On one side of the street, they sit next to the plastic stand that holds paper menus for customers to take home. Across the road, they’re squeezed next to pretty, spangly watches where people pick up their prescriptions. Just north, 10 copies are stacked, spine out, on the counter of a hair salon, partially obscuring the wall of conditioners and sprays.
My books are for sale in local places—and they are selling well.
My best sales successes have not come from bookstores or guest blog posts, not through Facebook ads or even nationally broadcast radio programs. My best sales have been in the local stores of my hometown.
The pharmacy where I had my first job—a tiny shop in a tiny strip mall in a county with one stoplight—has sold more than 15 copies of my book, and the owner just texted me to ask for more. The restaurant that specializes in home-cooking and whose owners sang with my mom—they sell out on a weekly basis. The hair salon asked for a dozen copies to start their sales, which is more than I’ve sold on Amazon all month.
These small shops, along with talks in the area where I grew up—and about which my book is written—are getting my books into the hands of people who really want them. And their appreciation for my work is giving me confidence to push into bigger, broader markets.
So if I had to offer advice for marketing a book, whether you traditionally publish or self-publish, here’s what I’d say: THINK LOCAL.
No matter the subject of your book, your hometown folks will often be your biggest supporters. They are invested in you and your work, so help them help you.
- Ask local shops if they’ll sell the book, on consignment if they prefer. Make them a sign to put near your books and check in regularly to be sure they have a steady supply of copies. Then let people know that they can get your book there. You’ll be helping the businesses while you also market your work.
- Give talks in your area and invite the public to attend. Make flyers and send them to community groups and churches. Create a Facebook event and invite all your friends from high school. Get the word out in any way you can—and be sure to have books on hand to sell and sign after the talk.
- Make sure a local reporter covers your talk and tells people where they can buy your books locally. Get them photos if needed. Provide a free copy of your book. Thank them personally for coming to your talk.
- Contact local schools to see if they have interest in you talking to their students, whether on the subject of your book or about writing and researching the work. Maybe there’s a community college nearby that would host a lecture with you.
- Say thank you. Write a letter to the editor of the local paper to thank your community for its support. Give a note of thanks (and maybe a bottle of wine) to the shop owners who carry your book. Call out thanks on social media. Show your gratitude whereever you can.
As a writer, you absolutely want to go after bigger platforms—NPR, the Los Angeles Times, Oprah—but in the process, don’t forget that your hometown holds your roots and holds you up. They’ll be thrilled to show you off, and when Oprah promotes your title, they’ll probably throw a party at the local restaurant to watch. You wouldn’t want to miss that, would you?