Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Penguin Spring Fever - Dork: The Incredible Adventures of Robin ‘Einstein’ Varghese by Sidin Vadukut

The crowd today was half as much as yesterday, but that was to be expected given that today was a working day and its difficult for working professionals to reach a venue by 7pm unless they work next door (such are the problems of Corporate Life)

90% of the audience was there to hear Sidin Vadukut speak. Sidin has been blogging at http://www.whatay.com/ since over 6 years and has enough of a regular following for his brand of humor, that Penguin gave him a book deal.  Dork is the result of that deal. Sidin promises part 2 and 3 will be out soon and he was sure there was scope for many more.

Unfortunately before we got to hear what most of us had come for,  we were faced with a Marketing disaster from Penguin. Penguin has started a new series called Metro Reads. This has been widely covered in the papers. They are short novellas that can be read anywhere (or on the metro) and the media buzz around it was enough to make us curious to check out the books in a store.

Since Penguin is also selling some of its books on location @ IHC, we flipped through some of them and were still considering whether we should pick one up, among the other 15 books that we bought today. But since we weren't convinced about them, we decided to wait to hear the authors speak before buying any of them.

Story writing and story narrating are 2 entirely different skill sets. Unfortunately the 3 authors chosen from the Metro Reads section weren't very good narrators when they read out excerpts from their books and they lost the audience attention almost immediately. People were talking, texting and tweeting as long as these authors spoke. It was very telling that when the floor was opened to questions, NOT A SINGLE person had a question to ask.

Basic rule of marketing: do not put people in the floodlights if they are not yet ready to handle it. As the publishers, Penguin does have a responsibility of giving ample coverage to their authors, but the authors also must be equipped to handle this coverage. It is easy to say that they are first time authors, they will learn on the job, but I've seen secondary school students with more confidence and conviction when speaking in public.

Fortunately once that was out of the way, Sidin and Vinay took center stage and then it was a laugh a minute. Including when the author insisted that "Einstein" Varghese was a visionary who should share shelf space with others of his ilk like Bhagwan Rajneesh and Nandan Nilekani and the guy at the sales counter, promptly complied.

There was a lot of audience interaction even during their conversation and even more so when the floor was opened for questions, with audience directing questions @ Sidin and Robin and sometimes both, so we got to see a bit of MPD on stage :)

The book is really funny and anyone who has been to a B-School will truly appreciate the humor. But it will still be an extremely funny read for anyone who has ever held a corporate job. As Sidin said, every office has its share of psychos.

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