Book Marketing Strategies for Indian Authors

The first step towards putting your book out in the Indian book market is to understand it better. Book marketing has changed drastically over the decades, mostly for the better. 20 years ago, the only Indian authors you would probably have heard of would have been Ruskin Bond, Shobhaa De, and Amitav Ghosh. Today, with the boom in commercial fiction and opening up of digital platforms like Kindle and other forms of self-publishing, you’d be able to guess a number of authors whose popularity isn’t diluted despite the obvious competition.

From Amish in mythological writing, Ashwin Sanghi in crime writing, Ravinder Singh in Lad Lit, to Anuja Chauhan in chick lit. All these authors have become household names in a matter of a few months.

How Does This Outreach Work?

The simplest reason is the ease of purchase due to e-commerce platforms like Flipkart and Amazon. In addition to this, changing aspirations, accessibility on digital platforms like Kindle and Juggernaut’s mobile app, the wholehearted adoption of eBooks, and the access to information due to digital channels have all contributed to a vibrant and growing industry.

According to a report by Nielsen, the publishing sector led by educational books is set to grow at an annual rate of 19.3% until 2020.

Market Scenarios – The Past and the Present:

While the publishing industry was synonymous with literary fiction a few years ago, commercial fiction is what rules the market today. As Harsimran Gill, Consulting Editor at Scroll Media, states in his article on Scroll.in, “While Indian literary fiction continues to throw up some interesting writers and books, the backbone of the publishing industry in India very much remains non-fiction and commercial fiction.”

The Downside of Modern Book Marketing:

With the expansion of Indian publishing also comes a downside that we are witnessing. The sheer volume of books in the market, strong competition from other devices such as mobile phones and tablets, and dwindling media coverage have all led to a lack of visibility for most authors. Marketing is becoming increasingly costly and is not necessarily yielding the desired results.

As Kanishka Gupta, a leading literary agent, sums it well in his article on Scroll.in, “For publishers, it is becoming increasingly difficult to map marketing efforts for their titles to sales. While it is a struggle to even get a new book by a new author onto the radar screens of potential readers, it is by no means clear whether that will translate into sampling, leave alone actual sales.”

It becomes difficult to understand where a new author has to start marketing their book. But as Kanishka Gupta puts it, if something works well for decades, then that will be something that will work forever. It is the readers who will turn out to be the ultimate marketers for an author. “Especially for new writers, there is really no replacement for word of mouth. And this is something that is neither in the hands of the writer nor of the marketing manager.”

Understanding the Market:

It is true that having books across genres in the Indian market can only be beneficial as this will attract all kinds of readers and open the market to many new authors.  However, while we are spoilt for choice in terms of the range of books that a reader might want to pick up, the larger problem is in terms of ensuring that the right book reaches the right reader. This can be accomplished only by understanding the market for your book with proper research before your book comes on to the scene.

If you are a first-time author, here’s a helpful exercise for you to undertake before your book actually hits the stores:

  • Make a list of 15-20 books in the same genre as your book. Look through the rankings, ratings, and reviews on Goodreads. You will realize that your favourites may not necessarily have the greatest number of reviews. But this will give you a realistic idea of what to expect when your book comes out.
  • If the print run of your book is not very high, don’t be disheartened and think that you are a bad author. Print-runs for a book are decided by publishers taking into account a combination of factors such as the readability, sales record of a genre in India, feedback from editors, the sales team, the customers, etc. Ask your publisher to make a list of books which had low print-runs but which eventually sold out. This might just give you the extra motivation that you need with your book.
  • Talk to your editor and ask them how long a book takes to move in reality. It is easy to assume that all books will start selling from Day One and will be sold out in a few days. While that is the hope for every author entering the market, it doesn’t happen like that. Ideally, it takes a few days to a few weeks for a new book to start moving.
  • Ask your marketing team about the target-segment for your book. Not all books are create equal and not all will have the same readership. Be ready to pitch in for marketing activities. A significant part of being an author in India today involves not just writing but also being available for sales and marketing activities.

It is important to understand that while book marketing tools and tactics can work in the initial days of the book’s release, the onus is on the book to make the readers spread the word. After all, word-of-mouth is the most effective when it comes to popularizing a book.

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Shobhita Narayan
Shobhita Narayan currently handles online and content marketing at Glitstreet, fashion e-commerce start-up and is completing her business degree. She has previously worked with Hachette India for four years as a Publicist and has handled major brands in publishing such as Playing It my Way by Sachin Tendulkar, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz amongst others.

2 thoughts on “Book Marketing Strategies for Indian Authors

    1. Thanks, Rishab. This is a five-part series, do read the next set of articles, there are some pragmatic exercises in each for authors in the making to undertake.

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