How to write a bestseller — like an ad

Only the author’s name may appear on the book cover. But the book itself may be the product of team work much like a commercial advertisement. Writing a novel need not longer be a solitary exercise of a writer pegging away alone, putting down thoughts on paper.

Indian-born Harvard sophomore Kaavya Viswanathan apparently received expert assistance in writing her bestseller, Opal Mehta Gets Kissed, Gets Wild and Gets A Life from 17th Street Productions, a “book packaging firm”. It’s part of Alloy Entertainment, which claims to be developing several film projects and TV pilots, whose president Leslie Morgenstein, told the Harvard Crimson newspaper: “We helped Kaavya conceptualise and plot the book.”

The Harvard Independent Online quotes a former editor at a 17th Street unit who says: “A packager basically serves as both the writer and editor of a book.”

Wow, and I thought a writer worked alone!

No doubt Viswanathan is extremely bright or she wouldn’t have got into Harvard. But money does make a difference. Her parents hired Katherine Cohen, founder of IvyWise, a private counselling service, which charged $10,000 to $20,000 for two years of college preparation services, reported the New York Times. After reading her writing, Cohen put her in touch with the famous William Morris talent agency. Somewhere along the way she got help from a “book packaging firm”. 

It makes you wonder how much talent you need and how much money and “connections” to succeed in the world today. The preparation Viswanathan needed to get into Harvard may not be all that unusual. Plenty of students pay just as much to get into that charmed circle which can make all the difference in later life.

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