Writing a book is like having a Facebook account. Your social life isn’t complete without it. Conversations no longer focus on what people are reading (so 1980s!) but on what people are writing. It even comes with its own version of the taking-a-break-from-Facebook-email-me gambit, in the form of the writer’s block.

Yes, yes, we know, your story of girl meets boy, girl fights with boy, girl makes up with boy, girl loses boy, maybe girl dies or both die or both meet in New York or Paris or Masai Mara in the last chapter has never been written before. But even so, unless you’re ready to invest hundreds of thousands of rupees on advertising your masterpiece, no one will even know it exists.

There are just too many books out there already. Nielsen estimates that some 250,000 titles in English alone are available in physical and virtual bookshops in India. Can you imagine the insignificance of the attention that No. 250,001 will get?

What’s worse, only about one in five books sold is a new one. The lion’s share of book sales in India goes to what is known as the back list: books published years ago but still favourites with buyers. Think Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, Ravinder Singh’s I Too Had A Love Story, or Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger. What chance does your new book have?

So, here’s a far better idea. Don’t write that book. There’s a better way to make money from books, and it’s socially responsible, too.

While you cannot put a figure to fame, there is always the question of the earnings that come your way from writing a book. If, like half the people on the planet, you’re a first-time author, the best you can expect from your book is a royalty of 7.5%. So, if your wannabe mass market bestseller is priced at Rs 150, you’ll make Rs 11.25 per copy sold.

So if, like many new books in this category, yours sells about 3,000 copies – and that’s if you’re doing something really, really, right – you’ll make, oh, about Rs 33,750. That’s not all that much money for something that took you at between three and six months to write, is it?

Turning the page
What if I told you could still earn 7.5% of the price of every book sold, without even having written any of those books. The magic bullet is the affiliate programme run by online booksellers like Amazon or Flipkart. All you have to do is sign up as an affiliate, and then send buyers their way through links from your Facebook or Twitter or Whatsapp or website or blog or all of these.

Every time someone buys a book you recommend by following your link, you’ll get around around 7.5% – going up to 8 or more sometimes – of the cover price. And, of course, it doesn’t have to be your book at all. You can sell all the books you love.

In other words, instead of remaining a hopeful and, eventually, bitter writer, you can become a curator of good taste in reading, earn the gratitude of your social graph, and make money from all of this.

Socially responsible
The advantages for your wallet are obvious. But think of the social benefits. First, that’s one less manuscript for every slush pile in the Indian universe. Next, that’s one less book every six months that a publisher has to publish, a distributor has to distribute, a bookseller has to sell, a marketing team has to ignore, and a raddiwala has to buy from the warehouse. And finally, that’s one less book that readers have to not know about.

But that’s not all. As writers stop focussing on writing books, some of them might even start reading. Whereupon they will realise that the books they’ve been planning to write have been written already - several times, in some cases. And a small number of them might actually go on to write a really good, original book.

So much more humane to sell great books written by others and make some money in the process. No?