August 03, 2015

Insights into book marketing strategies

THE LEGEND OF YUCK-MAN is now published and available in all major e-commerce websites. It is yet to come to brick & mortar bookstores, but I am told that it would be in major bookstores in less than a week. This post is about book marketing strategies and my experience with these.


The market for commercial fiction in India is extremely competitive. Everyone in India seems to have something to say but few people have the patience to hear. As a result, the market is flooded with thousands of books. With the number increasing every passing month, the shelf life of a book in bookstores is decreasing. Online marketing through FB and Twitter, as a result, have become the order of the day. Online marketing makes sense, but I found many strategies used for online marketing flawed and a wastage of money.

The moment I put the front cover of my book on Facebook, I got few friends' requests from vendors of e-marketing packages. These vendors scout for writers desperate to improve the visibility of their book and promise way more than they can do. Many of these vendors tailor their packages to suit self-published writers. After being flooded by e-marketing offers, I tried to analyse what they basically do. They basically boost the visibility of your book's FB fan page and increase the number of 'likes'. The number of 'likes' determines the success of their publicity campaign. They charge you for this.

The number of 'likes' on FB, however, is not a measure of effective publicity. We are bombarded by innumerable such fanpages on a daily basis, and we do not hesitate from liking these pages. The real challenge of effective marketing is to (A) market the book to a target audience, and (B) make few of them purchase the book. Increasing likes in FB does not make sense. One can reach a thousand likes just by forwarding the fanpage link on Whatsapp and claiming it to be full of sleaze, or containing controversial gossip. The thousand odd likes are, in the ultimate analysis, useless.

FB itself offers advertisement opportunities to boost visibility of a page. It takes some keywords from you and uses data analytics to reach a target readership. Google also does something similar on open internet through its Adwords programmes. They are quite effective, and better than the vendors on FB claiming to be PR agents.


Coming to PR Agents for reviews, news articles, and interviews in newspapers and magazines, there are quite a few. PR agents have been getting good remuneration from publicising bestselling books, and so the tribe is fast increasing. A freelance PR agent typically charges Rs. 1 Lakh for three months. I got in touch with few PR agents and I invariably got this price quoted by them. One lakh is a big sum, and committing to pay one lakh to a PR agent practically makes the writer an entrepreneur, and he/she has to bank on success of the book for getting his money back. I was not prepared to do this. My role as a writer and my publisher's role as the entrepreneur taking the risk of publishing the book was well cut out when we started. My publisher takes all risk and I only take the risk of being robbed by the bank when I present my royalty cheque. This should be the case with all writers who are not self-published.

Having said this, its not bad to get some visibility in print media. Again, one does not need PR agents to do it. My logic is, identify few journos, talk to them, get contacts of book editors and book reviewers, and reach out to them. I have started doing that, although time will tell how successful such a strategy will be. For that matter, the PR agent also does not guarantee you of confirmed number of book reviews or coverage. On the contrary, many journalists are repulsed by PR agents. They would respond better if you yourself approach them.

You can also approach tabloid magazines and business journals for visibility. It is not a bad idea. For example, Cafe Coffee Day comes out with a tabloid called "Cafe Chronicle". This tabloid has a shelf life of one month and is available in all CCD stores all over the country! Think about the consistent visibility if you can get featured in it! Similarly, Air India, IndiGo, Spice Jet etc have their own monthly tabloids that (about) 70% of the passengers read in idleness of flight-time. Targeting these magazines increases visibility manifold.


Becoming active in groups is a good way of increasing readership. You can send interesting forwards and drop a link to your book page. You can make interesting cartoons that attract the members of the group/community. One such cartoon I made for publicity of my book is as under:

Ajit Pal Singh Daia is a batchmate... I put this cartoon on my batch group and immediately attracted many towards my book. My earlier books were all non-fictions catering to UPSC civil service aspirants' needs. I have written a book on psychology, a book on sociology, and one on civil service exam interviews. My books have been well  received by UPSC aspirants and I know they are confident of my writing. So I became active in UPSC preparation groups, giving advice and feeding interesting snippets on current affairs. I invariably drop a link to my book's Flipkart page.

The result is quite evident. My book managed to jump to rank 17 (of a total of 113) in popularity on Flipkart's pre-order list. This is no mean achievement, given that my name carries no brand value as a fiction writer. There is no reason for anyone to pre-order my book.


The ultimate campaign strategy for any book, I believe, is to spread it by word-of-mouth. There is no better substitute to this. Unfortunately, most newcomers' books get drowned in the flood of new books coming out every month. That's why a writer needs publicity. Its a necessary evil. Once a book crosses sales of, say, 4000 copies in two months, it crosses a 'critical velocity'. After this the book will sell by itself from word-of-mouth created by these 4000 readers. IF THE BOOK IS GOOD. Its like a nuclear fission reaction, and the fission process can make you a bestseller.

Most renowned authors do book readings in bookstores. I do not know the effectiveness of this strategy. I am not following this strategy as I am not a renowned author. Yet. Rather I have plans of giving lectures on psychology, sociology, genetics, taxation, finance, careers etc in colleges to increase my visibility.

You must also take feedback from your publisher on the kind of readers, their demographics, their backgrounds etc. It helps you better market your book. Unfortunately such data is still unavailable.


Mohit Goyal said...

a good article... if i may add (yeah its a marketing strategy), one must be prepared for failure. and get up. and write another one. and then another. and another. The takeaway is that aspiring writers are looking for instant gratification or stardom from their first book, which isn't how things should be. Even if your first book really becomes a hit, then you are at best a 1-book wonder, a fluke. So be prepared to write book after book, like a work-in-progress.

Smarak Swain said...

Also Mohit, the writer is an artist. He or she should not be writing, in the first place, with an intention to make a windfall financially. She should promote her book to reach a wider audience as well as to make a career out of writing. But aspiring for a lottery somehow compromises her as an artist.