Linda J. White here, writing from Somerville, Virginia, where an unusually warm December has had me wearing sandals and thinking about the beach. And while I know Old Man Winter still has a punch or two in store for us, I think the beach is a great lead-in to a few words about marketing.
Who doesn’t love a great beach book? The sun, the sand, the rhythmic crashing of the waves all provide a great backdrop to getting lost in a story.
When I started writing “Seeds of Evidence” (Abingdon Press, 2013), I remember telling a friend, “I don’t care if this book gets published or not. I just want to evoke this place.” The “place” in question was Chincoteague, an island off the coast of Virginia. (Remember “Misty of Chincoteague”?) My grandparents lived there when I was a kid, and I spent many happy hours there fishing, crabbing, swimming at the beach, and enjoying Pony Penning, an annual event that today draws 40,000 visitors to the tiny island.
Chincoteague is rich in wildlife. The marshes and coves teem with waterfowl while the waters surrounding the island are full of oysters, crabs, clams, and all kinds of fishes. The natural environment gave me lots to work with as I established the setting of my novel, and local color provided texture to the characters I was working with.
What I didn’t anticipate was the edge in marketing the location would give me. Eight months before the book came out, I drove over to Chincoteague and met with the owners of the island’s independent bookstore, Sundial Books. I gave them a copy of the ARC. Then I visited the Chamber of Commerce, introduced myself, and gave them an ARC. Soon I had a team of local people who were aware of and supportive of my book.
We launched “Seeds of Evidence” in April at Sundial during the island’s Second Saturday Art Stroll, which gave us a bit of general publicity. Following a second signing in June, Sundial scheduled us for four signings during Pony Penning week.
The result was a flood of sales. Local people loved the book. And remember those 40,000 visitors? Well, a significant number of them were thrilled to find a book set in “their” vacation spot. The coup d’état? We outsold Misty that first year. The owners of Sundial told us that “Seeds of Evidence” made their summer. But what stirred my heart was this: What percentage of those vacationing book buyers were not Christians? Who “accidentally” discovered the Gospel by reading a mystery/suspense book set in their vacation spot?
So my question for you is, can you use the setting of your book as a marketing tool? Do you have a favorite vacation spot you can use? Can you partner with an independent bookstore in that area to promote your book? That’s worked for me.