New to Book Publicity? Go Local First

by | May 24, 2017

By Joan Stewart

Admit it.

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.

TV Stations

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.

Radio Stations

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.

Niche Publications

  • 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.

Libraries

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.

Bookstores

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 Groups

Meetup.com allows members to find and join groups offline that are unified by a common interest, such as:

  • politics
  • games
  • movies
  • health
  • pets
  • careers
  • hobbies
  • books

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.

Book Clubs

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.
 
Photo: Pixabay.com

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16 Comments

  1. Matt Aird

    Really good points throughout this article. Also consider new media alternatives. Social Media Influencers within your City/State/Country that have large engaged audiences are a great way to spread the word about you and your books (just make sure your audiences are aligned).

    When you reach out to them mention you have something in common (like where you’re from or where you live) and they’ll generally be more willing to promote you. This kind of exposure can have a big impact in jump starting your platform not just locally but nationally and internationally. The internet and social media has no boarders after all.

    Reply
    • Joan Stewart

      Love this idea, Matt. These groups include Meetup groups in your community and public Facebook groups devoted to your town, city or county.
      .

      Reply
  2. Kristen Steele

    Great points. Content rules today and news sources and media outlets are always on the lookout for great content. There’s no shame in seeking them out and pitching your book/event.

    Reply
    • Joan Stewart

      Indeed, Kristen. Remember that the media need you, especially on slow news days when they have space to fill and they have no story ideas up their sleeves, or a story falls through at the last minute.

      Reply
  3. Robert Kirkendall

    A short story I wrote that took place in my hometown of San Jose, CA in 1964 got a lot of attention when I posted its link to various San Jose/Santa Clara Valley history Facebook pages.

    Reply
    • Joan Stewart

      Robert, I love this idea. People on social media should be told about publicity hits in traditional media, and it doesn’t hurt to let traditional media outlets know about social media sites where they people can find you.

      Reply
  4. Tamara Grantham

    It was so much fun to be mentioned in this article! Joan has really opened my eyes to what possibilities are in my local surrounding area. Just today I stopped by my local library and asked about doing an event, and they said they’d like to set something up this fall. It pays to get out there!

    Reply
    • Joan Stewart

      I’m thrilled that you took such quick action after seeing this guest post, Tamara. Don’t forget about all the libraries in your system where you can present author events. Start local, in the center of, say, a 25-mile radius, and work your way out.

      Reply
  5. Oma Edoja

    Great tips! I’ve done a lot of these and enjoyed them.
    As a result, I have been featured in several of the suggested media.
    Via a local business support group, I learned of the local paper looking to interview local entrepreneurs. I applied (it was a business tips book) and they came to my home to interview me and snap pictures. I used a complimentary line they wrote about me in my branding, plus their logo.
    I also applied to several bloggers, TV and radio show hosts and podcasters who put the word out in various networks I belong to. I was invited, spoke on my topic and plugged my book. The key is to stay connected. That’s how these opportunities come up in conversations or as you browse your online communications. Twitter is a good place to find opportunities if you’re in the right groups or search the right hashtags. Facebook groups have also yielded almost all my TV, radio and podcast opportunities.

    My next works are children’s fiction books. I have begun liaising with libraries and bookshops and have received some yeses. Since I enjoy meeting people and discussing the themes in my books, it is very social, not salesy. And even if an opportunity does not open right then, I keep the contact details and stay in touch because I know we will be useful to each other at some point. I love connecting locally!

    Reply
    • Joan Stewart

      Congratulations on creating a super strategy, Oma. “The key is to stay connected” is the secret sauce. I encourage other authors to do the same.

      Reply
    • Joan Stewart

      Yvonne, any tips to share with us about you got publicity?

      Reply
      • Yvonne Hertzberger

        I sell a lot of paper books initially. My local launch includes posters all over in local stores, etc., and give out good quality bookmarks with all my books, highlighting the new one and the essentials for the event. I book a small hall, have refreshments, do a reading, have an interview in the local rag prior to the event, let all Facebook and other social media know it’s coming, and have books available at the event to sell and sign. I live in a city of 37,000. Its a flurry of work but it pays off.

        Reply
        • Joan Stewart

          Keep doing what you’re doing! Authors ask me, “How long do I have to market my books?” My answer: “Only for as long as you want to sell them.”

          Reply
        • Oma Edoja

          Great strategy, Yvonne. I love the face-to-face element.

          Reply

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