Monday, 23 November 2015

Self published books- Mayhem of Marketing and promoting for authors

Written By Payal Desai

Close your eyes and make an image of an author. What did you see? Let me tell you what I would have imagined few years back. I might have imagined a person writing under the piles of books or a person reading or writing at a scenic lonely place. But now even the picture in my imagination has changed. What do I see now is a person, who wants to cling to its laptop but is pulled in a different direction into the muddle of digital marketing world.

Self-publishing is not a new phenomena. It started in 1931 when the author of “The Joy of Cooking” paid a local printing company to print 3000 copies. But the concept of publishing eBooks for Kindle is relatively new. The Authors, who used to spend their time only in reading, penning down their inner thoughts and living in the realm of their imagination, are now forced to become a businessman.  Why? Isn’t it enough to write a book and then get lost in the world of words again, away from the society and people, in the world of your imaginary characters? I guess it is not a choice anymore. What is the point of writing a book if you cannot make it reach to its readers?  No writer wants to write a book, that no one reads. Like any other form of art, writing is also about communicating and expressing. Through their books, authors try to communicate to a wider range of people, giving them messages, sometimes just to entertain them and sometimes to evoke the society.  But the question is, in today’s high tech digital world, how far the authors have reached and at what cost.

I always like to shop from an individual shop rather than a mall, as too much of choices to pick from, often makes me confused. I end up buying something that I don’t want. There are always pro and cons attached even with an evolution.  The same has happened with Digital marketing and eBook self-publishing. Now the authors can save their time from going to one publication to another for their book to be published. But the downside is that, when they put their books out on Kindle, contend doesn’t end there. As of June 2015, there are over 3.6 million e-books available in the Kindle Store. In the ocean of books on Amazon and on thousands of online-book stores, how people will come to know that your book is good? The answer to this question gives birth to the mayhem of marketing. Authors are not typically people who have a business mind. So it becomes even tougher for them to make their books stand out in a crowd. Sometimes authors end up giving up on their work and are lost in the dark. 

One solution to this problem is Personal Representative (PR) and a Social media marketing person.  You hire them and then your work is done. But what if you are a new author? Self-publishing is not chosen only by new authors. But most of the new authors of today’s generation are choosing self publishing over transitional publishing for their books.  And if you are a new and an un-established author and if you don’t have that kind of money, what will you do? If you don’t want to give up on your book, the only choice left is to pick up a hammer and a chisel and start to carve the mountain yourself (hypothetically of course!) , just like Dashrath Manjhi, a man who carved a path through mountain all by himself (2015 Bollywood movie named “Manjhi - the Mountain Man” based on his real life story). It’s a lonely road to travel and you will get many hurdles in your way. But the biggest trouble that the authors face is not being able to fulfill their basic need of writing and reading, as they have to invest enormous time in marketing their book.  Social media marketing is a mad rush and if you want to compete there, you got to know the techniques to survive and to bring results. It takes a lot from you.

5 essential and very basic keys for your social media campaign:

  1. You need to know your audience: Find out what age group, regional areas, professions & educational background people are likely to pick your book.
  2. Know your book: Sounds weird? Of course any author will know his work!
    What I mean here is you need to know the selling-point of your book. What is there in your book, which makes it different from other books of its genre, which is your unique voice? And what’s there in your book, which will appeal to its readers the most.

3. Once you find out your audience and the selling point, design your campaign around it. Don’t try to reach to everyone.  Just pick up the right audience and give them exactly the things they might be interested in. sell them what is sell-able in your book.

   4.   Don’t stick to only one social media place. i.g you are trying to sell your book
on Face Book, but what if there are thousands of groups of readers on twitter, which are more destined to like your work. Build your campaign at least on 3-5 different social media platforms.

5. Give to get: you need to initially giveaway your books to bloggers and readers, who will not only read and review your work, but who will build your brand for you by spreading the word.

The list can go on and on... but these are the fundamental aspects of marketing for any new author. Credit goes to Kirtida Gautam, the author of #Iam16Icanrape – The War AGAINST rape culture, as these concepts have been taken from the social media marketing campaign of her book.

When I first thought about working as a book promoter on social media, I thought it as easy as face booking in general.  But it is only when I walked on the road of promoting and marketing the book, I felt the thorns and stones that hurt most of the author exactly at the places they are hurting me now. In this huge world of digital media, every morning I wake up to make my mark and every night I sleep with the feeling of being overwhelmed.  

                                           - Blog by Payal Desai Chopra

You can follow me on FaceBook: or 
Twitter : @payaldesai83

Friday, 20 November 2015


Writers often say that their books are their children. I go one step ahead in madness. I know the gender of my book #iAm16iCan. It’s a girl. She is my daughter! 

Since the time my baby came in this world, I have matured as a person. I had to. I am her Father (more about why I am her father and not mother in next book is the idea discussed in my next book) and I had to make sure that She gets all the care and protection that a child needs during the first few critical months of the life. 

I know I sound insane, which I partly am! 

Nevertheless, here are the 6 most important things that I learnt about creating author’s platform during last 6 months. 

1- Audience:  First and most critical questions an author needs to ask in relation to his books is, who is going to read this book? Who is the audience? 
The answer to this single question is going to be pivotal in figuring out who, where, when, why, what and how to of the entire marketing campaign around the book.  

One thing I did right: 
I knew my audience quite clearly. 
It’s because in chapter 12.1, Rudransh Kashyap, the protagonist of the novel while master-minding the campaign I am 16 can I rape? answers the question who is the audience for this book. 
I love my characters; they figure everything out for me. 

One mistake I made: In the beginning, sometimes I used to ask some of the readers to go on reading because I thought; these people need the information presented in the book. I don’t want to go in specifics but there is this person, a business associate of one of my family members. This guy is a real jerk who treats women disrespectfully all the time, for no other reason but because they are females. Misogyny. I wanted him to read the book and I kind of insisted that he should read it to improve his behavior. Now, I never do that. It’s juvenile! 

2- Buzz- Social media is the democratic NEW media. I bless engineers who gave this liberating voice to the creative souls who withered in silence for ages. Dramatics is to add humor! Nevertheless, on a serious note, social media is a great way to build platform. 

One thing I did right: Actually I took 4 proactive actions to spread words about the book- I used Facebook, Facebook Ads, Twitter, and Blogs to create buzz around my book in India. 

One mistake I made: It’s not exactly a mistake, but it’s something I have not done so far but plan to do in near future. I want to make more videos about the conversation and debate discussed in the book. I want to use YouTube and Google+. I also want to use Guest Blogging as a tool to create more buzz about the book. More on Guest Blogging in next article. 

3- Bloggers- Bloggers are mind-blowing people. They are the voice amplifiers of an author’s platform.  And I don’t mean this in an objectifying way, but in most respectful way. When an author reaches to the bloggers, it’s the obligation of the author to be most respectful and courteous to the bloggers. 
A blogger writes about the book because the traffic that comes to her blog makes her money or increases her web visibility. So, ideally, a blogger must never ask an author for upfront money to write review. But what a blogger deserves without asking is the copy of the book. A blogger takes out the time from her schedule to read and review the book; it’s the most basic courtesy on part of the author to give a copy of the book to her. 
Also, author must share the blog a blogger writes about the book. It helps in increasing the traffic to her blog. It’s again 101 law of reciprocation. Someone is doing a good thing to you, you must return the favor. 

One thing I did right: I have connected with brilliant bloggers in past 6 months. Their feedback gave me insight in my work.

One mistake I made: It’s a question only the bloggers can answer, if I bothered them in anyways. 

4- Cross Promotion- Cross promotion is not generosity. 
It is math. 
An average Indian reader reads 20 books of fiction in a year. I am being pessimistic here, or let’s hope I am being pessimist. A writer can write between 1 to 4 books in a year. 


It’s my personal limited, which incidentally is also my strength that I follow a very strict method to write my novels which also involves months of research. So, even if I want, I can’t write 4 books a year without letting the quality go down. I chose quality over quantity any day. 
So here is the deal, there are readers who need around 20 books a year to read, but I can provide them only one. 
Indian society breeds a crab mentality which emphasizes competition over cooperation for no reason. 
In the field of writing, there is no competition! Seriously! Every writer is a unique entity. If my reader picks the book of other writers she is not being disloyal to me.
So, this is how cross promotion makes sense for an authorpreneur. I write my book and publicize it, but I also promote around 10 other books by other authors. These are the authors who write in the same genre in which I write. 

When I promote their book I am doing 2 things right:
1- Helping my readers discover good books. My readers are MOST important people to me as a writer. I like when I can help them. 
2- I create a joined platform with say 10 other authors. If each one of us has say, 1000 loyal readers and that readers introduced to other authors, with very little effort on the part of each of us, now we have a platform with 10000 readers. 
As simple as that!

One thing I did right: I heavily cross promote the work of other writers. I have a Facebook community Bestseller Story which is essentially a platform where members share their Indie writing experience and cross promote each other’s work to give greater visibility to all the worthy novels. 

  • I also arrange give-away for other authors. 
  • I conduct interviews of other authors. 

It’s a game in which either everyone loses or everyone wins! I prefer winning over losing. 

One mistake I made: None! This is a place where I will pat my back. I give myself 10/10 for promoting other people’s work. It’s not possible that I come across something good and I don’t share. 
Sharing is caring! Honest? 
Sharing is math. 

5- Science of Giving- What I said about cross promotion applies also giving to the community without putting the price tag on everything. 
In the book The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing - Al Ries and Jack Trout writes- Don’t buy what you can give for free. 
There are lot of PR and other companies that give a guarantee to the writer that they can build his/her platform. 
My question is, 
Didn’t the writer wanted to communicate with his reader to begin with? 
I can’t delegate the best part of my work life to others. 

In the spirit of honestly, let me share a paragraph from the book #IAm16ICan. 
“Do I have a teacher’s genes? I don’t know. Sociality perceives teaching as a noble profession but it is a profession that attracts narcissists. Counter intuitive, yes. Teachers pretend that they have come in the profession because of noble reasons, but at the heart of the choice is a simple fact. Teaching gives them an opportunity to have attention, something they can’t muster in their non-professional life.  
What is my motivation of teaching? I want attention.”
~ Aarush Kashyap. 
Chapter 7.5

Do I enjoy telling others what I learn on the road to trials? 
I enjoy it immensely. I call it Kaizen Teaching. It’s a self coined term.
Kaizen Teaching: When the teacher teaches the students something that he is learning. Teaching is the best way to learn things. 
Write articles, blogs, podcast, interviews… 
There are lot of creative ways of sharing with others what author is learning while trying to horn his craft. Share magnanimously. 

One thing I did right: I am a Methodist. I make detailed excel sheets of everything around my work. So, I have very precise data of lot of interesting facts about my work life. There are people who need this information. So, I happily share. It gives me the satisfaction of giving. And it helps other people grow. 
I will repeat myself- the rule of the game is- everyone got to win! 

One mistake I made: I didn’t start building my platform earlier. I have thousands of pages of data about writing the book, about all the research I have done and other things. I should have started putting that on different social media platform WHILE I was writing the book. 

6- Write the Next Book- When I started writing #IAm16ICan, it was not part of any book series. As a matter of fact, there was no second book till I reached the last chapter. 
In first draft there was a scene in chapter 12.5, which Payal Desai Chopra, my most trusted beta reader strictly objected to the scene. She told me that the scene will kill the dramatic thrust of the book. 
I cried. No dramatics. I actually cried with real tears for three days. I loved that scene. I knew that this is what Aarush has done. And yet it was not organic part of the book. How? Why? 
And then Payal took pity on me. She told me, “If you are so keen about this scene, why don’t you write another book starting it with this scene.” 
No kidding! That is how the second book started. 
As I was completely in the fictional world of first novel, I could write the second book in the same gush of writing. 
It took me two years to write the first book, it took me three months to write the second book. 
So, this is what I will advise to the writers. 
You became writer for a very specific reason- YOU LIKE WRITING! 
Don’t forget that. 

One thing I did right: I wrote the second book. I am working on the third book. I call the series, Yin Yang series. 

One mistake I made: I can’t call it mistake, but due to some circumstance I had to take a break before starting the third book. I also plan to take more time to write third book because it needs more research than what I had to do for second book. 

Kirtida Gautam is a clinical psychologist and an author. Follow her on Twitter @KirtidaGautam  

Friday, 6 November 2015



Michael J. Sullivan is an American writer of epic fantasy and science fiction, best known for his debut series, The Riyria Revelations, which is a six-book epic fantasy series. He got the first book The Crown Conspiracy from the series of six self-published in 2008. After two and a half years, the first five books sold more than 70,000 copies and ranked in the top twenty of multiple Amazon fantasy lists. In November 2010, he leveraged his success and received his first commercial publishing contract for three novels from Orbit Books, fantasy imprint of Hachette Book Group, USA. In addition, Michael reached international status with more than sixty-five foreign rights contracts across twelve languages including books published in France, Spain, Russia, and Germany, just to name a few. 
Michael’s work has been well received by critics and readers alike, earning him thousands of positive reviews, interviews, and articles. He has attributed much of his success to the fantasy book blogging community. Dubbed “the little indie that could” he found his books pitted as the only independent in major competitions such as the 2010 and 2012 Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Fantasy and the 2009 Book Spot Central’s Fantasy Tournament of Books, which he won. His traditionally published edition of Theft of Swords was short-listed for the 2013 Audie Award for Fantasy.
You once said, self-published authors get criticized twice often for their copy-editing mistakes than the authors who get their books published by large presses. Because people think with big publications, professionals are involved and hence they don’t tend to find mistakes.  Whereas with self-publishing people expect editing to be poor and they love pointing out any little mistake and hold it up as proof of poor quality. So what difficulties have you faced with copy-editing your self-published book? 
My self-publishing falls into two categories, the works I self-published before my contracts with the big-five, and then the ones I’ve self-published afterward. So let me talk about each.  For the early works, especially the first few books, it was important to control costs as I had no idea how the books would perform so that meant editing on a shoestring budget. What I would do is put out small ads for editors using sites like the American Copy-editor Society and I would get a lot of people responding, more than 200.  I then took a few pages of the book, sent it to all the people who responded, and asked them to edit as much or as little of it for me to determine their capabilities. I analyzed each of these along with their costs and chose two editors that were reasonably priced. Having two editors meant things that one missed the other would catch.
Now, for Hollow World and The Death of Dulgath, the two books that I self-published in recent years, making sure the editing was top-notch was my highest priority. I didn’t want people to think the self-published work was released with a lower bar for quality.  So, for those books I paid a great deal of money on copyediting. For instance, Hollow World had two editors, both used by the big-five. For The Death of Dulgath I actually used three editors – the same two as with Hollow World plus a new editor who was actually a beta reader and very good.  Each of these edits cost me about $1,000 so I spent, $2,000 - $3,000, for editing of those self-published books. Paying all that money wasn’t a problem because I ran successful Kickstarter campaigns for both projects. So, I had extra money that I could devote to them.  Because my traditionally published books only have one copy editor, these are actually “better edited” than my traditional books.

What do you think have changed in self-publishing these days? 
I think self-publishing has matured and we now see a number of professional self-published authors. These are the ones that take great care in the production of their work, and release books that stand toe-to-toe with those published by traditional houses. These authors are highly knowledgeable on subjects of branding and marketing and make the necessary investments in editing and cover design. They ARE publishers just like their New York counterparts.  These authors do EXTREMELY well. 
What hasn’t changed, is there are still some authors who self-publish poorly.  Those who don’t have that same attention to producing a quality product and just slap something together and put it out to the public.  These authors have never done well, and never will. For the most part, they fall into obscurity as they never find any substantial traction or readership. 

Would you be going into self-publishing in future?
A lot depends on circumstances.  For each project I write, I consider what would be the best path for that particular book.  For instance, Hollow World, my first science fiction novel, was offered a traditional publishing contract, but the advance wasn’t that great. I figured I could do better by self-publishing, so I did.  Sure enough, I made about three times the advance in the first few months of it’s release. So that was the right way to go with that book.
For my next project, The First Empire, a five-book epic fantasy series, I had intended to self-publish, but then Del Rey came in with an advance that was much higher than I thought I would likely make through self-publishing. This combined with the fact that they were releasing me in hardcover was a big draw. So, I decided to sign that series with them.
For the book releasing right now, The Death of Dulgath, ebook went live in October and the hardcover and audio book will be released in December, I went the self-publishing route because I had to get it out before the end of 2015, so that its release date wouldn’t conflict with the release of Del Rey’s Age of Myth, first book of the First Empire series scheduled for June 2016. I didn’t even bother submitting that to publishers because none of them could meet the deadline requirement. 
Will my future books be self or traditional?  Well it depends on what is being offered and whether I think I can do better on my own or not.  I’ll evaluate each one as the books complete. 

At one point in your life, you gave up on publishing your novels, but then after 10 years you chose to walk on the road of getting them published for your 13 year old daughter, who was then having reading difficulties due to dyslexia. How did your books help your daughter’s reading? 
I’m not sure who benefited more from that decision – myself or my daughter. Yes, she got to read a book that turned her into a long-time reader, but I got a whole new career. So here is a part of that story that isn’t widely known. I wrote the Riyria books for Sarah, starting with The Crown Conspiracy.  I enjoyed writing it so much that I dug right in and wrote book #2, Avemparth,a right after.  When I gave her the first book, it was created from a standard printer – and on 8 ½” x 5 ½” paper that were all loose pages. Because of her dyslexia she finds reading in this format to be very difficult.  She said she could only read it if I had it in a book format – bound pages. So that is what got my wife taking up the task of getting them published. So because she wouldn’t read the book in manuscript format, I was forced to find a way to get it in published book form for her to be able to read it. 

According to you, what elements of your novel are specifically appealing for the young adults?
While part of the reason for writing the books was for my daughter and yes she was a teen at the time, the books aren’t written for the young adult market. They are books written for adults but because they lack sex, graphic violence, and explicit language, they can be read by people with a wide range of ages.  I will say one of the neatest things about the books is when I hear they are being read and shared between multiple generations.  In some cases as many as three grand-parent, parent, and child. I think I get as many children reading because of recommendations from their parents as I do parents reading because of recommendation of their children.  So I think the style of the books do have a broad appeal.

We all know when you had your first child, you chose to be stay at home daddy and take care of your child. And that was the time when you wrote your 12 novels. Are your children your inspiration for you to write fantasy and adventure novels or the desire of writing fantasy novels had its roots in your early childhood?

Part of my reason for being a stay-at-home dad had to do with the income disparity between myself and my wife. She made more money than I did, she was an engineer, I was a commercial artist, so the decision to stay at home stemmed first from us wanting to be involved with our children’s early development, rather than day care, and the financial practicality.  The writing came because of my desire to have a creative outlet while they napped or do have something to do in the evenings because I don’t watch television.  While my Riyria books were partially written for Sarah, all my books really are created to satisfy my own reading preferences. I’m writing books I want to read and because I’m creating them, they fit me like a glove. I’m often pretty critical of other books, not because other writers aren’t talented – as they certainly are.  They just don’t often align with my preferences and by writing the books myself I can guarantee that they will be the type of book I would enjoy.

Please tell our readers about how you were as a kid? 
I didn’t have a great many friends…which may have a lot to do with writing, as I can create people to play with through my books.  When I was young, both my father and sister had really bad battles with cancer. When my father was ill, my mother sent me to live with my sister and her husband at their farm so I got to ride horses and learned a lot about living in a rural setting. After dad’s death, I came home and then my sister’s fight began. This put a lot of stress on my mother, and so I had to be pretty self-sufficient in terms of taking care of myself. Escaping into fantasy worlds where there weren’t such problems and where I could be a hero, was the way I coped with what was going on in my “real life.”

From the time you wrote Riyria Revelations to your recent works like The First Empire, what has changed in your writing craft or do you follow a particular method of writing for your each work? 

Please tell our young authors about the things you pay the most attention while writing your novels.
I think each author should always have a desire for constant improvement. Like any task that requires skill, you get better the more you do. I think the storytelling aspects are somewhat born into me – I’ve always been good at creating stories. But the “how” of storytelling is something that improves with each book. My process has remained the same, but now I’m much more sensitive about things that were “clunky” in my past works. At the time I wrote each book, it was the best I could write, but because I’m always working on improvement I think each subsequent book is more polished than earlier ones. 
As for young authors, I think reading is essential for writing – but reading with a critical eye. You need to try to determine what the author did and why. You can learn a lot about writing by studying a book through reading.

Would you tell our reader about your future works? Have you already thought about how the world will end?

I do something rather unusual when I’m writing a series…I write all the books before publishing any of the works. So, for instance, The First Empire, which started out as a trilogy and grew into five books, has been completely written and the first book for it will come out in June 2016.  This series is set in Elan but 3,000 years in the past. It tells the true story of how Novron saved mankind and formed the First Empire. This series has been designed so that both new and existing readers should be able to enjoy it.  Here’s the “back of the book” copy:
Since time immemorial, humans have worshiped the gods they call Fhrey, truly a race apart: invincible in battle, masters of magic, and seemingly immortal. But when a god falls to a human blade, the balance of power between men and those they thought were gods changes forever. Now, only a few stand between humankind and annihilation: Raithe, reluctant to embrace his destiny as the God Killer. Suri, a young seer burdened by signs of impending doom. And Persephone, who must overcome personal tragedy to lead her people. The Age of Myth is over; the time of rebellion has begun.
Even past this new series, I do have ideas for other books based in my fictional world of Elan.  I would like to tell the story of The Fall of Percepliquis, showing how the First Empire was destroyed. For those who have read my books this would be Esrahaddon’s backstory. I also have some books planned post Riyria Revelations that generally revolve around the two characters Yolric and Kile. Then, of course, if people want more Royce and Hadrian I’d be glad to write more Riyria Chronicles – so yes, plenty more coming!

Any parting words of advice, encouragement for our readers and new generation of authors?

Oh, there is so much…but it could take days to go through it all. So I’ll try to hit the highlights.  First off, publishing is in great flux right now. This means there are more ways than ever to get your books “out there.” There is no universal “right path” but there is probably a path that is a “better fit” for each author on an individual basis. So, do your research weigh the pros and cons and go after the route that is the best for you.  But if that doesn’t work out, then explore other avenues. Persistence is the key in this business and the only way to ensure failure is to stop trying. At the heart of any success is a “good book” which I define as a book that people enjoy enough to tell others about.  So keep your quality high and always work toward constant improvement. 
I’d also like to say thanks for this opportunity…I greatly appreciate the interest in my work.

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Kirtida Gautam is a clinical psychologist and an author. Follow her on Twitter @KirtidaGautam