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An author reveals ten secrets to marketing your own book

The writer is the best marketer, and once a book is out, give up hopes of writing for a while.

After months of extensive marketing for the first in my Anantya Tantrist series, I am back at the desk, somewhat dazed, somewhat wiser, and definitely craving to go back to my first love: writing. As I move on to various other exciting projects that are brimming up for me (including the third instalment of the Anantya Tantrist’s series), I thought I should whisper all the trade secrets I learnt on the way, for others who might walk the path that I have in the past.

Take a few months off
First of all, for any marketing effort, you will need to take out a couple of months. That’s a couple of months of no productivity, as in no writing, and doing things you might hate – talking to people, connecting, pushing your book, chasing, and all other things that marketing requires. So prepare yourself mentally for this.

Connect with people in media
I’ve worked in media houses for more than twelve years now and understand that media (all kinds, be it online, offline and blogs) is very useful in disseminating the word about your book. The thing is, the traditional ones (like newspapers and magazines) are usually loaded with books (about 80 a month), so making personal relationships with the journalists who read your kind of genre might be helpful.

Take time out and figure who these journalists are and connect with them and let them know about your book. Your publisher might be doing it on their own, but it’s useful for you to do it too. And this includes not only newspapers, but magazines, television, radio, blogs, online sites, Instagram and Facebook people. Build relationships with all kinds of people in traditional, online, or social media. If you can’t do this yourself, hire a PR agency, but keep it personal with whoever you connect with.

Do something other than a book launch
When was the last time you went to a book launch where you didn’t know the author? A launch works for a celebrity author. If you’re not one of those, try to do something else in an event. I tried doing an occult quiz for my tantrik book launch and got much more media interest as well as a larger crowd than I would have if it had been just a humdrum literary discussion (which wouldn’t have worked for Anantya Tantrist anyway).

For my kids mystery, Ghost Hunters of Kurseong, I went to schools and did detective workshops with kids, spreading the word about my book. The best way to do an event is to tie up with something else that’s already happening. Launch your book at a music concert or just before a play or at an art exhibition. Combination events work much better to reach new crowds than your own networks.

Play to your strengths
I am a natural communicator. I love connecting to people, am naturally curious on how they work and what they do and how I can help them as well as take their help in spreading word about my books. For Cult of Chaos, I’ve connected with other authors and musicians and done a giveaway on their websites, connected with event organisers and requested them to put freebies of my book (really cool blade shaped bookmarks) on their ticket boxes.

It might or might not work, but my books are being talked about in these different groups, and that helps. (Or so I think and hope.) Another author friend of mine is simply lovely at helping others write, so he runs a writing club offline and online (which comes with an extensive email list). It’s organised and fabulous. Think of your strengths and weave a marketing plan around it.

Look beyond bookstores
Where do people read books? It’s not only bookstores, it’s cafes, parks and libraries and homes. Readers are everywhere. Can you reach these spaces? How about offices, colleges and apartment complexes? There are reader groups everywhere, try to find them and connect with them. Begin small and continue your efforts.

Be more than a blog online
A personal blog or website is great, but online audiences are fractured and each has their own preferred social space. Today, you need to be present on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, YouTube, and others. If you know your audience well, try and find out where they hang out the most and be there.

There’s no use being on Facebook if you’ve written non-fiction and most of your audience hashtags over at Twitter. And be on as many social networks as you can. You don’t need to post separately on anything. But connect them all together, use auto-posts, schedule posts and let it be.

I wrote Anantya Tantrist‘s voice over a day, for two months, and put it on auto-schedule. For two months, she talked on Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter and Google+. You’ll need to be efficient with this, otherwise your writing time may be eaten into. Another important thing for you to do is have a strong voice across these social networks. It will be a reflection of who you are as a person and as an author. Like I love supernatural/fantasy stuff and I constantly write on folklore, mythology, tribal  and occult things, which matches my interest in writing supernatural and tantric fiction.

Write columns 
Journalists don’t have time to review all books or do interviews of all authors. But you’re a writer, so play on your strength and write free content for as many magazines, papers, blogs, e-zines that you can connect with (some of them might pay for it too). Most editors are open to new ideas, especially content from authors (they think that if you’ve written and published a book, you might be able to write well). Pitch ideas around your book, not things that are directly promotional but ideas that you feel strongly about, or the themes of your book. I write columns on folklore and tantrism and things I know across four or five websites and magazines. On each site, I get about 10-300 shares every time I post something new.

Work with your publisher
Publishers usually have decent marketing teams, but they’re really busy people, so keep track of your marketing representative, give them a call once in a while, send them an email, inform them of all your activities and ideas and thoughts and keep asking what’s happening next. And if you have an idea, always ask if they would do it, even though you feel it’s too expensive or weird. You know what’s best for your book. And the marketing team is usually accommodating to most of the reasonable demands you make as an author.

Go on bookstore tours
A lot of us go by the recommendations made by the staff of a bookstore. Use this to your advantage. Understand the people who’re selling your book on the ground, for whom it’s just a day’s boring business. Tell them about your book, enthuse them with what you love about your book. Do bookstore tours in your city, speak to groups that sell books and figure out how they do it. Convince them to push your book out.

Keep in touch with the sales team
You don’t need to find out how your book is doing (that dreaded question that is asked one too many times to all of us), but I’ve found it quite useful to understand how your book is being sold. Who is the sales person? Do they read? Do they know about your book? How do they recommend it? What kind of pressures do their bosses put on them? What are their targets? What kind of distribution do they have? Is your book going to be available in all stores or just a few? Who decides these? It’s essential to understand the business of sales within a publishing house. To be honest, I am still figuring out these things myself.

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As India turns 70, London School of Economics asks some provocative questions

Is India ready to become a global superpower?

Meaningful changes have always been driven by the right, but inconvenient questions. As India completes 70 years of its sovereign journey, we could do two things – celebrate, pay our token tributes and move on, or take the time to reflect and assess if our course needs correction. The ‘India @ 70: LSE India Summit’, the annual flagship summit of the LSE (London School of Economics) South Asia Centre, is posing some fundamental but complex questions that define our future direction as a nation. Through an honest debate – built on new research, applied knowledge and ground realities – with an eclectic mix of thought leaders and industry stalwarts, this summit hopes to create a thought-provoking discourse.

From how relevant (or irrelevant) is our constitutional framework, to how we can beat the global one-upmanship games, from how sincere are business houses in their social responsibility endeavours to why water is so crucial to our very existence as a strong nation, these are some crucial questions that the event will throw up and face head-on, even as it commemorates the 70th anniversary of India’s independence.

Is it time to re-look at constitution and citizenship in India?

The Constitution of India is fundamental to the country’s identity as a democratic power. But notwithstanding its historical authority, is it perhaps time to examine its relevance? The Constitution was drafted at a time when independent India was still a young entity. So granting overwhelming powers to the government may have helped during the early years. But in the current times, they may prove to be more discriminatory than egalitarian. Our constitution borrowed laws from other countries and continues to retain them, while the origin countries have updated them since then. So, do we need a complete overhaul of the constitution? An expert panel led by Dr Mukulika Banerjee of LSE, including political and economic commentator S Gurumurthy, Madhav Khosla of Columbia University, Niraja Gopal Jayal of JNU, Chintan Chandrachud the author of the book Balanced Constitutionalism and sociologist, legal researcher and Director of Council for Social Development Kalpana Kannabiran will seek answers to this.

Is CSR simply forced philanthropy?

While India pioneered the mandatory minimum CSR spend, has it succeeded in driving impact? Corporate social responsibility has many dynamics at play. Are CSR initiatives mere tokenism for compliance? Despite government guidelines and directives, are CSR activities well-thought out initiatives, which are monitored and measured for impact? The CSR stipulations have also spawned the proliferation of ambiguous NGOs. The session, ‘Does forced philanthropy work – CSR in India?” will raise these questions of intent, ethics and integrity. It will be moderated by Professor Harry Barkema and have industry veterans such as Mukund Rajan (Chairman, Tata Council for Community Initiatives), Onkar S Kanwar (Chairman and CEO, Apollo Tyres), Anu Aga (former Chairman, Thermax) and Rahul Bajaj (Chairman, Bajaj Group) on the panel.

Can India punch above its weight to be considered on par with other super-powers?

At 70, can India mobilize its strengths and galvanize into the role of a serious power player on the global stage? The question is related to the whole new perception of India as a dominant power in South Asia rather than as a Third World country, enabled by our foreign policies, defense strategies and a buoyant economy. The country’s status abroad is key in its emergence as a heavyweight but the foreign service officers’ cadre no longer draws top talent. Is India equipped right for its aspirations? The ‘India Abroad: From Third World to Regional Power’ panel will explore India’s foreign policy with Ashley Tellis, Meera Shankar (Former Foreign Secretary), Kanwal Sibal (Former Foreign Secretary), Jayant Prasad and Rakesh Sood.

Are we under-estimating how critical water is in India’s race ahead?

At no other time has water as a natural resource assumed such a big significance. Studies estimate that by 2025 the country will become ‘water–stressed’. While water has been the bone of contention between states and controlling access to water, a source for political power, has water security received the due attention in economic policies and development plans? Relevant to the central issue of water security is also the issue of ‘virtual water’. Virtual water corresponds to the water content (used) in goods and services, bulk of which is in food grains. Through food grain exports, India is a large virtual net exporter of water. In 2014-15, just through export of rice, India exported 10 trillion litres of virtual water. With India’s water security looking grim, are we making the right economic choices? Acclaimed author and academic from the Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi, Amita Bavisar will moderate the session ‘Does India need virtual water?’

Delve into this rich confluence of ideas and more at the ‘India @ 70: LSE India Summit’, presented by Apollo Tyres in association with the British Council and organized by Teamworks Arts during March 29-31, 2017 at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. To catch ‘India @ 70’ live online, register here.

At the venue, you could also visit the Partition Museum. Dedicated to the memory of one of the most conflict-ridden chapters in our country’s history, the museum will exhibit a unique archive of rare photographs, letters, press reports and audio recordings from The Partition Museum, Amritsar.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Teamwork Arts and not by the Scroll editorial team.