How important is social media presence for an author?

Over the years of interacting with debut authors from the Indian literary scene, one thing I have understood is that like in everything these days, social media plays a huge role in promoting the book and its author. I personally know authors who are extremely active on the social media circuit, promoting their books which have become synonymous with their own names. On the other hand, I know people who are trying to debut as an author and either have no social media presence, or they have a presence but not as an author to look out for.

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Photo Credit: http://www.traumatoart.org

In my experience of dealing with social media promotions of all kinds since a decade now, when there are too many people selling the same thing, it is important that people know and trust who the seller is, for them to even think about buying their wares. The wares in the authors’ cases are their books.

I spoke to two authors who have great social media coverage – Atulya Mahajan, author of two bestsellers with columns in almost all important websites, and Aditi Mathur Kumar , author of a bestseller with the next one in the pipeline and a very impressive online presence in a plethora of sections of the social media.

Confirming what I believe, Atlulya said, “I think it is increasingly more important for authors to have some sort of brand value to sell their books because talent alone seems to play a small role in terms of book sales. There are so many books and so many good authors out there, that to me, it all seems to be a game of who can market their book better. This, then plays with the personal brand value of the authors so that books sell on their name, which can make all the difference between moderate success and becoming a recognizable face in the country.”

The first thing one can do is to start blogging. It will take a while for your book to hit the stands; in the meanwhile, create a readership. Write once a week – on pressing topics, your opinion on things, or just unleash your creativity. Creativity brings people together. Writing poems or short stories is a good way to attract readers. 

Just blogging won’t help. Your blog won’t take itself to people’s laptop monitors. This is where your social presence is important. Interact with people who share similar interests. Interact with other authors, established or not. Write guest blogs on other established blogs and websites.

Blog, tweet, pin, update on Facebook, network on Linkedin – the choices are innumerable and the best thing is that you can be everywhere. Buy a domain to showcase your works and in it, talk about your book. Be a part of facebook groups where authors and readers interact – there are some very good ones. Goodread forums bring you closer to your readers too.

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Photo credit: http://outtherecreative.com

To explain how social presence works in favour of authors, Atulya gave a few examples. “Durjoy Dutta with his dimpled cheeks and his target audience of girls falling over each other at his launches, Nikita Singh who I think has become a brand ambassador for some apparel company. Chetan Bhagat and Amish are in a different league now altogether.”

Aditi too believes that an author needs to create a awareness and curiosity around their name. “I know of authors who have sold numerous copies of their short stories that they’ve self published, through their social network. There are established authors who are now shying away from more than 2 book events, and focusing their energies on promoting the book online. This is the age of networking, the times of social media. I think it is extremely important for authors to make, if not  brand, then a certain entity out of their own names because let’s face it, your publisher will only do so much about the book when it comes out. It becomes an author’s job to make sure that their book doesn’t get lost in the slew of at least 3 new books being released every week. My advice would be to take social media seriously. Ultimately, it is the book that matters the most – it’s your story, your writing that matter the most in the end.”

Photo credit: http://inspire-imagine-create.net/
Photo credit: http://inspire-imagine-create.net/

Does social media presence guarantee a bestseller?

Well, yes and no.

As Aditi explains, “If the author is somewhat known to his/her audiences, it becomes an easy buy to the reader. People, who are already famous, tend to sell more books initially – but in the end, I’d like to believe, that it is your book and what’s inside it that matters the most.”

People might buy your first book because they know you and like how you write but from second book onward, what and how you write will play equally big roles. 

Atulya says it does help if authors work at creating some image and then work hard at promoting it, to cultivate their reader base and keep giving them what they want.

Having said that, he concludes, “But still, I was lucky to have had a fair standing in the Indian social media circles even before my first book, so it helped. For new authors, it can only be even more difficult. I would say try to network with others in the trade, try to attend literature festivals, hire a good PR agency to spread the word. I am afraid there are no easy answers. If I knew, I would have used the tricks myself.” 

You can either make the readers a part of your life by inviting their virtual presence, or you can write, interact and collaborate to increase your social circle. Both work. What Atulya and Aditi do, is the latter.

As a life-long reader of books, a reviewer and an editor who lives for books, I want every good story to be heard.  It pains to see so many good stories being published, reaching the stands but not selling as much because no one has heard of them! Let’s not fool ourselves. The publishers can and will do only so much, that too if you are already a known name. At the end of the day you are probably sacrificing a lot to write the book. Why not socialize a bit to sell it?

   The country is going digital. Why aren’t you?

Samarpita Mukherjee Sharma

Samarpita eats, sleeps and breathes content and her life revolves around words. She curates contents for many brands, of which The India Diaries happens to be the closest to the heart. An economist by education and a wordsmith by passion, she chose the life of a digital nomad after quitting full time journalism few years ago. A multi-tasker, this ex-journalist freelances as a content creator-cum-curator, manuscript editor, travel writer and social media manager.