Promoting books and authors in the Indian media

Apart from trying to get your kick-a$$ manuscript for your soon-to-be best-seller novel on the tables of influential editors, I hope you have also been working on the less glamorous but equally important task of strengthening your ‘author platform’.

It’s not just important for publishers to discover you and your work. It is also important for your readers to discover you.

Promoting Books and Authors

In earlier blog posts, I have shared several ways in which you can increase your author brand – author blogs, book trailers on Youtube, social media, book launches.

These are aspects which you as an author have direct control over. However there are also some limitations to what these book marketing strategies can do for you. The biggest one being the inability to take your book beyond your regular circle of acquaintances – family, friends and blog readers.

Apart from getting your basic book marketing platform in place within your personal, professional and social circles, you also need to start planning to expand beyond this sphere. This is where external media resources come in.

The most common strategy is to get the novel in the hands of others who have bigger platforms than you do, and are willing to publish book reviews. More on this in a different blog post.

In the US publishing industry, getting Oprah Winfrey to host the author on her show is a HUGE accomplishment for the author and the publisher. The scale and impact of such an exposure can bring an obscure book into the limelight, turn the author into an overnight celebrity and result in a spike in the sales. Of course, Oprah mausi is highly selective about the books she takes up and unless you are already someone who has the resources at your disposal, getting her team to consider your book seriously will be several times more difficult than getting a publisher.

In India, we don’t have an Oprah equivalent. But the mainstream media can help give a fillip to your book marketing efforts. If you have got a bigger publisher behind you, the credibility for the book and the in-house resources that you can leverage can be significant. For instance, getting some air-time on a mainstream platform can introduce your book to a larger audience.

My experience with media promotion

Promoting Books and Authors

Recently I was invited for a CNN IBN Live Chat session. Though I’ve written columns for online Indian publications (like Firstpost, Rediff) plus the occasional email-based interview (The New Indian Express), I’ve never done something spontaneous like this…and on a platform like this before.

And the fact that I had less than a day for the event meant there was very little I could do in terms of research or planning or promoting the event within my own circles. HarperCollins promoted it on their Facebook page (using the pic shown above) and I did my bit on the Beyond The Hype facebook page and my personal Facebook page and the MBA Crystal Ball Twitter profile.

There were also questions about whether there would be a good response to the event for a relatively unknown author. Or if I’d be twiddling my thumbs waiting for someone to post the first question? What if some smart-a$$ trolls decide to join the party and post crappy questions just for the heck of it? What if I don’t have the ‘right’ answers to the questions. What if I have no internet connection during the event?

For a while, the ‘no internet access’ possibility came up when there was no electricity since morning, but Murphy (yeah, the same guy who allegedly makes those frustrating unnatural laws) decided he had tested my patience enough and the power came back about an hour before the event. Phew!

In hindsight, it wasn’t that bad. After the first couple of questions, it was actually enjoyable. There were enough questions to ensure that I was kept busy throughout the session. In fact, though it was a 1-hour event, I ended up typing my answers for about 30 minutes after the event was officially closed for questions. After typing away at breakneck speed for the entire duration, I got a breather and the opportunity to read my own responses.

Apart from the questions posted and the 100+ Facebook likes that the transcript has got, I have no clue how many folks might have joined in for the event as passive readers, how many are still reading it days after the event happened and if any of this resulted in any book sales. But it was good to explore yet another book marketing avenue. And it gave me enough dope to write this post and share some more ideas with you 😛

If you are curious to see how it went, here’s the CNN IBN Live Chat transcript for Beyond The MBA Hype. Check it out and let me know if I did a decent job. If you like it, it’ll be nice if you can share the transcript on your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+ page.

Also, pleejh share tips and ideas of what I can do to make it better for subsequent ones (if there are any).

17 Comments

  1. Ankita Shrivastava says:

    Sir,
    I am Ankita Shrivastava, 19 year old and an engineering student.
    I had started reading your blog after a monotonous google search. Your write ups were interesting and the sarcasm seemed mutual. I religiously followed your guidelines and on 4th of January my First Debutant Novel,
    ‘I Hope We Last’ is being Launched by the Governor. I will connect with daily newspapers and media sources but I want to start it from where it all began. I would like you to review my book.
    Let me know where I can send a copy, if you doubt the genuinity or grandness this is the link to the Facebook page of my book.
    http://www.facebook.com/ihopewelast

  2. Sameer says:

    Hey Ankita,

    Good to hear from you again. Even better to hear that your aspiration of getting published as a teenager has been fulfilled. One big tick mark on the to-do list!

    With the Governor launching your book, it’ll hopefully get some nice exposure.

    I get several requests for book reviews from readers of this blog. But (with a heavy heart) I have to say that I’m not the right person to do reviews.

    Probably you could reach out to folks who are interested in your genre, so they’d do a thorough and credible review.

    The impact of such reviews and the word-of-mouth publicity that it can trigger will be better.

  3. M J Fleming says:

    Hey Sameer

    I am writing to you all the way from Edinburgh, in Scotland. I have just published a fantasy novel on Amazon Kindle. Most writers in Scotland and the rest of the UK promote their books locally, or to the English-speaking readership of the US, Canada or Australia. However, India has a host of English-speakers and readers, and I would love to promote my book to this frequently-ignored audience! Could you recommend any outlets over there to promote my novel.

    Cheers
    Mark

  4. Sameer says:

    Congrats on getting your book published, Mark.

    I guess you are already doing your best to promote it in innovative ways.

    But I have to do my bit to ensure that my blog doesn’t get flooded with promotional comments.

    So I’ve taken the liberty to take out the book details and all the links from your comment text.

    Good luck!

  5. Prarthana says:

    Hey Sameer!

    I just finished writing the manuscript for my first book, which is a childrens’ picture book and was having a couple of doubts on whether or not childrens’ bed time books are suited for the Indian market or any market at all.
    At first I thought, the best approach would be to try and get it published abroad.
    The success of childrens’ books there, by Dr.Seuss etc.., is greatly encouraging. On the other hand, I am not sure if I have mistaken their popularity for their success.
    Do you think I should try and find a publisher to publish abroad? Do you think I should drop the whole idea?
    I would love to hear a professional’s take on this.

    • Surbhi says:

      Hello Prarthana, We are a small publishing company based out of Noida and we are planning to venture into the Children’s Book space at the moment. It might do us both some good if you share your work with us for a review. My email address is [snip].

      • Hi Surbhi,

        Indian authors could surely use a few more author-friendly publishing companies.

        But you might agree that it’s not such a good idea to promote it on a private blog without the owner’s permission.

        Good luck with your new venture.

  6. Sameer says:

    Prarthana, where there are children, there’s a market…with doting parents willing to splurge!

    However, the challenges remain the same as in the case of adult (for lack of a better word) books. Not every book will sell, in fact a whole lot won’t even get any visibility, the money (in India) would be negligible.

    The difference in your case (and children’s books in general which have illustrations, different quality paper etc), is that the cost of production would be higher, as the focus is more on presentation and packaging (not to say that content isn’t important). Which means that you’d have to price the book higher to break even.

    Given those facts, if you’ve written an international book, try pitching it to publishers abroad. The market is bigger and the money is better.

  7. Prarthana says:

    Hmm.. How does an inexperienced 21 year old get publishers abroad to notice her book, believe in it and give it a go ? Even if they did, how would I help market it staying here in India?
    Something I should think about.

    Thank you so much for your opinion!
    If you could write a post on how international publishers work and if the approach is different, I would be really grateful. Thanks anyway!

  8. Sameer says:

    Your primary weapon to get the attention of international publishers remains the same – the query letter.

    I’ve written many posts on book marketing. Most of them are relevant for books published in India and abroad – like the importance of having an author blog.

    Both my books have paperback editions in India, but the ebook editions for the same sell across the world. I use the same approach for both.

  9. Prarthana says:

    Okay thank you 🙂

  10. Rohan says:

    Hi Sameer
    I always follow your blogs, and did that more often whilst on my journey to getting published. So, thanks to you, I finally managed to get published with a small publishing house in India. Now the next challenge that lies ahead of me, and your blogs have already scared me enough, is how to get the word about the book across the nation.
    Then someone introduced me to the world of ‘Book reviewers’. Came across this site called bookgeeks.in and assumed they’re some kind of book lovers who love to relish every book that comes their way, and also enjoy writing reviews. But upon contacting them, I realised that I am supposed to be paying for their reviews, 2000 rupees. So my question to you is – How do these reviews help? Even if someone has to find that review, one has to type my book title on the search box of their google engine. And the entire challenge is to get people to google you. And if people are googling for you, it means your existing promotion has worked reasonably well. And if the current promotion strategy (or no strategy) has worked well, it means the author (and his work) are already known to the masses. And if the author is known to the masses, why does he need to pay people to review the book, and thus market it?
    I need a honest opinion about how these book reviews on somebody’s blog can ACTUALLY help an author promote his book, unless the author himself spams everybody’s Facebook wall by pasting that link.
    Okay, let me cut this short and come straight to the point.
    Should I pay and get my novel reviewed?

    Rohan

  11. Rohan, whether you pay or not is a personal decision. However, let me give you some perspectives to think about.

    There are thousands of book review bloggers out there. Some are in for the love of reading, some for the freebies and some for the money. However, many such websites rank very low.

    When your main purpose of gifting free copies is to get maximum mileage (in terms of reader discovery), the website’s traffic is an important factor to consider.

    The best place where you get a massive number of book lovers (readers and reviewers) who are truly interested in reading itself (rather than making money) is Goodreads.com

    Reach out to a few top reviewers who write interesting reviews that actually get read by their friends and followers. It’s a slow and tedious process, but at least your book will be in the hands of genuine readers who like your genre.

  12. Hi Sameer,

    After reading so many reviews here I am asking myself that gursewak where you are heading? There are so many experienced people out there and you are no one here. Sameer actually I had written some poems and have published one e-book but no one is aware of that and I want to promote that. I had already enrolled for Kindle Promoting scheme but that not becoming as fruitful as I want. I started writing poems after having small injury in back and thus become Paraplegic. i am having no idea about how to promote that and now I think that I am writing to correct person at last.

    Gursewak Ghumman

  13. Usha Chhabra says:

    Dear sameer
    I have written a poem book in Hindi named Tak Dhina Dhin. It is in two volumes. It is hard bound and also has an audio cd. The publisher has changed his business and has given all the books to me. How to sell my books , I dont know. You can view this on my face book page TAK DHINA DHIN.

  14. Deepak says:

    Hi Sameer.. Plz throw light on.. The market of the Hindi fiction globally

  15. Soham A Ghodke says:

    Hi Sameer,

    I am 13 year old and recently my book has been published by Partridge India. The name of the book is ‘Wars of Octavlon’. the book is promoted through Amazon.com and Amazon.in. The book has got local media attention (News published in DNA Mumbai, Maharashtra Times and aired in Z 24 taas, ABP Majha). But, publicity is not reaching to the appropriate mass so that number of readers increase.

    Please guide me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *