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Reaching Readers: Using Apps To Make Your Book Stand Out From The Crowd

Reaching Readers: Using Apps to Make Your Book Stand Out from the Crowd

Self-published author Marisha Pink describes her creative use of digital technology to make Finding Arun, her new book, stand out worldwide in a crowded marketplace, while also raising her profile with independent bricks-and-mortar bookstores.

Arun Advent app on iPhone and iPad

Arun Advent app on iPhone and iPad

This Christmas I'm experimenting with Arun Advent, a digital advent calendar app for iPhone and iPad, to promote my debut novel, Finding Arun. I wanted to do something fun and festive, yet it was only at the start of November that I hit upon the idea of facilitating a daily book giveaway through a mobile application.

Mobile and tablet usage is rapidly growing, and an app is a great way to connect with readers frequently, without having to rely on them to make repeat visits to your website. Compared with a printed advent calendar, a digital version is cheaper to produce, easier to distribute, and offers the possibility of extending giveaways to international readers.

How The Book's Advent Calendar Works

The advent calendar's windows each conceal a clue pointing to an independent bookstore in the UK and Ireland, where a signed paperback copy of Finding Arun has been hidden. To win, readers must simply guess the name or location of the bookstore and, if they are the first to reach the store, they can claim the book for themselves. Stores are participating in London, Bristol, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Bradford, Nottingham, Sheffield, Brighton, Leicester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cardiff, Swansea and Dublin.

The app contains a ‘Buy' button linked to iTunes for ebook sales, but partnering with independent book stores has been a great way to tap into existing communities of readers. Word-of-mouth is a powerful sales tool at the best of times, but endorsements from store owners who know their customers well has even more impact. I supported the shops with in-store and online marketing materials, and I have also been conducting press outreach online and offline at a local, national and international level.

The Power of Originality

The campaign gained initial support because of its originality. Demonstrating my commitment to marketing, even as a small publisher, has definitely positioned me as a serious professional in the minds of bookstore owners. This can only make them more amenable to future discussions about stocking my titles.

A second daily clue offers readers the chance to win a signed ebook. Each day the clues point to different pages of my website where Festive Arun – an image of the boy from the front cover of the book themed with a Santa hat – is hiding. To win, readers must be the first to post a link to the correct page on Facebook or Twitter, using the hashtag #FindingArun. Not only has this enabled my international readers to take part in the giveaway, it has created a valid way for advocates to advertise the book on my behalf.

Social Media Support

Social engagement is a crucial aspect of any digital campaign, and the app makes it easy for readers to share the download link via text, e-mail and social media, through a ‘Share' button on the main screen and a ‘Share' option behind each advent window. Clues are presented as images or video and are pulled into the app via an RSS feed from my website. The videos are hosted privately on YouTube, and after each day has passed I make them public. Video is becoming an increasingly important medium and as Google moves to improve the way that videos are indexed, such tactics can only help to increase online visibility in search engine rankings. I'm also going to experiment with posting image clues to Instagram and Pinterest to see what, if any, effect this has.

I'm constantly promoting the giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn, using Twitter in particular to identify and engage with local media and arts interest groups within each city. There are links to all my social media profiles within the app, and I am hopeful that this will help forge connections with new readers beyond the lifespan of the giveaway.

Marisha Pink, author of Finding Arun

Inventive author Marisha Pink

Net Effects

It's too early to tell just what effect this campaign will have on my book sales, but there have been some positive early signals. My Twitter following has shown a steady increase over the last few days, and with followers located all over the world, it would seem that my geographical reach is expanding. Perhaps most exciting, though, was the request from Book & Kitchen, one of the participating stores, to stock copies of Finding Arun. Like most self-published authors, seeing my book on the shelves of a real store is a dream come true and, if nothing else, it's proved to me that getting creative with your digital marketing strategy really can help you to stand out from the crowd.

The Arun Advent app is available to download from Apple's App Store now and Finding Arun is available to buy online, in paperback and ebook, from all major retailers.


Author: Marisha Pink

Marisha Pink is a rat race escapee turned author and entrepreneur. She quit her job in 2012 to backpack around Southeast Asia and complete the first draft of her debut novel. "Finding Arun" was self-published in September 2013 following a successful crowd-funding campaign on Kickstarter, and Marisha has been on a mission not to live life by the book ever since. Find out more at www.marishapink.com.


This Post Has 7 Comments
  1. This idea is a great one! We are doing the same thing, only virtually, on our mobile app. Our users can send books to each other, but the receiver will not know the title of the book until they enter a Zone that the sender has set for their ‘friend’. Once in this real world location, i.e. hotel, vacation spot, top of a mountain or anywhere in the world, then the books is revealed. It’s like an adventure to get a book on adventure.

  2. Tahlia – it is a lot of work and I believe that it is worth the effort, yes. To determine for yourself, or for individual campaigns, it is important to be clear from the outset what your goals/targets are and success/effort can then be measured and judged against these.

  3. Clare – Thanks for your comments, however I think perhaps there is a little confusion? Finding Arun was crowdfunded yes, but the aim of the campaign was to bring the book to new audiences; the Kickstarter backers already have copies. Before this campaign I had never even approached a bookstore, focusing, as many indie authors do, on selling my book online. I will not pretend that it was easy (over one hundred e-mails and many phone calls), but the bookstores were very happy to get involved. The campaign did not require them to stock the book and involved little effort and no cost to them, for potential gains. Everyone is struggling at the moment, indie authors and bookshops alike, so helping each other out wherever we can is, in my opinion, a positive activity. Although I appreciate that the particulars of your city might make it tougher to establish yourself locally , it is precisely the point of the post that, in addition to tried and tested marketing methods, we all need to think creatively about how to make ourselves stand out. We are also not limited to our local areas – I am based in London, but bookstores are participating nationally and those relationships have simply been cultivated over e-mail and the phone. If the terms and support we offer are comparable with big publishers (sale or return, in-store promotional material which doesn’t have to be costly) then I think we will be in a better position to compete and to be taken seriously as professional writers.

  4. Sounds great if you first have the connections – I see Finding Arun was crowd-funded, so that indicates you do… Otherwise, for this particular idea, Indie authors need to check out whether or not enough independent bookstores are willing to stock their book. My experience, in a large University city (2 Unis, one ancient one new) and centre of learning, I am worst placed to get my novel into an independent bookstore: for starters, the readership is sophisticated, probably itself a writer, possibly already has a “platform” and/or is too busy to shop in a store rather than on-line… The bookshop stocks well known authors, some of whom live here, many have connections. Secondly, everywhere indie bookstores are reliant on deliveries from the big book distributors, and on shifting stock fast to keep customers and to keep solvent. They will order in, which may be a plus, but they will not give an unknown shelf-space. In smaller to towns, indie authors definitely do better though…and can sometimes create a relationship with the owners.

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