Karan Bajaj was a management consultant for the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in Washington D.C. He graduated from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Bangalore in 2002 where he was selected as one of the top ten young business leaders of India by the Aditya Birla Foundation. Karan has earlier worked as a Brand Manager for Procter & Gamble in India, the Philippines, Singapore and the U.S., and was nominated a ‘Top 40 under 40 marketer in the U.S.’ by Advertising Age in 2007.
His debut fiction novel Keep Off the Grass, had the protagonist Samrat Ratan, a son of immigrant Indian parents in the US who is plagued by questions of identity. Samrat embarks on a journey to India in search of his roots while getting an education at IIM. In this quest, he stumbles upon unimaginable realities and wild adventures that make the journey exciting.
The PR objective was to help launch his book Keep Off The Grass and help increase its sales. He also wanted to build his profile.
- Keep Off The Grass had a reputed publisher, Harper Collins, already on board.
- The book was a good read and certainly deserved to be put out there. (Surprise! Surprise! Yes. We actually read the book before deciding on representing the client)
- Karan himself had an interesting profile that was likely to appeal to the media-young, IIM-educated, successful professional Indian working in the US.
- He also started looking for a PR agency in India well before the launch date. So, we signed up with him about 2 months before launch
- The first, was obviously that this was his first book launch. There was no prominent literary or any other celebrity figure endorsing the book.
- While we liked the book, we felt that it read very similar to a bestselling book from another Indian author.
- Therefore, sharing the book with the media for reviews, could have a section of journalists dismiss the author as a clone of the other author and completely write-off the book. This could have been detrimental to the image and morale of a debut novelist.
- The book was not available online at pre-launch phase. So pre-orders were not easily possible. (This wasn’t really a PR problem but not having it does not leverage the initial buzz and affects initial sales not depended on media or peer reviews.)
- Karan Bajaj was based in the US and coordinating interviews between him and journalists was going to be difficult.
To offset the main challenge of there being no credible endorser of his book, we decided to get feedback on the book from relevant literary figures.
To avoid the risk of any unfavourable reviews, we did not share the book for reviews with the media before the launch.
We also decided to use Karan’s profile to get some pre-launch coverage.
Post launch, we focussed on launch press releases, book reviews, book readings and other announcements.
The strategy worked.
Celebrated author Ruskin Bond, very graciously, offered us his feedback.
‘A racy and entertaining account of a romp through an ever-changing yet timeless India…wild, witty and wicked!’,
Needless to say, the author was ecstatic.
After all, how many debut novelists have the privilege of getting great feedback from an author they idolize?!
The quote went on to be used on the book.
With the new found endorsement, we went all out and got Karan interviews in the pre-launch phase and continued doing so through the launch and post-launch phase.
Not just with Indian media, we even got him to be interviewed with a US based journalist writing for Mumbai Mirror.
The book was reviewed favourably by the press across various media including TOI, The Week, Outlook, Business Standard, Mumbai Mirror, DNA, Mid -Day, Hindu, Economic Times and Mint.
It went on to sell over 40,000 copies in the first 4 months of its launch. A fantastic number for Indian fiction at that time.
The movie rights were bought by Mosaic Media (Batman Begins/The Dark Knight).
A sampling of the reviews:
‘Pacy, Unpretentious and great fun to read! –Outlook
‘A remarkably easy read with a self-deprecating, endearing style” – Business Standard
‘Absolutely infectious and well-crafted read’ – Financial Express
PR work SINGLE most important factor for success
Thank you for your outstanding effort on ‘Keep off the Grass’ PR.
As an unknown author, I consider the PR activities led by you as the SINGLE MOST important factor for the book’s success and movie deal. Your passion, commitment, drive and honesty is an inspiration!