Dr. Sanjay Lunia (h.c.), a name synonymous with remarkable achievements at a remarkably young age, has defied conventional boundaries to become a prodigious figure in the realms of publishing, writing, and motivational speaking. His journey, which began with penning his first book at the tender age of 16, has since led him to become the world’s youngest publisher and the recipient of an honorary doctorate.
From the early days of skepticism and criticism to the establishment of his own publishing house, EnGame Publishing House. His editing skills have touched over 10 bestselling titles, each selling over 1,000 copies, while his visionary approach to marketing has revolutionized the literary landscape for new authors.
In this interview, we delve into the incredible journey of Dr. Sanjay Lunia(h.c.), exploring his early influences, experiences, and the impact he has had on the lives of others.
Q: You’ve achieved success at a very young age. Can you share a bit about your journey from being an author at 16 to becoming the World’s Youngest Publisher and receiving an honorary doctorate?
After completing my 10th-grade board exams, I found myself at a crossroads, uncertain about what to do during the four-month break before starting college. As someone who had always been dedicated to academics and long-term goals, I was reluctant to invest my time in activities that didn’t contribute to my personal growth.
It was during this period that I had a conversation with my friend, Khandker Khadeejah. She suggested, “Sanjay, why don’t you give reading a try?” That simple question sparked a significant change in my life. I decided to explore the world of literature and began with five bestselling books written by Indian authors. As I delved into these literary works, a thought crossed my mind – “If these books can become bestsellers, perhaps I can write one too.” And so, my journey in the writing industry began.
Q: Your first book, ‘In the name of love’, faced initial criticism. How did you handle this criticism, and what motivated you to keep pushing forward?
At the age of 16, on November 8, 2018, I published my debut book, ‘In the Name of Love’. The title was inspired by the popular song ‘In the Name of Love’ by Martin Garrix and Beba Rexa. In the initial three days following the launch, I managed to sell around 50 copies, primarily within my neighborhood and community.
One reader stood out during this time, a girl who devoured my book within just three hours and then reached out to me for feedback.
“Sanjay, have you considered getting your book edited?” she inquired.
I replied, “No…”
She hesitated for a moment before sharing her thoughts, “The plot is intriguing, but there is room for improvement.” I gathered the courage to ask, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate it?” She responded, “6.5,”
Upon hearing her evaluation, I was taken aback and felt a mix of fear and anxiety.
About a week after the book’s launch, I received another call, this time from Khandker Khadeejah. “Sanjay, grab your book, a pencil, and pay close attention!” she exclaimed. It felt like the world was closing in on me.
Over the phone, she patiently pointed out approximately 300 mistakes in my book. I couldn’t help but shed a few tears, but those tears ultimately gave me a much-needed clarity about the path ahead.
The critiques I received were primarily from those close to me, and some have shared their opinions behind my back.
Q: You mentioned reading over 100 books in a year and undergoing various Book Editing courses. How did this extensive reading and training contribute to your career as a professional Book Editor?
That one phone call truly transformed my life. I can still vividly recall the evening when I found myself in tears, struggling to sleep, all while hosting a book launch at a prestigious university.
It was the moment my self-assurance in my work crumbled. In the aftermath, I witnessed a significant shift in my social circle. Some friends drifted away, possibly driven by envy, while others distanced themselves due to my increasingly limited availability.
Over the course of a year, I dedicated myself to intensive reading and enrolled in various book editing courses. This period of self-improvement brought newfound wisdom and helped me recognize my past missteps. I delved into an array of genres, including history, science, politics, mythology, fiction, and fantasy. This diverse reading broadened my perspective as an author and marked a pivotal turning point in my life.
My parents struggled to comprehend my newfound passion, as I spent most of my days holed up in my room, engrossed in books. They occasionally made jests and expressed concerns that I might be squandering my time. My social isolation became more pronounced as I ceased attending college, bereft of friends to engage with. It felt as though I had been cast aside, akin to an old sweater.
During that period, my daily routine was filled to the brim. Any semblance of free time would plunge me into deep contemplation and melancholy. I distinctly recall retiring to bed at 1 am only to rise at 4 am, engrossed in reading, learning, and clinging to the hope that brighter days lay ahead.
Q: As a Book Editor, you’ve worked on over 10 bestselling titles, each selling over 1,000 copies. What are some of the key insights or strategies you bring to the editing process that contribute to the success of these books?
Before embarking on any project, my primary focus revolved around the following aspects:
1. Identifying the target audience of the book.
2. Defining the book’s Unique Selling Proposition (USP) that sets it apart from others in the same genre.
3. Evaluating whether the book possessed the captivating elements necessary to keep the audience engrossed.
Q: In 2020, during the pandemic, you co-authored a book titled “Me With You”, which became a bestseller. Can you tell us more about this book and the inspiration behind it?
During the time when I was nearing the completion of my goal of reading 100 books, I met Ms. Jinal Solanki, who shared my deep passion for literature. While keeping up with the news and witnessing the unfortunate consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, one particular story deeply touched my heart. It was the tragic demise of a doctor and a government employee, a couple whose loss resonated with me on a profound level.
I shared this heartbreaking news with Jinal, and to my delight, she was eager to embark on a collaborative writing journey with me. Looking back, I can confidently say that our joint effort, ‘Me With You,’ allowed me to tap into my creative potential and gain recognition as a writer.
Interestingly, the film rights for our book were initially sold to a director. However, due to the prolonged effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, those rights eventually expired, and they are now in my possession.
Q: You’ve also founded EnGame Publishing House. What motivated you to start your own publishing house, and what’s your vision for it?
After acquiring editing skills, I began my journey in freelancing, where I earned a modest rate of 0.12 INR per word. I distinctly recall my first earnings, which amounted to around 1,200 INR. While this may not have been a substantial amount, it represented a glimmer of hope for a 17-year-old named Sanjay.
As time went on, I expanded my services beyond editing books to include customized marketing strategies for authors. Recognizing that each book is unique, I veered away from the one-size-fits-all approach employed by our competitors, who merely offered fixed packages with limited results.
Instead, we crafted tailor-made plans, and this approach yielded remarkable success, with nearly 90% of the books we marketed achieving bestseller status.
One of our clients suggested the idea of establishing a publishing house, given our proficiency in editing and marketing. This proposal prompted me to contemplate the possibility, and I eventually launched our publishing house.
Today, it comprises a team of 40 professionals spread across India, with a remarkable 95% female participation rate. Our mission extends beyond providing editing and marketing services; we aim to empower women from diverse backgrounds to participate actively in our nation’s workforce, challenging the prevailing stereotypes that confine them to the role of homemakers.
Q: Beyond your achievements in publishing, you’re known as a motivational speaker. How do you inspire and influence aspiring authors and entrepreneurs?
Throughout my personal journey of growth and self-discovery, I’ve had the privilege of positively impacting many individuals, encouraging them to strive for their fullest potential and reach new heights. My commitment to sharing meaningful insights has led me to be invited to several esteemed universities and colleges where I’ve had the opportunity to discuss my experiences. While it’s often thought that the literary world is facing challenges, my story of perseverance offers hope, a powerful force in our lives.
Q: Can you share a memorable or impactful experience from your journey so far, where you felt you made a significant difference in someone’s life?
I vividly recall an inspiring incident from my past that has left a lasting impression on me. Within our company, there was a young employee who faced significant financial challenges and had taken a gap year from her academic pursuits due to these difficulties. Despite numerous offers of financial assistance from her relatives, she chose not to burden them and instead decided to work diligently with our team at EnGame.
At just 17, she took on the role of managing a team of 10 book reviewers, ensuring that our review processes ran smoothly and efficiently. After a year of dedicated work, when she applied for admission to one of India’s prestigious universities, she was required to explain the reason for her gap year. Remarkably, she confidently stated that she had served as a Team Manager at a publishing house during that time. Her response left the university authorities astonished, prompting them to request a letter of recommendation from our CEO. I had the privilege of drafting and signing that letter of recommendation. The impact it had on the university’s management authorities was truly remarkable and they extended a full scholarship for her three-year degree program.
Q: You’ve received several awards and accolades, including the KarmaVeer Chakra Award and being featured in India’s top 100 list of Teachers and coaches. How do you use your platform and influence to make a positive impact on society?
Receiving the KarmaVeer Chakra Award in association with ICONGO and the UN has been one of the most meaningful milestones in my life. This recognition not only honored my contributions but also expanded the reach of my platform, allowing me to make an even more significant positive impact on society.
As an individual who values mentorship and education, this award provided me with a unique opportunity to extend my influence and help others, particularly during challenging times such as the Covid-19 pandemic. I decided to leverage my newfound recognition and expertise to mentor students from all corners of India, focusing on both fiction and non-fiction writing. This initiative aimed to not only hone their creative skills but also provide them with a constructive outlet during the pandemic when many were facing isolation and uncertainty.
Being honoured with an Honorary Doctorate at the age of 19 was a humbling experience that profoundly reinforced my belief in my potential to contribute positively to society. It reminded me that age is not a barrier to making a difference and that I have a responsibility to use my knowledge, skills, and platform to inspire and uplift others.
Q: What’s next? Do you have any upcoming projects or goals you’d like to share with us?
“Life happens when you are busy making plans.”
Currently, my goal is to explore various industries and cultivate future leaders with the vision and skills to effectively manage different divisions within EnGame Private Limited. I understand that life can be unpredictable, and I am committed to adapting to whatever challenges or opportunities arise along the way.
Q: Finally, what advice would you give to young aspiring authors or entrepreneurs who are looking to achieve success in their respective fields?
Read. Read. Read.
Read before you want to start anything. The more you read the more you know, the more you know, the more you grow!