I want to share a recent failed book marketing incident. When an Indian author recently planned a trip to the US, she decided to hold a book reading. Someone guided her to the Indian community centre where cultural events are held. The centre agreed to give her some space. Since the centre was not sure how many children would turn up for the event, they couldn’t pre-order the author’s latest book.
The author approached a local Indian distributor to source her books for the event.The distributor asked the publisher to send seven copies and offer 30% discount. The publisher insisted on ordering at least 40 copies to cover the mailing cost. The distributor refused to comply. As US rules bars authors from bring bulk copies of their books into the country, the event stood cancelled.Every year dozens of Indian children authors visit US and return without conducting a single book reading. How can a visiting Indian children author to the US solve this problem of book distribution? How can Indian authors build a readership base abroad? When foreign books can hop, skip and jump into India, why can’t our content fly abroad?
Every time foreign authors visit India, we roll out the red carpet and promote their books. The same is not reciprocated when our authors go abroad. It is difficult to do a book reading in schools, libraries and bookstores abroad. Even if our authors use their networking skills to conduct an event in a school or a library, it does not translate into book sales or new readers. Since we don’t have a single, unified organisation to represent the cause of Indian children authors with the central government, the six Indian consulates/embassies in the US are grossly untapped entities.
I sought a solution for this problem from many folks in the world of Indian books. Mrs Heeru Bhojwani, librarian of American School in Mumbai, offered me an option- Virtual Author Visits. Though its not a perfect and ideal solution, I think its an idea which can and should be explored to engage existing readers and build new readers not only in the US but also India.
It is not possible for authors to sacrifice their writing time/ day job and visit as many as schools as they want. A busy schedule,health issues, remote geographical location of schools and authors further compound the problem. Virtual author visits are also a perfect solution for schools who cannot/don’t want to pay children authors and/or refuse to buy advance copies. ( There have been cases in the recent past where authors have gone to do a free session in schools and not sold a single copy which has led to depression, anger and binge eating.) With so many schools switching to smart boards and/or having at least an internet connection, the possibilities are endless.
Most authors I know use Facebook heavily to promote their books. Recent studies has shown that Facebook posts may get ‘feel good ‘ likes but do not convert into book sales. We have to try different marketing ideas to see what works. Some authors have been totally closed to the idea of stepping out of their comfort zones and using the internet to do something different. While some are always game to try out something new.As children authors we have to be open to adapt and evolve to the changing needs of the book world. One of the early adapters of virtual school visits in India is veteran children’s author, Deepa Agarwal, shares her tips for a successful virtual author visit.
How to promote books from home?
As children authors we have to be open to adapt and evolve to the changing needs of the book world.
Check out the links given below. I hope they inspire you to formulate your own strategy for engaging readers online.
1. Authors who skype with classes and bookclubs
2. Virtual author visits
(A big thank you to Heeru Bhojwani for sharing the links above. )
In case you have a unique solution to promote Indian books abroad, email your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org I would love to share your ideas with other children authors .
Keep reading and writing!