Penguin Random House India's Vaishnavi Singh shares a publisher's perspective on the importance of social media presence of authors.
They say never meet your heroes but that’s simply not relevant anymore.
Whether you’re publishing your tenth book or are just starting out, you are bound to hear your publicist ask the inevitable question — your social media handles.
You may dismiss the importance of your social media presence or bring your privacy concerns into consideration or may simply have a natural disinclination towards marketing your very self. As it were these are valid concerns indeed but the bare fact remains —
in the ever-changing digital landscape, the internet has become a bookshelf and readers are spoilt for choice
— exposed to the presence of hundreds of new releases every day making it imperative for you to remain within the range of their virtual sight.
But having said that, does simply existing on social media and only posting or tweeting about your book get you the results you and your publicist have in mind? Probably not.
And there are reasons why...
When there are innumerable content pieces vying for a reader’s attention, why would they pick your book purely on the basis of the marketing assets that a publishing house posts on your behalf? Or how would they develop a lasting and memorable connection with you if the only posts you’re making are predominantly led by self-promotion?
When you’re launching your book, while you’re building your brand, you’re also putting yourself out there as a person. The old saying that you shouldn’t meet your heroes doesn’t stand true anymore; the genuine connection a reader craves is what leads them to your social media presence.
Your interests, your opinions, your life experiences – sharing the face behind the name not only establishes you as a relatable entity but increases your chances of discoverability. Some of our best performing posts are with authors themselves; sharing with readers their writing routine, or the inspiration behind their book, or the very real writer’s block.
#Bookish by Penguin, which, garnered a million views per season on Facebook was entirely based on personalities of these authors that readers would not have access to otherwise. It felt like an entry into an exclusive club-one where the reader could connect to the author as an individual, and enhance their own experience of exploring the world of their words.
People want to get to know you and there’s your chance to build a community. These people are more likely to not just buy your book but also recommend it to someone else. And we all know the power of word of mouth! Think Ikigai!
Having a social media presence of your own as part of your marketing strategy will help you break through the clutter as you bring a touch of your own personality to it. This can get you noticed by journalists, native partners, anyone looking for a voice as unique as yours and will certainly also help your publicist generate brand partnerships for you. Whether it’s a partnership with a romantic TV channel for romance authors or a takeover of a brand’s social media account; a lot of these decisions depend on the strength and impact of your digital community, which so many influencers now refer to as their ‘family’.
I’ve had to convince authors to get on Instagram and fight their mental blocks around the invasion of privacy. The chief thing is to not feel intimidated by the idea that you are not in ‘control’.
Your digital identity is yours to shape-share as much as you’d like to but share enough — your words hold power and why keep them limited to just your book?
Take a look at Durjoy Datta’s Instagram where he shares his life with his family and his audience is in love with them, or followers of Amitav Ghosh who enjoy with him his love for photography. A publishing stalwart like Namita Gokhale uses her social media not just to talk about her books but promote upcoming writers as well as the publishing industry as a whole.
Newer authors like Bilal Siddiqi, Vivaan Shah and Shravya Bhinder have carved out spaces for themselves on the internet where they share their love for crime fiction, movies, and books. There’s a common factor here – they are not using social media for commerce but for connection. Their fans follow them because they want to feel a sense of community, be able to converse with the author and in turn, these authors showcase their uniqueness as humans and not just who they are as writers.
They are authentic and are not afraid of putting their true selves on display which in fact is more relatable than you think. Share content that you feel strongly about or something that you find funny and there will be people on your social media who will engage with you entirely because something you posted resonated deeply with them or made a lasting impact.
Of course, market your book, but the key is to balance self-promotion with authenticity and let the scale tip more towards the latter.
Talk about your book but in interesting ways that you can think of and respond to your audience. Host Q&As, talk about topics that are close to you, share bits of your life and don’t be afraid of sharing your opinion on trending topics! You should check out Jahnavi Barua’s Instagram, she’s starting to build her presence – you can take inspiration from her.
When is a good time to start working on your social media accounts? We tell our authors to start as soon as they sign the contract. But don’t let that stop you – build your social media presence anyway; there’s an interesting story in the struggles of writing a book!
And after all, never meet your heroes in today’s world just means never lose a chance to meet your heroes.
This article has been authored by Vaishnavi Singh, Manager - Digital Platforms and Video Rights, Penguin Random House India.