By Sandra Beckwith
I often advise authors to start their book marketing locally. Local “gatekeepers” – retailers, librarians, and reporters – will nearly always be more open and friendly to a new author with a great book than their counterparts in distant locations will be.
This approach applies to distribution and publicity opportunities, of course, but what if you used your local know-how to collaborate with a wider range of local businesses?
I’m not talking about getting your city guide or book on area attractions into local gift shops. I want you to think about more attention-getting ways to partner with businesses that reach your target audience.
What are the opportunities?
When a local physician spoke about the health benefits of chocolate at the grand opening of a candy shop near me, I was disappointed that he wasn’t an author. If he had written a book about that topic – or even about healthy eating in general – opening day chocoholics would have been eating out of his hand and buying his book.
Think about the potential for partnering with a range of local retailers or other business owners in a way that benefits all parties. What can you do that will attract news media attention – publicity – along with increased traffic for the business and book sales for you?
Here are just a few ideas to show you how this could work:
- A young adult author can talk about writing at a tutoring center.
- The author of a financial planning book can present to bank customers.
- A romance novelist can speak at the grand opening of a lingerie store.
- A parenting book author can offer toddler parenting tips to parents touring a new daycare center.
- The author of a local historical novel can host a themed dinner at a landmark restaurant.
Tune in to your local market
Naturally, some authors are high-profile enough locally that they receive invitations to speak at these types of gatherings without making any effort. Most of us, though, have to look for or create those opportunities.
This requires getting plugged in locally so you know what’s going on and what’s coming up. There are a number of ways to do that:
- Like and follow Facebook pages for businesses that reach your book’s target audience.
- Subscribe to the mailing lists of businesses that reach your book’s target audience.
- Monitor retail storefronts for remodeling and the “coming soon” signs that go along with that activity.
- Be an active member of your Chamber of Commerce.
- Participate in business membership groups such as Rotary and the National Association of Women Business Owners.
- Read the local daily and weekly newspapers for relevant announcements.
- Follow local leaders and elected officials on Twitter for advance information.
When you uncover an appropriate situation — a good fit for your knowledge and the company’s target customers — start first by calling or e-mailing the business owner. Explain why you’re contacting them; ask to schedule a face-to-face meeting to discuss a potential collaboration.
Bring a complimentary copy of your book when you meet in person. Make it clear that you will work on the event as a partner to make sure it’s a success. Offer to help generate event publicity with the news media and share information with your social networks.
After agreeing on a plan, follow-up with an email summarizing who will do what. That will help prevent misunderstandings.
Finally, do a great job with your special event planning and presentation. You’ll not only sell books, you’ll have a friend in that business owner who will probably continue to support you and your book.
Be creative; be assertive. You might surprise yourself with what you can accomplish.
What sorts of things have you done to get the word out about your book in your local community?