Linda J. White here, writing from my shady back deck in Somerville, Virginia. I just got back from the Eastern Shore, where I had book signings at two independent bookstores at the beach–just one of my face-to-face marketing techniques.
The highlight of this latest beach trip for me was meeting three young women from Bulgaria who are in the U.S. working for the summer. They were thrilled to meet an author and yes, they bought books. I’m smiling to think they’ll take a bit of the Gospel back to Bulgaria with them! That’s an upside of bookstore events: imagining where your stories might go.
But, especially for independent authors, signings can be hard to book. A signing takes staff time and space and many stores are limited in those areas. So don’t be surprised if you have to work at developing a relationship with a bookstore before they’ll host you. I’ve had great success setting up signings with some of our Munce partners. That relationship is a major benefit for CAN members!
Bookstore signings are just one of the face-to-face marketing techniques I’ve used in promoting my “White-knuckle fiction.” I’ve also found meeting with book groups to be both rewarding and helpful. I’ve gotten great feedback on my books, and they’ve gotten an inside view of a writer’s life—for better or for worse.
How do you get a book group to read your books? It’s all about networking: Your local library probably has a list of some of the book clubs in your area. Check with your librarian. Sometimes the local newspaper will have a community events list that includes book groups. And writers critique groups will also usually be connected to some book groups. Some are even sponsored by churches. Try sending a letter or an email introducing yourself and your work: You might be pleasantly surprised to find they’d be thrilled to meet you.
I’ve frequently made use of a third type of in-person marketing opportunity: library events. You will probably find your local library to be very supportive of authors. After all, we’re all connected by a love of reading! I’ve developed a couple of talks, including one about forensics, that work well with library groups. Again, contact your local librarians and offer them your expertise!
Face-to-face time with readers is a privilege and an opportunity. It’s a win-win situation: You get encouragement (and sales) and they get a window on a writer’s world. Yes, it’s important to build an online platform, to become facile with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. But don’t neglect in-person contact with readers! Bookstore signings, book groups, and library events build a “platform” an author can stand on.