Decoding The Art Of Book Promotion In Modern Times
Sharp thinking, latest strategy, and clever use of digital media with sensible tweaks in marketing plans are a few dictums, which are strongly recommended by most book marketers across the globe. Here’s more on the art of book promotion.
E-commerce platforms, digital content, social media promotions, influencer marketing,publishing formats, webinars, book vlogs… the list of POA (point-of-action) are increasing every minute.
Smart marketers now have a 360-degree vision for promoting a book, ruled by data science. To better understand the Indian publishing scenario, AABP talked to the movers & shakers in the Indian book publishing space, including Aman Arora, Chiki Sarkar, Dr. Piyush Kumar and Lipika Bhushan.
Essentially if you think about marketing as conversion to sales – and if you use that metric, then the ‘old fashioned’ press centred campaign if done with real strategy and sharp thinking is still relevant. The effectiveness of social media or direct messaging for book promotion essentially depends on the offline popularity of the brand to an extent.The innovations aren’t about doing everything digitally but taking this framework and making intelligent modifications. So here, we bring candid opinions of the above-mentioned book marketers for our readers.
On book promotion via social media…
Aman: I would say no one rule applies across for this.I cannot say that this activity is ‘THE’ go-to way to promote a book. To promote a book, you will need a well-thought-out marketing and publicity plan which will be a combination of different campaigns based on the genre of the book.
So, the strategy you need for a book of political non-fiction will be very different from the strategy you choose for literary fiction or light romance. If there’s one constant in all of this, it’s that we must create word of mouth or the way people talk about the book and discuss and recommend it. Usually, a personal recommendation, whether it`s a tweet from an influencer, a media review, an e-commerce review, is what motivates a reader to pick a book. It all comes down to creating a conversation.
Chiki: This is a big question. So much has happened in publishing across sales, printing, the kind of books and writers that are selling, etc. I think to me, e-commerce and the sales of books across digital and print on those platforms has been the great impactor of publishing in my time.
Piyush: The best way to promote the newly released book now is Facebook & Google advertising; Instagram; influence marketing; book launch; book review, etc; blog writing; promote books on Amazon & Flipkart; and Goodread’s author programme.
Lipika: Integrating marketing efforts is the key. A new book needs to be visible in media, on social media as well as on selling counters. The right mix of all three has been regularly resulting in success. In the times when the reader is distracted with quicker and more visual ways of acquiring content, it’s important for an author to make space in the limited mind space that any reader or content absorber has. Taking your book to the reader instead of expecting them to come to your book needs to be taken to the next level where we take the book to their homes and reading tables. Authors must work on their visibility and networking. Depending solely on media coverage for books may add to perception building but doesn’t assure success.
Influencers today are the key behind driving word of mouth and therefore reaching out to the right kind of influencers to talk about your book is also important to triggering conversations among a larger audience but influencers alone may not add to credibility. Interacting with small clusters of readers over various digital and physical platforms also helps build a following but restricting yourself to just such interactions may not help in adding to the overall brand value. Therefore, integration and mix are the keys.
Conventional vs modern: what is trending?
Aman: The whole point of marketing is to introduce the book to as many potential readers as possible. Traditional methods still have a very important role and certainly have not been eliminated.
I think there are many creative ways to reinvent conventional marketing practices. So, for example, when planning a promotion for a book, you can approach it in many ways. Story ideas around a new book you recommend to a newspaper can be fresh formats such as a listicle, a piece by the author on a topical subject or current issue, an interview between two interesting personalities for print, and so on.
Likewise, you can plan different themed events and innovate with formats. Readers still read reviews in the newspapers either online or in print. Litfests still get large audiences and fans who want to meet their favourite authors. A book signing is a great way to generate content for social media and author-bookstore and author-reader connect. So, the conventional methods are therefore here to stay.
Chiki: Publishers do marketing campaigns to spread awareness of a book and get people to purchase copies. At Juggernaut, we tend to believe that on the whole, reviews, book events, litfests don’t help increase sales, though it does increase awareness.
So, we tend not to pay too much attention to them. This is a very Juggernaut approach because we’ve increasingly become interested in having a campaign that boosts sales. I would like to qualify that with a high-profile writer, book events can make a difference. And if a book is reviewed ecstatically across the board, some of that energy carries through.
We usually always map sales after a big promo day, and we have found the biggest impact around press stories in newspapers, big websites and television. Two recent examples from our list are:
- The Rahul Pandita extract in the Sunday TOI pulled it up to the top 20 on Amazon.
- We placed two news stories for Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott Clark’s spy stories in The Hindu and Indian Express which gave it front-page coverage and that took the book to Amazon top 10.
Piyush: All those conventional methods are not that effective in this era of the Internet. Social media is the most powerful tool for the promotion of books.
Lipika: Conventional methods in the changed world post-pandemic have changed forms but if one looks at the returns on the kind of investment, such traditional formats may not look very encouraging. Still completely doing away with conventional methods of book promotions or replacing them with the most modern forms of digital promotions and performance marketing may also not derive the required results. As shared, creating the right mix of promotional activities is important. This mix also depends on the profile of the author and the content of the book.
Riding on the social media buzz…
Aman: This is an exciting time to work in book marketing. In publishing, there have never been so many ways to market a book to potential readers. Today, marketing is playing a larger role in improving discoverability. We live in a digital world and we focus a lot on social media platforms, be it Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so on. Here too, we take a genre-driven approach, so Twitter gets more engagement for non-fiction, LinkedIn for business books, while Facebook and Instagram perform better for fiction. We aren`t sticklers of this approach and do post content across platforms as well and keep experimenting.
All different formats used on these platforms, be it video, reels, polls are being explored for promotions and perform well. We also factor in book tubers, bookstagrammers, social media influencers, etc, in our marketing plan. There are quite a few digital communities and groups that have come up and we associate with them from time to time.
After Covid, on-ground events have been replaced with online conversations. We focus on how to strategise that 200-300 people join us for a digital conversation and engage with the authors.
Chiki: I am going to be a little bit contrarian here. Social media is very important for writers who have a strong presence on social media already. For example, for Ankur Warikoo/Kareena Kapoor/ Sagarika Ghose, we craft careful social media campaigns that include videos, live chats, banners and visuals. But there are plenty of writers who we don’t plan a campaign around social media and where the book performs superbly because of a strong press campaign.
Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott Clark are examples. Occasionally an author can leverage their contacts who have a strong social media following – and that works too. Rahul Pandita got a ton of his friends and well-wishers to post about the book and together it created a small impact – yet nothing as big as the Sunday TOI extract. Last year,Tahira Kashyap Khurrana got a lot of influencers to post about her book and that created a big buzz.
But each book requires its approach and apart from major social media celebrities such as Kareena Kapoor, Twinkle Khanna and Ankur Warikoo, I find it fairly hard to see a correlation between sales and the post. In fact, I’d argue that on the whole, Instagram post doesn’t see conversion to book sales. On socia media campaigns, it’s not the clever video that necessarily sees the impact. It could be creating a sustained ‘concept’ around the book, like Deepak Shenoy answering your investment questions every Friday.
But the super-smart press campaign where you place the exactly right story with the right people at the right time – to my mind that still works the best.
Lipika: For personal branding, the author indulging in creating a strong social media presence may help him/her get a fan following and of course, a dedicated source of book readers and buyers but what’s more important is for readers to initiate conversations around the book. Any product today is sold more on user reviews and user brand perception than on direct marketing and advertising. So social media promotions can raise interest levels but the buying decision, in the end, would be influenced by what other common readers talk or say about a book.
On innovations in marketing…
Aman: We’ve partnered with online chat platforms like Mentza and Clubhouse to host book discussion sessions. There are informal debates and conversations on these platforms, which helps generate interest in the book.
In addition, we have collaborated with many media houses, thinktanks, chains as well as independent bookstores to host online book discussions.
Our award-winning blog, Harper Broadcast, is the only publisher-owned blog that offers engaging content (author interviews, excerpts, opinion pieces) around books published by HarperCollins India.
Chiki: We got FOGSI, the Federation of Gynaecologists in India to endorse Kareena Kapoor Khan’s Pregnancy Bible.
We gave the Indian Express and The Hindu, the manuscript of spy stories two months before publication with Carte Blanche – they could write any news stories they wanted on it but we agreed on a publishing date. The classic press campaign of interviews, extracts and pieces came only later. But it’s those two pieces that turned the book into a bestseller.
We have been working closely with BBC and getting our authors to write pieces for them that become some of the most-read stories that day on their platform. We are proud of some of these associations. For example, Manu Pillai’s piece for the BBC became one of the most-read pieces in the world home page for example. BBC’s interview with Abhijit Banerjee became viral and we got a lot of international interest that day. In fact, leveraging international press for the right book is one of the big Juggernaut strategies. For I am a troll – the first press story came out in The Guardian.
For Abhijit Banerjee’s cookbook, we got two cover stories that appeared one day after each other, without upsetting any media house and their need for exclusivity. Usually, you get only one cover for any book. Not two! That’s probably our one move, I am most proud of this whole year.
We’re closing the year with a spectacular campaign for Ankur Warikoo which has propelled the book to No 1. Ankur is a pro, so we were there to advise him on the social media side and help with some material. One of our pieces of advice was not to do a showy pre-order video, just announce it simply and ensure hygiene.For example, he needed to show himself holding the book. The incentive around the pre-order was to get signed copies.
Divya on our team also came up with a great idea called weekends with Warikoo where you could get the chance to get on a Zoom session with him if you showed your pre-order receipt.
Piyush: We just tried selling Kindle samples of a proper book free of cost on Amazon, which resulted in big downloading than of actual sales.
Lipika: In times of frugality, innovation is in collaborations. Great marketers have always tried to take books out of the traditional spaces to a new base of readers. The pandemic has allowed ease as most of such spaces has moved to digital platforms or hybrid platforms. The moment we start viewing books as a source of immense content in this hyper-connected content-driven world, the marketing efforts will automatically look for new avenues and collaborations to promote books. There are several platforms with which publishers and marketers can find synergies.
Arora, DGM -HarperCollins Publishers, is a hardcore publishing professional with over a decade of experience in marketing communication, brand and product promotions.
Chiki Sarkar, Founder and Publisher – Juggernaut Books, is a passionate publisher full of ideas and possibilities.She was the founding editor-in-chief of Random House India and publisher of Penguin India from 2011-15.
Dr. Piyush Kumar, Publisher, Prabhat Prakashan, is the biggest digital Hindi publisher in the industry.He aims to revolutionize digital publishing in India.
Lipika Bhushan, Founder -MarketMyBook, is an award-winning senior marketing and publicity professional. She led Marketing at HarperCollins India for about7 years.