How should an author market his/her book at minimum cost? How to use social media (facebook, twitter) to promote books online? These are perhaps the questions foremost on the minds of authors who don’t (yet) have a PR machinery in place. A full media campaign, we know, is rupee-guzzling and a first-time author is often dependent almost entirely on the publisher’s initiatives to market his/her book since the author may not be able to afford a full media campaign to publicize their novel. Most publishing contracts require authors too to do their fair share of offline and online book marketing. So what should authors do?
We decided to ask Krish Murali Eswar, marketing guru who specialized in Innovation & Leading Product Development from Harvard Business School. Krish Murali Eswar has served as Chief Social Innovation Officer a BCIL Alt. Tech. Foundation and Chief Executive Officer & Member of the Board, Biodiversity Conservation India Private Limited. He exited fulltime corporate work and founded Marketing Hypnotism – a company that helps individuals and organizations to learn from his vast marketing experience so as to facilitate a viable and cost-effective content marketing strategy. He is passionate about Innovation Management, Product Development, Marketing Strategy, Leadership, Creative Problem Solving and Spirituality apart from many other varied interests. His motto is – Innovate and Prosper.
How to market your books online for free!
Interview with Krish Murali Eswar
Booksoarus: For a first-time author marketing his/her book is a daunting task. In your view, what are the possible steps s/he can take to garner enough attention that will reach the right people (intended audience, juries for various awards etc) as well as translate into sales?
KME: Every product launch for a seasoned marketing professional is a nightmare. It is no less or more for a newbie author. The steps for a product launch are simple.
Let’s look at each one of them in detail.
I ask myself, before any product launch, who is my ideal buyer. I put a name and a face to my target buyer. Who are they? Where are they? How do they look? What about their annual income, personal, educational, financial, personal and professional background? How will their families and friends look like?
What are their personal values? Why should they buy my product? Does my product solve a problem for them, appeal to their passion, or address their fears? People pay only for products that address their problems, passions or fears.
I hope an author asks similar questions BEFORE writing a book. Are we writing for a child or an adult? Are we writing for women or men? Are we writing for a bachelor or a married one? Are we writing to help someone find a job or get a promotion? Who is the reader? Why should the reader by my book and read it? Once this central set of questions are answered and a clarity emerges, marketing a book is as easy as selling a chewing gum.
How do we attract the target buyer?
Be everywhere. We are talking of digital media. So, be in every medium possible. There could only be three ways content can be put out: textual, visual and aural. How many authors do you know who regularly write a blog? How many put out videos or images? How many got a regular podcast show of their own?
Internet platform is useful only if we let ourselves discovered. iTunes is a search engine. Facebook is also a search engine. So is YouTube. So are most of the top 100 websites in the world. Check out Alexa.com on top global and national websites. Make a list. Decide if the target reader will likely use any of them. Create a content strategy around the most frequented websites of the target audience. Build content. Put out content on a regular frequency. Wait. You will eventually be found.
You guessed it right. Marketing begins from the first word you etch for your book in your mind.
Central to driving target internet traffic is your own website. Spend a few bucks and register a domain, ideally, with the name of your book. A .com website is most preferably. Set it up so that you are geo-targeting the website to a narrow region instead of going for the global audience.
Supposing I write for Indians, then, it makes sense to target India as my geographic region. This can be easily done through google webmaster tools. Many authors, if I am not wrong, host their websites in a public domain such as blogger.com. This is a mistake.
Search engines find it difficult to understand who you are without a proper website name. Besides, your website is your unique identity. Why not invest a bit of money to host your own website? With as little as $5 a month, a website could be bought and hosted.
Publish mesmerising content on your website. Start ranking high on organic search results. Link your content publishing across the top 100 websites back to your domain. Traffic will come, in time.
Lay enticing traps. Offer, say, the first chapter or the best chapter of your book, free in return for their email id. Build your email list. Email list is money. Those are the people who will eventually buy your book.
What do we do with our email list? Send regular mails with content that will keep them engaging. Keep telling them they are special. Do not sell. Offer value, free. Remember their problems, passions and fears. Consistently keep up with your central promise.
Offer a discount or early bird offer to people on your email list. Many will buy.
Booksoarus: How can one best leverage social media platforms?
KME: Same way as you would with your club or friends circle or a gang or group in which you are a member. Be attractive to them. Listen. Engage. Give them attention. Do them a favour. When you need a favour they will return it. Build a like minded group. Be active. Focus on your friends. Do not take attention away on to yourself in a social media platform. Keep giving attention. That is the key to your success.
Booksoarus: Almost everybody today has a website or is active on Facebook, Twitter and/or other related media platforms. What according to you is the differentiating factor that will get you noticed?
KME: Your original content centered around the reader persona and their problems, fears and passions.
Booksoarus: Are the strategies different for marketing physical books versus ebooks?
KME: Nope. Precisely the same. Either way, readers review, experts review and your fan following make a huge difference.
Booksoarus: What advice would you give to first-time authors who have a small marketing budget?
KME: With less than $5 a month, you can be your own marketing agent. If you have $100 a month, world is yours.
Booksoarus: How soon should one start marketing before the release of the book?
KME: From the very first word you start writing.
Booksoarus: How would one measure the success of a social media campaign? For example, even if one has received say 1000 likes on FB it might not translate to 1000 copies of books sold.
KME: Do not concentrate on likes and fans. Concentrate on engagement rate. I may have 100 followers. Each time I put content out, 80% may engage. That is huge. If I have one million followers and 2% of them engage regularly with my content, what use is that?
Booksoarus: What are the key mistakes that first time authors make when using social media for book or self promotion?
KME: Neither. Do not promote either your book or yourself. Promote your promise. Promise of your solution that will address the fears, passions or problems of the target readers.
Booksoarus: What can a PR firm do for an author that s/he cannot manage independently?
KME: PR firm will help because they have network with influential media reporters. But, they will also take away a large chunk of your profits. Digital PR tools can be used with minimum budget to help you be your own PR person.
Booksoarus: Please demystify this “going viral” phenomenon. Is there some planning involved or is it totally uncontrolled?
KME: Do not focus on viral thing. One in a million videos goes viral on YouTube. Focus on quality content. Focus on solving problems using your content. Focus on address the fears or appealing to the passions of your target readers. Eventually, you will build a viral magic.