Shilpa Sheetal, a self-confessed bibliophile, has just finished reading her first book of 2020. An Extreme Love of Coffee is a fiction novel about a couple, a treasure hunt, and coffee.
What’s interesting is that she stumbled upon it, not in a bookstore, but while scrolling through her LinkedIn feed. And that book is authored, not by a typical romance novelist, but by Harish Bhat, brand custodian at Tata Sons.
Odd? Not really.
Increasingly, top executives of large organisations are turning authors. And, as in the case of Bhat’s latest book—his first book was Tata Log, a book about his company—not all write management books either.
If industry veterans are to be believed, while bestselling commercial fiction continues to rake in initial print runs of more than 100,000 copies in India, less than 10% of published titles sell more than 2,000 copies. Non-fiction, meanwhile, is growing faster than fiction as a genre, and business and management books, in particular, get the top shelf.
Publishing has historically been about selling books. But it’s also a veritable, even if subliminal, marketing tool. One top executives have caught on to.
It helps to be seen as an author, especially when you’re selling a cycle that feeds into the system. Write a book to express yourself. Weave the company in. Let the book supplement company reputation. Build a personal brand in the process.
While on one hand these books creatively satisfy the writers—helping them distill ideas on the domains they are experts in—they also aid them in cohesively projecting their thought leadership. And to market?
“Everyone does look at it as a marketing tool to some extent because they aren’t writing these books anonymously,” admits Anish Chandy, founder of Labyrinth, a literary agency.
Big books, bigger names
Bhat’s novel, due to the name of the author, sits in a precarious place between his background in business and fiction. And while Bhat may have online clout (as well as the usual avenues like lit fests, etc.), it’s not a comfortable spot for every such author.
It’s non-fiction that does well, because these books are coming from a domain expert, says Chandy. “Most of them will sell above 7,000 copies, the same people writing fiction don’t sell as much.”
So, how do you market a CEO or upper management-authored book in a consumable manner? Enter soft-business genre books, which come with certain set patterns.
Either they have been against-all-odds accounts of family businesses or life-affirming chronicles of founders and CEOs of successful enterprises. In January 2020, titles like The Making of Hero by Hero MotoCorp founder promoter Sunil Kant Munjal, and Excellence Has No Borders—authored by Dr BS Ajai Kumar, founder-CEO of cancer care provider HealthCare Global Enterprises—have come out.