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Startup

Cracking mainstream media for a book

I think writing a book is like founding and running a startup. Building the product (writing the book in this case) is only 20% of the hustle while the entrepreneurs think that they have cracked the million dollar code. 

PHASE I: Leaving Wall Street, NYU MBA program and a lucrative post in a New York startup, I had come back to India to find life (figure out what makes me happy). I don’t know how I survived hundreds of ‘why don’t you take up a job?’ assault from friends and family. I was setting up some business that would give me financial independence and give me enough time to read, write and travel. It took me 6 months to write this book while I still tried to build a startup A (that eventually didn’t work out). While I had barely earned anything for a year now, I was on cloud nine for having written a book that I loved. 

What’s a product if no one can use it, right?

PHASE II: Ok, so now I had a book and initial euphoria had subsided. What now? How do I get it in hands of readers! I had enough of reality checks those days when publishers rejected the book. What was painful actually was that they would sit on the synopsis for a month, then ask for the book. They would sit on that for 4-6 months then before giving a decision! You wish you could rip the band aid off but nope, publishing industry sucks! So, anyways, after having my first and frustrating encounter with the publishers, I finally found one who liked the book and wanted to publish it. Another temporary celebration. It had already took me another 6 months to find a publisher. 

Then, the publisher took another 6 months to get it out 🙂 I remember days I spent with a designer to get the cover right! Yes, keep counting. So that is 6 months of writing and 12 months getting it published. You would think now it is time to sit back and earn royalties. I am sure you can see where this is going. Another dream burst (who wouldn’t want to be the rolling-in-money Chetan Bhagat and hey, I even share my last name with Meluha author!). At this point, I realized that no one gives a damn about the book unless you market it and get it actually read. Unless you have one of the Top 4 publishers, you need to scramble and market it yourself. I am sure entrepreneurs understand this. Unless you are incubated my Y-Combinator or Techstars, you ned to hustle to get that Techcrunch coverage!

What’s a book if the readers don’t know about it?

PHASE III: Thus, began another painful journey of getting the word out about my book. What kept me going was the fact that initial word of feedback from few people that read it were very positive. They told me they loved the book and this was one spiritual fiction they enjoyed after Alchemist or Monk who sold his Ferrari. I thought that was a good validation and decided to plan the marketing part myself. I really did not have loads of money to spend on this. So after few FB ads, I stopped when I was getting useless likes. I wanted audience who cared about the book. 

So, I started using my FB and Quora profile to create interest in the book. Quora had anyways given me some encouraging response (I had blogged about that here). Additionally, I created Goodreads page and started engaging with people there. I ran a giveaway in which I decided out to give out 10 free copies of the book. It was a good way to get initial visibility and more than 180 people signed up for it and 4 out of the 10 winners left a review. Slowly, the numbers of reviews escalated and I have 30 unique reviews on Flipkart/Amazon/Goodreads with an aver rating of 4.5+

I sent out a free copy to people I thought would appreciate the book including Sameer Guglani, my mentor at Morpheus and even Ruskin Bond. As it happened, Sameer loved the book and asked for 20 copies to give away on Morpheus spiritual retreats. At this point, the 90% positive feedbacks on the book had buoyed my confidence. I am still waiting for Sir Ruskin Bond to reply 🙂

I sent out many review copies to bloggers and again got positive ratings from 80% of them. But still, I was not able to crack mainstream media. Moreover, people had discouraged me and told that the only way for me to get into good newspapers etc will be to pay for it. My publisher was not helping much, so I thought I will try that on my own too. I researched and spent time on twitter following journalists and authors (specifically in my genre) – created an interesting review pitch and sent out to journalists. Finally, some leads worked out and got through someone at Femina and DNA. She loved the book and decided to carry out a feature (still to be printed). But more than that, she recommended the book to another author Disha Chhabra who also loved the book and tweeted and fb’ed about it. This helped in creating some more traction. I got some nuggets of advice from Disha who had done a good job at marketing her book on her own too. All this eventually helped me getting this piece out in Indian Express featuring my Top 5 reads as an author.

This made me believe that unpaid coverage is possible although tough. Disha got a lot from her IIM alumni network in India and I wish I had something like that too. My problem was that I had spent last 7 years in USA but the book is targeted towards India. Slowly, I have started forging connections that will hopefully get Seven Conversations where it deserves to be 🙂  

Understand that I never aimed commercial success from this book, it was close to my heart and I believed that it does a good job in guiding one towards inner happiness – a cause I strongly believe in. The book meant so much to me that I didn’t want a politician or some useless (not relevant to my book) celebrity to launch it (it made me feel that they would taint my book!). I tried getting Sudha Murthy and she was kind enough to reply but she is busy traveling. I realized that launches don’t matter that much, they are more of a vanity point, so although I was able to network to Prahlad Kakar and got him agreed to launch the book, I figured my time and money is better spent connecting directly to the readers.

On my startup efforts front, even my startup B couldn’t succeed because my partner was diagnosed with a serious medical condition and we lost the will to continue. BUT, my startup C finally is doing well and seems I am on my way to financial independence that was my goal. It gives me enough time to work on two other books I am now writing, traveling and enjoying coffee with my friends. 

So, that was a long story of a long ride of book publishing and marketing. If you like spiritual reads, please check it’s reviews and buy links here – https://nisthaonweb.com Would love your feedback.

P.S. How can I mail a copy to Alok? 🙂

Here’s Seven Conversations in a book fair (I cannot describe the feeling this gives 🙂 )-

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31 Comments

  1. nistha – writing a book is like building a product – so i completely agree with your analogy. and it is just as challenging as marketing it and reaching the right readers as any tech product 🙂

    few suggestions: send your synopsis/sample chapter to as many relevant websites/people as poss. have you checked out unboxed writers and the likes?

    – contests work

    – be at events! talk about the book there – hand out books as on the spot prizes.

    – feature your book on trhs! we have a culture section and a showcase section. ask if anyone would like to do a review! we also have rodinhoodmonastery.com for spiritual writings! 

    check rudrajeet’s book showcase post and review

    https://therodinhoods.com/forum/topics/breaking-out-and-making-big

    – share excerpts every day on your fb page dedicated to the book.

    – do a video sharing the story behind the story – or fun things/frustrating things that happened while writing the book – funny anecdotes around the marketing of the book – folks you met etc etc. people love video content!

    check this out – sanchit did a trailer of his forthcoming book! https://therodinhoods.com/forum/topics/is-a-bestseller-a-best-seller

    i think every writer is sailing in the same boat. maybe you have some suggestions for raj!

    https://therodinhoods.com/forum/topics/how-do-i-take-my-book-to-a-wi

    i’m pinging as many rodinhooders as i can think of who could help you… all the best!

    ps: alok’s office addy is freely available on the g2w website:

    Games2win India Pvt. Ltd.
    42, Film Center, 4th Floor, 68, Tardeo, Mumbai – 400034
    Call: +91-22-23511497 / 98

  2. nistha – check out karan’s comments on raj’s post!

    https://therodinhoods.com/forum/topics/how-do-i-take-my-book-to-a-wider-audience

  3. Wow, thanks Asha! You are a wonder girl, I am going to check all these out and reach out for help 🙂

  4. Dear Nishtha ,

    This is a great post with respect to amateur writers . Every industry has its pros and cons and I am not defending publishing industry but there are certain factors which lead to why publishers behave like that .

    Probably one day I can explain it to you in detail over a coffee(if you agree).

    There are several new publishing houses coming up and Half Baked Beans is one of them.

    https://www.facebook.com/Half8akedBeans

    These problems are faced by new comers in every industry , your first job, first few weeks of college etc..

    Writing a book is actually like starting up and if all the authors understand this then the work of publishers is also lessened but not all are aware of the real conditions.

    I had read one post from you on Quora and it had a lot of likes and comments , I think that should be your cue -people love stories and especially “how it all began”..

    Point is times are changing and everything sells if branded properly or marketed innovatively .

    If you need any more suggestions you can always contact me or Half Baked Beans..

    Cheers1

  5. Hi Chetan,

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    I am blaming the publishing industry for being slow and not having better metrics for gauging the quality of a book. You have to be either a media person (with publishing/writing background) or a celebrity to get a deal with Top 4 houses. And many of the books by these columnists and literary personnel are not connecting well with many readers in the end. Anyways, that was not the crux of the post. To some extent, I can agree every industry has limitations but there is always scope for improving the things drastically in this one.

    Rest of your points are on bit of a generic side. For e.g. you talk about telling a story, that is what I leveraged in Quora but that tactic doesn’t work everywhere. Especially the newspapers and magazines, they really don’t care much about original or interesting content, its mostly pay-for-it business. As I read in another trh post, Times asked 1.5L to let the writer do an article in their Speaking Tree section.

    Most of the new/smaller publishers do not help in marketing – either they have no clue or they don’t care. This is where a new publisher needs to innovate. 

    Point is times are changing and everything sells if branded properly or marketed innovatively.’ – I know :), thats what the million dollar question is though – how? 

  6. This one is awesome, am going to follow up with Karan. Also, the book in on way to Alok’s office 🙂

  7. Nishtha,

    I will again say that there is a reason to all your points mentioned. (slowness, top 4 houses, good metrics)

    and it is difficult to write down everything here . 

    As for the last point every book is different and can be marketed differently .Point is to make efforts and learn by hit and trial methods .

  8. sorry for the late revert Nistha… Happy to help you with my journey and its insights… Some part of it was same as even i had to wait for 1.5 years to get the book published… but once it was out the Publisher has done a good job with the marketing.. Harper Collins

    one thought i can leave you with is that – Book publicity is a very slow process.. takes years to get there at times

    do let me know when we can chat… I am not in India Tue – Sun next week 

  9. Would love to chat, messaging you.

  10. Nistha, congrats on a big big achievement!

    First my address to mail me my copy of the book (I assume free :))) 

    Alok Kejriwal
    Games2win India Pvt. Ltd
    42, Film Center
    Tardeo – Mumbai 400034

    Now, to help you:

    Do you know Ashwin Sanghi and Amish Tripathi?

    Can I introduce you to both for their suggestions?

    Mail me ASAP ASAP ASAP !! alok@rodinhood.com

  11. Congratulations, Nistha. I’ll agree with Rudrajeet, and he’d have the best tips for you. Would just ask you to stay positive despite discouraging experiences and do avoid using terms like ‘useless’ for celebrities 🙂 They worked hard to be where they are. Cheers,

  12. You are right, I did not mean it that way! I am sure everyone goes through a hard path. I meant more like ‘not relevant to my book’ celebrities. And, I am pretty positive, thanks for your reply 🙂

  13. First I fainted, then I sent you an email 🙂

    Thanks so much for your comment here, Alok. Rodinhood is truly an open and awesome platform.

  14. Hi Nistha,

    First answer to your P.S query….

    you can catch up with alok at any rodinhood event or probably he is coming to speak at the IIT-Esummit on 31st jan-1st feb, or simply you can visit is office at tardeo… 🙂 he is a humble and easy to reach guy.

    Yes, about the publicity of the book, i would suggest you identify your target audience, who are the people that would be most benefited from your book, for example say IT industry people are likely to suffer from stress and monotonous life, and if your book helps with this issue , then design a 20-30mins talk about your book and look for companies and organizations where you can find such people, go and give your talk, believe that there life would be better after listening to you. This would position you as a influence. Online publicity is great but the everybody(even the fishy self-proclaimed authors) is doing it.So ..only online publicity might not help. Go in the field and spread the word.

    Make some introductory videos of you talking about the book, this also includes the video testimonials of the people who loved the book and how it touched their life.

    And  i would love to tell you about the ‘rule of 5’ i read in jack canfield’s book the success principles. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pG7q05cjpY4 , this would be helpful.

    From my side I would try to spread a word about your book, once i have read it 🙂

    I would try to get your book to Rashmi Bansal, she’s a business author and a friend. She also runs a youth magzine (jammag.com) there is a good chance that they will feature your book on there blog.

  15. Such great and specific advice, thanks so much! Alok has already been kind to reply, his copy is on its way to his office.

    I think the talk idea for IT companies is awesome. I am a good speaker and gave a talk at my friend’s startup which the employees loved, so I should structure it and may be pitch to other companies. Thanks! 🙂

    I am stumped at videos part because the professional help is too expensive and I am not sure if I can produce a great quality video. May be something using videoscribe. Let me see. Jack’s channel seems useful, I have subscribed 🙂

    Lastly, I have been trying to find Rashmi Bansal’s address ever since! Can you help me get a copy to her? Or just help me get her mailing address, my publisher can send a copy. 

    Imran, thanks a lot really. Would love to connect, you have been very helpful 🙂

  16. Hi Nistha.

    That was indeed a long journey and a tough one. Congratulations on writing such a beautiful book (I read the reviews) I understand the feeling, having gone through similar phases in similar fashion, just add another 6 months to it.
    The publishing industry is bad, but in a lot of ways it is very good. Indian publishing industry is at a height where it cannot go down, all we need is a little more streamlining. Please keep in mind nobody in the world will love your baby as much you. It is your book and your priority. Trust me, how to market your book precisely well is the hardest question to find answer to. But then, all phases are complimented with challenges and this probably is the challenge once your book is published.
    Publishers are here for the commercial purpose, business is their bread and butter so i guess it is fair if they don’t just consider keeping the author’s book close to the heart. But all publishers know how important the book is to the author. I absolutely agree with your opinion on the industry and the business being slow, but think about it, if you as an author feel it is slow, how long will it take for the publisher to settle down the slow business and finally start making something out of it. I was very frustrated with the industry initially but later came to realize that the author’s front and the publisher’s front are two sides of the coin- different but go together. That is the balance. We are growing, and with growing competition, I believe Indian publishing Industry will eventually flourish.

    About marketing, I think you’re doing a great job. Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter and Quora (that is new to me for book marketing), you are marketing well. You are on top 5 reads! You have great reviews (all 5 stars), you are patched up to people who can make a difference and so much support, also you have a very good website/blog. You have a plan to connect with your readers directly and you know fairly well where you should invest. Just give it some more time because you are already rolling.

    Also, congratulations on your startup C.
    Wish you all the very best. I’ll be more than happy to contribute in any way that I can as publisher or as a fellow writer.

    Regards,
    Sanchit

  17. Thanks for the encouraging words, Sanchit! I did read your story and PepperScript seems to be doing some interesting stuff – very good luck with it all 🙂 Stay in touch!

  18. Not a problem and thank you very much. And you know what, I think I’ll get you an interview on PepperScript’s newsletter, it does go to a few high profile people. Let me know when you’re ready for it. 🙂 

  19. That sounds great 🙂 Messaging you my email address, please drop the details there!

  20. Got it. Thanks.

  21. Hey Nistha,

    Have spoke to Rashmi bansal about your book. She said she had received your mail and is looking forward to read your book.

    Also she had this program ‘Bloody Good Book’ and she is also looking for co-authors for her uncoming books. If you want you can get in touch with her and send your CV with 3 of your best work (books, articles, pieces… ).

    Regards,

    Imran Patel

  22. wow imran.

    major good karma your way!!

    how can we ever thank you for this?!

  23. Hey Imran,

    You are one amazing human being. I can’t thank you enough obviously 🙂 Your book is on the way too and I do hope you will find it useful! I do know about BGB, will check this out. And yes, let me know whatever I can help you with. Virtual hugs and best wishes until then 🙂

  24. seriously!

    Asha, I am very much indebted to you too for all the help everytime. Not sure if Seven Conversations is your kind of book but do let me know if I can send you a copy. 

  25. oh? i don’t fall in the spiritual category nistha?

    i write a series of stories called #templetales. i visit a ganapati temple every single morning and come back with a tale :)))

    you aren’t indebted at all. this is what we do here at trhs….!

  26. 😀 No, no, that’s not what I meant at all. I take that back, hail Ganesha 🙂

    I just didn’t want to be someone who is pushing their book on to their friends. Please message me your address, I can’t take panga with Ganpati devotees! The book has a big templetale itself, hope you will like it 🙂

  27. Just tell me how can i ‘Earn’ the RH tshirt.. 😉

  28. not that hard imran! start posting regular book reviews in our culture section!

    still waiting for your #goodluck story and takeaways from the IIT b’bay event!!!!

    there – that was a big nudge 🙂

  29. nistha,

    alok just shared this link on fb – it’s a must read for you! #authorpreneurship

    https://www.economist.com/news/business/21643124-succeed-these-days-authors-must-be-more-businesslike-ever-authorpreneurship

  30. pretty insightful, loved it! Thanks Asha

  31. Awesome post Nistha ! You have just hit the nail on the head with this point  “What’s a product if no one can use it, right?” .However,good is the product at the end of the day everything comes down to marketing & promotion .

     

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