I’ve mentioned this subject briefly in an earlier post, but I wanted to get back to it again, with an update on what’s happening in my world, and to see if any of you are doing the same kinds of things.
First, let me say that I have an advantage over some, in that my second novel, Swamp Ghosts, is set in a fictional town about 30 miles north of where I live. I plopped Riverbend, Florida down along the St. Johns River, because I knew I wanted to write a book set in the habitat I love most in this state. And surprise, that’s not the beach, nor any of the glittery enclaves along our seashores. As a Florida native (yeah, there’s me, and some guy up in the panhandle), I far prefer the mysterious rivers and lakes of central Florida, and the wildlife that lives there. So, I had my setting in mind before I had my story line worked out. I had an idea I wanted a serial killer to be terrorizing Riverbend, but it wasn’t until I was out with the St. Johns River Eco Tour folks that I realized the good Captain Jeanne Belle had the most perfect job in the world, and it would make a great job for the heroine of my book. Her husband & first mate, Doug Little, is a very talented wildlife photographer, too. So, voila. Maggie Devlin and Gunnar Wolfe were born, and my novel was up and running. Or paddling. In a canoe, of course.
I’m giving you this back story, because this is how the next part of my adventure began. Jeanne & Doug loved my book, and Doug was pretty sure he was Gunnar Wolfe’s alter ego, and they began to tell folks on their tours about the book they had inspired. One thing led to another, and before you know it, they were selling copies of the book at the end of each tour, and talking to people in the area who had venues where I might be able to do a Meet the Author type of thing. It started with a small group at a local nature center, and then I was at DeBary Hall historic site, doing a PowerPoint presentation on writing a novel using the St. Johns River basin and wildlife as a backdrop. That went so well, I not only sold a lot of books, I discussed future presentations we’d like to do there, including one on my experiences with self-publishing both eBooks and print versions of all three of my novels. There are more in the works, too, plus I believe they plan to carry my books in their gift shop.
Then there’s the spill-over. Because I told the audience all about St. Johns River Eco Tours, one attendee immediately booked two tours on the Naiad, for her group of 40+ folks, and I’ve been invited to go along as a guest on each, and do a short Q & A session, mid-tour. I’ll do a signing afterward, for anyone who wants to buy a copy of Swamp Ghosts. I’m not telling you guys this just to brag, even though it feels GREAT to be having this much fun with my book. I’m sharing because it’s such a super way to build a local readership. There’s a good chance I’ll be doing more of these Meet the Author things at other venues in the central Florida area, too.
As far as sales go, it’s a one book at a time thing, rather than a mass market event, but each one of those sales is a chance to make a personal connection with a reader. And each reader who enjoys meeting you and reading your book is a potential member of your tribe, ready to check out everything you write. And better yet, each one has friends and family they can tell about your book. Word of mouth is still the number one way to sell books, after all.
Bottom line, I may have stumbled into this opportunity accidentally, but it can work for you, too. If you’re lucky enough to have written a book set in your area, you have a built-in sales tool with local businesses, book clubs, book fairs, and libraries. If your setting isn’t local, look for a hook of another kind. If you write murder mysteries, maybe you can offer to do a presentation on famous murders in history, or new forensic techniques (in layman’s language). Be creative. Find something you can build a presentation around, and start looking for places that offer talks to the public. Consider it advertising that doesn’t cost anything, and might actually make you a few dollars. And more importantly, it’s a great way to build name recognition, and add members to youryour tribe.
And best of all: Meeting readers face to face is FUN!