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Published on January 3rd, 2014

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Review: ‘Paperback dreams’

Rahul Saini’s newest book is a behind-the-scenes look at the (sometimes) murky world of book publishing and the writing process.
by The Editors | editor@themetrognome.in

Rahul SainiIf you’ve been an aspiring author, a recently-published one, or worse, a rejected one, you must read Rahul Saini’s Paperback Dreams.

The thing with writing a book in India today is that one gets complacent even before one takes up a plot, or a story outline, or even a pen. “So much nonsense is being published every day, I can write better than that,” one says, secure in the ‘knowledge’ that publishers – all publishers – are simply waiting for one to finish their magnum opus so that printing of the book may commence. And when one’s book is out, all one has to do is sit back and rake in the royalties.

That is not so, as Paperback Dreams explains in funny, sharp detail. The book’s three protagonists – published authors Rohit Sehdev and Jeet Obiroi, and aspiring author and school student Karun Mukharjee – are presented in three parallel narratives, but are connected at various points in the story. All three are published by Dash Publishers. Rohit is a bestselling author who is being cheated out of his royalties, but he is initially too afraid to even have strong words with the publisher. Meanwhile, Jeet is cruising along with the success of his first book and his movie star looks, but he is constantly dogged by a dark secret about his book that he hopes nobody will ever find out.

Meanwhile, Karun has cracked the formula for the perfect love story – after a bit of research of best-selling authors’s works, he has finished his debut novel and is due to be published while still in school. However, he hits upon a Machiavellian plan to achieve his ends – not content to merely be published, he wants to ensure that he becomes the star for Dash Publishers as their other best-selling authors fall to the wayside.

Readers will recognise some of India’s spectacular publishing successes that Saini mentions off and on – there are references to Bhetan Chagat, for example. However, Saini’s paperback dreamslight-hearted take on the publishing industry also reveals several dark truths. It’s not all hunky dory in the publishing world – publishers routinely cheat authors of royalties, new authors’s books are not promoted or stocked in bookstores, debutant authors sometimes have to rewrite major plot points to please the publisher, and plagiarism is a common phenomenon. Also, as Saini deftly points out, it is really not that difficult to get published these days.

Overall, the book is an enjoyable read, but you will be a put off by several typos that suddenly appear in a few chapters in the middle of the book. Obviously, somebody’s been sleeping at the editing table. Other than that, you might also think that the Karun narrative is a bit simplistic, even clunky. It’s all okay till he devises his evil plan, but the methods he adopts and the results he gets seem a bit far-fetched.

The most relatable character is Rohit, for his low self-confidence, his obvious talent that he is reluctant to advertise, his constant whining about his problems while lacking the courage to take corrective action. So many of us are like that. How he finally tackles the publisher in a comical denouement would make for a good scene in a film. In fact, we rather suspect Saini wrote this book for celluloid, like a certain Mr Bhagat.

Rating: 3.5/5

Rating scale: 1 = Awful; 2 = Slightly rubbish; 3 = Tolerable read; 4 = Good; 5 = Paisa vasool.

Check out Rahul Saini’s Paperback Dreams here.

(Author photograph courtesy Rahul Saini, featured image www.compassbook.com)

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