In the era of information overload, when anyone wants to be heard what’s the best strategy? Shout. The louder, the better. Would you agree? Hold on to your answer till you finish reading the post.
Almost anyone in a profession that needs a big audience seems to feel screaming is the best way to get their message across. Actors, politicians, businessmen and of course, authors. And I don’t mean ‘shouting’ in the literal sense. There are ways to scream and get attention without putting your vocal chords in danger.
One example – huge billboards featuring celebrities, in-your-face images or tag lines that shock more than soothe. In the publishing world this shouting manifests itself in the form of extravagant book launches. Often, the first time you hear about a book is not through good old word-of-mouth channels from a trustworthy friend or colleague, but through the Page 3 updates that get flashed in the newspapers and magazines after the mega event has been concluded.
Is the book launch successful in meeting the objectives? Let’s take them one by one.
Yup, if you shout, people will look in your direction. Bigger question – does it get the right attention? For some books, it does. For most, I’m not too sure.
If it’s a celebrity launch, fans (not readers) are flocking to the event to rub shoulders with the star. For the major part, the poor author ends up in a corner while people rush to the celebrity for autographs rather than the new author.
Most folks who attend the event are folks who directly know the author (family, friends). They might buy the book at the event, get it signed by the author and taking pics for pasting on websites, facebook and other social media.
Does the buzz caused by the book launch extend beyond the event? To some extent it does, specially when your invitee list includes reporters from the press, bloggers and the Twitterati. In most cases, these aren’t the folks attending the event.
Turning the book into a bestseller
Again the jury is out on this one. But one thing’s for sure, you are making it tougher for your publisher to recoup their investment in your novel. Let’s spend a little more time understanding this point.
Think about it. Before the book launch, the primary number in the publisher’s mind while calculating (warning: financial terminology ahead) the breakeven point is your book advance. Which means, for the publishing company to really make any profit, you need to sell more copies than they assumed when you signed the publishing agreement.
When they start pumping in more money into your book promotion, the break-even point for them starts drifting further away. In regular English, you need to sell more books to help them recoup their promotional expenses first and then get back all the other calculations they had done earlier.
Btw, I don’t think it’s a lost game for authors yet. There are still a good number of them who know what a book launch can do for them. A few hours back, I attended a short and simple book launch at Landmark by Saaz Aggarwal (and hosted by hamaar sakhi Rashmi Bansal) which had none of the extravagance that characterises the big budget book launches. The whole event got wrapped up in under an hour (about 45 minutes to be precise). The audience was small, but interested. The focus was on the author and her book. After the event, there was scope for everyone to interact one-on-one with the author and the host. All in all, well executed, I thought. Good luck to you, Saaz.
I came back with the happy feeling – there is hope for the discerning and level-headed author.
Lesson for the day: The rocket (i.e. the book launch) can only try to get your satellite (i.e book) into orbit. But if that can’t happen, the satellite comes crashing down faster than it went up.
(Not too tough to deduce that you are reading an engineer-turned-author’s blog, eh?)