How to profit from innovation without innovating

by neo

With very little innovation on your part, you could profit by selling books about other people innovating! We promise this guide makes it so easy, even an I.I.M. Ahmedabad graduate could do it.

First, you need a catchy title. Quick: who comes to your mind when you think about innovation? Don’t get creative, just pick someone obvious … like Steve Jobs. Now take one of his famous quotes, let’s just say, “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish,” and make that the title of your book. Easy, right? See, you’re already, as it were, “in business.” No innovation necessary!

Now we need some content. You could do original research, find people who have inspiring stories that have never been told before—people who have innovated, persevered and succeeded but somehow haven’t gotten publicity. But finding them would need you to innovate and persevere. Besides, we already know someone who could really use the publicity: you. So write about people who are already famous. The research is easier, the books sell better, and brand equity is contagious.

But choose your entrepreneur stories carefully; it is okay for stories to have a rough patch or two, but every story in your book must have a happy ending! Your goal is not to inform, but to inspire. Write lines like “You see, there is no such thing as a failed entrepreneur. You are a failed entrepreneur only when you quit. Until then, you are simply not successful… yet.” 

(Is such advice valid for everyone? Absolutely not! Should you, as a conscientious writer, include some stories of burn-outs, failures, unsustainable personal debt, stress-related diseases and workaholism-caused divorces? No! Leave those stories to some other author, and good luck to him trying to sell that book!)

Writing can be hard, but your book is only for the aam admi, yaar. The entrepreneurs in your books are real people with nuanced backgrounds, inner conflicts and human weaknesses—but you should just stereotype them: like the entrepreneur with an “absolutely typical middle-class background,” or the one who’s a “matter-of-fact” guy. This one is an “Army child”, that one is a “Delhi dude.” (No “Bombay Belles” or “Punjabi Puttars”, though; you don’t want to attract that kind of “crowd.”)

The easy way to defend yourself against all criticism of your writing is to say you prefer to write “desi style” (not that you could write any other style). When you write sentences like “he made a conscious decision to go abroad,” some readers might wonder if there exist people who end up going abroad unconsciously (“Really, I have no idea how the visa showed up in my passport!”) This is not bad writing; it is “desi style.” 

(Of course, every time someone like you defends intellectual laziness and sloppy writing as being “desi style,” they hurt India’s brand. But that’s only a problem for those crazy Indians who’d prefer “desi style” to mean excellence, elegance and thoughtfulness. You know, like the iPhone?)

Now comes the most important part: how to make money. If you’ve read your own book (optional) you know that the hardest job is to sell, so follow along closely now.

Indian youth are plentiful, impressionable, stressed and incessantly curious. Exploiting (or in MBA-speak, “monetizing”) their dreams, fears and insecurities about their careers is easy if you call yourself an expert. And so you should call yourself a “youth expert.” (“Look mom, finally an author who claims to be an expert about me!”) Don’t be shy; use the term everywhere, as if it means something. (As your fan-base ages, you can transform yourself into a “middle-aged person expert.”)

Eventually of course, readers will see through the charade. But by the time people (as Steve Jobs said) connect the dots, you should be selling your next book. In fact, why not call your next book, “Connect the dots”? Don’t work too hard, though; remember, we write not to inform, but to sell. And stay desi, stay sloppy—Steve Jobs would be proud.

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