Friday, June 29, 2012

14 Effective ways to give books visibility

A successful book is not just a combination of a great story and super editing, it’s also about a clever and smart marketing strategy. Many good books due to low visibility do not reach the masses.  

It’s something I realized a little late. When my first two books were published, my publisher requested me to ask my family and close friends to visit bookshops to buy my books. When the staff in the book shops realize that the book is moving and selling well, they not only give it a prominent display but also recommend it to other customers. Unfortunately, I was too shy to ask anyone to do this and the 35% discount offered by my publisher to friends placing bulk orders enticed them away from the bookshops. They approached her office directly. Though my books sold well, most of the sales in the initial period were via my publisher and not the book-shops.

 A lot can be done by the  writers and the publishers to market the books.

        1. Book posters can be put in schools, colleges and libraries and other frequently visited places to spread the word around. I saw a book poster outside a multiplex. My writing friend told me that she would put her book posters in department stores, just behind the billing counter so that it has better visibility.

        2.  Approaching schools with offers of huge discounts if bulk orders are placed is another great idea. Many schools distribute books as prizes.

        3.  Approaching librarians and talking with  library owners about our books is another smart  marketing  strategy.  Many prefer to borrow books from the library than buy books. But atleast the book is read.

         4. Organizing book  reading  and signing sessions in bookshops is a wonderful idea. If this can be combined with a themed event ( like my publisher did for my books) its super.

         5.  Arranging for author interveiws with several newspapers does a lot in spreading the word for books.

         6. Sending out free copies to newspapers for reviews. The books can also be given to columnists whose columns have a wide readership.

          7. Nowadays with many writers blogging, other bloggers go a long way in spreading the word around.

          8. An enterprising publisher indulged in a bit of radio marketing. Local channels like (FM, 94.3) have a fantastic reach. Radio contests with the book as a prize can work wonderfully well. People are listening to the radio all the time: while driving and at home. And who doesn't like a free book?

          9. Organising readings and visits in schools and colleges is another great opportunity.

         10. Blog posts about book releases and Tweets are effective Internet mediums to bring the book to the notice of people inhabiting the virtual world. As are like pages. Blog contests and giveaways are a great way of spreading the word around.

          11. One Indian publisher put up ads about their forthcoming book on MTV.

          12. The same publisher also placed newspaper ads.

           13.  Making an author do guest columns where he or she can talk about the book in newspapers.

           14. Urging friends and family to buy the books from the bookshops or order online, is a great way to see the ratings soar. Buying them directly from the publisher should be a second option.

Do you believe in the adage that effective marketing sells more copies of books? What does good marketing mean to you? How would you market your books? Any ideas you would like to share about marketing your books?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Getting my reading groove back

There are a few things that can uplift my mood at any given time: chocolates, music, my workouts, shopping, writing and ofcourse reading. To take my mind away from everything, especially the virus that visited my laptop and kidnapped my system files and demanded a ransom of a quick format, I plunged wholeheartedly into reading. Nothing can take my mind away from the problems that life throws in my way other than an absorbing story.

Needless to say I made heavy inroads into my TBR pile. I read around 7 books in less than a month, two were MG fiction books, the rest were novels.  Not just getting my reading groove back, the books also taught me several lessons.

Secrets and Lies by Jaishree Misra, taught me about balancing 5 POV’s (third person narrative), all the 5 characters were women. The book’s past and present movement was a refreshing way of updating a reader to all the backstory. And the subtle hints the author had dropped throughout the story helped me accept the ending in a positive way as I had already  kind of anticipated it. Nothing takes a reader out of a story as much as an unexpected and completely out of the way ending.

The Edge of Desire by Tuhin Sinha, a political fiction narrated in the first person POV was another book that had me glued to the pages. The book had as few descriptions as possible. Infact, if I remember right, I don’t think the author even described his heroine (her looks).  Less descriptions helped the story move forward quickly.

Kiss and Tell  by Nistula Hebbar, a book her publishers are pitching as metro reads (it even has a picture of an autorickshaw on the back cover) was another  book that had me completely hooked. It familiarized me with a territory that was alien to me: the female protagonist was a political correspondent of a newspaper. I enjoyed getting to know the happenings in the corridors of power.

Reading a MG fiction from an animal POV was truly enjoyable. I got to know what dogs really think. Each of the books in its small way taught me about creating stories that readers enjoy. And the best thing was that while reading, I had not just removed my writer’s hat, I had even locked it in the cupboard. That way I enjoyed each book like a true reader.

 How do you all read books? Do you read books like writers (analyzing and studying the techniques of writing) or do you read like readers ( getting completely immersed in the story and characters).

P.S. For the poetry lovers, my dear friend and blog buddy Wendy Lu  at The Red Angel is hosting The Roarin Twenties  Poetry Blogfest ( June 22nd to 24th) to celebrate her 20th birthday. Though, I am not participating (my poetry really is pathetic and I don’t want to lose you all) I am going to enjoy reading the entries. I urge the poetry lovers to join the blogfest.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Have you ever fallen in love with your Main Character?

I can confidently say that I am in love with all the characters I have created: Leo the  brave lion who goes in pursuit of his dream, Bunny the grumpy baby rabbit who hates his name, Nina the notorious prankster and Rahul the wimp who becomes a Soreiquil (a human with a piece of a Zespirit’s soul inside him). As writers its but natural that we fall in love with all the characters we have created.

All the above characters I have created have been for the Middle Grade readers (ages 9 to 14 years). But Devon (the half-blood devil) one of the protagonists of my half-blood angel and devil YA book, is my first brush with an older hero.

Though I am still in the first draft mode (courtesy the virus) which derailed me by a few days and played havoc with my mind, I am currently in the process of getting to know Devon. I am not sure whether I have deliberately or sub-consciously given Devon all the traits (both physical and emotional) that I find appealing in a boy/man.

There are certain qualities that I just flip for: strength of character, loyalty, honesty, sense of humour, the ability to chase one’s dreams until they are fulfilled, the guts to stand for one’s rights and the need for justice and a desire to protect the honour of a lady. Throw in good looks and a body to die for and you will have me swooning like a teenager.

Devon, my protagonist has all these qualities in abundance. Though he is a cynical guy, who does not believe in love, he cherishes friendships and is always quick to return favours. As I am wading deeper and deeper into the story, I feel a certain bias towards Devon more than Annabell, the half-blood angel pitted against him. It will be with a heavy heart that I will put Devon into trouble and pile problems into his life.

Have you ever felt that strong a love or connection with a character you have created? I hope my falling in love with my male protagonist will not jeopardize his journey in my book. I hope I will be able to do justice to him and not make things easy for him because of my affection for him. Any tips for me about distancing myself from my main characters?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Why conflict is important?

Conflict is as crucial to the story as the protagonist. If the  protagonist is the head of a story, the conflict is the neck, which turns the head left, right, up and down. Conflict can be internal (some trait, flaw, or shortcoming which the protagonist has to overcome in the course of the story) or, the conflict can be external (a villain, some evil, or, an antagonist who has to be fought).

 Conflicts single handedly drive the plot forward. Readers frantically turn the pages eager to check how the conflict has been resolved. The tougher the conflict the more intrigued the readers are! I feel external conflict in the form of an evil villain, work better than inner conflict as they have the power to terrorize the protagonist by throwing obstacles in his/her path.

Though conflict can be tiring, it’s an important and integral part of our daily lives. Conflict like change is a constant. Many times we are trapped in conflicting situations; whose side to take in an argument. Several times we undergo conflict when we fight the temptation to turn away from that second piece of chocolate cake. Don’t the books in our TBR pile give rise to conflicts in our minds; which book to pick up next.

Trying to strike a balance between the various social medias and our manuscript puts us in an conflicting situation every single day. Real life provides a plethora of conflicting situations every day and trains us in writing better conflict in our stories.

Many times the conflicts in our books mirrors the conflicts in our lives. By resolving our character’s conflict we emerge stronger, bolder, and emotionally wiser. Resolving the conflict our protagonist is undergoing at times proves cathartic. Subconsciously we try to imbibe our protagonist’s strengths and at the same time transfer our own strengths to the main character. The characters that we create emulate us in some ways. Perhaps they are our alter egos, a part of our inner desires, our secret wish.

By clearing the character’s paths somewhere along our writing journey we are uncluttering our minds from the extra thoughts that constantly reside there, whittling away the unnecessary elements from our lives by getting focused on our writing, and clearing up our emotional debris by concentrating on someone else’s life (read the main character).

 Conflicts make characters stronger. By fighting our main character’s battles we somehow get the strength to resolve the issues we have been dilly-dallying over in our lives. And if we have been successful in resolving them beautifully in our books, not just the protagonist but the writer too has emerged victorious. 

 Do you think that conflicts make us stronger? Have you learnt from your main character’s conflicts? Please share. We would love to know.

Friday, June 1, 2012

My laptop’s date with a virus

Last thursday my laptop went on a hot date with a virus and returned minus the system files. The message I saw on the screen announced that the system files were corrupted. A frantic call to the computer expert who assured me that he could solve this problem provided a slight relief.

 But his diagnosis after fiddling with my laptop for sometime was that he would have to format the hard disk and reload the windows as whatever had corrupted the system files was preventing access to the drives and files.

Thankfully, just a few days back I had saved all my books by uploading them to my email account. At my nod, the guy formatted the disk. I blinked hard to brush away the tears. This brought to my notice the importance of frequent backups of our books. Where backups are concerned, even the slightest delay can cause immense grief.
Borrowing my nephew’s laptop, I wrote a small blog post and announced that I would take a break as I had no idea how long this enforced seperation from my laptop would last. Though I got charge of my laptop within 36 hours, the internet connection was too, too slow. On Monday my genius brother managed to restore the internet to its former glory.  I think I have lost the e-books on my Kindle for PC. It took me a day to calm down and get my nerve back to get on to the internet. I have spent hours wondering how did the virus get into my computer.  
Yesterday, when I clicked on a few blogs to comment from my dashboard, I saw a Malware warning. Thankfully, I had the email id of that blogger to warn her about it. I am shocked that even blogs can have viruses. How do we tackle that? Does anyone know anything about this?

 I am still spooked by the virus and I am treading the internet with caution. Has a virus ever scared you? How did you manage to survive the virus attack? Are you backing up all your data? Any virus preventive tips for me?