Thursdays with Amanda: Marketing in Your Home Town

November 8, 2012 | Written by Amanda Luedeke

Amanda Luedeke Literary AgentAmanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent.

Alright. Confession time. Before I could write this post I had to go watch “Jenny From the Block” music video by Jennifer Lopez. Because whenever I think about marketing locally, that song starts playing over and over in my head.

But I’ll spare you from having to watch it, unless you really want to (WORTH IT), as I try to collect my thoughts and be eloquent and practical without busting into rhyme.

J-Lo’s song is about keeping it real. Not letting fame and fortune change the fact that she came from humble beginnings. Being the same person now (despite the rocks that she got) that she was then.

But I think in a backwards way, that theme could also be applied to book marketing. The Internet, though flashy and trendy and popular, shouldn’t give us license to live a double life. In other words, it’s so easy to go online and be a strong marketer, and then turn it all completely off the moment we step away from Facebook. It’s like we go from “Famous Author” to “Car Pool Driver” or “PTA Member” or “The Person Who Always Brings Cookies to Work” or other lackluster personas that follow us in our day-to-day lives. When in fact, being an author pursuing the dream is actually quite extraordinary.

So let’s pretend that I’m an author with a book.

I live in a city of 250,000. While I’m online, trying frantically to find people who enjoy reading, there are about a dozen library branches in my city. Not only that, but there are at least a dozen bookstores. Furthermore, my contact with the city goes beyond those typical venues.

  • I go to a salon, a dentist office, a doctor’s office, and a church.
  • I know people involved in clubs and organizations that cover everything from Junior League to Easter Seals.
  • I frequent two different Starbucks and one Dunkin Donuts, and though I don’t have go-to bars that I frequent, I’m beginning to think it wouldn’t hurt for the sake of promotion.
  • I’ve held five different jobs here, meaning I have strong relationships with lots of businessmen and women.
  • I went to college here, so though I don’t have a strong family network, I have professors, classmates and more within mere miles of me.
  • I know people in the radio, print, and news industries here.

So imagine if I mobilized these businesses, clubs, organizations, individuals and networks. Imagine if I got them excited about my book–if I constructed some sort of incentive to get them buzzing. (Truth be told, many of them will be incentivized just by knowing you’re an author).

Imagine if I viewed the 250,000 people living in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the same way I view readers on the Internet.

An author I know (and one that i now work with), epublished her first book on her own. To promote it, she turned to Fort Wayne. In one year she sold 20,000 copies. It just goes to show how a little hometown connection can get people excited.

So as you’re making your marketing plan and devising your promotional strategy, don’t forget where you come from. The connections you already have. The people who already love you. Because “hometown hero” isn’t just a term for high school athletes and soldiers (though I’d argue the soldier would be the most fitting of the title). It can be for authors, too.

What local resources do you have that could help you with promotions?

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Posted in Marketing and Platforms

18 Comments to “Thursdays with Amanda: Marketing in Your Home Town”

  1. ChrisKolmorgen:

    J-Lo and book marketing. Yup. This is my kind of post!
    Thanks for the food for thought!

  2. How do book publishers look at “hometown hero” sales as far as future publications go? It seems if your market is limited to one small region, there wouldn’t be much marketing work done by your publisher? We have a local author in Eugene, and his works started as local novels, and they sold well here, but his latest books could easily be marketed outside Eugene, and yet I don’t see them anywhere outside of Oregon? It almost seems his hometown hero status has typecast his pen name?

    • A bunch of thoughts here for you…
      If you’re selling a lot of books and making the publisher happy, they probably don’t care where the sales are coming from. But you’re right, if sales aren’t that great, and the few books that DO sell come from one place, the publisher will be disappointed.
      If you come to a new publisher with sales numbers that were pretty much the result of your home town’s support, don’t tell them that. Keep it your secret.
      I’m not sure the exact journey that this author you know has taken, but it could be a simple matter of his books are showing up in the stores and areas where there is a higher demand for them. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t elsewhere in the nation; there’s just a higher concentration of the books in Eugene, because he has such a strong following there. Of course I’m taking a wild stab at this one, but maybe that explains some of it??
      And when it comes to the publisher marketing a book, publishers pretty much do the same tactics for every book they publisher. So if you get signed by a big publisher even though the majority of your fan base is in Eugene, that publisher will still do all of their typical marketing things. They may also add some specialized book signing events to capitalize on your readership there.

      Like I said, tons of thoughts. But you’re right, there’s lots to think through when it comes to portioning out your time and energies.

      • Thanks for the long and informative answer back. Sales are sales, and I guess even if you have enough friends and family to give you impressive numbers it beats weak sales across multiple demographics. Good to know that publishers still respect the $. Now if only I could get them to look beyond the “never been published” stigma…but that’s a whole other blog topic. Thanks again.

  3. Karen Morris:

    Great post today, Amanda! And being an author in Fort Wayne, you’re ideas will definitely be put to use. I try to talk about my book when I feel it’s appropriate to bring it up. And you’re right-most people I’ve talked to get pretty excited that they know someone who’s getting published. Why keep quiet, when the whole idea behind writing is to share your works?

  4. Cherry Odelberg:

    Now that is a clear piece of instruction I can use.

  5. This is a very timely post for me, Amanda, as my first novel has just been released. Since it’s an e-book, I can’t do book signings, and I haven’t been able to figure out how to host a book launch without a physical book. (As of yet, nobody has asked me to sign a Kindle.) :)

    But I did buy 1,000 bookmarks, and I’m going to do my very best to give away each and every one of them between now and January 1. (It’s a Christmas-themed book.) That’s about as far as my local marketing efforts have gone.

    Thanks for this post. It’s making me think.

    • Robin, You should spend your time online, getting on review blogs and other blogs that appeal to your audience. You could also do a Twitter campaign that encourages RTs. Just some ideas :)

  6. Good stuff – there’s no place like home, is there? I know I love connecting with local “legends.” Great reminder of a great resource, but also of how important being a REAL person in a REAL world can be.

  7. I noticed my coffee shop carries books by local authors. So I left two signed copies and since I write there at least once a week, I’ll be able to follow up easily. I plan to do the same through the holiday season with other places I notice that carry other “products” like my nail salon, etc. Of course, this requires good record keeping! :/

  8. The area I live in is small, but they celebrate every accomplishment, so I know they’ll have my back. My series is set in places where I’ve lived and have connections – mostly because I’m familiar with those places – but I feel like that will also raise the interest level in the books. I have an extensive network from traveling with my job in the high-tech industry, a job I’ve openly used for story fodder and inspiration. I also promote my books at every opportunity, “What do you do for a living?” “I’m a writer, are you a reader?” Oh, and I have an enormous extended family scattered across the globe. They’ll support and champion my books, if only to see if I’ve spilled any family secrets. ;)

  9. Good post – valuable. I live near large beach communities that draw tons of tourists and locals in the summer and have thought it might be good to hit the beach with a bunch of freebies and give them out to people reading the way local bakeries often do with their wares.

  10. Karen Fisher-Alaniz:

    Amanda, I love the way you think. That’s how my brain works too. I remember being at a conference and a publisher-speaker said something that has really stuck with me. He said, “If your next door neighbor doesn’t know about your book, I can’t help you.” I think it’s so true that you can’t forget your local area, and honestly, your regional area is one area that your knowledge surpasses your publishers.

    I’ve done many things since my book, Breaking the Code (Sourcebooks, 2011) came out. It’s a memoir about my father, a WWII veteran. I got the coffee shop I frequent to put my book (sample copy) in a prominent place. There’s a sticker on it that says the book can be purchased across the street at the bookstore.

    A diner mentioned in the book, not only hosted a book signing, but they baked fresh cookies for it. They also printed information about the book on their laminated menus. A local bookstore agreed that if anyone in the country calls in to order the book, and wants it personalized and signed, they will do that. When they get an order, they give me a call, so Dad and I can go down and sign the copies. People really like having a double-signed book, especially if they’re giving it as a gift. Then the bookstore takes care of the shipping.

    A Vet Center about 50-miles away hosted an author event at their brand new home for homeless veterans. Then they bought 20 books to give veterans who come in for counseling. My local Vet Center bought copies for their lending library. The bookstore offered a discount for books that will be used in any way in a center or hospital for veterans.

    I’m still working on it. Recently, I saw an author who was offering a buy 4 – get one free bundle of books. I wonder how that is done. My book is great for gift-giving, so with the holidays coming, I want to see if this is an option. How would one go about that? I’m thinking maybe buy 3 and get the 4th free would be reasonable for mine.

    I’ve yet to talk to the colleges in my area. One is a university and I would think that students who are buying holiday gifts before heading home for the holidays, might purchase it. I spoke with an English professor recently who said that they are using real books (vs. textbooks) more and more, but that she is much more likely to recommend a book if it has a study guide. Hmmm…

    Anyway, thanks for the great post. Sorry for the looong response. Love it! ~Karen http://www.storymatters2.com

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