Thursday, August 16, 2012

5 Ways to Make Lifelong Fans in Your Own Backyard


These days, when we writers spend the lion’s share of our time behind a computer trying to connect with a worldwide audience, it’s easy to forget that some of the most loyal readers we’ll ever find are right in our own backyard. Since releasing my first novel in February of this year, I’ve done book signings, seminars, readings, and festivals – all of them right here in the great state of Maine. The vast majority of the books I’ve sold, of course, have been online, but being able to have those public events on my resume and reconnect with people I’ve known most of my life has been an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. Additionally, readers here have been spreading the word like gangbusters to friends and family around the country—and I’ve quickly learned that readers who feel they have some kind of personal connection to me are far more likely to review my books on Amazon. 
So, how did I manage to get readers in my hometown interested in my work?  Here are a few tricks you can try for your neck of the woods.
(1)   Promote small business. Have a Mom-and-Pop shop you love? A hair salon you patronize above all others? Consider adding them to your novel. My Erin Solomon mystery series takes place in the fictional Maine town of Littlehope, but Littlehope is set in the very real region of midcoast Maine. Erin’s dog, Einstein, visits the Loyal Biscuit every time he’s in town; Loyal Biscuit is my favorite pet boutique in Maine. Because I’ve mentioned the shop in both books now, they hosted my first book signing, and have promoted the series far and wide. I also include my favorite local coffee shop and Dorman’s Ice Cream, home of the best ice cream cone this side of heaven – which means I’m occasionally entitled to a free cone, when the owners around and feeling generous!

In this particular instance, be smart: make sure that your content isn’t something the owners of the establishment might find offensive or wouldn’t want their name connected with. So, if you’re writing an erotic novel with any particularly racy themes, you may not want to connect it with that nice little Amish farmstand down the way. But otherwise… Let the business know you’ve done this (especially if you have a personal connection with them). Ask if they would consider displaying a copy of your book, or if they might be interested in doing a reading or signing.

(2)   Feature little-known spots the locals love. Whether it’s the swimming hole you frequented as a kid or the best known make-out spot when you were a teenager, including it in your novel is a fun way to give a little nod to locals in the know. The trick in this is to provide enough detail that these places have just as much meaning for non-natives who may never visit your fair home: giving a nod to your nearest and dearest is always wonderful in a book, but make sure it’s genuinely relevant to the story and you’re not sticking it in there just to get noticed.

(3)   Support local charities. Donate a book to a cause that’s close to your heart – or better still, one that’s close to your character’s heart. Volunteer to do a reading at the next big fundraiser. If you really want to drum up some good karma and local goodwill, set aside a specific chunk of time, do some publicity, and donate funds from your little sales drive to the charity of your choice. This could be an animal shelter if your book features animals in it, a children’s hospital, a school… Anything relevant to the theme or content of your book.
(4)   Feature regional lore. Local urban legends and history are a great way to get people to sit up and take notice of your story. If you’re writing any kind of historical fiction, contact your local historical societies, donate a copy of your book, and see about getting on the roster at their next event. Particularly in small towns, these kinds of organizations are always looking for some kind of relevant speaker at their regular meetings. Use that to your advantage in every way you can.
(5)   Include surnames common to the area. My latest novel is set in northern Maine, along the Maine/Canada border. I use surnames like Givrois, Gendreau, Saucier… All names common to that area (many of which just happen to also be names of folks who proved to be invaluable resources during the research phase of the novel). When people see their names in a book, they get excited. They tell other people. They give the book as gifts. Soon, you have an army of fervent supporters singing your praises – and consequently selling your books.
In the digital age, it’s sometimes daunting to get out from behind the computer screen and try to engage with a real, live audience. But, this can also be the most rewarding aspect of the writing journey: the ability to make an impact in your own backyard. Don’t stress about trying all five of the above tactics I’ve listed, but pick one or two and see what happens. You may be surprised just how many devoted fans you find when you walk out your front door!
Jen Blood Bio:
 Jen has been a freelance writer and editor for the past fifteen years, with publishing credits in Bark, Down East, and a number of newspapers and periodicals around the country. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing/Popular Fiction, and teaches seminars on writing, publishing, and social media for authors. Her first novel, All the Blue-Eyed Angels, has been an Amazon bestselling mystery in Suspense and Women Sleuths; the sequel, Sins of the Father, was just released at the end of July and is already receiving rave reviews. 

Thank you so much, Jen!! I have never ever done a blog or even marketed specifically to my own hometown! I'm for sure going to put these great tips in play! 
Check out all of Jenn's links! 



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14 comments:

  1. Excellent Article. Thanks for sharing these wonderful tips.

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    1. I KNOW! I was so excited to have Jen guest blog. This is a topic I have never covered and it's so true!

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  2. Great article and it makes sense because my fam has been purchasing mine just to find out what I may have put in. : )Nice wallpaper, too!

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    1. Hi, Teresa! So glad it was helpful and thanks for stopping by!

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  3. Glad it was helpful, Mila and Teresa. Thanks for stopping by!

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    1. Jen! I'm so glad you are here!!

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    2. Thanks so much for having me, Tonya -- You have such a great group of readers, and your blog is one of my go-to top ten for helpful writerly and marketing advice. I'm thrilled to be part of it!!

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  4. Thanks so much, Jen. This is excellent advice. Thanks Tonya for hosting. The first book in my series will be released in early 2013. I've used a fictitious town near where I live so your post is already giving me ideas. ; )

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    1. Robena, I'm so glad to hear this is helpful! It really has been so much fun for me to include my hometown in this whole publishing business; I'd love to hear how it turns out for you. Best of luck with your launch!!

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  5. Hi Tonya, Thanks again for most prompt blog posting. I am excited about getting into all this. With five more days until the release of my first book, I sure could use this info. You're the best!

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  6. Thank you for such great info, Jen! There's always great stuff on Tonya's blog and you proved it once again!

    ~Nancy Jill Thames
    Author of the Jillian Bradley Mysteries
    "Queen of Afternoon Tea" Celebrity Author Interviews

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    1. Nancy, I KNOW -- I always find the best stuff on Tonya's blog! I'm thrilled to be added to her roster of distinguished guests. So glad to hear you found the post helpful!

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  7. Thank you.
    I'm on the second draft of the sequel to my first novel, The Legend of Finndragon's Curse and now I'm going to have to do a third. All the best ideas are so simple, but very few of us can see them for ourselves.

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  8. I'm writing my first historical romance and I will explore the tip about contacting my local society. I live abroad but it sure won't hurt to get in touch. Thank you for the very relevant tips.

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