book bazaar

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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