A Comprehensive Guide!
By Aadrit Banerjee
The idea of a book reaches its culmination not when it gets printed after being born out of the writer's creative womb, but only after it has reached its readers, and has garnered the adequate response. This bridge between the printed book at the publisher's table, and the reader's shelves is held together by strategies of marketing that define book sales, the quantitative success and profits for the industry, the status and popularity of the author. As far back as the Regency Era in England, when novels and the reading public were taking shape simultaneously owing to marked changes in the socio-economic sphere, we have our favourite Jane Austen herself, who closely monitored her book sales, and profits-earned.
Therefore, the challenge to ensure profitable sales has always been at the central stage of the book–publishing process. Fast forward to today's era, driven by capitalism and radical innovations in technology and communication, the landscape of authorship, the publishing camp, the readership and market has drastically changed. Much water has flowed under the bridge. A large segment of the publishing industry and the reading public have adjusted and widely adopted themselves to the new media channels today. It is in this regard that appropriate strategies to ensure a good book sale becomes important.
Book sales, or the number of copies sold, is different from the total copies actually produced. It is defined by the copies sent to libraries, stores, retailers, etc., plus the copies that are sold to the readers in the form of physical copies, as well as virtual ebook and/or audiobook versions. An author's established popularity, say for instance Salman Rushdie's books, and the legacy of a publishing house like Penguin, automatically ensures a fair degree of sale.
However, it is precisely the marketing team's efforts that makes the book a bestseller. And in today's fast changing world, a host of innovative strategies must be adopted to reach the targeted audience, attract readers and brave through the tough commercial competition at the book stacks. For instance: Amish, the best-selling author of mythology series like Meluha, transformed the marketing scape by producing short video advertisements for his books.
A marketing team has several strategies at its disposal to ensure and boost book sales. From social media, specifically designed websites, Amazon advertisements, features, pre-order campaigns, book launches, etc., there exists a plethora of measures both offline and online that introduce a book (or an author) in the market and attract the bibliophiles. Events and activities remain one of the most significant methods by which book sales can be sufficiently increased. This article attempts to present a broad outline of the benefits of boosting book sales through engaging events and programmes.
Unlike advertising promos, newsletters or click-bait ads, events and activities provide a one-on-one opportunity for the readers to interact with the makers of the book: the author, in particular, as well as the publisher, translators, designers, etc.
It is this ability of communication of events and outreach programmes that guarantee surer sales than various other offline and online methods. Furthermore, such events and activities can be organised on both the physical, and virtual platforms which have gained a certain currency after the Covid-19 Pandemic. These events work by targeting the reading public, and help shape a certain public appearance of the author, the title, and the publishing house, enabling the marketing team to gauge the audience response to better understand the market and its demographic patterns.
These events and activities can be classified into various types on the basis of medium used: whether virtual or offline; the style employed: ranging from interactive sessions, to lectures, book-readings, etc.; type of audience it interacts with; the course of the programme, etc. Virtually, the programme could be an Instagram, YouTube or Facebook live by the author or the publishing team, or a workshop on Google Meet and Zoom-link platforms. During the Pandemic, even literature festivals, including the Jaipur and Kolkata Lit–fests have been conducted online, and there were options to grab fresh as well as old titles, signed by the authors.
The purchases happened online and books were delivered at customer's kindles or their doorsteps following Covid-19 protocols. Publishing platforms, on the other hand, might as well conduct live online tours of the editor's desk, the printing press, snippets about upcoming titles, etc., to keep the audience involved and engaged. The major advantages of online mode include easy access, better programming, and innovative global outreach mechanisms.
Offline sessions provide multi-layered and wide ranging options. These include book reading sessions where an author reads out portions from the book to an attending audience, striking at their curiosity to buy the book and complete the tale themselves which the author only hints during the course of the event. Then there are the more famous interactive programmes where the author or publisher interacts and engages with an active audience persuading them to buy the book. Such interactive sessions could be a part of book launch events, book fairs, literary festivals, cultural events, etc. In the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival editions, for instance, Usha Uthup held an entertaining singing and discussion event to launch her authorised biography The Queen Of Indian Pop along with author Vikas Kumar Jha, and the copies had sold out instantly from the Oxford Bookstore at the event.
The aspect of book signing too, attracts a great many number of buyers, as does the prospect of enabling them to click photographs with the author, etc., which these offline sessions ensure. Participation in book fairs and literature events establish a certain credibility to the publishing house, as well as the authors whose titles remain on display. This also presents an important medium of networking with the guild of writers and publishers which then further stimulate sales through collaborative events and effective advertisements.
Special writing workshops that the Park Street's Oxford Bookstore or Delhi's Kunzum Cafe regularly conduct have a special edge that engages the audience in hands-on activities as well as ensures a covert advertisement of the author, the book and the bookstore. These types of bookstores, run by the publishing houses, have also included an in-store cafe-bistro set-up that performs almost a cross-promotion function, where buying a book ensures you a discounted coffee drink, and the cafe experience attracts potential readers to the adjacent stands. Open mic, and poetry-music sessions are often hosted at the coffee shops, with popular titles on display that induce a certain window-shopping experience. Panel discussions draw on a more scholarly audience which aims to address issues and discuss matters relevant to the contemporary public — and by placing the book in such contexts the author and the marketing team attempts to push their sales.
Celebrating cultural events, as Ukiyoto Publishing had done during the Rabindra Jayanti celebrations in Calcutta, serves to develop a sentimental bond with the readers that ensures a loyal readership with the brand and pushes sales of books. Conducting sessions in memoriam for poets and authors who had held a special place with the community also helps in good advertisements. When Nabanita Dev Sen passed away in 2019, the regional as well as national and global publishing houses, particularly in Kolkata, pounced upon the opportunity to conduct memorial meetings, or programmes dedicated to her, engaging the Bengali audience, and boosting book sales through such events.
A similar role is played by events and activities organised with, and/or in honour of, award-winning authors, such as the present patterns of programmes celebrating Geetanjali Shree's Tomb of Sand, which won the Booker show. Through such tactics the marketing team seeks to capitalise through ongoing trends, and reach a wide audience base.
In case of offline activities, the venue selected plays an important role. For example: a book launch at a college fest would provide a very different market reach and audience group involving an eclectic mix of members who are young, interested in academics and scholarly research works, etc., rather than a coffee-club reading session where the audience gathered would necessarily harbour bourgeois tastes and values.
The form of the programme, the type and content, the location, and other factors of logistics and entertainment comes into play in case of physical events, but the chances of boosting book sales through such physical, and particularly, audience- participative modes are immense. Discounts, mega-book sales, year-end clearance sales, also draws a huge number of readers. The May Day Bookstore in Delhi, for instance, holds a mass clearance sale on May Day annually, drawing scores of people.
These events and activities function in various ways, while they ensure physical book sales on the spot, they also ensure that the audience-readers retain the memory of the programme, and return with it, therefore acting as efficient ways of advertisement, potential magnets that can draw and influence larger reader groups.
Furthermore, it has the potential to guide the audience to the various online stores, such as Amazon and Flipkart, or the publications website, and try out the products there, or leave positive reviews, thereby driving up sales.
Events and activities have a distinct edge in increasing book sales, and in today's world of innovation, the greater research and close attention paid to the meticulous organisation of such programmes ensures better profits and audience-reach, and strengthens the thread that connects the author, the publishing house and the readers.