When I turned 40, I was told that I was now officially middle aged; so I took the recommended journey of self discovery. I realised that from now on, writing would be one thing which would bring solace to my city bred soul. So I started work on my first book and rekindled one of my childhood hobbies. As I retained my day time profession of building structures, I decided I would ‘write for myself’, for relaxation and for a sense of gratification. I would not write ‘what the market demands’. So ‘Smart Phones Dumb People’ emerged as a ‘talk the walk’ book, straight from the heart. When the first manuscript emerged, I was faced with the challenge of finding a publisher and marketing the book. Let me share some of my learning.
Publishing and Marketing is not one package: When I first thought of publishers, I was under the impression that all publishers would handle the marketing of the book as well. I only had to give them the manuscript; they would publish it, distribute it and market it. I would become famous ‘overnight’. ‘Overnight’, however, comprise of several nights, weeks and months. Most publishers publish and distribute only; they would do a bit of marketing only if you have a past record as an established writer.
Do not throw spaghetti: Google made it easy to find publishers and publishing agents in India. After losing on sleep for several months writing my book, I was in a tearing hurry to become a ‘famous writer’. So I started writing to all kinds of publishers and agents. I was throwing spaghetti on the wall hoping that some would stick. The problem with this approach is that most of the spaghetti falls to the ground. I received so many rejections before I got a publisher. I had not done my homework; mine was a non-fiction and I was sending my manuscript to some publishers whose focus was fiction. Please do the homework and contact only those who specialize in your genre.
Get critiqued early on: My publisher’s editors asked for several changes in my manuscript, and I went through multiple rounds of re-writing with them. In hindsight, I realize that I might have found it easier to find a publisher if I had my manuscript critiqued and re-written, before showing it to potential publishers. But such a critique needs to be someone who is a professional and preferably not in a friends and family circle. My close ones had only the sweetest of things to say about my early manuscript; because they did not want to offend me.
Content will speak for itself: The high of writing your first book sometimes blurs some practical realities of the digital world today. Somewhere in the back of my mind there was a thought that I had come up with a masterpiece; book lovers would magically hear about the book and spread the word, sing my praises. The publisher would distribute the book, I would post a few pictures on social media and the rest would be taken care of by generic word-of-mouth marketing. Easier said than done. Thousands of books are published in India monthly and you need a marketing plan to be visible amongst all of these, in a generation with a fleeting memory.
Hire professionals early on: Although I did my own little word-of-mouth publicity, I needed to outsource parts of the publicity campaign. So I hired a professional. But I did it late, after the book was launched. It is very important to have the marketing team or person in place before the book is launched. It does not matter how big or small the specialist is; but it is important to draw up a marketing plan, well in advance of the launch.
Have a budget in mind: Like in other aspects of work life, it is important to have a sense of a budget before embarking on a marketing plan. There are many ways to spend money on promoting a book like social media, the traditional media, offline and online events, contests…the list is endless. Find out who is your likely audience, and spend wisely and within your budget, on what works for that audience.
FIRST HUNDRED DAYS
There is an undeniable high and excitement for approximately the first 100 days of the book’s launch as word spreads. The trick is to retain the enthusiasm beyond this period, as books generally tend to be slow starters. So have a promotion plan which takes you beyond this initial euphoric stage. Happy writing!