- Writer Unboxed - https://writerunboxed.com -

How to Keep Your Book Promotion Going Strong for Years: Interview with Anjali Mitter Duva


In the publication world, there’s a tremendous amount of focus on the publication date as THE time for publicity and promotion. I’ve seen authors throw up their hands the week after publication, when media interest is just starting to trickle in, and say, “I guess we struck out.”

As I’ve mentioned here before, book promotion and publicity take time [2]. It can often take months for an article or review to appear.  But even though it’s ideal to get promotion efforts started before the big on-sale day, the sky’s the limit as far as what can be done, and what can happen, even long after that day.

My friend and literary idol Anjali Mitter Duva [3] is a glowing example. Her debut novel, Faint Promise of Rain [4], released in October of 2014. Since then, she has devoted herself tirelessly to promoting it via traditional media, social media, public speaking engagements (including  the occasional dance performance related to the book’s plot) and much more. Last year, her efforts led to the fulfillment of a dream: a foreign rights deal with French publisher Editions Tallandier.  The French edition, Adhira, fille de la pluie, released in France (where Anjali grew up) this past May – almost 4 years after the U.S. publication. Anjali’s deep commitment to long-term promotion played an important role in this wonderful turn of events.

What did she do?  How did she do it? I’m thrilled to have Anjali join us today to talk about her incredible journey, and share a number of extremely handy and insightful tips: One of my favorites: “know that you’re in it for the long haul and make plans that are slow, steady and sustainable.”  

Welcome, Anjali! 

Photo by Mark Ostow

SB: From the very start, you had a clear vision of what you wanted for Faint Promise of Rain. Can you share that with us?

AMD: When I started to write Faint Promise of Rain, way back in a previous era, I already knew I was in it for the long haul. You see, I planned from the start to write a set of four related but free-standing books, all historical novels with dance and India at their center, yet all set at different times and contexts in history. FPR was to be the first. I think some of this long-term planning comes from my background as an urban planner working on infrastructure projects: very long projects with frequent cost overruns and schedule changes! This long-term vision is what set the tone and pace for my promotion efforts: slow, steady, sustainable. My idea was to build a loyal, strong readership and following, because I knew (at least, I hoped, and still do) that people who enjoyed my first book would likely enjoy my next three as well. But these are historical novels that take, for me at least, years to research and write. So my approach had to be one I could sustain–financially, logistically, energy-wise–over time. Years, if not decades. Five years in, I do feel I have been successful in meeting this goal. I don’t have millions of readers (yet) but I have a sizeable number, and, more importantly, I feel quite connected to them.

SB: When Faint Promise of Rain first came out, you hired a PR agency to carry out a launch campaign. But you took all sorts of initiatives on the side.  What did the agency do? What did you do?

AMD: I did hire a PR agency, but for a variety of reasons, it didn’t work out. I’d had some reservations about her initially, and going with a publicist about whom I didn’t feel 100% confident is my one regret in this whole process. I should have hired you, Sharon! I did a large majority of the work before the launch, during, and for years after. In terms of a launch campaign, here’s what I did myself:

SB: Over the years, you’ve continued actively — and passionately — promoting Faint Promise of Rain on your own. Describe the various steps you’ve taken.

AMD: The passion that led me to write FPR has never left me, and in fact is the same that has driven me to write my current book that is going out to my agent in just a few days. So it’s been easy to sustain some amount of promotion throughout the years, albeit with some ebbs and flows. The key has been to have an open mind and explore non-traditional avenues. I always keep an eye out for what other authors are doing, where they are speaking, where their articles are appearing. Over the last five years, I have:

I have also been involved in two very rewarding initiatives that I don’t consider as book promo, but that I’m sure have had some impact in that area:

I view both of these projects as being part of what it means to be a good literary citizen, and I started each of them to fill a gap that I’d detected, but I’ve no doubt that they have broadened my network and benefitted me as an author as well.

Finally, I try to attend local literary events and to support my writer friends in a way that feels genuine and enjoyable to me.

SB: With a job, two kids and another book in the pipeline, how did you organize your time to accomplish it all?

AMD: Oh boy. This question. Well, if one lets enough time pass, the kids grow up, so that makes things easier!

No but seriously, as you well know, it’s always a juggle, with different elements taking up relatively more or less time, depending on circumstances. One can’t accomplish it all at the same time. These days, I’ve been working hard to finish my second book, so other things, like promotion and household tasks, have taken a back seat. I’ve also been fortunate enough to be able to put a job to the side for a while and to rely on my spouse’s income, and that is something for which I am very grateful, as I know it is a privilege. Generally speaking, I try to be good about using the time that my children are in school or camp to focus on book-related work. That means that by 2:30 or so, I have to put that work aside, something that can be frustrating when the muse is present, and a relief when it is not. I’ve never been one of those people who gets up at 5:00 am to put in some morning writing time; I love my sleep too much. So I have to cram it all into those few hours a day, but again, I know I am lucky even to have those hours.

I do rely greatly on lists–monthly, weekly and daily to-do lists, lists of ideas, lists of opportunities, lists of contacts. It’s the only way that I can manage to not lose the various threads through all the interruptions of life.

SB: Speaking of organize, I recall you had a couple of really clever systems and processes to keep track of your promotion projects. What were they?

AMD: Ah yes, I do have various methods to keep track of it all:

SB: About how much time on a weekly or monthly basis would you say you’ve been devoting to book promo over the years?

AMD: How much time I spend on book promo has varied greatly. Right around the time of launch and during the weeks following, I’d say it was probably 3-4 hours a day, at least. I stepped away from writing and focused on promo. Since then, it’s depended on many things, including what else is going on in my life, where I’m at with my current WIP, etc. Anywhere from 2 hours to 20 hours per week. But it’s hard to measure, because I don’t separate book promo out from the rest of my life. It’s enmeshed in much of what I do. And that’s how I like it. I don’t want to do “promo” just for the sake of “promo.” That feels icky and insincere to me. I try to connect with people in a meaningful way, talk about literature, India, dance, the arts, fear of change, the role and condition of women, language, and other topics of interest to me. Often the topic of my book comes up in those contexts, but it’s not why I do any of it.

SB: Looking back, which initiatives do you think made the most impact?

AMD: This is a very difficult question to answer. It depends on how one measures “impact.”

SB: Is there anything you would NOT do again?

AMD: Yes!

I wouldn’t override my gut feeling
I did that in my choice of a publicist because I felt the pressure of timing, but I do think that had a negative impact on my book’s visibility.

I wouldn’t agree to driving long distances for non-paying events that are likely to draw only a handful of attendees
I used to say yes to everything, and I was a sucker for library events because libraries and librarians are wonderful and I want to support them, but I’ve done one too many events that involved four hours of driving round-trip plus the hour and a half presentation and dance, and schlepping copies of my book, and preparing my talk, and sometimes hiring babysitter or calling in a favor from a neighbor, for a tiny (albeit enthusiastic) audience who then doesn’t buy my book because, well, it’s a library. That said, I’ve also had some fabulous library events, so this is just an example. I’ve tried to learn to value my time.

SB: Finally, what words of wisdom do you have for other authors considering a long-term book promo journey?

AMD: I always like this question! Here’s what I advise:

Thank you for the inspiration, Anjali!

WU friends, over to you: have you kept your book promotion alive and thriving over time? How?

About Sharon Bially [12]

Sharon Bially (@SharonBially [13]) is the founder and president of BookSavvy PR [14], a public relations firm devoted to authors and books. Author of the novel Veronica’s Nap [15], she’s a member of the Director's Circle at Grub Street, Inc., the nation’s largest independent writing center, and writes occasionally for the Grub Street Daily.