To Blog or Not to Blog

It was a meeting with one of the editors that prodded me to write a piece on the subject. After the conversation I am skeptical to call it a blog but it indeed is quite perplexing that in today’s world while we are swarmed with a minimum of 60000 words in a book, our practice of communicating with each other is going down to 140 characters in twitter. Not that I am against the technological advancement or unaware of the nuances attached to it but something that gave freedom to express being declared passé is equivalent to saying that books are going to be extinct (to the horror of a book lover like me)

While book space continues to shrink in print, it wasn’t very long ago that my team and I were trying to find ways to reduce our dependence on the book pages that media provided and explore an option that had a wider reach. Something that had significant space to communicate what the book is about beyond ‘I like it and you must read it’ but also if possible, give an extract in addition to the opinion. This is when we started putting together a list of blogs that covered books and related subjects. Then what suddenly put a blog’s identity in question is something I would attribute to fads and impatience to jump to conclusions.

Publishers, haven’t still been able to exploit and explore this space due to lack of resources to help them do so. The cliche that change is permanent is true as much of a blog as of anything else. What started as a tool to express oneself developed into a fad and craze and then into a profession and as in case of any new option needed to evolve? It is this evolution that is misunderstood by most people, engrossed in the 140 characters, that blogs are going out of fashion.

Blogging has evolved and moved from being just a tool of self-expression to a tool that provides information, knowledge and expertise. Blogging, taking a more professional turn has resulted in the weak ones dying their natural deaths and the ones that have stood the test of time becoming stronger. Blogs are evolving into a one-stop shop for expert advice on a certain subject. With most of the print media shutting down and going out of business, transition to online medium is leading even media houses to hire blogging experts. What you have written in thousands cannot be summarized in 140 is what makes me suggest it is in fact becoming growingly important to identify and build a list of people who write on books and subjects related to it. It is their advice that would have a viral effect and create a buzz for your book.

For publishers as they themselves undergo a transition from books to eBooks this is one area to tap into and start developing along with other social media platforms in order to spread wider, penetrate deeper and be taken seriously online. This forms an important part of what is called your online image so while Twitter and Facebook are platforms resulting in instant gratification and are tools to announce and titillate, they cannot be an alternate to a blog.

If we believe that the written word will always be there in whatever format so will the need to seek advice and information in whatever way it is presented. I say this out of the personal experience since I started this blog at a time when blogs are going out of fashion. While my Google analytics are enough to suggest otherwise, I still would like to hear your feedback on whether blogs are passé, to evolve and change.

Until the next MarketMyBook update….

Managing the Media Moguls

Part 1 (Kissa Controversy Ka)

I have had the privilege and honour of promoting over half a dozen of the most controversial books of our times and coincidently it started with a book on Dr. Kalam and came to a pause (wouldn’t like it to be my last) with a book by Dr. Kalam before I took a leap of faith and moved out of the publishing house I was working for. But these opportunities enriched my understanding of how controversies work and how if used well can do wonders for your book. Sending out copies as part of your regular mailing exercise might get you coverage but in order to get tremendous coverage really having an effect on sales, you need to plan and strategize.

Of the immense learning of how the media works, quickly sharing a few tips and learnings:

What makes “controversy” controversial: I guess one doesn’t need to explain what can be termed as controversial but it is important for a book marketer to understand what makes controversy meaty enough to be negotiated for in terms of the kind of space that the media needs to provide it and the length or extent of coverage it needs to be given. It is on you how you can let something small seem explosive and make something big fizzle out because of not focusing or highlighting it correctly.

Understanding the media mind: Once a head of one of the biggest media houses (and a well regarded one at that) said “what’s news in this. This has been written and covered several times.” While in case of another media house journo, it was something worth a front-page mention. It served as learning for me to find the right fit. Media survives on news. It is relative as to what “news” would be news for which newsperson. Also every individual has a certain interest and bent of mind. You must be able to gauge that with a media person as well. While working with them try and find out what interests them and what they like reading/writing on.

Controlling a controversy: you should be able to control what you wish to get carried and who you wish to carry what. Of course the media houses involved need to be given options but the power of using these options to gain the maximum out of the media houses should lie with you. Based on the effect that your information would have, negotiate on pages, extent of coverage; follow up news coverage and visibility (masthead, lead story etc)

Time your controversy: if topical you need to time your controversy correctly. If something that doesn’t need to wait for an opportune moment use latter half of the week to spill the beans. It is observed that the readership is higher towards the end of the week and on a weekend. Also not every time does one have breaking news. Do not time it around some big happening as the likelihood of it being pushed to back pages (in print) and not remain a lead story (in electornic) goes up. But incase it happens try to get a follow on story. Do not give more than a day or two to release what you want carried especially in print. Electronic can be immediate.

Choosing the right fire starter: it is important to be clear right in the beginning whether its better for your book to be pitched to a single national media or to multiple media houses depending on their strengths.  Don’t neglect the news agencies, as they help penetrate better. One good decision on the media and you should be able to start a forest fire and reach a wider audience.

It might lead to another controversy if I name them but there have been times that the book has sold on the notion of being highly controversial whereas the only controversial bit that it had was already carried by the media but the author and the publisher went home happy. Jaishree Misra once shared how her effigies were burnt at the time of release of her book Rani. It must have been tough on the writer for a while but it added to the book becoming an instant bestseller.

All it takes is an understanding of whether your book has the potential to create controversy. During the time of it being so, your life would be hell as you would be inundated with calls, some overtly friendly while others carrying threat but at the end of it all, every additional copy that sells will make you smile with satisfaction and give yourself a pat on your back. It is great fun to see the media tamasha and be part of it.  While I read a few forthcoming books to gauge which one of them is a potential threat to my peaceful time, until the next MarketMyBook update…

How Not to Use Facebook for Marketing Your Book

wpid-3d-Book-facebook-ban.jpgThis blog, as it appears from the picture or the title, is in no way suggesting you to ban Facebook from your book marketing activities but is more about what mistakes we make while marketing books on something that has become an integral part of our marketing activities today.

67% of total internet users spend an average of 8 hours on Facebook in a month and on an average 47% people make their purchase decisions depending on FB feedback so whether we like it or not Facebook today, has a major role to play in what is called building a Word of Mouth and what better way than to sell a product like book using WOM.

But unlike in case of any other product category, marketing of books, needs to be treated differently on Facebook and though a lot of writers, publishers and book marketers are using this tool fervently, there are some common mistakes that we all make while marketing books on Facebook. Here are some book marketing tips on what to do and what not to do on Facebook:

I’m a Social marketer not a reader: Whether its an agency or an individual, a non reader cannot and will not be able to promote a book effectively on FB no matter how good you are with the tools that FB provides for promotions. It goes back to the point that to sell well you need to know your own product well (and competitors’ products better).

A new look with a new book…Naah! Don’t make multiple pages every time you come out with a new book. It does nothing but dilutes your traffic and doubles your effort. Consolidation is the key to deriving better results online. Design your pages and make them showcase your entire body of work. Do not leave the page unattended while you wait for the next book to come out.

Not in the Black and White age“: I do see the change with people using more and more visuals on FB. While it is true that just putting up updates in black and white can be boring, putting visuals all the time make it look impassive. Use the right mix of visuals and write-ups.

Win-Win: You may include some contests from time to time. Contests help in incentivizing the reader or follower. Free autographed copies work but not always. Cross-promote. Think what fits best with your content and use give-aways accordingly.

I’m the writer I don’t FB: While your publisher/agency can pick and add content, work on the visuals and throw in some contests once in a while to keep the interest going, don’t be a mute audience to your page. A writer must get involved otherwise after a while people realize that it isn’t coming from you. They want to know you as a person. When you analyze the insights you find that a page gets more hits when you share personal feelings, pictures or experiences than on something directly related to your book.

Who says only Fiction works on FB: Reality is that reality gets more following than something that is not real. So while Fiction might give you more scope to titillate non-fiction gives the followers scope to retaliate. Again the art is how you use your content.

Content is supreme: random extracts and pictures don’t work. It all needs to make sense even in the senseless virtual world. Never take your reader for granted. Atleast if he/she reads and follows you, its all the more important that your page should give out content which appears to be speaking to an intelligent audience. Mix fun, comic and serious. Link things with what’s happening around you and in the world. Take advice and feedback. Even your simple status updates should catch the readers’ imagination.

Love for Love is now a Like for a Like: Yes it is true, give and take works on FB too. Don’t shy away from liking others’ pages and posts. Share their material. Post your feedback. It helps build your community and affinity of others towards you.

Don’t Spam: It doesn’t work in the long run. Forcing others to like your page by sending them links to your page distances them from you. No one likes to be constantly hounded about how great you are and what wonderful things you have written. To create a dialogue culminating into a long term relationship find out about others.

Nothing is free: Facebook Ads are important. They help you target your audience better. To build up a community it is essential to advertise. What is of utmost importance is for you to know how to use that little space for a visual and the limited space for the number of words for your ad effectively.

Don’t keep spending blindly: Facebook provides a lot of free tools to analyze and highlight your posts. Start by using them. It should give you enough data to analyze what is working and what needs to be reworked.

Watch your Analytics: Your FB insights teach you a lot. Keep a close watch on not just your likes, but what is being further shared and talked about or how effective your ad campaign has been.

It is a continuous process of learning. No one has mastered the art of communicating to his/her audience and has to improvise all the time. Similarly you have to keep improvising and analyzing the effect of your page or campaign on Facebook. Would like to re iterate that among all these, content is something that is of utmost importance to drive traffic to your page and to continue to gain people’s interest in it. What is essential whether your online marketer has the knowledge of how to use the content and derive the desired results.

While I get back to driving traffic to my page until the next MarketMyBook update…

A Nerd’s Quick Guide to Publishing

A colleague who we had lunch with everyday had a new story to share every single day. I’ve never seen him repeat an incident from his life and each time, his stories made us break into peals of laughter. I always felt that all his experiences could be put in a book. But as much as we all have tales to tell, writing a book needs a lot of hard work  And once you’ve put on paper what you have in your mind for days, you want the book to see the light of the day and reach as many people as possible.

How does one go about doing that? Here are the tips:
Find an editor: An editor does to a book what fizz does to Coke, makes it refreshing. Especially those writing in English need to accept the fact that it isn’t our first language. Not only will your book have a cleaner text in terms of grammar but would also improve in expression. Look for an editor who fits the requirement of your book for example if you’ve written a Chicklit have someone, who is clued into what the young are reading, edit it.

Mr Ghostwriter: I know many a times it is hush hush but get yourself a ghost writer in case you are not able to find time to structure your thoughts and put them on paper. This is more common in case of non fiction.

Get me a publisher: Find an agent for your work. There are quite a few in India like Siyahi, Redink, Purple Folio to name a few. They are a good option to help you find a publisher and many of them are able to strike good deals for first time writers. They also help you clean your manuscript and make it more presentable to publishers. They are also able to bring in their expertise in finding a publisher-category fit. Some publishers are better at a certain genre.

Where to get published: Coming to publishers there are the multinationals such as Penguin, HarperCollins, Hachette etc. Then there are the home grown large ones such as Rupa and the not so big ones like Roli, Shrishti, Katha etc. Each of them have their own strengths and weaknesses. Getting a publisher will help you sell and market to a certain extent since they have an established network of distributors and they might be able to chalk out a budget for marketing your book but with the number of books all publishers, put together, are coming out with, it is imperative to put in efforts in addition to theirs to push your book.

Let me publish myself: Don’t get disheartened if you aren’t able to find a publisher. The option of self publishing was always available and is no longer considered a taboo, with big publishers such as Penguin and HarperCollins providing the option through Patridge and Authonomy. While these are relatively new, there are the ones such as Power Publishers, Cinnamon Teal, Pothi and many others who are established in the Indian market. Then there are publishers such as Notion Press providing a smarter way of publishing. Some have even tied up with online selling channels and are providing sales support. All have a basic marketing support available as well.

All the publishers also provide you with the option to e-publish. Marketing of e-books is still a gray area though, but most of the online selling platforms allow you to sell e-books.

Growingly there is a group of new age writers who wish to only e-publish. With Amazon Direct, Kobo, Lulu and many others, both in India and abroad, allowing this option, the only professional help is required in getting the file converted into an eReader format. Most of the sellers provide these services for free. Landmarkonthenet, infibeam, flipkart and others provide options to sell ebooks. If you want, you can tie in directly with an ebook seller. Ashok Banker has been selling his books in an eBook format since years and he seems to be doing as good as, if not better selling his physical books.

As stated earlier, all the options discussed above do provide you with sales and marketing support but the effectiveness of these is yet to be seen especially in case of marketing.
While I go and find myself an editor, until the next MarketMyBook update…

The Curious Case of Market My Book Please

A few years ago (when we were still discovering the effects of online medium in the industry) I was sitting with a writer couple who very fervently asked how they could break the 5000 copies barrier. They had written and published a book each and were now writing a travelogue together. A very interesting one at that. Budget was a constraint as was in case of their previous books and they had just started putting their thoughts together for the travelogue. We decided that the most economical way to go about it is to start a Facebook page right then and gather people as they write allowing the individuals to contribute just so the followers of the page feel part of the book. Since then the page has been growing in terms of following. The idea in itself struck with the media too. Closer to the publication a little target marketing, of the page in addition to starting of other marketing activities, will spike up the numbers tremendously.

I’ve always believed that every book is not only unique in its look and read but also in the way it is marketed and when it is marketed. The good part is that books today need not wait until they are published and put out in the market, any longer. With the advent of online medium and more so the social media one has an option of starting early bringing us to the one big question that every writer and his marketer have to deal with, which is when to start marketing a book and how?

It might need a book to answer this question in detail but since an FB friend asked for tips, here are the marketing tips:

Everyone reads: No matter how much a book is written for anyone and everyone, every book has a target audience that needs to be clearly identified. Without it you wouldn’t be able to design a proper communication to promote it.

USP: it is not a good idea to hard sell right from the beginning. It is essential to identify a unique selling proposition for the book. Something that draws the interest of the reader naturally. This could be developed using the content or around a character of the book in case of fiction.

Content is supreme: Online medium especially social media is miserable due to lack of content and fails due to bad content. So your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc need well thought out strategy on content. The writer and the marketer need to work together to draw out a plan to roll out the content and to ascertain the level of direct participation of the writer by way of chats, live events etc.

Too many boats: everyday there’s a new social platform coming up. Don’t try and be on everything unless you know how to use it well. Also every book you write doesn’t need a new page. Promote the writer the book/s will get promoted. If you have a following don’t leave them dry while you get busy with your next book. Continue to remain in touch.

No one likes to be a friend and start receiving messages on” I’ve written something that’s never been written before”. People like interesting material and they might not like what you yourself may find interesting, so keep track of trending topics and how you can link them in the context of your book. Use visuals that relate to the content of your book, they communicate better.

Trending topics and crawlers are something that are best understood by online marketers take help from them in case you are planning to manage your online marketing on your own. If you have the budgets use the services of an online marketing person. I know that some of the recent bestselling authors do so.

If you are writing on self help and well being such as on weight loss, skin care, pregnancy etc or writing a travelogue, trekking guide etc, the marketing of your book online should start the day you start writing your book. Yes that early. Targeting specific groups of people with certain level of interest in the subject, will also help create a consumer/reader base for your book. Target marketing draws better results in case you know people you are talking to share similar interests. There are quicker ways to increase the number of following on the social media but starting early gives that much more time for people to bond. For a few others it helps starting to market online at least 6 months ahead of the book hitting the stores. The other aspects of creating a word of mouth, media buzz, retail hype etc can come closer to the release of the book.

The ideal time frame for starting to market a book is anywhere between 3 – 6 months before the book hits the store. But before starting you must have your plan for the coming months in place.

Peek-a-boo tactics: Some books that deal with controversies need to be timed correctly and how you make use of the controversy to have the media lap it up is something that needs great attention. It is important to have an understanding of what makes news.  Even the most topical books sink in the media because you haven’t been able to disburse the content correctly.

I’ve come across 3 kinds of writers:

Not Me: these are the kinds who write and leave everything else to their marketer to figure out, so much so that they do not even talk about their book where it matters.

Only Me: these are the kinds who think they can do everything for their book including writing it. Which means they are overzealous about handling every little thing for their book.

Me Too: these are the kinds who are participative and readily available wherever their inputs are required. They do not shy away from trying out a suggestion.

I might sound a little harsh here but in today’s day and age you can’t just write a book and leave the rest to others to do and neither can you handle everything about the book on your own. Your biggest gift is that you can write so leave what you cannot do to those who have been gifted to take care of the rest but do remain involved especially in marketing activities. You should be aware how your investment ( if not of money but of the time used for writing) is being used. Get involved wherever your marketer feels its essential. Just as is the case between an editor and a writer, its essential to have an open communication between a writer and his book marketer.

Today it cannot be about a book alone but needs to be about the entire packaging which also includes the writer and his personality. Also a success formula for one book doesn’t apply on every book. So go on have a long and detailed conversation on “how to market your new book?” with your book marketer, over cups of coffee.

Until the next book marketing update…

The Tyranny of Titles

You’ve written thousands of words for days, months and sometimes a decade, have put in your heart and soul into writing one and are now ready to give it the shape of a book.
The first exercise that you may therefore get involved in very seriously is giving a title to your book which not many people know, but is the first marketing exercise for your book.
Of course you would have started with some title in your mind and your publisher may have suggested a few more options but is this all sufficient to arrive at a sellable title for your book?
Nike, Gucci, Apple, Coke are some of the most powerful and popular brand names in the world and therefore brand pundits usually suggest keeping it short and simple. Selecting a title entails similar activities as a branding exercise but most of the times keeping it short doesn’t work in case of books.
Go through the current Indian bestseller lists and you find books like The Oath of Vayuputras, Life is What You Make It, Fifty Shades of Grey, Stay Hungry Stay Foolish etc topping the charts. Sometimes one may feel the longer a title, the higher up it is in the bestsellers list.
As in case of branding, selecting a title or name for your book is also what gives it an identity.
One of the guidelines in choosing a title or finding a name for your book is to not only bring out the essence of what’s inside but to also fit the voice and genre.
In case of fiction, titles can be long and can be quirky, intriguing, funny but in case of non fiction usually titles need to be direct, forthright and detailed.
Depending on the subject you are looking for, your bestseller list might show you What to Expect When You are Expecting, Men are from Mars Women are from Venus, Upside Down of Irrationality, Rich Dad Poor Dad and so on.
The most important guideline to keep in mind while choosing a title is to select a name that remains etched in the minds and hearts of the consumer in this case the reader.
Catch 22, The Alchemist, The Monk Who Sold his Ferrari, How to Win Friends and Influence People and similar titles may be on top of your mind in your reading lists.
These days a trend of long titles is becoming popular. The purpose here is not to follow a trend but to emphasize the importance of choosing a title for your book, correctly.
Long or short, a title should be able to communicate on its own without advertising and a lay man should be able to be fascinated with it as easily as a well read one.
The marketing tip:
Write down clearly what you want the title to do. Is it to tickle a reader’s funny bone or bring out any other intense emotions. Come up with a list of words and phrases accordingly.
Try focus group. Bring together or share a short note on the book with a closed set of people who love reading. These options could be added to your existing list.
Google AdWords can help you with the popularity of words and phrases. With everything going viral and ebooks picking up reader’s fancy this is one of the most important tools.
Lastly there is no harm in going through national and international bestseller lists to get some idea of what titles are working for books in similar genre. We all want to be original but would definitely like to take an informed decision about the one thing that prompts the end consumer in this case a reader to pick your book.
I truly believe that books are by the people, of the people and for the people therefore the title needs to strike a chord with the people. Do not be in a hurry in finalizing the title. Where you’ve given so much to writing one, giving some more time to choosing a title will help reaching out to many more readers. All the best.
Until the next book marketing update…