Happy Accident — How I Created My Own Luck Through My Book Marketing

by Karen Jonson

Just Do Something! — You Never Know What Can Happen When You Do Something to Market Your Book

Four-leaf clover with text

Sometimes we need a little luck when marketing our books. However, we make our own luck by doing something to spread the word. The more we do, the greater the potential for luck! Good Luck!

Marketing books is hard work.

I am a marketer. by profession. I write websites, white papers, emails, and more to help companies sell their products and services.

With this background, you’d think marketing my book (a memoir, called Sex, Lies, and Two Hindu Gurus) would be a piece of cake, right? I thought so — until I self-published my book. I had even created a detailed marketing plan that included PR, social media, and more.

However, I didn’t anticipate a big problem that made it much harder to market my book than I anticipated. (Hint: It’s not any of the usual book marketing challenges.)

The problem was the subject matter — which was my life as a cult member, including joining the group, practicing the faith, learning the truth, escaping, and then warning the world about the rapist and molesters posing as gurus.

The memoir was hard enough to write, because I had to relive the nightmare to bring the story to life on the written page — literally. The entire time I wrote the book I suffered from extreme nightmares. Once I told my story, I wanted to be done with it. I no longer wanted to live in the darkness.

But I had a book to sell, and like every author, I wanted to find the readers who would be interested in this subject matter. So I did something — it wasn’t the huge marketing plan I had crafted for my book. But it was something — which turned out to be far better than nothing. Here’s what I did:

  • Sent a press release to local and India media outlets.
  • Contacted the editor of an online magazine in the town where my ex-gurus resided and requested an article — and the editor agreed.
  • Followed up on a local newspaper reporter’s offer to write an article about my book (he had covered the arrest and criminal trial of one of my ex-gurus).
  • Created a website for my book.
  • Started a blog about my ex-cult.
  • Ran a Facebook page where I posted updates on my book and my ex-cult.
  • Created a page for my book on Amazon.
  • Created a two-minute book trailer.

And you know what? A sort of miracle happened based on the marketing that I did do. Some people did find my book and read it and provide me with their reviews. I spoke to several groups, including a class of graduate students three year in a row and a group of religion authors.

But the biggest result of my marketing was that I found a publisher in India. At the end of 2013, the publisher purchased the rights to my book for the entire India Subcontinent. That’s a population of almost two billion people — which is a huge chuck of the world’s population.

I’m a Hybrid Author — Now What?

The purchase of my book by HarperCollins India made me a hybrid author, which is an author who both self-publishes and traditionally publishes.

Although I still consider myself an indie author, and will remain so for my future books, having a publisher for this particular book is India is a pleasant surprise and wonderful outcome for several reasons.

• One, I could never reach this complex market on my own.
I have been to India twice; both trips as excursions organized by my ex-cult. So I know that this market is foreign to me in so many ways. The culture is so totally different from my life in the West. Not only do I not know the culture, there are dozens of languages that people speak across the subcontinent. Having a publisher who understands all of this is a huge advantage.

• Two, my book is about two men claiming to be Hindu gurus.
My book is not just about a Western girl struggling in an unnatural spiritual setting. It’s also about the two men heading up the organization, and calling themselves “gurus.” In this way, India is a natural market for my book. Especially since, in the past year or so, something unheard of happened in India. A “guru” (from another organization) was arrested for raping an underage girl. Previously, no guru had been arrested there for this type of crime. I heard this sent shockwaves through my ex-cult, and I imagine it did in other bogus spiritual organizations as well. It also triggered a landslide of media coverage on the issue of bogus gurus in India.

• Three, it will be easier to sell my book in India with a professional publisher backing it.
The India marketplace could easily dismiss a self-published book written about two self-proclaimed gurus by a Western author. It will be more difficult to disqualify a book published by one of the most respected book publishers in India.

• Four, it was edited for the market.
As I worked through the edits of my book with HarperCollins, I learned that there were several ways that my book was not well positioned for an Indian audience. First, there was the use of the Queen’s English. India uses this form of the language, not American-style English. Secondly, there was the fact that I didn’t have to describe events and situations that are traditionally Indian, such as offering prasad (blessed food) during Hindu religious ceremonies. Third, it wasn’t necessary to describe American geographic settings with too much detail.

Happy Book Publishing Accident — Here’s How a Publisher Found My Book

Finding a book author in India had never occurred to me. The miracle of finding a publisher came about completely by chance.

But I believe we create our own luck. And I believe that my happy book publishing accident is the result of doing something to get my book out in the marketplace. If I hadn’t made some effort, the following chain of events would never have occurred.

  • A reporter with a respected journal (comparable to our Time magazine) in New Delhi was writing an in-depth article on why people believe and follow gurus.
  • In his research, he found my book online.
  • He contacted me and asked me to contribute to his article.
  • I answered the questions he sent me by email.
  • He used my answers in a sidebar — written by me — to his main article.
  • He contacted me the next day and said that one of his best friends is one of the best book publicists in India, and he was interested in representing me. I signed an agreement with him.
  • He pitched my book to several publishers in India — and HarperCollins got the contract.

Had I not done something to get my book out there in the marketplace, the reporter never would have found me and none of this would have happened.

Take Away for Today’s Independent Authors — Just Do Something!

Everyday I read about the challenges of book marketing — and every day I work to help authors understand what it takes to give their books a chance in the marketplace through smarter book marketing strategies and tactics.

I recognize that it’s hard work. But I also recognize that if you don’t do something, nothing will happen. Your book will not magically find its own audience. It will not magically start racking up sales. It will not magically make you famous.

There’s no magic about selling books. It’s all about doing the work that gets your name out there — and doing it over and over again.

That said, I have to follow my own advice. Because while my book is now owned and being marketed on the India subcontinent, I still own in the rights for the rest of the world. That means I have to continue to market it everywhere else.

There is still much more to be done — and I will do more. My book’s subject matter is still a tough topic for me to deal with. But the pleasant surprise of finding a publisher for my book in India has given me a great boost of enthusiasm.

To that end, I will be announcing a new innovative marketing approach for my book in the next couple of months. It’s a marketing campain other authors can also do to get their books noticed in today’s book marketplace.

Stay tuned by subscribing to my blog. You’ll also receive my regular reports about marketing your books smarter.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Ian McKay September 5, 2014 at 2:45 am

Kept me reading right to the end! Probably, because I’m not an extrovert, the reason for this is because, like all indie writers, I find the marketing of my work particularly challenging!


Karen Jonson September 5, 2014 at 1:21 pm

Hi Ian,

I hear you. I’m an introvert too — but that doesn’t mean we can’t be great book marketers. I’ll write about this in the future.



Lee C. Kemsley September 6, 2014 at 4:42 pm

Ditto. Self published a historical novel but really hate the marketing part. Anything you can suggest to make it more fun would be helpful!


Karen Jonson September 7, 2014 at 9:20 am

Hi Lee,

I’m working on something that I’ll announce soon. I like that you mentioned “make it more fun.” That would definitely help authors.



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