Truly, Madly, Deeply Is part of a New Emerging Segment – Semi Literary Reads: Faraaz Kazi

We celebrate love at The Tales Pensieve as we bid adieu to 2012; in out final post of the year we get inKonversation with an author who is not just an author! He is a certified soft-skills trainer, a three-time post graduate, runs his own academy in Mumbai and is the Founder/CEO of Digi Imprint Solutions, India’s first exclusive promotional agency for authors and publishers. Meet Faraaz Kazi – the writer turned marketeer turned writer. His much acclaimed debut Truly Madly Deeply is out, garnering rave reviews and evoking, this year end, all those love memories we left way back. Read him talk about love, writing, publishing & all things in between:

Faraaz KaziDebut book and award nominations for the same even when the book as just released, Congratulations Faraaz!! Tell us about the book that has created quite some buzz before the release.
Truly Madly Deeply is a tribute to my school days and to everyone’s first love. On an honest note, the book stems from a short story I had written for a national story-writing competition of a popular newspaper, seven years back.

Once it won a prize there, I knew it had potential and six years later, an idea came to my head that it could be expanded into a novel. People advised me against it, saying it will lose the flavour of brevity. But I believe if your heart says so, then there’s no use delaying it. I had the plot, I just changed the surroundings a bit and did all the things that fiction writers do, to make it more appealing and more pleasurable to the reader.

What does Truly, Madly, Deeply give to the reader that they have not been offered by the books in the same and much exploited genre, earlier?
Truly Madly Deeply caters to both segments, the commercial and the literary, and is a part of a new-emerging segment called semi-literary reads. I’m not implying here that my book has a similar storyline than any other book in the market, for all I know and trust me, I read a lot, there haven’t been any book or any story that deals with teenage infatuation, that joyous feeling of first love in school times and its impact if it breaks all barriers and shatters all bonds. My USP is very simple- people will identify with it; it is as close to reality as the plot may seem surrealistic. I believe that anyone who has ever fallen in love or passed through the unstable stage of adolescence will cherish it and that does not leave out many people, does it?

You quite multi-faceted and needless to add multi-talented too. Tell us what keeps you busy apart from telling stories.
Since the last six months or so, I doubt I have done anything much except work, work and more work and by work, I don’t mean writing. Consulting and strategizing in the digital field keep me on my toes, plus I have been working on some topnotch brands across segments on the social front and the kind of expectations the clients bring on the table are not easy to fulfill. So in the end we media people end up putting in a lot more than the usual nine to ten hour timeframe we set ourselves up for. But yes, I do try and catch up with a good book mid-way (fiction keeps me going), listen to some music (calms down or changes the mood) and yes, occasionally watch a promising movie (you never know what might inspire your pen!)

You have been blogging for some time now and blog The Young Marketer’s World has been pretty popular too. Was storytelling always on the mind or did your work – running a promotional agency for authors and publishers – incite it?
In the professional sense, I have always been a writer first and a marketer later. I started writing when I was seven and became a marketer when I was twenty-one. There’s a good fourteen years of difference in both phases. And of course, with time I have been fortunate to learn both and keep upgrading my skills. As my profession deals closely with the industry, it is very important for me to have a good grasp about the art. You can dictate the field and command respect only if you are aware about the art and the industry.

Manuscript metamorphosis into a publisher’s yes is usually the toughest challenge a debuting writer faces. Considering you consult for them, how did your journey go?
As I said, the writer Faraaz had a headstart in comparison to Faraaz, the marketer. Around that time, I was a newbie and had no clue about the publishing process. Finding a publisher is very difficult if you don’t have any godfather in the industry was my first lesson and almost always you have to cross out the biggies from your list. That doesn’t leave you with many options with respect to quality. The moral of the story is simple- Beggars can’t be choosers.

As a first-time writer, one always hopes for the biggest names in publishing to select your book but it doesn’t turn out that way all the time. There are of course, pros and cons of both big and small publishers. The real question to be asked is what does the writer want at the end of the day? Recognition, money or plain appreciation? I tried to juggle between the two extremes and gave a couple of big publishing houses a look over due to certain terms that I was not comfortable with. Godfather or no godfather, ultimately the writer has to take this journey alone. Fortunately, I could crack the publishing part after the initial bit of struggle that saw a lot of rejection mails.

truly-madly-deeplyTruly, Madly, Deeply created quite a buzz online before its release. Social media seems to have become an important spoke in the wheel of book promotions, what would the PR consultant and the author say about that?
An author is the best marketer of his own book as no one knows the book like the author, complete with unadulterated thoughts and the flavor of the story but that does mean that he goes on justifying the story to each and everyone. I allowed every reader to take what they could from the story. As an art form, writing is open to interpretation. I have seen to it that I utilize social media to the best of my abilities.

The campaign for the book was planned out in detail right since the beginning and drew a lot of admiration from the online public. Facebook and Twitter helped me connect with my readers a lot better than I would have done otherwise. Viral promo trailers of the book that rocked the social media circuit were well received by my network and then of course, for the first time ever a promo ringtone for a novel was created. Again, it was made available for free for the online world. Posters are going to be put up in bookstores and signed copies of the book are retailing on Flipkart and Infibeam, apart from that some major contests are in the run with leading e-commerce hubs. As a marketer, every effort would be to create virality amongst the reading public through social platforms.

The Indian literary scene has undergone some extreme transformation over the past few years – We have more Indian writers coming out with their works, publishing houses coming out with more Indian titles and also retail outlets stocking more Indian books. What is your take on this surge of Indian-ness? Do you see a catch somewhere?
We saw a transition in the scene post Chetan Bhagat’s ‘Five point someone’. The primary genre of writing changed from literary to light reads and we had every other person who had some story to tell trying their hands at writing chick-lit or college romances. The situation is still the same because the market too has changed with more youths trying their hands on such books and the reading population increasing. Overall, the impact has been good but genre wise, it has been kind of a blue ocean market with only specific light genres seeing a substantial increase in readership.

I even did an article some months back on my blog regarding the same and it was well received by people. It’s just a passing phase, for the moment this trend is fulfilling a requirement of getting busy people out of their lives, especially youngsters (who are too busy hanging out at coffee shops admiring the fairer sex and bunking lectures) to read books. Such books, howsoever grammatically irrelevant are finding an audience and that’s why publishers have their schedules jammed. In the US, practically one of four aspiring authors have been published somewhere or the other. Talking of the US, another case in point has been the onslaught of paranormal romances post Stephenie Meyer. The question is are we going to see a similar ratio in India or just urban India (keeping out the 70% of the hinterland)?

Writing for joy, for self-fulfilment is the real motive for a true writer. It’s a gift that not everyone is blessed with, as Ms. Shobhaa De once told me. A profession is like a boat in waters, neither too wobbly nor too steady. It should move and it should do so at the right speed. Writing as a career is still frowned upon in India, though prominent writers almost have a celebrity status. But as I say, you don’t really make it unless you end up making five points on someone during a night in some call-centre and then intentionally err with three mistakes inyour life in two different states.

Truly, Madly, Deeply is the only Indian book to be nominated in seven categories of the Goodreads annual readers’ choice awards and is also the only Indian book in the ‘Top 100 YA Global Fiction’ list and the book has just released. What is the success secret ingredient, if you have to name one?
Difficult to pick one because it has been a 360 degree effort, right from the writing to the promotions but I guess the marketing campaign will take the cake here.

Reaching out to a global audience really helped the cause and once they loved it, the book purely spread on word of mouth and a lot of ebook sales were generated because of the same.

Your book looks headed towards a successful debut; what are the future plans on the literary front?
With respect to the professional front, expanding Digi Imprint is an on-going activity and thanks to the goodwill we have in the market today after working with reputed names, this has become a less arduous task. With respect to writing, my next work will be a surprise. All I can say is that it won’t be as romantic as the first one for sure but it will be surely more emotional than the first one, emotion of a different kind altogether. That, I promise!

Your words of wisdom for newbie writers.
Most important thing is you should pursue writing only if you are confident about your work and are capable of handling criticism. Don’t write for getting published; write for the satisfaction one gets from the act. Today, I see so many writers with poor writing skills, coming out with their own autobiographical fiction set in some engineering college or management institute. Small publishers lap it up because the market (read nouveau readers as India is seeing a growth in habitual readership) demands so.

Some who have good financial backup even go to the extent of starting their own publication houses that just produce their own title and no one hears about them again.

Second most important thing is too approach publishers directly as much as possible. It doesn’t make sense for new writers to trust strangers and I learnt it the hard way. Yes, it does get irritating while you await replies by publishers but that also teaches you perseverance and patience, two of the most important qualities for a successful writer. Also avoid people who ask for money even if they are literary agents. At the end of the day, they will return you the manuscript with some changes that any English graduate could have picked up and you’ll end up losing your wallet in the bargain. In short, be cautious and active at the same time while never losing sight of the fruit that awaits you.

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