For Indian authors, blogs are not just another expression of creativity — they are an intrinsic tool in creating awareness of their work
Sometime back, when author Jaideep Varma's book Local was released in India, no national newspaper or magazine reviewed it - he had not received a million-dollar advance - and mainstream media for him was a virtual dead-end. Sales did not pick up, and all he got was word-of-mouth publicity.
"For me, media had become a mindless machine of hype and agenda," he says. So, Varma turned to Web logs, or blogs, to put forth his ideas about his book. "I had no option," he says, "but to blog. It is my private space to strike back."
Varma is not the only the Indian author to blog. Over the last 12-18 months, several published authors have taken to blogging. For several reasons, ranging from publicity for their book to airing their views on general issues for a public debate. Ashok Banker, author of Byculla Boy, and the recent Ramayana series, has a blog on Indian English. Samit Basu, author of India's first science fiction novel in English, The Simoqin Prophecies, uses his blog Duck of Destiny to promote other Indian writers.
Ergo, the Indian author is now forgetting the sylvan settings of Panchgani or the hills in Mussoorie. Gone are the days when writers sat cooped in their rooms and penned their thoughts in solitary silence. The new-age author is going beyond just writing the book - thanks to technology, he is striding out of the closet of anonymity.
"Blogs help you express yourself without the fear of scrutiny of editors, critics and journalists," says Chetan Bhagat, whose recent work Five Point Someone, has been steadily climbing the bestseller charts in Indian bookstores, and runs an eponymous website. "Before my twin sons were born, I was nervous and neglected at the same time. It was then that I started blogging. My blog is on fatherhood as well as my fiction. Sometimes there are ideas that do not require the space of a whole book. That's where a blog comes in handy."
Banker believes authoring is a solitary profession, but blogs help writers to interact with their readers directly. "The average response time for blogs," he says, "is much faster than the traditional way when we have to wait to hear it through the media. I am an inveterate writer and blogging was a natural outlet." Besides being a prolific blogger on blogcritics.org, Banker's popular blogs are epicindia and Indian English Spoken Here. "My books have brought people to the blog. After the Ramayana series was published, I corresponded with several Ramayana readers through epicindia." The blog is now a way of anchoring the community.
Ashok Banker will soon serialise a fantasy novel Vortal on Indian English Spoken Here. He plans to post instalments of 2500 words thrice a week and wait for feedback to finish or discontinue it.
Basu, on the other hand, does not necessarily blog out of professional compulsions. "My blog is more a personal space," he says. "There are links to reviews, but no hardsell. My blog is a storehouse of articles I've written - it's a a warehouse where I dump the weird and wonderful things on the Internet."
Some others, however, unabashedly acknowledge the function of blogs as intricately linked to their fiction. Once the reviews and feedback of a particular literary work are published, the blog begins to appear more like a promotional exercise than a creative outlet. Admittedly, some published and almost all aspiring authors use the blog as apromotion or interaction device.
Says Dilip D'Souza, who wrote The Narmada Damned, "My blog is a place where I put smaller pieces I write, that would not get published elsewhere." He runs a blog titled Death Ends Fun. "I like the business of writing something everyday."
Basu feels every blogger (there are more than 8.5 million active blogs) is an author. "The author creates a highly individual work, gets feedback, and can even get to turn a blog into a book. A blog is the last frontier for publishing."