Marketing a self-published book, or indie as I like to call it, tends to panic an author. The internet makes us feel we have to spread the news world-wide, fly to speak in foreign cities, and understand how to code elaborate websites that give us that professional look. Best-seller status means tens of thousands of books sold, when our circle of acquaintances barely reaches the county line.
Speaking of the county line, why not start there? Frankly, inch in closer. The first step in selling your book ought to be where you know the most people – locally.
Serious book sales means 5,000 to 10,000 copies. That’s a huge gulp. Who knows that many people? Indie authors initially reach out online first, because there are so many more people there. But you’re a stranger among a sea of strangers online.
Does it matter if your readers are local or across the United States? No. Honestly, people would rather support a hometown success than someone else’s hometown success, so get started simply by opening your front door.
Saturate your local vicinity first. An author who lives near me has self-published two books. She’s appeared at every bookstore, fair, ladies’ group, and antique store for a hundred-mile radius. I’ve read the books. They are fair in quality, but the cover sings and she’s marketing like a whirlwind. The result: she’s sold over a thousand copies. People constantly ask if I know her.
Consider these efforts in promoting your indie book locally:
- Join the Chamber of Commerce. Just having your name on the membership roster that’s passed around town and posted on the website can garner attention. Attend the meetings. Become the only author on their list.
- Identify the Civic and Fraternal Organizations. Contact groups like the Rotary Club, Lions Club, Ladies Auxiliary, Ruritans, Kiwanis, Freemasonry, Eastern Star, the list goes on. Your town hall or chamber of commerce will know them. Offer to speak at their meetings. They are always on the lookout for new presenters.
- Appear at Fairs and Festivals. In a fifty-mile radius of my home are at least twenty community festivals throughout the year. Don’t forget your recreation centers.
- Know Your Libraries. That’s multiple libraries, because once you do a good job in one, the system they belong to will broadcast your prowess to the others. Offer to speak, teach a class, hold a book release function. Surprise, some offer an honorarium.
- Locate Your Museums and Tourist Centers. These two facilities love to feature local artists because visitors seek to take home a taste of the area.
- Know Your Gift Shops. Books make great gifts, especially if the book connects with subjects that mesh with the theme of the shop. Offer your books on consignment, or better yet, have them purchase at a discount like the bookstores do.
- Know Your Bookstores. These are few and far between anymore, but those that do exist have rabid and loyal fans. These owners can hawk a book like nobody’s business. I know two small bookstore owners who never fail to tout my latest to their visitors, and my mysteries sit in a nice, obvious place in both stores.
- Keep Up With religious Events. Whether garage sales or fall festivals, religious centers hold events like other organizations. Even if you do not belong to the group, they might have you there to aid attendance and diversify what’s available to the attendees.
- Schools are Ripe for Appearances. Not only do schools have career days where you can speak about your profession, but they also hold book fairs and festivals. Don’t forget the PTA/PTO, because they have their own budget for speakers not to mention they might purchase your book in bulk for the third grade.
- Consider Being an Artist-in-Residence. Local arts councils might offer grants for you to teach a class on storytelling. The state arts commission might provide the school enough funds to pay you for an entire semester. Find your state arts commission at nasaa-arts.org.
- Offer to Teach a Class. And in the registration fee, include enough to cover the cost of your book, or just offer the book for sale. You don’t have to be a college professor. Teach a class at the recreation center, library, bookstore, church, community college, even in the local coffee shop.
- Throw a Release Party. You know your town better than anyone. The church social hall, the arts center, the restaurant on the corner, or the basement of the bank may let you introduce your book in a grand function. Be sure to invite everybody in town with classy stationery.
- Don’t Forget the Newspaper. With so many events on your calendar, keep the newspaper notified. Whether they call it a feature column, an advertisement or a public service announcement, entice them to post your appearances. The more your schedule appears to be civic minded, the better the chance they’ll accept your post.
Soon you’ll be renowned as the village author. With each book release, you’ll already have a promotional communication system in place. We all know that word-of-mouth is absolutely the best way to spread the word, and by the time you’re done, you will have touched enough venues in your community to know how many books to print in your first run. You’ll sell them all, and before you know it, you will have met that 5,000 mark and not left town.