Monday, 15 October 2012

Do you have to be a celebrity to get a book deal?



Girls creator Lena Dunham signs book deal worth more than $3.5m. The headlines screamed, going onto elaborate how this twenty-six-year old filmmaker will deliver an advice book on essays about sex, mortality and food for Random House. I don’t know if you have seen Girls, currently renewed for its second season for HBO. One of my friends dismissed it rather unkindly as a Sex and the City for losers, and without any of the fashion. I had chuckled on hearing it. While I don’t reject Girls that easily, its quite clever really and uncomfortably based on the author’s real life experiences, I did wonder looking at the credits of the show—written, directed, created and acted in—by the same person, a young girl in her early twenties, how one person could be so prodigiously talented as to have delivered an entire TV series single handed and while so young. The plot keywords on IMBD for Girls is enlightening and includes:  Sex Talk | Drinking Alcohol | Sex Scene | Tattooed Woman | Female Nudity… Hmmm! What’s not to crowd please here eh? In fact there is one entire episode in which the young female protagonists, talk only about their vaginas, in such an extremely clinical & forthright fashion that it would put Samantha from Sex & the City to shame. As I began to wonder if all the genius of the twenties’ generation was distilled into just this one person, I stumbled across the fact that Dunham's parents are both well-known members of the art world in New York, and the girls who play the Girls are all children of famous parents. Zosia Mamet (Shoshanna) is the daughter of playwright David Mamet, Jemima Kirke (Jessa) is the daughter of former Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke and Allison Williams (Marnie) is the daughter of newscaster Brian Williams. That was when the penny dropped. In the moment of clarity which followed I began to question
< 1. Does one have to be a celebrity to seal a massive book deal?
Look around you and you will find that most of the books on the best-seller lists are from those who are already personalities (well-known chefs, sports-men, Hollywood actors or Olympians in the non-fiction category.) And, of course if you are well known journalist, then you have a much better chance of being signed up by an agent or a publishing house right?
< 2. What role does connections play in your writing being recognised?
That all important networking question. Even in today’s online connected world, nothing beats being born into privilege, so you can capitalise on the platform your parents have already built over their lifetimes. A word whispered to the right person at the right time, opens that elusive door giving you a step over the threshold of that exclusive club of authors on the world stage.
As I considered these questions, a few things became clearer. I’ll never be a celebrity (atleast not in the traditional sense) but in my Indie Avatar I can definitely influence people by building my own platform. In my little world this means blogging and sharing my opinion on what I feel most strongly about through platforms which amplify the reach of my voice. My blog (to borrow from Ayn Rand, its one small voice, but it’s my opinion nevertheless) is a great way to hone my idea. The more I write, the more I get clearer about what I am trying to say both in the non-fiction and in the fiction world. I have found that it’s even more impactful if I am able to blog on larger platforms where the community is already present (in my case I also blog for Huffington Post UK & The NRI—a website which reaches the widely spread Indian diaspora around the world.) It’s very satisfying when I get comments to my articles. They are great short term wins, which keep me going while I work on my next big thing—which is my next book, Return to Seven Islands, the second novel in the Chronicle of the Three series. And, well talking about connections, maybe I don’t have a direct line to those who are the Gods of the publishing or movie industry, but hey I have something better, for I am part of a community of fantastic supportive bloggers around the world. The power of the word-of-mouth of people like you and me is growing every-day. Technology is surely the greatest leveller. It means you can reach across borders, break out of the confines of the traditional and get your voice out there to anyone you want. A lot of what holds me back is in my mind, I realise. All I have to do is to be really confident about my abilities as a writer. To be is to become. That has always been the most challenging thing though. How to believe in yourself in face of all the critics who tell you, you can’t. It seems the connections are more about connecting with myself and that which is inside me. I’ve done the toughest thing which is finding my voice. Now I just to keep that link, and follow it through, one step at a time.
About the author (in my words): Though born in India, wanderlust drove me out of my home country and I lived in Singapore and Hong Kong before being based in London where I now live. I am inspired by Indian mythology. It was in embracing my roots that I found my voice. When not writing, I enjoy long walks in the woods and growing eye catching flowers. My debut novel The Destiny of Shaitan is available on Amazon http://tiny.cc/szqsew. Reach me here:
twitter at @laxmi