With "brown faces" already on their books, Gurpareet Bains experienced the dark side of the publishing industry
By Gurpareet Bains
Gurpareet Bains is an award-winning nutritionist, TV and radio personality, celebrity and development chef, international bestselling author, and co-founder of Nüber Food, whose fans include Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow.
In this exclusive blog for Palamedes, the pioneer of the ‘Indian superfood’ concept talks candidly about his writing journey for the first time and reveals how the knock-backs, haters and critics only fuelled his hunger to succeed.
It has always been in the back of my mind that one day I might be asked to talk about my journey as an author. Truth be told, I’m not really sure how comfortable I am putting my proverbial pen to paper since it is probably one of the most arduous episodes of my personal journey. Until now, I’ve managed to avoid it!
It should come as no surprise that Palamedes has pushed me outside of my comfort zone again, though. For the past 10 years, I’ve been quizzed, photographed and generally pulled from pillar to post by the world’s media – none of which can be said to be a walk in the park. Then again, they do say that growth happens outside of our comfort zone, so here I am…
Gurpareet’s celebrity fans include Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, Goldie Hawn, Dame Vivienne Westwood, Chris Evans (pictured above with Gurpareet live on air), Sanjeev Bhaskar OBE, Meera Syal MBE, as well, as celebrity chefs Ching-He Huang, Vicky Bhogal and Mark Diacono.
Back in 2009 I had an aha moment, by acknowledging the United States Department of Agriculture finding that nearly ¼ of the top antioxidant-rich foods available to us are, in fact, spices, and then combining these spices in abundance with nutrient-dense vegetables, fruits, low-fat proteins and nuts – widely known as superfoods – to create Indian Superfood, a collection of the world’s most antioxidising recipes.
I would have thought my Indian Superfood concept would have been enough to get the attention of agents and publishers.
Be that as it may and with all my good intentions aside, I lost count of the rejections. Quite often I would be told the reason for their rejection was that I wasn’t a household name, or they already had enough brown faces on their books, or alas some agents and publishers were convinced a scientifically proven Indian Superfood concept wasn’t possible. One particularly unpleasant talent agent even went as far as branding me a “waste of space”. He said he didn’t ‘do’ “desperate’’ and warned me to keep away from all other agents. My heinous crime? Sending an email to him and a few others seeking representation – a service which, let’s not forget, he offered!
Remarkably, I didn’t let the brutal publishing world put me off, and eventually I did find an agent in Andrew Lownie and a publisher. Following this, Andrew introduced me to Jon Kirk, a former journalist who had set up a new PR agency. With little hesitance, Jon understood my concept and asked me whether I could create the world’s most antioxidising meal (later known as the world’s healthiest meal).
I went about creating a Chicken with Blueberries and Cinnamon, and Goji Berry Pilau Curry with palpable fear, since making such claims in the open likely would have led to public scrutiny. Despite my fears, it worked out in the end, since Jon made sure good news travelled fast around the globe. Eventually even Chris Evans tried the meal and said that it was the best tasting curry ever!
As you might imagine, following this, book sales hit the roof and my debut Indian Superfood was the 4th overall bestselling book in the UK for a good part of a summer one year. This led to another couple of books and further press campaigns spearheaded by Jon, all of which generated tremendous coverage and are probably the highlights of my writing career to date.
As you are likely to appreciate by now, as well as having a great idea, it is vital to pay attention to your profile too.
Palamedes PR aside, another profile building exercise that I carried out mostly during the rejection period of my career, was to approach celebrities and ask them to endorse my work. I was of an opinion that agents and publishers might consider these individuals successful enough, to at least believe their endorsement, since at the time they didn’t really care much for mine (and I was right). I cooked for some of these celebrities, and with others I just sent a book, and it worked a charm.
Gurpareet has been featured in nearly every major newspaper in the UK and India, in addition to receiving coverage from the ABC, BBC, CNN and hundreds of magazines and blogs worldwide.
I recall a time fondly, when I was out having lunch with Jon. From across a busy restaurant, I could see Sanjeev Bhaskar about to get in a cab. Just as an over enthusiastic fan might, I ran out to him, and somewhat out-of-breath I blurted out my Indian Superfood culinary concept to him, which he seemed to comprehend with ease. After tasting my food and considering the concept carefully, Sanjeev provided me with a blinding endorsement. This lead on to a few more celebrity quotes, including ones from Vivienne Westwood and Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester.
“Other people will very likely consider you to be an expert in your subject, and the strange thing is that they may well be correct.”
Later on, my writing career moved more into recipe development, where I have been at the forefront of the industry, and right now some exciting new products are pending launch.
Whatever happens on your own publishing journey, try to remember that writing is just another string in your bow. You should never let it take over your life. Perhaps more importantly still, treat unfair criticism with a pinch of salt. If you have an original or beautiful idea, please just keep going!
Take it from me: the publishing industry is rife with know-it-alls, haters, and those who delight in the downfall of others. What these individuals forget is the old adage that what goes around comes around. It’s comforting to know that those who belittle, ridicule and prove so unhelpful to those on the way up have the farthest to fall.
It’s what the press might call chicken karma.