The first chapter of The Bankster is published as a comic on Facebook. As author Subramanian neatly sums up, "with social media one can target the audience, and reach out to the segment in a very precise cost-effective manner"

Do you fancy a peep into other people’s affairs? Would you like to read about Bollywood’s underbelly? Or do you prefer a gripping corporate thriller? Walk into any bookstore, and your head is bound to spin with all the choices. But, in the ten or so minutes you spend browsing through the shelves, how do publishers and authors ensure you’ll look for their title? Ravi Subramanian, banker and author of best-selling corporate fictions (If God Was A Banker, The Incredible Banker and Devil In Pinstripes) shares the first-time-in-the-publishing-industry promos for his latest book, The Bankster.

“Books marketing has moved from the review culture to a preview culture,” says Subramanian. “There is a certain amount of intrigue that gets created by revealing portions of the book and in the process, generating a certain amount of interest. Often, authors do this by releasing a few chapters online, or even releasing film like trailers.” But to be seen and heard above all the noise, not to mention “grabbing eyeballs and the mindspace of the target audience”, Subramanian, along with his publishers (Rupa) and agency (Think Why Not) brainstormed and came up with a budget-friendly pre-launch buzz. Since a large percentage of Subramanian’s readers is in the Internet savvy age-group of 16 to 45, they decided to create illustrations of each character in the book, and release them ahead of the launch, through his Facebook page (www.facebook.com/authorravisubramanian). “This has never been done before in publishing.” After releasing the five characters as illustrations with sharp descriptions, they pulled off another surprise — the first chapter of the book was released as a Manga comic!

“It was met with a fair bit of intrigue, especially since the comic strip was about smuggling diamonds in South Africa,” says Subramanian. And since his previous books have been about financial crime, the new theme created a stir. A good number of people shared the comic strips on Facebook walls, and the illustrations went viral. “Till date, we have released six chapters on Facebook, and we expect to release six more before the book releases on October 19,” says Subramanian. And of the six, they plan to release two as games, where, as the reader plays the game, the chapter unravels.

Asked why they opted for Manga comic-style illustrations, Subramanian says that while communicating with readers on Facebook, it’s important that the post be interesting. “Manga comics help — graphic sketches, large eyes, abnormal hair colour etc. make them very distinctive and give them an un-miss-able look. A loud Manga comic style illustration coupled with a book release makes it a very curious concoction for readers,” he reasons. And the response, Subramanian says, has been heartening. Books, in India, are now a booming business; but first-time authors might still find it challenging to compete with the staggering marketing muscles available to established names. But, to market books, you no longer need a million bucks. As Subramanian neatly sums up, “with social media one can target the audience, and reach out to the segment in a very precise cost-effective manner”.