Ajay K. Pandey’s debut novel, You are the Best Wife, was published without the fanfare one associates with a massive bestseller. But within a year, it sold over 100,000 copies, catapulting Ajay into the ranks of India’s highest selling authors, and receiving praise from all readers. His new book, Her Last Wish, has got rave reviews, and is climbing up the bestseller charts as well. Here, he writes about how he turned a debut novel into a 100,000 copy bestseller:
I am often asked how I sold a 100,000 copies of my debut book You are the Best Wife within a year, that too without a single book launch, no media coverage and no professional PR. Readers often write to me wondering if word of mouth can be so powerful.
But word of mouth works slowly, and with personal interaction coming down with time and giving way to online interaction, it’s further down the order. No one would like to rely on only word of mouth to begin with. You can never be too sure of where it takes you.
I remember sitting with my publisher Arup Bose (of Srishti Publishers) for over three hours and asking him how to promote the book. As we had a limited promotional budget, we came up with a few unusual ideas for promotion.
Most readers are active on Facebook now, and the largest book forum today is Amazon. While the latter is an e-commerce platform, we thought of promoting the book through Facebook to connect with our readers directly.
Here are a few promotions we did on Facebook:
A simple and unique positioning
When a reader comes to know about a book, they first try to find out what’s special about the book, and what it’s about. When you have taglines that are clear, inspiring, admired, loved, and unique, they drive readers to the book. So I created a line that summed up the book experience without beating about the bush: A true love story of a real-life couple Bhavna and Ajay that can make you cry and laugh at the same time.
The positioning helped in pushing forth the point that You’re the Best Wife is a true story and people would be able to connect with it. At the same time, it promised to be a roller-coaster of emotions.
Pushing excerpts and one-liners
Since I was a debut author and did not have any literary achievements to speak of, I decided to talk about my book instead. So I posted one line from the book every day, and they attracted an audience of their own.
Posting reviews on social media
A raw unpolished review of a book speaks more than an HD quality creative anytime. I started posting my book’s reviews and readers’ feedback on my Facebook page. They ranged from emotional messages to suggestions to sometimes criticism, but I shared them all. I promoted these reviews via Facebook sponsorships at times.
It’s natural for readers nowadays to check the ranking of a book on Amazon. But blogger reviews also feature in search results and add credibility to the book. We sent out teasers and advance information to bloggers and they asked for copies to review it. We reached out to bloggers because it’s tougher for a debut author to reach out to traditional media outlets; bloggers do not have any such reservations or time constraints, or even waiting lists for that matter.
More than 50 bloggers reviewed the book, and almost all of them have had good things to say about my book. I requested them to share a review within two months, so that I could get a review almost every day. This helped me create a buzz around the book, and made readers think why everyone was talking about it.
Putting our image on the back cover.
There are many stories which are inspired from true stories. I decided to print a photograph of the characters (my wife Bhavna and me) on the back cover. The photo spoke out loud that the story was real and genuine.
I know all these measures are not unique by themselves and definitely not a masterplan to become a bestselling author, but I have written each line in my book from my personal experiences, which resonated with my readers. There were no unnatural scenes, and everything was plain and simple emotions.
If I have to sum up my efforts, I would say, sometimes simplicity attracts us more than fancy things.