Self-Publishing: Part Two The Mysterious World of Book Promotion

Before putting yourself in the shoes of an authorpreneur ( a term liberally used by independent authors and self-publishing organisations to tell that the author is the owner of his/her books and hence owns the full responsibility for its success), try to think what influences your purchase decisions in respect of books. I will broadly touch upon the factors that play in my mind.

  1. Grab a copy of the latest book of my favourite authors. I would not miss out on a Frederick Forsyth or a short stories collection from Jeffrey Archer. Unfortunately, you are neither of them. In fact, no one outside your social circle has ever heard of you.
  2. Have a look at the catalogues of reputed publishers to see if any upcoming book interests me. For a self-published author, the only way that this can happen is if the publishing house hosts the information of your book in their website. Sadly, besides aspiring authors, very few people access these websites and the number of titles they offer is so huge at any point in time, that your work may not get noticed at all.
  3. Read a glowing review of the book in a major newspaper/ magazine and decide to buy the book. There is good news for you in this regard. Most of the self-publishing platforms do offer such promotional services. The bad news is this comes as a part of the premium package offered by these platforms that can set you back by any amount from Rs. 71k to Rs.251k. The quality of the services differs widely among these platforms and the better ones do not offer these promotional tools at a package below Rs. 149k. If you do not wish to read this lengthy discourse, this is the minimum budget that you should be working with in order to market a good book reasonably well. If you can’t spare as much, please read on.
  4. Listen to a friend’s recommendation. This is where a self-published author can score high without spending a penny. But in order to have a good number of copies sold on account of such recommendations, you need to have a friend circle full of avid readers whom others consult before making a purchase decision. This might sound crazy, but it is better to start working on this aspect much before you plan to submit your manuscript to the publication house. Otherwise, your post-publication attempts to befriend such individuals (called social influencers) may only give rise to suspicion. There is another problem with avid readers. Many of them, if not the majority are acute introverts who would not tell their pet about books they liked. Social influencers, on the other hand, are people who can post images of them reading your book sitting on a commode on Facebook/Instagram and attract few hundred likes. A good percentage of their followers are likely to buy the book based on their recommendation. Thus, the strategy is to find such people and more importantly find any common interest with respect of which you can interact with them in an intelligent manner. Sending hourly good wishes including soul searching messages for bidding the other a good time of the day is certainly NOT the way. Once you have established a little bit of camaraderie, broach the idea of the book that you have in mind. Probability is they would volunteer to support the book. If you are more industrious and have ample time at your disposal, join the real world author’s clubs and even literary clubs of eminent colleges/ universities at your location.
  5. ‘Discover’ a Book at a Bookstore: Though anyone would tend to believe that online portals are ‘the’place where books are sold, a visit to any bookstore of repute for few hours might change your outlook. Have you ever noticed those piles of a particular book kept on the window of a famous outlet or, book spirals placed inside the store? How many of you would go to a Crossword Store to name one and not look at their bestseller and ‘Crossword Recommends’ display? Reaching the bestseller rack would take more than some serious monetary investments, but all other special displays including the frontal display of a book among hundred others showing their spines to you can be “bought” for a price. While self publishing platforms again provide these services for their authors at a price between 3k and 5k for each store they have a collaboration with (you can not select only one, again the offers are bundled so that you have to shell out at least 10k), a smaller distributor can get you a better priced deal with wider coverage. Minimum consideration payable for wide area distribution in India is 30k while any special display requirement will add that 10k to the package. Large distributors DO NOT distribute works of self-published authors as a rule.

Finally, it’s time to discuss some other promotional tools that you have an access to (all at a price, of course).

Book Launches.
Three-pronged formula to make it successful.

LET IT KNOWN TO THE MAXIMUM POSSIBLE PEOPLE. Try to send out personalised invitations.

Have at least one celebrity guest to attend and reveal the book. Choose your celebrity carefully according to the genre of your book and target audience.

Have sufficient number of copies in stock for the event.

Tentative cost: Anything in the region of 60k. This is in addition to the 149k package we discussed earlier.

Integrated Online Campaigns

This includes Amazon sponsored advertisements, Facebook ads, Quora coverage, Goodreads reviews, reviews on eminent book blogs, Youtube videos, Instagram and Twitter Reviews, Amazon (positive) reviews, author and book websites, author interviews in blogs, mass e-mails, etc. The idea is to bombard the senses of the audience with information about your book. Each medium can contribute a small number of additional sales. You can subscribe to such services offered by various bloggers independent of the higher priced packages of the self-publishing platforms. A budget of 30k here should ensure continuous visibility for up to three months. Rightly done, this can act as a substitute of a physical book launch. Bookmarks, book cover t-shirts, book posters, visiting cards, etc. are all paraphernalia to both online and offline promotions.

Review Copies and Giveaways

Review copies can be sent to top reviewers and bloggers, subject to prior communication and acceptance. Most of them charge an additional amount for review within a certain period of time. This can vary from Rs. 400 to Rs. 7k for each individual. The median lies somewhere between Rs. 500 and Rs. 1k and spending more than that for a standalone review may not be judicious. Please keep in mind that a certain number of reviews has already been included in the integrated online campaign and hence this is only a Top Up option.

Some of the bloggers can offer Giveaways of your book on their blog. Some can run the same on Goodreads, which will ensure better visibility and reach.

Amazon Prime and Amazon Pre-order

Both requires you to be a registered seller with Amazon and a printer at your home. Alternatively, your self-publishing platform can offer you these limited period services for a fee of 7k+.

Today, the Indian authors depend much on Meet and Greet the Author events held at individual educational institutions, bookstores, etc. Each event will add to the cost. However,as warned at the very beginning, producing a bestseller is a costly affair. Royalties alone can not compensate you fully. Even the biggest names in the business are in the green because of their earnings from speeches, public and media appearances.

65k for designing a super cool book (discussed in Look before you Leap), 40k for premium distribution (minimum), 7k for Amazon Prime and 30k for an integrated online campaign.

A word of caution: Even after spending this mini fortune of 1.42 lakh and up, you have to depend considerably on your luck to become a bestselling author with your first book. At best, it can be an excellent launchpad for a long writing career ahead.

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