A few months ago I had the big pleasure to read and review Anyone Can Get An A+: How To Beat Procrastination, Reduce Stress and Improve Your Grades by Geetanjali Mukherjee (Review). As a student myself I was excited especially about the “How to Beat Procrastination” part, and of course about all the newest tecniques applied to neuroscience to reduce stress and reach your full potential.
Ms. Mukherjee is a young self-published author, with six books published and a very promising career. For the Indie Interview she tells us about her work, her audience, cover designing, book marketing and how to overcome the fear of failure.
Q: First a little about you. Who is Geetanjali Mukherjee?
A: Wow, difficult question right off the bat! I am not sure how to answer philosophically, but in practical terms, I am the author of six books of varying lengths, all nonfiction at the moment, hoping to use my love of books and writing to create books that touch readers and in some small way, make their lives a little better. I also have an academic research background, with degrees in law and public policy.
Q. Your book “Anyone Can Get An A+: How To Beat Procrastination, Reduce Stress and Improve Your Grades” is a guide meant to help students. What moved you to write a self-help guide for that audience?
A: I actually wanted to write a book for students since I was in high school. I was always a good student, but I went through this phase where I really struggled in school. And when I turned that time around, eventually getting the highest grades that year, I wanted to share the lessons I had learnt, especially because I saw many students who did poorly adopt this attitude of “I am just not smart enough”.
The reason I finally sat down and wrote this book last year was because I had been reading a lot of books on how the brain works and how we learn, and I was fascinated by the idea that anyone can learn anything if they approach it in the right way, and inherent intelligence or ability play a much smaller role than we usually ascribe to it.
Q: Cover design can be tough for a lot of authors, and while getting it done by professionals may be the easiest option, it can also be quite expensive. You designed your own cover, what lead you to choose the colours, the font etc…?
A: Yes, cover design is quite difficult, and I am constantly trying to learn and improve. The current version of the cover is my second major redesign actually. I knew that I wanted a bright color, and somehow I wanted to include yellow in some form from the beginning. Other than that I researched other covers in my genre, tried many different options, and then finally something clicked and I finalized this cover. The advantage of indie publishing of course is that you get to change things, so I might change this again in the future, but for now I am happy with it.
Q: Do you proofread your own book or do you get someone to do that for you?
A: I actually have done editing and proofreading professionally, for organizations and also as a freelancer, so I have a fair bit of experience. I am one of those people who read newspapers or books published by major publishers and find all the typos, which then ruins my reading experience! I do most of my proofreading myself, but then I get some family members to read through and point out any errors.
Q: You have your book ready, now it’s time for marketing. How do you get the attention you need?
A: I think marketing is an ongoing endeavor, and it is never quite done. My main strategy is to get reviews, and get people to discover the book and the message. I also believe in content marketing, and have recently launched a blog dedicated to the ideas from this book. I have also done several promotions, with different levels of success. Earlier this year my book hit the #1 spot on Amazon for its genre, albeit only for a few days. The book has also been on 7 other bestseller lists on Amazon. However, it doesn’t get any easier, and one month it could be doing well, and the next month nothing happens.
Q: Social Media for marketing. Does it work for you? Which social is the best?
A: I heard somewhere that you should pick the social media site that you like and focus on that. I am not sure how helpful that is, but I believe in that. My own favorite isTwitter, mainly because I enjoy it, there are lots of writers on there, and it doesn’t feel so intimidating to me. I don’t really know if it sells books, but it has other advantages. I think Facebook is obviously the big one for everyone, but it can be tricky and I think I have a lot more to learn. I have recently fallen majorly in love with Pinterest, and again, I don’t know if it helps me with my marketing, but it is a way for me to show my personality and share my own interests with others, and hopefully engage genuinely with potential readers.
Q: Do you have a strategy for finding reviewers? One is better than no one or are you picky about who you ask to review your work?
A: Well in some ways I am not very picky, in that anyone who wants to review my work is welcome. But I am choosy about who I reach out to, mainly because I try to focus my energy on asking those who are more inclined to read my type of book. I like reaching out to bloggers mainly because although they are swamped and it can take some time to get a review, they are always thoughtful and comprehensive and I think readers trust book bloggers more than someone who just may be a friend of the author.
I believe in the elbow grease method, and I have reached out to many, many more reviewers than have responded or shown interest, and then a smaller subset of that number have actually written reviews. This is definitely a game for the patient and perseverant. In terms of specifics, I reached out to the top reviewers on Amazon, as well as those on Indieview and The Book Blogger List.
Q: Back to your book. One of my favourite chapters is called “Adopting the Right Attitude”, where you talk about the importance of developing the right mindset. What’s your inspiration? What keeps you positive?
A: Thanks, that’s actually my favorite chapter too, because I think it’s the advice I need personally the most. I often think that we write what we need to learn ourselves. Here’s the thing, it’s not possible to stay positive all the time, and I have had my share of feeling overwhelmed and defeated at many different junctures. I guess my coping strategy is to have a lot of different ways to inspire and pick myself up, so I try not to wallow in those negative feelings for too long.
I read a lot of self-help and motivation books; I have been reading self-help books since I was 9 or 10 years old, and I love those movies where the team wins the trophy at the end. I love the idea of going from failure to success. I am lucky in that my parents are very supportive, always there to give me a pep talk if I need one. Some of the advice in the book in fact came from things they told me over the years.
My biggest inspiration is my mentor in life, Dr. Daisaku Ikeda, who is a Buddhist, philosopher and educator. He has written a lot about character, and success, and especially given a lot of advice to young people, and I try to follow his advice and share it with others. In fact, I just read this quote this morning: “Simply deciding from the outset that you’re just not good enough, without making any effort, is nothing but escapism. Each of us is different, but we are all alike in that we possess tremendous potential. The truth is, you can do almost anything if you set your mind to it. The worst thing is to lose confidence in yourself and limit your own potential”.
When I feel defeated or negative, I read his guidance there is always something that helps me to look at my problem or challenge in a positive or hopeful manner. That, and my daily practice of Buddhism keeps me positive and inspired.
Q: A big obstacle Âfor both students and writers is searching for perfection, or “fear of failure”. How do you as a young writer overcome that?
A: This is actually a huge issue for me, and lately I have been really trying to work on this. My need for perfectionism actually permeates every aspect of my life, and is far more insidious than I realize. I don’t have any magic solutions, but there are a few things I try to do to minimize its effects.
Firstly, I use deadlines to ensure that things get done and sent out. Anyone Can Get An A+ was actually on pre-order and I knew there would be real consequences to my not completing it (I was days away from the deadline and still needed to finalize a couple of chapters). I just had to get it done and sent off, and actually the chapters that I had to rush turned out to be my favorite ones.
I also try to remind myself that if I don’t get it done, I won’t be able to move on and work on the next project. Earlier I would just abandon one project and go on to the next shiny one, or if I was feeling stuck just let it sit for months on end (who am I kidding, I still do that sometimes!) But nowadays, more often, I just decide that I will complete this project and put it out there, and so I have to complete it, no matter how much I want to stall. I can be pretty stubborn, so I try to channel my obstinacy towards finishing something and not getting stuck in trying to be perfect.
Finally, I surround myself with inspiration. I go to bookshops and libraries and see the rows of books and try to remind myself that if all these authors could finish their book, so can I. I also listen to podcasts and read blogs of successful authors, who are usually very pragmatic about how they view their work. If nothing works, I read bits from some of my favorite writing books. A combination of the above usually does the trick, at least for that day. And the next day or week or month, I go through the whole cycle again!
Geetanjali Mukherjee grew up in India, spending her early years in Kolkata, and then attending high school in New Delhi. She attended the University of Warwick, United Kingdom, to read law as an undergraduate. She went on to earn a Masters’ in Public Administration with a concentration in human rights and social justice from Cornell University, USA.
Geetanjali is the author of six books, and currently lives in Singapore. Her latest book Anyone Can Get An A+: How To Beat Procrastination, Reduce Stress and Improve Your Grades is available at all major retailers. In her spare time, she reads as many books as possible, watches romantic mystery movies and tries to avoid cooking.
You can find Geetanjali here:
Google+: Geetanjali Mukherjee
Goodreads: Author’s Page
Thank you Geetanjali for taking the time to answer these questions and for giving us the chance to enter your creative space! Thanks for sharing your experience with us!