Book marketing–we all have to do it. Don’t neglect your hometown!
by Sue McGinty
Whether you’re an indie or traditionally published writer, you can do a lot to promote and sell your book in and around your hometown. Here are some things that have worked for me.
Get acquainted with the folks at your local bookstores
They are a great resource because they know you and will have a personal interest in your book. Visit them often and check to see that your books are on the shelf, or even better, displayed in the front window. Sell them copies at a rate cheaper than that offered by a supplier.
If you are comfortable leaving books on consignment, then do so. Be sure to keep good records of your consignment books and check sales at regular intervals. Because most local bookstores carry items like jewelry and knick-knacks, they’re also a great resource for gifts.
You support them and they support you. It’s the hometown thing to do.
Kick-start your hometown book marketing with a launch
Check to see if your local bookstore will sponsor the launch of your new title. If the management prefers not to showcase a single author, suggest a multiple launch with several other authors. Offer refreshments if the bookstore permits.
Remember the old maxim: Give them food and they will come.
Create a scripted reading
Turn a short chapter or two into a script and invite some local actors to read it at your launch party. Prose dances off the page during a well-rehearsed scripted reading. The audience will love it and be more likely to buy your book after hearing parts of it dramatized.
Keep the readings to ten minutes or less and set the scene to give the listener context for what they are about to hear.
Find out who acquires books for your library system and request that they carry yours
The library system’s website is a good place to start researching this information.
If the acquisition manager turns down your request, you can always donate copies of your book to one or more branches. Tip: Ask that your book be cataloged and put on the shelf, not slated for the next library sale.
Give a presentation at your local library
I’ve given 50-60 minute talks (including a Q&A) on the elements that make a book a mystery, the history of the modern mystery novel (which is fascinating), and the often-hilarious things people have asked me.
For example: Have you ever been a nun, or have you ever been in the Criminal Justice System?
Join at least one library book discussion group and attend regularly
Not just for book marketing. You’ll get a chance to read books you might not normally choose and hear comments made by people who are not writers. (Writers and readers look for different things in their choice of literature.) And when it’s time to choose books for the next year’s discussion group, they may choose your book.
My first historical fiction work, “The Sojourner Chronicles,” has made the short list for next year’s discussion at my local library.
Non-literary organizations can be excellent places for book marketing
Groups like Newcomers, Rotary and the Chamber of Commerce usually meet once a month and are always on the lookout for speakers. Pitch your services to them.
In addition to selling books, you’ll likely get a free lunch or breakfast. I once faced the daunting challenge of giving a lucid presentation on my first locally-set mystery, “Murder in Los Lobos,” to a local Rotary club at 7 AM!
Give a presentation at a writers group
Search out local writers groups, or local branches of national groups, and pitch a how-to presentation to them. They too are always looking for speakers.
If you’re a mystery writer, join the local chapter of Sisters in Crime, a national organization with more than fifty chapters in the US and Canada.
Teach a class at a regional writers conferences
Once you feel confident in your craft, pitch a longer presentation or class to the organizers of your next regional writers conference. Maybe you can even teach hometown book marketing. 🙂
Inquire about having a table and selling your books there. If any local writing groups are sponsoring a table, find out if you can sell your book for an hour or two.
Note: Generally these table spots are reserved for members only—another reason to join the local chapter of one or more writers groups. I belong to the San Luis Obispo NightWriters (slonightwriters.org) and the California Central Coast Chapter of Sisters in Crime (sinccc.com).
Post on bulletin boards
Two or three weeks before your scheduled presentation post flyers on local bulletin boards in markets, other retail stores, and in libraries. Be sure to bring thumbtacks, and remember to remove your flyer after the event so that others can post.
Start a Little Free Library
This is a “take a book, return a book” free book exchange. Little Free Libraries come in many shapes and sizes, but the most common is a small wooden box filled with books on someone’s front lawn. Any passerby can take a book or leave one or two books to share. Kids absolutely love them!
I’ve recently started leaving copies of my new historical fnovel, “The Sojourner Chronicles,” in the Little Free Libraries that have popped up around my town. I tuck one of my cards inside the book with a note asking the reader to post an Amazon review if they enjoy the book. The copies I leave are generally ones where I’ve misspelled the name when writing the dedication on the inside cover.
I simply remove the inside cover before putting the book into the free library so the reader gets a clean copy. (This is brilliant!..Anne)
Invest in business cards
To misquote an old cliché: You can’t be too thin, or too rich, or hand out too many business cards. With the advent of online printing, business cards have become a great bargain. Look for opportunities to leave your card, for example, inside a Little Free Library book. Or leave one with the tip when paying your bill in a restaurant.
You never know when you’ll garner a sale.
I have magnetized signs on both sides of my car. The effect is difficult to measure, but you can always write off the cost on your taxes as a business expense.
Submit to local publications
Become familiar with the staff at local newspapers and magazines and see if they will a write an article on you and your books.
Check out local radio talk shows and pitch an on-air presentation. These shows usually broadcast for several hours on multiple days of the week; they have a lot of air time to fill.
Buy books from other authors
As a matter of professional courtesy and respect, I try to buy as many books as I can from other authors. You can also trade books with other writers whose books appeal to you.
The time you invest in local marketing can and will pay off in bigger book sales. We’d love to hear some of your tips for regional marketing.
What about you, scriveners? Do you do any hometown book marketing? Have you used these techniques? Can you add anything to Sue’s list? Do you find a benefit to in-person marketing as opposed to relying on social media?
Sue McGinty escaped Los Angeles June 17, 1994, the same day OJ Simpson took his infamous ride. Unlike OJ, Sue had a destination in mind: the Central Coast hamlet of Los Osos. Her goal: writing fiction, a whole different mindset than writing technical courses for McGraw-Hill.
She made the most of her newly-found time, publishing five Central Coast mysteries: “Murder in Los Lobos,” “Murder at Cuyamaca Beach,” “Murder in Mariposa Bay”, “Murder in a Safe Haven”, and “Murder at Smuggler’s Cove.” Her latest work, an historical fiction coming-of-age story, “The Sojourner Chronicles” takes place in Detroit during WWII.
BOOKS OF THE WEEK
Sue’s latest novel is The Sojourner Chronicles
“I loved this historical fiction for many reasons. The characterization is superb. 13 year-old Sara Grace is an insecure yet feisty young girl sent to live with her great aunt. She, and the other characters as well, are multi-dimensional and believable. The historical details felt real and added much insight into race relations at that time in history.”…Ann L. Newman
And one of Anne’s faves is Murder in Los Lobos.
Los Lobos (Spanish for “the wolves”) is the “pen name” for Los Osos (“the bears”), our hometown.
“The Central Coast, a fairly unknown part of California, is the setting for [Sue McGinty’s] novels. Her descriptions provide you a feel for the area, you can almost feel the mist from the fog, the crisp air, quaintness of the small community, and the beauty of the scenery. Her characters are well developed. Bella, the former nun, is the local heroine. She is married to a retired Chicago cop, who she initially met when she was still in the convent in Detroit. It seems death has followed them”…Ninette B. Latronica.
Annual Black Warrior Review contest. Three prizes of $1,500 each and publication in Black Warrior Review are given annually for a poem, a short story, and an essay. Tommy Pico will judge in poetry, Rivers Solomon will judge in fiction, and Selah Saterstrom will judge in nonfiction. Using the online submission system, submit up to three poems of any length or a story or essay of up to 7,000 words with a $20 entry fee, which includes a subscription to Black Warrior Review. Deadline September 1.
Dogwood Literary Prizes. 3 prizes of $1,000 each and publication in Dogwood for a poem, a short story, and an essay. Submit up to three poems totaling no more than 10 pages or up to 22 pages of prose with a $10 entry fee Deadline September 5.
IWSG Anthology Contest 2019. NO FEE! Middle Grade Fantasy stories 3000-5000 words. Theme: Voyagers. Judges include well-known authors including Elizabeth S. Craig. Payment in royalties for the anthology, published by Freedom Fox Press. Deadline September 4th.
ROMANCE WRITERS! Avon Books (a Big 5 imprint) is accepting unagented submissions for a short time. All subgenres of adult romance fiction are welcome, with one mandate: “HEA (happily ever after) or HFN (happy for now) conclusions are required.” Send manuscript, a three-to-five-page synopsis and 100-word author bio via the HarperCollins website by September 15.
33 Romance Publishers that don’t require an agent. Not going the self-publishing route? There’s still a way to get published without an agent.
7 PUBLISHERS FOR MEMOIRS! You don’t need an agent. From the good folks at Authors Publish.
Featured image: Coalesce Bookstore on Main Street in Morro Bay, CA