About a week ago, three of the scariest-looking guys I’ve ever seen walked up to me out of the blue. Then, even more out of the blue, they asked, “Hey, man, mind if we stop you for a picture?”
It’s not the first time that’s happened, but it always leaves me surprised and tinged with gratefulness.
Do you want your writing to take you on the way to become a local (or maybe global) celebrity? Charity starts at home, but often so does marketing. Here’s how.
Your online bio
Your biography (and article or story blurbs) should tell people not only what you do, but also a little more about the person behind the bio. What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have any pets? Are you married with five kids or a bachelor living in an apartment? With that, include an author’s photo of yourself. If writing about yourself is too tricky, hire another writer to write your bio for you.
Query local magazines and newspapers for their guidelines and find out if you can send something in. (Many small town publications lack the budget to pay freelancers; this is one case where I would recommend authors go ahead and write for the exposure every once in a while.) Keep your finger on the pulse of topics that are of public interest in your community by listening to local radio, reading the paper and paying attention to coffee shop and bar talk.
In addition to writing for local newspapers, why not get the local press to write about you instead? Find something you want people to know about. Get involved in local outreach projects, donate some of your books to the local library, contact them when you are releasing a new book or publishing a new short story. Local newspapers love human interest stories, and you could be that human interest.
There’s no rule saying you can’t take out an ad in the local newspaper, bus-stop or flyer pin-up board at the supermarket to advertise new happenings like the release of a new book. (The same goes for your own video series on YouTube or reading audio-versions of your work for the visually impaired, often a whole new market for authors.) Advertise yourself in unique ways locally and whenever possible.
You’re networking every time you leave the house. As an author, your name becomes a brand – mention Stephen King, Dean Koontz, James Patterson or George R. R. Martin in any bookstore. Every time you introduce yourself, that’s someone else who knows about your brand and may or may not read about you again in, for example, an ad or newspaper article. Have simple, professional business cards printed and hand them out whenever you can.
Appearances on radio
Does your town have a local radio station? Get in touch with them and let them know when anything new happens in your writing sphere. They might be willing to interview you.
Connecting with local bookstores
Most small book haunts welcome authors with wide open arms (and, if you’re lucky, free coffee in that corner over there). Find out if you can arrange a book release at your local bookstore, or – if you feel you are able to pass on your knowledge or skills – a talk at a library. Donate some of your books to a library or bookstore; you can even drop a few copies at a thrift store with a signed note for the next reader. (Unusual, yes, but it works – and you get to see where your books pop up next!)
Social media and taking it local
Social media is a powerful tool, and can be employed to great success locally. You can use social media to keep in touch with those in your community, though we strongly advise you to keep these social media accounts (which should be considered professional accounts) separate from your personal ones. Always take care: there are still creeps outside, and local marketing means you’re taking the chance that they live two blocks away from you.
Do you treat your appearance like you’re going out under the spotlight? If not, you should start now. Messy hair is fine, but you don’t want to be recognized on the street wearing the same set of clothes for two weeks straight. Prepare yourself for the fact that people will say hello on both great days, bad days, and busy days: they can’t tell which is which, so always – and we mean always – be nice. If you are too busy to talk, explain nicely that you will talk to them later, but that they are welcome to check out your website.