Advani`s memoir hits the jackpot
By NISTULA HEBBER & ASHISH SINHA April 07 2008, Business Standard

PUBLISHING : According to industry sources, within weeks of its launch, 'My Country My Life' is set to cross the coveted 100,000-mark in sales.
 
What does Bharatiya Janata Party leader Lal Krishna Advani have in common with JK Rowling? Little, except that he has now become a bestselling author like her.
 
Within weeks of its launch, Advani’s memoir, My Country, My Life, is all set to cross the coveted 100,000- mark in sales. Only Harry Potter series and those written by former president APJ Abdul Kalam have seen such sales.
 
The publisher of Advani’s book, Rupa & Co, is busy preparing the third print run. According to publishing industry sources, the book, priced at Rs 595, has got orders for over 100,000 copies. The sources also disclosed that the marketing executives of Rupa & Co are now in talks with large retailers in Europe and the US to take the book to markets with large immigrant Indian population.
 
Rupa & Co may well have to thank Advani himself for being the best salesman for his book. In the days preceding and following the launch, he was everywhere. While on one channel, he raised controversy by saying he was not aware of the decision taken by the then National Democratic Alliance government to let External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh escort terrorists to Kandahar, on another channel he came across as a caring father and even shed tears.
 
The factual gaffes in the book, including the narrative related to the hanging of Bhagat Singh, were embarrassing. Still, the star-studded launch of the book was attended by all who matter in New Delhi’s corridors of power.
 
A public relations firm and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s famed media cell worked overtime to make sure it was well attended. The interviews on prime time television provided just enough titillation for viewers to quickly order the book from the nearest book store.
 
The efforts have borne fruit in quick time. Speaking to Business Standard, Kapish G Mehra, publisher, Rupa & Co, said: “We have got our print order in six figures. Of course, we undertook ground level marketing but it is largely selling from word-of-mouth publicity.”
 
Advani's autobiography has also found takers among online shoppers. According to a publishing industry source, Rupa & Co has already sold about 800 copies of Advani's book directly through its website.
 
Political autobiographies are always a little suspect, seen less for any literary edification rather to give politicians a way to set their versions down, score brownie points and to re-invent their image to that of an elder statesman. So it has been with Advani as well.
 
On Holi, Advani took the initiative, and visited Congress President Sonia Gandhi with a copy of his book, the first-ever private meeting between the two. Previously, Gandhi had interacted with Atal Behari Vajpayee, Advani’s senior in the NDA regime as well as the BJP, and her relations with Advani, who has a more hawk-like image, have remained bitter, to say the least.
 
“This was a way for Advani to show that he is a large hearted person, and is above petty party politics,” said a senior BJP leader explaining the move. Some cynical observers saw it as an unholy mix of politics and product promotion.
 
The party too has realised the brand equity of the memoir. The BJP is all set to launch a website on Advani as its candidate for the prime minister’s post for the next general elections. Excerpts from the book will be made available on the site. Of course, his fans will be able to order the book online from the website. Needless to say, almost all senior leaders of the party have read or at least purchased the book.
 
This memoir, therefore, has more or less achieved a lot of what it set out to do. A “kinder, gentler” Advani, who is above small politics, has now been placed before the country. Those who preferred the statesmanship of Vajpayee can rest assured that Advani is no less so, and as for the book’s sales, it would be difficult to locate a happier publisher.
 
Incidentally, Rupa & Co is also the publisher of the autobiography of Murli Manohar Joshi, Gayatri Devi, Jiwantram Bhagwandas Kriplani or Acharya Kriplani and Jayaprakash Narayan, among others. But it is only with Advani’s memoirs that it seems to have hit the jackpot.