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Finding your audience and network off-line: Look local



I recently had my second author event at a local bookstore and had a really nice time. The format was bit different than the first, in that there was no reading part, just five local authors with piles of books sitting at tables next to the café part of the bookstore. Luckily, I knew one of the other authors (same publisher) so we were able to chat while setting up. At the end of the night I had sold twice as many books as my first event, so I was happy. For those wondering, that means I sold two books. I would imagine that most authors would be disappointed by that result, but for me what was more rewarding were the connections I made with other local authors and people who support local bookstores.

 

This bookstore put a call out at the start of the year for local authors to do group book signings one day a month, and I’ve gone to all of them (once as an author, the rest as a customer). In each batch of writers there’s been at least one SF/F author and it’s been a great way for me to slowly build a network of local authors writing similar types of books. It was something I had been struggling with before since I don’t use any social media. Web searches for local authors often just gave the famous ones, likely because small-press of indie authors don’t search optimize their websites or list where they are located.

 

After my shaky first book event, I invested some time really working on the one-sentence pitch of my books, along with movies, TV shows, and other books that might be considered similar. Now when I talk about my books, even if someone isn’t a fantasy fan, most say, “Oh, I’ve heard of that. Fantasy is pretty popular now, right?” What’s been surprising is that many of the people I’ve talked to (authors and readers) are very supportive (at least moral support) of local authors. They seem to be impressed either with the fact someone they met actually got a book published, or just like the idea of a local community of writers. From the events I’ve gone to I’ve a collection of bookmarks and business cards that have local author websites. What this has allowed me to do is keep tabs on what other local authors are doing. What I’ve been surprised to find is that there are a lot of local writers for SF/F where I live!

 

Moving beyond dedicated author events, now I’m trying to be less timid about telling people about my books just on the day-to-day. No so much as a sales pitch, but an in-passing mention about how I’m spending my time in the vein of, “My weekend plans? Oh, I’m going to keep drafting my third book.” That might get a follow-up question, but more often than not the replay is, “Well, good luck.” If those people decide to check out what I’ve published, that’s great, and I would bet it’s because of the in-person interaction. The likelihood that someone buys a book after having met me can’t be any worse then if they’d have gotten some on-line marketing.

 

For me, I’d rather grow my network (and audience) slowly hand-selling books than try to email blast or social media post my way to sales. From a selfish perspective, I’ve met some great local authors and read books that I otherwise wouldn’t. I can say that I’m not really a fan of romantasy, but having read one I at least know what the sub-genre is about. More importantly, I know someone from the area whose work I can support, if only to come to their event and say “Hi, you’re doing great.”

 

Thanks for stopping by.

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