For indie authors in particular, online marketing has become the most efficient way to sell books. But offline marketing still has a lot of potential. It’s more comfortable and enjoyable for some authors and can reach readers that online methods can’t.
So how can you go about marketing your book offline?
Local libraries are a cornerstone of many communities, providing events and services as well as books. Approaching them as a local author can give you a chance to tap into that. Find out if you could arrange a reading or run a workshop there. Check if they run or know about local writing events that you can take part in. Ask about getting your book added to their collection – it’s not the same as selling copies to people, but if they find your book in the library and enjoy it then they might buy the next one or tell their friends.
Most literary genres have a variety of conventions through the year. These events, usually a day or a weekend long, are full of book launches, readings, and authors talking about their work.
Find out what conventions are local to you in your genre and then get involved. Volunteer to talk on panels. Find out if there’s a traders’ area where you can sell your books. Take business cards so that you can give people you meet details of your books. Do a reading.
Some conventions are more oriented towards fans, and these are the best ones for marketing. But those of professional associations are also worth attending for the networking opportunities.
Investigate events going on in your area and see what there is that fits your genre. Maybe you write books on knitting or woodwork and could sell them at a craft fair. Maybe you write YA fiction that you could sell at the local school fete. Perhaps there’s a steampunk market where you could sell your steampunk, Victorian or fantasy fiction.
These are chances to reach people outside your usual circle of readers so grab them with both hands.
Like libraries, bookshops have sometimes struggled to stay afloat in recent years, and so have reinvented themselves. Many like to host book-related events that you could suggest or get involved with, possibly getting together with other local authors for a bigger event.
Even if they haven’t heard of you, a local bookstore might be willing to stock your book if you ask. Some deliberately set out to foster local authors, especially if they’re small independent shops. And if you don’t ask, you’ll never know.
Local newspapers are poorly funded and the staff spread thin. They’ll leap on the chance of an interesting story if you can provide it.
You can start simple by sending them a press release when you put a new book out. Emphasise that you’re a local writer and mention any local connections included in the book.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, or if they seem particularly receptive, then you can try approaching them with other stories. Tell them about an event you’re running or an award you’ve won. Do something interesting to make it worth their while talking about you.
Local papers are looking for stories, so give them some.
One of the best ways to ensure local press coverage – and a good way to get attention in general – is to do something unusual. For example, British small press Pigeon Park Press arranged to become writers in residence for a local phone booth. Heide Goody, one of the two authors who make up Pigeon Park, takes a creepy doll to events and poses it doing things with her. All of this creates great material to get people interested in an author’s work, get talked about locally, and appear in the press.
As with online marketing, you’re marketing yourself as much as the book. So find places and things to do that will make you memorable, then make the most of them.
Kathryne Lee Tirrell •