Book Signing Party, Enterprise Museum, January 25, 2020
Hi, Everyone! Marcia here again. Hope this finds each of you safe, healthy, and happy for this first week in August.
Today, I want to chat a bit about my favorite way to get your books in front of more readers, always a thorny problem for most of us. If there is one universal truth writers share, especially self-published writers, it would probably be this: WE HATE MARKETING!
For most of us, marketing is far harder than writing our stories, is nowhere near as much fun, and usually involves a ton of work we don’t enjoy doing. But let’s face it, folks –it’s a necessary evil.
If people don’t know about our books, they can’t find our books. And if they can’t find our books, they can’t buy our books.
It’s as simple as that.
What follows is a story about me. But it could be a story about you. I’m going to tell you how I managed to build a solid group of local readers who support me in more ways than I can count, including buying my books, and introducing others to them. I hope as you read along you’ll see just what I mean about this possibly becoming your story, too.
Let me say right off that I am NOT an expert on any aspect of marketing, especially via social media or more traditional methods. But I have had some success on the local scene. It turns out meeting readers and talking to audiences in my area has been one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever done. It has also resulted in plenty of book sales, too, both at in-person events and later, online.
If you haven’t tried your hand at this, you could be missing out on something that can be both fun and profitable for you, too. It’s also something that can be tailored to your own skills and individual interests, as well. Of course, there are lots of ways to go about introducing yourself and your work to the good citizens of your own communities, but today I’m going to share what’s worked for me, along with a few things that I hope will encourage some of you pursue this avenue, too.
How I Got Started
Shortly after I published my second book, Swamp Ghosts, the couple that inspired my main characters “adopted me,” and took me along on several of their eco-tour cruises aboard their boat, the Naiad. Because my book contained passages about the river and wildlife, they would anchor halfway through the tour and introduce me to the passengers for a short Q&A session on Swamp Ghosts and on wildlife in general, which complemented their already extensive knowledge. Before long, local book clubs were reserving seats for special Meet the Author tours, and I’d sell books afterward, when we returned to the docks. And that’s how it all started.
Meet the Author Tour on the St. Johns River
These good folks, Doug Little and Jeanne Bell, introduced me to other good folks at the elegant DeBary Hall Historic Site, and they invited me to give a talk there about writing and self-publishing.
That one went over much better than I ever imagined, and before long I was doing regular presentations at the Hall. One introduction led to another, and soon I was doing talks at the charming Enterprise Museum, as well. (The museum is a beautifully restored 1930s era schoolhouse, and a lovely, nostalgic place to visit.)
I figured I was on to a good thing, so in order to meet as many new potential readers as possible, I broadened my subject matter widely. Today, I speak most often about the fabulous wildlife of Central Florida, tailoring my presentations toward animals, birds, and habitats lots of folks have a real interest in.
It’s a subject I’m fairly knowledgeable about due to decades of hiking and canoeing throughout the state, and several years of working with Florida Audubon, back “in the day.” I put together each chat as a PowerPoint presentation, complete with basic facts, interesting but little known tidbits, and plenty of excellent photos. These talks have been surprisingly well received, and as a bonus, I always sell some books afterward.
I still do talks on writing related subjects, too, including one I did for the 100th Anniversary of the Smithsonian Institution …
… and both of these venues let me host spring and autumn teas, as well. I include a short reading and some Q&A, but mostly we just schmooze and have fun. (Here we are in the restored classroom at the Enterprise Museum. No idea why I was looking so stern. Maybe someone was slurping their tea. 🙂 )
Between these two main venues, and various local book clubs and the like, I usually have from one to three talks booked every month. Now, these aren’t massive crowds, though DeBary Hall does have room for 75 or so in the auditorium, and around 100 in the converted stable area. But trust me. I sell print books after each talk, and more importantly, these good folks come back again and again. Plus they spread the word not only about my talks, but about my books, as well. That translates into folks who become friends, audiences who give me wonderful feedback and support, and future online sales.
I would also like to say that the folks on staff at both of my main venues are absolutely wonderful to work with. They do all they can to make sure I have everything I need for my talks. Combine their friendly, professional courtesy with the fun of meeting new folks (and potential new readers), and it’s an absolute joy to be doing these.
How You Can Get Started
While you might not be lucky enough to have an eco-tour boat owner eager to jump start the process for you, there are still lots of speaking options available to you. Here are my suggestions for ways to give this a try.
FIRST: Research various local places where you can create opportunities to meet new readers. Libraries, book clubs, retirement complexes, community centers, and social clubs are good places to start. Some will let you sell your books, and some will not, but even without on-site book sales, the important thing is to sell yourself. You will almost always be able to give out brochures, bookmarks, business cards, and the like. And if you connect with interested readers face to face, they will find your books on their own.
SECOND: Consider exactly what you want to talk about. Programs about writing in general (and your books specifically) can be very popular. Talks about self-publishing go over well, too. There are always folks who want to give writing a try, but have no idea how to take the first step, and you can point them in the right direction. You don’t have to be an expert to share what has worked for you. And you can follow up by advising audiences to do some research of their own, as well, so they can see how other authors approach things.
THIRD: Don’t forget any areas of personal expertise you’d like to share. Are you an expert gardener? A scholar of local or national history? A gourmet cook or talented photographer? Put together a program on something like that and you’ll attract an even broader audience, including potential new readers, as well as history buffs or budding gardeners. Possible topics abound!
In short, there is nothing quite like meeting readers face to face, and getting first hand feedback on what they like—or don’t like—about your books. And there’s definitely nothing more inspirational than having readers come up to you and ask when the next book in your series is coming out. It’ll keep you smiling for days afterward, I promise!
Have any of you tried some local readership building, and if so, how did it go for you? What worked and what didn’t? If you haven’t yet taken the plunge, do you think you might look into doing something similar to what I’ve tried? Thoughts or questions? Let us hear from you below! As always, inquiring minds wanna know.
Now go forth with happy hearts to try a presentation or two! Your readers will love meeting you!
(All images above were used with written permission, created by me,
or obtained from Pixabay.)