Does ‘how to sell your book in India’ feature in your author checklist? Chances are it doesn’t.
In all probability your author check-list looks something like this:
- Write a book
- Get published
- Become a best-seller
We often forget that marketing plays a crucial role for getting published.
Of course, even getting published itself needs marketing : You have to market your book, and yourself as a writer. But this post isn’t about that.
In India, there are approximately 1,00,000+ titles published every year. (This includes translations and other Indian languages also) If we were to go by the stats shared by Karan Bajaj is his now-viral article on How to sell 2,00,000 copies of your book is India, less than 1% of the books released in India make it to the bestsellers tag by managing to sell 10,000 copies. (P.S: If you haven’t read this article yet, please do. It has some excellent marketing tips and strategies for authors.)
How do you set your book apart in this really cluttered marketplace? By marketing your book/s.
In this article, we will not only aim to understand book marketing better but we will also analyze why it is important and how to do it / get it done effectively.
If you haven’t published yet and are still unsure which sort of publisher to opt for your book, we recommend two of our popular posts on this topic:
If you want to opt for traditional publishing and would like to approach literary agents to represent you, do check out our series on Literary Agents in India.
What is Book Marketing?
Book marketing is the exercise undertaken by authors and publishing houses to promote books in various ways with the underlying goal of book sales.
Why is it important to market your book?
There can be many reasons which can make this answer lengthier and boring. So, keeping it simple, I will just say – To grab attention.
In times of digital revolution when the new motto is ‘Seeing is believing’ you (and/or your work which is your book) need to be visible to create curiosity, and at the same time, be able to sell your book.
As someone had told me once,
Some authors prefer doing it on their own, while others outsource the book marketing to P.R firms. There is also a category of writers who solely rely on the publishers to market their books. Here, it needs to be mentioned that when you are approaching publishers / agents, submissions which are accompanied by a marketing plan have high chances of acceptance with both. This is because it shows how hard the author has worked, not only on writing but also in seeing the exact gap where this book can fit in the already flooded literary market.
Whether you decide to market your book on your own, or hire someone to do it for you, it is important to understand the basics of book marketing. This will help ensure you understand what to expect, what process to adopt, what book-marketing goals to set and so on.
Types of Book Marketing
Online promotion plans
Reviews on blogs and Amazon, publicity across social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads) by sharing links, reviews and banners, twitter campaign, giveaways, trailer designing, celebrity endorsements, Facebook Live Chat, Twitter Live Chats, interviews in online ezines and periodicals etc.
Offline Promotion Plans
Placement of your book in leading book shops across the country, in airports and railway stations, book signing events, book launches in different cities of India with celebrity presence, TED talks, panel discussions in lit fests, book launches in lit fests, appearances in college fests as chief guest, interviews and reviews in top leading newspapers of India and leading magazines, interviews in radio channels and TV, adverts on YouTube and radio channels, book trailer etc. Some people suggest sending free copies of your book to at least 1000 influential people to get it noticed and to get people talking about it.
What is a good time to start marketing a book?
Anytime is the right time to start marketing a book. There are people who start building their social media presence with teasers and details from the time when their book is merely in the ideation stage. While there are some who first write a book and then begin the marketing too. Marketing if done right, can work in either of the cases. But it is never too soon.
How to create a marketing plan?
Some of the key pointers to consider while designing your marketing plan should be:
Research similar books
Who are the authors who have written in a similar space? Which publishing houses published them? What was their marketing strategy? Did it work? If not, why? Most importantly, if there already exists a book like yours in the market – why does your book hold value? What new things are you bringing to the topic?
Who is your target audience? Age group, geographical bifurcation, specific categories of people based on education, economic stature, personal choices, lifestyle, relationship status – all of these things make a big difference to a marketing strategy. For e.g. a book which is for leaders in the age group of 35-55 based in South Asia is for a niche target audience while a love story for anybody who is 18+ is for masses. This is what determines your book’s marketability &/ salability.
A clearly defined goal from the marketing exercise is extremely important. Irrespective of whether you design a plan and do the marketing yourself or you hire someone else for it, this clarity is what will help you decide the further actionable for it. So, try to answer this question: What is that you want from the whole exercise of marketing this book? The answers could vary from brand building, sales, visibility, promotion, author profile building etc. The answers will help you determine which promotional activities should you focus more on.
Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Is social media your strength or public speaking? Know what you can do best at your end because that will help you decide what can be outsourced, and what you can do yourself.
Beta Reader comments / Testimonials
A Beta-reader is technically the first reader of your book even before it is published. Some authors work with beta readers to polish their craft while some work with them only to seek feedback/ comments to be further used in pitching the book and/or when it is published. You can also consider having your unpublished manuscript read by noted authors and celebrities who can give comments, endorsements and testimonials which can be used for marketing.
Author Branding V/s Book Promotion
Author branding is promoting the author and not just a single work of theirs. For e.g. Paulo Coelho is a brand in himself.
Book Promotion is when an author markets a particular work of theirs.
Every marketing plan should ideally be a combination of both unless the author wants to write only one book as a part of their branding.
Let’s take the example of Jay Shetty – He is a motivational speaker who does wellness programs and is a practicing healer. His core business is to help people on their healing journey. He recently wrote a book ‘Think like a monk’. He is not essentially a writer but writing a book, which is a by-product of his brand as a motivational speaker and healer, is an add on.
One of the main reasons why one should focus on author branding is because there are many books which keep releasing every day and it is very easy for a reader to forget the title of the book. But an author who has a strong recall value is always a huge plus in determining book purchases.
Personally, I admire Paulo Coelho. So, when he wrote Veronica decides to die, I bought it and hated it to the core. Did it stop me from buying his next book? No, I was at the bookstore looking for his next one again because I was emotionally invested in the author brand. Paulo Coelho never promotes just one of his works, he promotes his own brand as an author who mixes fiction with non-fiction to deliver books which are considered therapeutic by most of his readers.
That is the impact of author branding.
You go back to them despite not liking one book. You keep looking for their titles to an extent that sometimes readers are known to walk into bookstores and just say, “I want anything by XYZ author.” Simply because they know they will be able to connect instantly with the author’s writings and not repent this purchase.
However, it is important to analyze this in accordance to your marketing goals as mentioned above. If you are a writer who dreams of writing only that one swan song in life then perhaps you would want to only consider book marketing.
Role of Social Media in Book Marketing
With so many social media platforms available at the click of a button, one cannot ignore the huge role it plays in book marketing as well. Let’s try to understand each one of them a bit more in detail.
One of the most popular and preferred social media sites by authors, purely because of one reason – Bookstagram. In simple terms Bookstagram is a word derived by combining Books+Instagram. It involves posts on and around books, with pictures that are shot aesthetically to highlight that particular book. The backdrops are usually high on visual appeal and are most of the time, thematic.
The themes could be limited to the Bookstagrammer (Person who posts book reviews and pictures about books on their Instagram profile)’s account or could be a part of a larger theme being created by the bookstagramming community across the Instagram platform. Sometimes, even the publishing houses try to design a theme and involve multiple bookstagrammers while launching a book to create buzz around it. As a concept Bookstagram is immensely popular as it gathers a lot of traction irrespective of the book type.
- Who is it for? Instagram is high on visual aesthetics as it is a video and photography based social media site. Choose it only if you can actively share videos and pictures with less focus on text and links. Though there is space for captions, Instagram has only one space for sharing links which is in the bio. Hence, a user needs to either keep sharing high quality photographs of their day-to-day life which includes travel, food, clothing, lifestyle etc. or use free designing sites like Canva to create images with quotes and text to be shared regularly. Authors of travelogues, cookery books and other such books which are backed with images can use this platform effectively to promote their work.
- How to start: Create a profile and start posting regularly using trending hashtags relevant to your profile. You can also choose a theme and stick to it for your posts.
Twitter is a microblogging site with a little bit of everything – videos, photographs, texts, links, long texts (threads) etc.
- Who is it for? Twitter is a good place for networking in terms of finding relevant people from the industry and creating contacts. After the slow decline of Facebook’s popularity, Twitter has been picking up as a place for conversations especially for people who are not too much into visual aesthetics but are keen on discussions.
- How to start: Create a profile and pick the topics you would like to create your base in. Follow handles of people you admire or want to work with. Use hashtags and share your thoughts in a clean, thorough and understandable manner.
Facebook has been slowly losing its place as the most popular social networking site due to various reasons. What matters is that it still continues to be a great place to connect with other authors (globally) and helps in book promotions through Facebook groups.
Need to add here, this is true largely for authors who have chosen to get published through the Amazon KDP route. Some of the Facebook groups that can be helpful are:
These groups are a great place to share the book’s links and spread a word about the book. You can also exchange reviews with other authors and form your own writers group to further help not only in marketing but in writing also.
- Who is it for? For authors who are used to Facebook’s platform and hence find it comfortable enough to start with. Also, if you have a profile since years it is easier to add further to the readers base rather than starting afresh on other platforms from scratch. Like Twitter, Facebook also allows a bit of everything and hence can be great place to start with for marketing a book owing to the support it provides in terms of the various groups
- How to start: Ideally an author should have a page. I wouldn’t recommend a page for a book unless it is the only book you ever plan to write. If you keep writing a book, then creating (and then maintaining) so many pages will be a problem. Hence a FB page in the name of the author is an ideal way to start as it also helps you in keeping the limelight away from your personal profile unless you intend to do so. In that case, you can make your FB profile a public one so that readers can find you easily and follow your posts.
Goodreads is basically a site for book-lovers but it can also act as a good place to promote your books, especially when you do not have a readership base ready to access. Goodreads has groups based on genres and locations, where authors can share their book details amidst book lovers and promote it.
Goodreads also allows you to host giveaways ( on a chargeable basis), highlight teasers, create quizzes, discussions on book/s and ask-me-anything sessions for authors.
- Who is it for? Authors who do not have a ready to use readership base and could do with guidance and support for marketing. Also for authors who are not that tech savvy and find social media platforms too difficult to manage. Irrespective of genre, this is a great platform for every author to be on.
- How to start? Create an author profile ( it is free), add your book and you are ready to start the promotions.
Again an image based platform, albeit one that allows link sharing too.
- Who is it for? Authors of travelogues, cookery books, fantasy fiction etc. who use images to back their content.
- How to start: Create an account and then work on your profile in terms of creating various boards and work according to your selected themes.
A video based social media platform which is quick and effective if tagging and sub tagging is done properly.
- Who is it for? Authors who enjoy working on video based formats be it the reviews of their book, book trailers, vlogs, relays of book launches etc.
- How to start? Gmail users automatically have a YouTube login, however you need to create your channel to increase visibility. Decide a name and plan a theme for all your videos. You will also need a basic setup for making videos which includes a decent camera, a tripod (considering you are working alone), lights, editing software, noise cancellation mike etc.
One of the most debated things is the importance of a website for an author. Without recreating the arguments of both the sides, I will simply put it across in brief: More than money, a website also needs good content to justify its existence. Unless you have enough material to justify a 4-5 page website, it is not advisable to invest in a site.
For starters, you can create a basic standalone page through some of the free sites like Wix, Strikingly, Website.com, Webs, Yola etc. and add your information till you gather material for other pages. Through the free site you can share about you and highlight the book, along with some reviews or testimonials.
In addition to being an author, if you also juggle various other professions like that of an artist, a stand up comic, dancer, Chef, TEDx Speaker, Mentor, Coach, Healer, Wellness Guru, Life Coach, Business leader or an expert in your field which further means you have articles and papers to your credit, media mentions and a whole bunch of material to highlight your profile, that’s when a proper website is recommended.
Most of the above mentioned platforms are now relying heavily on the usage of hashtags, especially Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. While you can always rely on your own understanding of what are the keywords in focus for that particular post, there are many other tools also which help in finding the best hashtags.
Having said all of the above, do remember the key to gaining success (or popularity) on any social media platform is to be patient (Like everything else!) Be consistent in whatever platform you decide to opt for and give it at least 3 months for results to show. Engagement is important and helps you in the long run, when you wish to write more than one book. Hosting contests, giveaways and constant interaction with the audiences is what will help you build a reader base.
Also, please note, the emphasis here is on using these platforms for book marketing which may or may not necessarily convert into sales.
Other Marketing Options
All social media platforms have inbuilt promotions available which you can use. Facebook and Instagram ads have been the most effective so far in book promotions as per many authors. Twitter ads are good to create a follower base.
Amazon also has inbuilt ads options where you can promote your book/s on their platform. Many publishing houses swear by this option and it is known to show tremendous results impacting the sales numbers also, positively.
Amazon also has various inbuilt options for book promotions like offering discounts and free copies which can be used to promote a book on their platform and reach the desired audience.
Book Clubs, book bloggers, book boxes and local bookstores
Book clubs are a great place for an author to introduce their work. Most of the local book clubs and libraries are more than happy to host authors, keep copies of their books in their libraries and even conduct book reading sessions. You can also approach local bookstores and request them to place a copy of your book on their shelves. They are also a great location to conduct book launches.
Book boxes as a concept has recently become quite popular amongst book lovers. It runs on a monthly/ yearly subscription where the subscribers are sent boxes full of books and other literary trinkets like bookmarks, cushion covers, mugs etc. You can contact them to get your book in their boxes.
Some book bloggers (Bloggers who review books on their blogs) also offer spaces on their blogs for advertising to authors. Book reviews are a great way to promote your books too. There are various blogger lists available online and you can also check the list of Top Literature Blogs in India- 2020 to know whom to approach for the reviews.
If there is any good that came out of Covid, it is this – Now you do not need to limit yourself to local book clubs. You can approach literary clubs across the globe (as long as it matches the theme of your book) and request them to host your book/s.
Sharing names of some known local bookstores, book boxes and book clubs:
If your budget is high you can also consider hiring P.R. firms who help you in promoting your books. While they handle both offline and online marketing, their role in managing the offline promotions is one that cannot be ignored.
Some of the names who do both on a bigger scale are:
However, if you have a moderate budget there are many small size book marketing firms also which an author can consider hiring for promotions. Sharing some of the names:
These small firms largely take care of the online promotions, while some do offer offline promotions too.
Marketing is a blackhole where irrespective of the money you put in, it never feels enough. There are cases of having invested lakhs of rupees to just create a name while on the other hand, someone has managed to sell 10,000 copies without investing close to nothing simply by using the right medium to promote the books. Every book has its audience, you just need to find them. Know your niche, your audience and your weaknesses before focusing on your strengths.
Nevertheless, Having a good product (a great book) to start with, is always a sure shot way to success.