In conversation with author Tony V Francis, whose book “The Autograph Seeker”, was released recently (Oct. 28Th, 2017).
Before embarking on this book, which took all of 4 years to write and publish, Tony had an incredibly succesful career in Sales. In the course of this very candid chat, Tony tells us about himself, his book, and his approach to conceptualizing and marketing this book in his own unique way.
Oh, and there’s a Chetan Bhagat connection to this book that you shouldn’t miss!!!
Hi Tony. Tell us a bit about your novel “The Autograph Seeker” and the Chetan Bhagat connection.
Let me start with where all of this began. My formative years were in Calcutta (Kolkata). I grew up in an institution called St. Xavier’s, where nearly all of my academic life – from Class 1 till Graduation – was spent. This background information is important because you’ll know later how and why it’s linked to the book.
After that I came to Bangalore, did my post graduation, and joined India’s first private radio station “Radio City 91 FM”. I worked there for 4 years, and then moved to “Red FM”, where I had a 10 year stint. My primary job there was “Business Development”, and my second role was “Station Head”. After a couple of years, I was assigned the task of taking this radio channel from a “Local station” to a “Bollywood station”. It was a very successful move and under my leadership we ended up winning numerous awards and accolades!
During this period, around 2013, there was this really strong urge to write a book. This urge was further enriched when I chanced upon a “first-day cover” of St. Xavier’s College and School. I remembered seeing the same thing many, many years ago, and it struck me that the picture of St. Xavier’s on the first-day cover was not what the institution is like today!
This, then led me into doing some research on St. Xavier’s. I had heard some legendary tales about St. Xavier’s during my childhood years there. I decided to delve a little deeper into the past and see what facts I could unearth.
In the 1800s there was a theatre in Calcutta called the Sans Souci Theatre. It was one of the most prominent theatres in the country then. The English Theater scene in Calcutta was truly flourishing at this time. The story goes that a very celebrated actress, Esther Leach’s dress catches fire whilst on stage and as a result she dies a couple of days later. This tragedy brought the curtains down on English theatre in Calcutta.
Despite a desperate effort by the San Souci manager to revive this depleted theatre scene, the theatre eventually shuts down, and is presently St. Xavier’s College and School! This tale – a historically accurate one – was discovered by this schoolboy 150 years later.
Selling the idea:
Once I wrote the book, I now had to figure out how to get it out. Who would represent me best. You know, the number one seller in India is Chetan Bhagat. Being a salesperson, I wished I had his team to sell my book. As fate would have it, someone mentioned that Chetan Bhagat’s editor, Shinie Antony, was to be a guest of honour for another author’s book release. So, this is where my sales pitch comes in. It’s a complete cold call, where I land up at somebody else’s book launch and wait patiently to meet Shinie Antony. I walk up to her and introduce myself. I tell her about my background in radio, and that I am aware that she is Chetan Bhagat’s only editor and so on. I ask her if she can represent me. Obviously she is very skeptical and very courteously she mentioned that she had poor eyesight and only works for Chetan at the publisher’s insistence. Otherwise she is a writer herself having won numberous International awards for her work.
I asked Shinie to give me her email id and phone number and requested her if she could edit just the synopsis of my book. She agreed and gave me her contact details. Now this is where my sales angle comes in. I go back home and instead of the synopsis, I sent her the entire manuscript.
And I wait. After 2 days Shinie sends me an email saying “Read it. Loved it. Call me.” That’s how my association with Shinie began. She then took charge, and introduced me to the inner circle in the publishing world. I frequented many literary events, even moderating in some! And here’s where I found myself a very renowned publisher for my book.
These days digital marketing is very important. Facebook especially. One of my digital marketing guys asked me to follow a facebook page called “Humans of New York”. The idea of that page is very simple. The page owner go around the streets of New York, clicking random pictures of people, then post it on FB after weaving a story around the picture. I saw this page and thought “Why not use the autographs I have and build stories around them on my facebook page?” And I create tiny stories around each of these autographs. This then, becomes my broadcasting medium on Facebook.
-Hubert J D’Mello
Senior Dir – Proprietary Media WPP
GM & Station manager Red FM