies it ordered have been sold out and he’s ordered another 25,000. “It’s the last book of the series so there was great curiosity about it. Also, the marketing of the book has been unprecedented. Landmark has also been selling through the non-traditional outlets, leveraging the Tata network – Westside and Star Bazar outlets feature the Vayuputra book,” explains Pandey.

Vikrant Mathur, Associate Director (Book Practice), of analytics company Nielsen, says as per its Nielsen BookScan, which tracks weekly book sales, Vayuputra has been ranked No. 1 among all: in book retail chains, online and independent book sellers.

In a publishing market that just a few years ago looked at sales of 20,000 copies as a bestseller, how would one classify the sales of Tripathi’s books — a super blockbuster? Westland’s Padmanabhan says it’s heartening for the publishing industry to see in the past few years a crop of Indian writers who are selling over a lakh copies; writers such as Bhagat, Ashwin Sanghi, and Rujuta Diwekar.

In other languages

Westland has already launched Tripathi’s first two books in other languages. Apart from Hindi, they are available in Marathi, Telugu, Gujarati and soon in Tamil, Malayalam and Bengali. The Hindi version, says Padmanabhan, has sold more than 50,000 copies.

Publisher Hachette India’s Managing Director Thomas Abraham says that one lakh sales is not the new bestseller marker. As in the West, different genres and segments have different strands and sales levels. “But these are precisely that: phenomena. They are aberrant sellers that emerge as trailblazers, sometimes trendsetters, but never become the new norm.”

But, as he explains, in trade publishing, which is fairly symbiotic, all publishers look forward to these aberrant blockbusters because they galvanise the industry, capitalise it in the short term and, most importantly, pave the way for other books in the genres.

Amish Tripathi, he says, is only the second fiction writer after Chetan Bhagat who has broken out past the million-mark in cumulative sales. “That’s fantastic and great for the industry. I think he and Bhagat have a grip on the readers’ pulse that makes middle India tick; and Amish has the higher price point. Neo-mythologicals, mythology as alternative history, as a genre started earlier but has broken out now only with Amish. We've seen sales of our own book, Govinda, the Aryavarta Chronicles, climb.”

(This article was published on March 9, 2013)
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