Friday, 6 February 2009

Developing an Internet Presence: The Hometown Advantage

The Hometown Advantage

Let the home town advantage work for you and use all the freebies available to you. I work at a local university and am also an alumna of the Journalism Department. The department interviewed me for their newsletter that went out to PR alumni, our faculty/staff newspaper and our Alumni Center did a "spot light" in their publications which also went out to all university alumni when the book came out. My book will also be displayed at our Alumni Center library along with other published alums. Other than the price of a donated book, this is FREE publicity that has reached thousands inside and outside of our community.

Does your community have a historical conservation organization? If you write historical fiction, is there a way to connect your writing to local history and/or work with the organization to draw local interest to your book?

If you are fortunate enough to have a public broadcasting television station (PBS) in your community, donate 2-3 copies of your book for their telesales auction. There's no better way to get a FREE 2-3 minute on-air promo that has the potential of reaching thousands of households.

Get to know the managers of the local bookstores and set up a few book signings throughout the year. Be sure to send out flyers, post cards, and/or e-mails to family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, etc., at least a week before your signing. Start thinking outside the box and don't limit book signings to bookstores. Most communities have annual events that draw local attention. If you manage to sell 5-10 books, it would easily pay for the cost of the booth (if applicable) and it will put your face and name in front of a diverse group of potential readers.

Does your book have a seasonal theme? For example a Halloween murder mystery - focus a special local promotion leading up to Halloween.

Create an alliance with your local library. No, books that are checked out of the public library won't earn the author royalties, but think EXPOSURE. Most people who read and enjoy an author's writing will more than likely want their own copy. Again, word of mouth will sell books. Most libraries and book clubs are eager to find new programs to offer their patrons and from their standpoint there's no better draw than a local author. You'll need to take your books, but this is a focused group of readers who will hang on every word you say. Also, contact your state library to see if they sponsor any contests for resident authors. If your local library promotes books on their blog ask them to write a review or spotlight your book. Again, working with a library may not generate immediate sales, but if you are a new author, getting name recognition and a following is far more important right now. Once the reader is hooked, they'll want to buy all your books.

Don't give books away unless you stand to gain promotional exposure from it. Tell your family and friends who expect a freebie that you must cover your costs. Whenever a book is given away it is a lost sale and will most likely end up being circulated to others without any purchase or, it will collect dust on their bookshelf. Remember that something for nothing is worth nothing, but when an investment of time (to search for the book) and money is made, the person will most likely read it.

There is no way to keep people from sharing and/or exchanging books. Still, from a promotions standpoint it goes back to exposure and getting your name out and that's good. But an author has to at least get one sale out of the deal.

Here’s an example of what one young lady did with my debut book, SILENCED CRY. My first book signing was at our campus Barnes & Noble. While I was setting up, one of the student workers told me that as she placed my books on the shelf, she became intrigued and decided to buy two copies (the dear); one to keep and one to create a chain read out of it for her friends who were studying around the world. I tried to contact her several times to see where the book had traveled to, but was unable to reach her. I finally gave up thinking I'd never hear form her again. Eight months later I received the following e-mail:

“This is Aimee, the girl from the Ball State Bookstore. I am currently residing in Japan, and just received news that your book has traveled to Australia, New Zealand, India, China, Taiwan, Vienna, France, and actually returned to Japan twice! I thought this might make you happy.”

Happy? No, I was ecstatic! How cool is that? The e-mail was dated February 23, 2008. Who knows how many more places my homicide detective Sam Harper has traveled to since then? So I sold two books and it was read by at least nine other people. My only hope is that all those who borrowed my book and liked, it will want to have their own copy eventually.

Keep writing and remember -

"Risk more than others think is safe. Care more than others think is wise. Dream more than others think is practical. Expect more than others think is possible." -
Claude T. Bissell, Canadian author and educator
  1. Developing an Internet Presence: An Author's Website
  2. Developing an Internet Presence: The Public Author
  3. Developing an Internet Presence: Book Trailers
  4. Developing an Internet Presence: Spread the Word
  5. Developing an Internet Presence: Virtual Book Tours
  6. Developing an Internet Presence: The Hometown Advantage

Marta Stephens, a native of Argentina but a life-long resident of the American Midwest, began her career as a fiction writer in 2003. This evolved into a life-changing passion that has led to the birth of her Sam Harper Crime Mysteries and her debut novel, Silenced Cry. She runs the popular Murder by 4 blog along with her fellow crime authors at Murder by 4. She also has several short stories and flash fictions to her credit.

Marta's debut novel, Silenced Cry, was published by BeWrite Books in 2007.

Her second novel, The Devil Can Wait, was published by BeWrite Books November 2008.

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