By Jim James, Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur.
New Delhi-based Harshit Bhardwaj, or simply Hersh, works as a literary agent and an ad man. He joined the latest episode of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur and talked about how he helps people with their publishing.
Writing a book is just one part of the project. And during the episode, he shared how entrepreneurs can use books and publishing and what typically goes wrong when they launch a book.
Writing is Just the Beginning
Hersh himself has published books. He has also written his own and had great sales. From what I’ve experienced, writing The UnNoticed Entrepreneur book and getting it onto Amazon is really just the start. It doesn’t necessarily mean that people are going to buy.
Hersh shared that they get manuscripts and go through the entire 360-degrees of publishing a book; unfortunately, many authors feel like once they’ve written a great book, their job is already done. They’d simply give it to publishers and it’d be the publishers’ job to get it out there. But especially with today’s social media’s influence, everyone needs to see who the author is.
When Hersh came out with his book, he thought that everyone already knew him. After all, he has a platform of 10,000 to 20,000 people. His book would fly off the shelf and things were going to happen. So he didn’t really get out and promote his book. This can also be attributed to his not believing in the shameless promotion of his own product. He didn’t feel like trying to sell his book to his friends and families, and he did right.
Throughout the episode, he broke down how proper promotion should be done.
On The UnNoticed Entrepreneur Book
Every book is different. Every author’s target audience is different. Hersh chose to tackle my book to explain which are the things that people who want to publish books should focus on.
The book is about 50 entrepreneurs which I put together as a case study on how to get noticed. It contains experiential and professional pieces of advice from people who have done it successfully. The target audience is those who want to get noticed. It’s a book that aims to reach out to people who are trying to make things happen but can’t necessarily afford the kind of advertising and marketing that is needed. The challenge for them is: How do they hustle? How do they get the word out?
The UnNoticed Entrepreneur book, as Hersh said, gives a brilliant credibility to my experience. And it’s a great thought to have put together these pieces of advice, calling the book a “glorified business card.”
People Buy People
Books are a brilliant way to get in the hands of a million people. They’ll get to see your name. Your book is in their hands. They trust you and your credibility and they want to know more about you.
But how do you leverage the most of it?
Months before the book is coming out, Hersh shared that the preparation for the promotion should already start. There’s a need to bring the author in front of people. Because people don’t really buy products — people buy people.
Gone are the days when you could bring out a book and the author simply sits somewhere in the shadows and only comes out for the book signings. Now, people need to see the author as much as they can because everyone else is doing it. In the case of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur, people want to know who I am — who is Jim James.
Today, the boundaries between the personal and the professional are really thin. And if someone wants to know who you are, money is also irrelevant — whether the book is worth 300 or 400 rupees. For Hersh, the book is probably the single product where people don’t really look at the pricing. If they like the author, it’s fine to spend.
But why would someone want to read your book? For example, it could be that they’ve been in touch with you on LinkedIn for a few months now. They’ve read your posts and they’ve known enough about you for them to be intrigued about what you’ve done in your book. This simply means that there’s a need to create intrigue amongst your potential readers. And you need to be getting in touch, be out there, and produce content to show your whole personality.
As potential readers, they’d want to know more about you and your thoughts. Because a book is a collection of thoughts. It’s a tangible form of the author’s thought process. Hersh stressed out the content production and the social media side of the book and the author are more crucial than the book itself. Before they buy the book, they’d buy you — the author — first.
The window of opportunity for selling your book is very small. Even on Amazon, their list called Hot New Releases only stays for about four weeks. If you don’t make it on that list in the first four weeks since your launch, then the opportunity to be on that list is gone.
On the other hand, they also have the Movers & Shakers list. Because books are moving (in terms of sales), there’s still a chance to make it to this second list even after four weeks. They also put together the Best Sellers list, which is their Top 100 list. They only show the Top 100 in any category. If you don’t make it to the Top 100, then you won’t make it in that list.
Amazon promotes all these lists very well. They’d do a lot of work for you if you make it into one of these three lists. They also curate other lists. And for you to make it into one of those, the window of opportunity is about four to six weeks.
So you can’t really start promotion on the day that your book has arrived. You need to start early, which is about six months or three months before your launch. This is when your book is a non-fiction business book. There’s a different model for literary and fiction books.
Consistency, Logistics, Content: How to Leverage Your Author Platform
Everyone talks about building an author platform. But what should you do on that author platform?
According to Hersh — and as what people who have been working in the public relations industry for years know — you have to post enough times consistently long enough to get people on board and algorithmically build your reach and engagement. For instance, Hersh found me on LinkedIn because I’m posting at least once a day. If I post five to 10 times a day, then the engagement will also increase.
When it comes to your platform as an author, the first important thing is to be consistent in creating and producing content and getting it out there.
If your book is in the making and it’s coming out in three months, then you’ll have three months to build your platform and wait. You’re going to have to wait because once the book is ready, there’d be a rush: You’ll just have to get it out there and see what happens. If you haven’t prepared enough, nothing’s going to happen.
Having been in the publishing business, Hersh knows that nine or 10 books don’t sell beyond 200 to 300 copies because of this. The lack of a platform is a major reason why authors rush into getting their books out there without any promotion or preparation. It could also be that authors think they have a platform, but it’s not really there — it’s not quantifiable. So you have to plan on how you’re going to have to do it.
The logistics part is something that you won’t be able to do by yourself. To build a platform, you need a team. You need people who will do the work for you. For example, you can shoot 10 random videos during the day with your smartphone, but to post them in high quality, you need somebody to do it. You’ll need somebody to produce audio, video, and test; somebody who understands major platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
As I’ve experienced, the time that has taken for me for the production, post-production, publishing, and promotions is overwhelming. This is why there really is a need to have a team.
As a general rule, Hersh recommends three months for promotion — with five to 10 posts a day, 30 days a month, for three months. This is the number of content that you should have on the table before you start in an ideal world. Apart from having a team, you also really need to plan your narrative.
As a student of literature who started working in marketing and understood the narratives of brands over decades (like how it took Apple and Google decades to build theirs), Hersh emphasised that it’s not the book that you’re selling. You’re selling the idea that your book is based around — the gist and the core of it. And you have to break down that idea into a thousand stories.
For instance, Hersh’s book is based around 1001 Arabian Nights. It’s about a queen who marries a king who is slaughtering queens every night. The condition is that if you can entertain the king throughout the night, you’ll live. Hersh used that metaphor to describe a client relationship. He said that your client can only give you a finite amount of time. After that time has elapsed, you will be slaughtered.
In the 1001 Arabians Night, a girl marries the king and she has a plan of action. She started telling stories that are enthralling and engaging and she deliberately doesn’t end it by dawn. This made the king really curious about what happens next — and this is how she gets a pardon. The story never ends. She’s always coming up with stories out of the same stories and it goes on for 1001 nights. By then, the king has really fallen in love and that’s how the big narrative ends.
With this in mind, you as an author have the need to continually flesh out these little bits from one story to another. Your three-month narrative is not really a three-month narrative; it’s a long-term narrative and even a never-ending narrative of your book’s idea. But this is where most people struggle.
An Uncomplicated Book
Hersh has seen authors who have written great books, but if he asks them to sum their book up in 10 seconds, they struggle. It’s because the book is often too complicated.
A lot of books are really just a compilation of various ideas from other people. While The UnNoticed Entrepreneur is also a compilation of different ideas, he pointed out that the idea is simple: How do you get noticed? And in the book, there are 50 examples of that. Because there’s an absolute need for the reader to get noticed, I as the author am giving them 50 different ideas that have worked.
During the episode, I mentioned thymus and the fundamental need for people to get noticed. It stimulates a chemical release because, at a primal level, everyone needs the support of others in order to survive. And this is how people get their values transferred. So thymus is an essential ingredient in getting noticed.
When Hersh read the book, he was able to summarise it in under one minute. Because all those 50 ideas have something in common. There’s a common running thread though the routes might be different. In story-telling, it’s about how do you entice your customer long enough to stay with you and start believing in you? Once they start believing in you, they’ll stand up in the lines to buy your book like how consumers queue up at 4 a.m. at Apple stores for the next iPhone. The content part is the most difficult part — and that’s where the real authors and the fake ones are differentiated.
In my case, I published The UnNoticed Entrepreneur book in August. The question I posed to Hersh is about what I can do as a remedy or a post-event promotion.
Hersh mentioned that the window of opportunity to be on Amazon’s Hot New Releases list, even in the UK, is already gone. But it can still be included in the Best-Sellers list once it starts to consistently sell a certain number of copies in the book’s category. Any book can get into this list anytime.
He also cited a book that was first published about three years ago. It’s written by a world-renowned US physiotherapist. Currently, he’s trying to publish it in India. This means that the book will have a fresh start on Amazon India and a new chance for a listing.
As a piece of advice, Hersh cited Stephen King, who he considers as the most prolific author alive today because of the amount of work that he’s done and still doing. He noted that King’s advice is the best marketing advice there is for a book: Write your next book. Because every time you’re writing and bringing out a new book, your reader base increases — as opposed to when you’re only a one-book person.
The best promotional advice is to continue providing books. If after five years, you’ve brought out five books, your reader base will also have increased incrementally.
Selling to Specific Countries
With Amazon, you can sell your book in multiple locations such as Canada, Japan, Australia, England, and some parts of Europe. However, it doesn’t automatically work in India.
So if you need to sell your book in India and get access to the Indian audience, somebody local must print it and publish it on Amazon. You can do this from wherever you are. But for instance, if you’re in the UK, sending inventory to a UK publisher will be a lot more costly than printing it locally in India. The thing about which has better quality won’t be an issue anymore. It’s about the cost.