By Joan Stewart
It’s tempting to imagine a review of your book in the New York Times. Or a story profiling you in USA Today. Or a standing-room-only crowd at your poetry reading at Powell’s in Portland, which calls itself “the world’s largest independent bookstore in the world.”
It’s OK to dream big, but not when you’re starting to promote your book and especially if you’re new to book publicity.
That’s because you face stiff competition in top-tier media, giant bookstore chains and other mega-venues. You need a track record of successes, with each layer building upon the next.
The easiest place to start? In your own community where many of your neighbors already consider you a celebrity because you’ve written a book.
Local Newspapers Love Local Authors
That’s what Tamara Grantham of Wichita, Kan. discovered recently after publishing Deathbringer, her sixth book in the Fairy World MD series.
A friend who advertises in The Neighborhood, a local monthly newspaper, told staff members that Tamara, the mother of five children, would make an interesting feature story.
“They interviewed me for about 45 minutes and took photos,” Tamara said. “They’re printing a big article about my family and another story about my new book.”
In my little town of Port Washington, Wisconsin (population 11,250), the local weekly newspaper has featured at least a half-dozen authors in the past year, usually to promote a book signing or event.
The authors get big stories, sometimes on Page 1. The staff photographer takes attractive photos. Proud friends and relatives sometimes clip the articles and post them on bulletin boards in stores and coffee shops around town.
Weekly newspapers and uber-local publications like The Neighborhood rely on local news and don’t have the advantage of using “filler” stories from the wire services. That’s what makes the “local boy makes good” or “hometown girl publishes” angle the logical hook to your first publicity hit.
Don’t rule out daily newspapers, a somewhat tougher feat. A story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about Connie Weis, author of the cookbook Extreme Brownies: 50 Recipes for the Most Over-the-Top Treats Ever, ran under the headline “The Food Column: Local girl makes good (brownies).”
You can use any hook when promoting locally. But sometimes it’s enough to just let the media know you’ve published. Here are other ideas for promoting yourself and your book locally.
These include news features, the lighter early-morning news/weather/sports programs, and educational programs on public television. You can even pitch TV anchors who sometimes also double as reporters. I wrote about how David H. Mathews pitched a local anchor in my article Master the Art of Publicity Follow-up with These Simple Tips.
Most local radio station newsrooms “rip and read” stories from the local daily newspaper. You might have better luck pitching talk show hosts, especially those whose topics tie into your book.
Local stations often fill their weekends with commercial programming – shows that feature hosts like investment counselors and home improvement experts who buy 30 or 60 minutes of air time to interview guests and talk about their own services. I’ve been a guest on at least six of these shows on WISN-AM, a Clear Channel talk radio station in Milwaukee. The hosts paid for the air time. All I did was show up and promote my expertise – for free. Your topic needs to be a good fit.
Local public radio stations love interviewing authors too. Use Google or USNPL.com to find your local station online where you also might discover an archive of shows. Listen to the shows to make sure you’re a good fit, and to learn how the host interviews guests.
- Over-50 magazines
- Healthcare newsletters
- Alternative newspapers
- Business tabloids
- New Age mini-magazines
You can find many of these in the lobbies of supermarkets and hospitals, and in the magazine section of major bookstores.
Scoop up everything that’s free the next time you visit. Page through each publication looking for standing features, departments or letters to the editor. Many of these don’t have large staffs and accept articles from people like you. Email or call the editor and suggest an idea for an article you can write.
If you’re new to public speaking, nothing beats your local library. Just walk in, ask for the staff member in charge of scheduling events, and explain your topic and program. They’ll market the event for you, and you might get a call from your local newspaper.
If the library likes your presentation, word will spread to other libraries in their system.
Indie bookstores adore indie authors. The more informal, cozy atmosphere will help you feel at ease. Here’s a list of The Best Independent Bookstores in America.
Meetup.com allows members to find and join groups offline that are unified by a common interest, such as:
Many of these groups don’t plan formal programs but they often welcome speakers.
When I travel to an out-of-town speaking engagement, I try to contact a nearby Meetup group and ask if they’d like a free presentation. This is a great way to share my message and get attendees to sign up for my email tips.
Many Meetup groups will be honored that you’ve approached them. If you live in a big city, speaking at Meetup events could provide a huge source of new fans and readers for your work.
Create a Meetup account and type your topic into the search box. Meetup will let you know if there are Meetup groups near you.
The nonprofit Reader’s Circle connects readers to local book clubs, reading groups and literary salons. It has a strong presence in the U.S. and UK and has more than 1,000 book club listings.
Just click on “search” at the top or bottom of any page and enter your zip code. Assuming there are groups in your area, they will appear with the closest first. The database is amazingly sensitive to distance, so in urban settings listings often break down by single miles.
Flaunt Your Local Publicity
When publications write about you, link to the articles from your website. Ask TV stations where you appeared if they have links to the segments online. Ask radio stations if they have a recording of the program at their websites.
At your own website, list your media appearances and link where appropriate. You can also use the logos of newspapers, magazines, and radio and TV stations that have featured you. This shows visitors that you’re a media star. And it shows staff members from larger media outlets that you already have experience working with media.
Joan Stewart is the creator of 19 Quick & Easy Ways to Pitch Your Book, a bundle of 19 done-for-you templates that you can use to pitch journalists, bookstores, bloggers, reviewers and anyone who can help you sell books.