There are few things as exciting as watching a struggling writer make her first sale and send her first book out into the world. This week long-time RU follower SONALI DEV did just that with the publication of her book A BOLLYWOOD AFFAIR.
Thanks so much, Becke, for having me. I think of RU as my Alma Mater of sorts because I learned much of what I know about writing romance right here. What makes it even more special to be here today is that it’s been exactly one week since my debut novel, A Bollywood Affair, came out, so I’m celebrating my anniversary. And although it has been the craziest week of my life, it has also been everything I could have hoped my debut would be.
While it is impossible to predict how marketing efforts will impact a book release, when someone asked me what I had done to prepare for it, I gathered up all the things that I did to market my book and tried to figure out why I had selected those particular things to do from all the choices available.
But first a little background. I signed the contract for my book back in February 2013 and the book hit the shelves at the very end of October 2014. That means I had a good year and eight months to get ready for the release. That is a long time to put together a wish list and to obsess over it.
Lucky for me I love wish lists. In fact, my first instinct about everything is to put together a wish list. To first and foremost dream. Because without dreams, how do you know where you’re going? So, I used a lot of that time to imagine what I wanted out of my debut, if I could have anything at all. I listed all the tangible things that I had control over like a trailer, my website, my various author pages, a Facebook party, a blog tour; and I also listed things that I had limited control over like a bookstore launch, reviews, blurbs. Things I wanted, that I could ask for, but that I could not directly make happen.
The tangible, controllable things are simple enough to do. And there’s more information available on them than you could ever use. Amy Atwell does a great AuthorEMS workshop on launching your book that covers almost everything you could possibly do as part of your book launch. So, I’m definitely not going to highlight the meagerness of my own expertise by going into it here. What I can speak to is what I considered while narrowing down my own list and choosing what to include in my marketing efforts. And given how very much you can do, and how necessary it all seems, making those choices wasn’t easy. But thinking of each choice in these terms really helped me:
- Criticalness: If you made a scale of what you believe an author absolutely must do to sell books, where would this fall? For instance, a website, in my opinion, is critical while marketing your book and your brand. Because if you are able to pique anyone’s interest even a little bit in today’s day and age, they are going to want to Google you and find your website. Your author pages on Amazon and Goodreads fall pretty high up on this scale too. On the other hand, swag, while fun, falls lower on the scale of criticalness. Naturally, things that seem critical to you must go on your list.
- Ease: How much time, effort and money does it take? And since ease is fairly personal, this varies from person to person. If you are a web designer in your day job then creating and managing your website is fairly easy. If social media is your thing then posting to social media will be pretty easy for you too. Creating a trailer, on the other hand, needs professional help (time, effort and money) for most people and that puts it pretty low on the ease scale.
The caveat of doing everything that is easy is that it’s tempting to take on far too much and in the end it adds up in terms of time. This is why it’s important to consider each thing in terms of all three: criticalness, ease and significance and then finding a balance that works for you.
- Significance: How special is this thing to you? This is the piece that can be harder to gauge because it is so personal. My book is a Bollywood Romance. Bollywood is just a catchy term for the Hindi Film Industry. And given that the book is meant to read like a Bollywood film, I really badly wanted a film-style trailer. From everything I had heard trailers cost a lot of money and no one can say for sure if they sell books. But how can you have a book with a Bollywood director for a hero and not have a trailer? The bottom line was that making a trailer for A Bollywood Affair meant a lot to me and so its personal significance was very high for me which is why I did make one despite it being neither critical nor easy.
Once you’ve considered these factors against your in-your-control list, it’s pretty easy to identify what you want to do and do it.
The not-in-your-control list is an entire different beast. But I think it behooves you to make it. And make it as soon as you can (in fact, start working on this one even if you haven’t sold), because this list needs more than time, money and effort. This one needs a little piece of your heart. It involves putting yourself out there.
On this list fall things like soliciting reviews and blurbs and being part of author events and cross promotion. And at the heart of this list are your relationships, especially for a newbie. As a new author no one has any idea about the quality of your work, so every time someone agrees to look at your book, they are running the risk of wasting time, and of being stuck in the uncomfortable position of turning you down. And the onus of making someone take this risk and look at your work falls on your shoulders.
You know how everyone and their cousin advices you to network at conferences and author events? They know what they are talking about. It’s always easier to ask someone you know to look at your book or at least to ask someone who has known you over a period of time and knows you won’t go crazy on them if they choose not to give you what you want. Our community of romance writers, readers and reviewers is a tight one and a very generous one and this means we have all sorts of doors we have the freedom to knock on. The trick is in knowing what a gift this is and using it with judicious care and of course in taking the time to nurture it.
For those of you who are published authors, how do you choose what to do to market your books?
On Friday, Handsome Hansel returns with his regular RU column.
Sonali Dev’s first literary work was a play about mistaken identities performed at her neighborhood Diwali extravaganza in Mumbai. She was eight years old. Despite this early success, Sonali spent the next few decades getting degrees in architecture and writing, and migrating across the globe. With the advent of her first gray hair her mad love for telling stories returned full force, and she now conjures up stories that make a mad tangle with her life as supermom, domestic goddess, and world traveler.
Sonali lives in the Chicago suburbs with her very patient and often amused husband and two teens who demand both patience and humor, and the world’s most perfect dog.
Visit Sonali at www.sonalidev.com
or find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/sonalidevfanpage and on Twitter @Sonali_Dev