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Promote Your Book Locally First

By Patricia Fry

Most authors write for a national or international audience. When boxes of our newly published books land on our doorstep, we are suddenly overwhelmed by the vastness of our promotional possibilities. We wonder how to start. Should one build a Web site, solicit book reviews, appear on radio shows, send out press releases or set up speaking engagements? And where does one start—large cities, metropolitan areas, in the West or the East or somewhere in the middle?

Why not promote your book locally first? Not only is this a good way to attract readers/sales, but pursuing your promotional activities on a smaller, more familiar scale can help you to discover which ones work best for your particular book. Here are some ideas:

  1. If yours is a nonfiction self-help or self-improvement book for women, for example, schedule radio interviews on appropriate radio shows. For books on most any genre or topic, send press releases to all of the newspapers within a 40 mile radius. Contact the appropriate editor: lifestyle, seniors, home and garden, business, family, sports, books or food. Ask the editors of women’s, seniors, business and lifestyle regional magazines to review your book or interview you for an article. Be sure to hand deliver copies of your book to all of the local bookstores so they’re available when customers start asking for it by name.
  2. Place your book in appropriate specialty stores. Place history books in museum gift shops. If your book features home renovation, take it to local hardware stores, lumber yards and garden shops. A book on animals or pet care might sell well in veterinarians’ offices, pet shops and feed stores. Place your book of poetry in stationery stores, hospital gift shops and tourist shops. Your children’s book might sell well in toy stores, children’s clothing stores and gift shops.
  3. If you have a children’s book, set up readings at libraries in all nearby towns. Do readings at major bookstores. Go into schools. If your book features a character issue in a positive light, solicit local school administrators about purchasing it for their libraries and/or their classrooms.
  4. For a nonfiction book, novel, book of poetry or a memoir, contact the program chair for local civic organizations and offer to speak at their meetings. Groups that meet every week are always on the lookout for good programs. You can share the story reflected in your novel or your memoir. (I much prefer hearing someone tell the story than to read it.) In order to demonstrate your writing ability, you might read one passage or a few paragraphs. For a book of poetry, talk about the process of writing poetry, challenge audience members to write a Haiku or a brief rhyming poem on a certain topic. Audience participation is fun. Perform your poetry: read or recite it, but do it with a dramatic flair. Talk about the featured concept in your nonfiction book. Learn to tweak your subject to fit any group situation.
  5. Set up a table at local flea markets and arts/crafts shows. I’ve sold many a copy of my local history books at such events. I even had a booth at the county fair one year and sold hundreds of copies of my Ojai Valley history book. Other books that might do well at such events are gift books (poetry, short stories of inspiration, etc.), how tos on a variety of topics, biographies, health and fitness or parenting books, reference books (on grammar, aviation or raising horses, for example) and even some novels.
  6. Go door-to-door with your books in a wagon. I know authors who have done this. They report that not only is it fun, it is effective.
  7. Have home parties. For a mystery, have guests act out the various parts of your story.
  8. Give workshops or demonstrations related to the subject of your book. I know an author who had great success selling her crème brulee recipe book through demonstrations in kitchen stores and bookstores. Another author sold many copies of her living wreath book by demonstrating it at nurseries and garden shops.
  9. Join the Chamber of Commerce and attend meetings for exposure. Likewise, join clubs and organizations related to the topic of your book. If your book is on gardening, join some of the specialty clubs: African violet society, master gardeners, orchid, begonia or bonsai club, etc. For a business-related books, look into organizations for businessmen and businesswomen, as well as small business groups and civic clubs where businesspeople meet. All authors should join peer groups where they can network with other authors. This is how we learn new promotional ideas.
  10. Approach large businesses and smaller local ones about purchasing quantities of your book as a premium item or a promotional item. A bank manager, investment firm owner or loan officer might buy your money management book for new clients or to give away with each consultation. Local realtors might buy several copies of your regional history to give to new clients. A local corporation might purchase crates of your cookbook to give out at Christmastime.

What happens once you have made all of the appropriate local contacts? Is it time to rest? NO! Can you move on? Probably not. It’s likely that many of the people you attempted to contact did not respond. Now it is time to follow up with phone calls or personal visits.

Facing the task of promoting to a national audience can certainly be daunting. That’s why I suggest minimizing the task and putting it in perspective by promoting locally first. It will help you to jumpstart your promotional plan and it will serve as a guide in determining which activities work best for your particular book.

–Patricia Fry is the president of SPAWN. She is the author of 25 books including The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book, which contains many additional book promotion ideas.

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