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Indian authors turn to social media to expand reader base

Indian authors turn to social media to expand reader base

Even authors are finding social media marketing a cheap and effective tool to promote their work.

Photo: Reuters Photo: Reuters

When Ambi Parameswaran, executive director, FCB Ulka Advertising*, wrote his first book, FCB Ulka Brand Building Advertising - Cases and Concepts, way back in 2000, all that he did to promote his maiden book was to approach a few dailies to review his book. "I didn't even do a book launch event," he recalls.

Fourteen years hence, when he launched his seventh book, For God's Sake, last year, his publisher, Penguin India, advised him to build his Facebook community, months before his book hit the stores. "I increased my Facebook friend list to 2,000 and I started posting extracts from my book almost every day."

While his Facebook posts till date have got Parameswaran more than 10,000 likes, he also put up videos on various online marketplaces such as Flipkart and Amazon. As a result, his book was among the top 10 bestselling books at most airport stores around the country for almost six months.

Social media marketing is indeed the latest buzzword in the marketing world, and even authors are finding it a cheap and effective tool to promote their work.

Before author and blogger Laxmi Hariharan launched her fiction, The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer, a month ago, she decided to bring her protagonist Ruby Iyer alive by first launching diaries that chronicled Ruby's early life. She made them available for free on Watt Pad (an online community of readers) and on Amazon. This, she says, got people interested in the character and eventually went on to buy the book.

The book is about an angry Mumbai girl, Ruby, who is a survivor of the Mumbai blasts in 2006 and how she stands for herself.

Apart from the pre-launch diaries, Hariharan has also created a Twitter handle called @RubyIyer, where she expresses her opinion about women's and kids issues. For instance, her views during the recent terrorist attack in a school in Peshawar got a few hundred retweets, claims Hariharan. Within a month of launch, Ruby Iyer on Facebook already has over 500 friends and 215 followers on Twitter. "Ruby's Twitter handle and her Facebook page are becoming larger than the book, and from the response I have got, I am convinced every author should do some targeted marketing for his/her book," says Hariharan.

Pre-launch promotions on social media are indeed the in thing. Like Hariharan, author Amrita Chowdhary, prior to the launch of her cyber crime thriller, Breach, last month, did a series of short videos on cybercrimes on YouTube, wherein she interviewed subject experts and social commentators and linked each conversation with excerpts from her book.

At the time of the book launch, she devised an online game, also called Breach, which was based on famous cybercrime cases from around the world.

"It was an online interactive quiz, the clues of which were hidden in various pages of the book. My book had six characters and I story-boarded all of them into the game," says Chowdhary, who claims that over 20,000 people have already played the game.

She says that with more Indian writing coming into the market, one has to do a lot more to stand out. The conventional practices of doing book launch events or getting reviews done in various publications seems to be getting passe.

*The designation of Ambi Parameswaran was wrongly mentioned as CEO and the company's name was wrongly carried as Draft FCB Ulka. Due corrections have been made.