How to Turn a Classroom Into A Tea Parlor – #BuildingLocalReadership

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The Enterprise Heritage Museum is a 1930’s era schoolhouse, lovingly restored. Yesterday the classroom above was transformed into a tea parlor.

I’ve talked before about the wonderful (and profitable) time I’m having building a local readership here in central Florida, so some of you are familiar with how I’ve done so far. For those who aren’t, let me say that my second novel, Swamp Ghosts, is set in an imaginary small town along the St. Johns River, and many of the places in the book are very familiar to folks in this area.

With the help of Captain Jeanne Bell and her hubby, photographer Doug Little,  of St. Johns River Eco Tours, I have met some fantastic folks who’ve been taken by the book, and who invited me to speak at several venues. Jeanne and Doug started it by promoting my book on their Eco Tour boat cruises. (It was a natural fit for them, since, as  I acknowledge in the book, they inspired my main characters.)

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In the past year, I’ve visited quite a few local museums, historic sites, book clubs, and the like, giving a PowerPoint presentation (with gorgeous slides, I might add) about using the St. Johns River basin and its wildlife as a setting for a Romantic Suspense novel. The presentation is filled with loads of information on Florida wildlife, including the best way to ID snakes you’d rather avoid, and an introduction to albino and leucistic reptiles.  And, of course, there are some things specific to my book (which includes all of the above subjects) and how I write. People really seem to enjoy the “show,” and I’ve been invited back to many of the places, so I’m pretty happy with that. And I also have two more presentations available for upcoming events, so I can mix it up a bit.

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One small corner of yesterday’s dessert table.

Now, having said all of that, yesterday, I was invited to do a reading and Q&A session at an afternoon tea, at the Heritage Museum in Enterprise, Florida, and I have to say, it was one of the most FUN events I’ve done. The ladies were a super audience, engaged and engaging, and they laughed at all my jokes, which makes them A-OK in my book.  🙂 Plus, they asked thoughtful and interesting questions, on everything from PTSD (a factor in one of my books), to when and where I’d be doing the Swamp Ghosts presentation again, which is a lovely thing to be asked.

Add to that, the finger sandwiches, scones, pumpkin pies, cakes, and other desserts were wonderful. And then the TEA. Folks, let me tell you about tea. Thanks to one of our members here, Jennifer Melzer, I discovered Adagio Teas, and things haven’t been the same since. Not only do they have the largest and most delicious selection of teas I’ve ever seen, they offer visitors a chance to create their own blends! I’m hooked. I’ve created fifteen or sixteen (I’ve lost count) custom blend teas, named for characters in my books, and featuring my own labels. Needless to say, I provided the tea for yesterday’s events, and judging from the comments, all of my flavors went over very well.

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(Example of a Sample sized tin of one of my teas. Perfect for giveaways!)

ALL of the above is by way of saying, if you use your imagination and get out there looking for local venues that might be interested in having you give a presentation on your books, you might find yourself in demand in your area. I’m lucky that having a book set locally gave me a jumpstart, but I think this can be done no matter what your books are about. I’d like to encourage some discussions on this subject. Have you tried it yet? Are you interested in giving it a try? What are some local venues you could approach? (Libraries, museums, historical sites, book clubs, etc.) How can you tie your books into things happening in your area? 

Let’s talk, because when things are slow on amazon, my local sales keep me going. I have my books in four gift shops, including believe it or not, a plant nursery, where the owner (who loves my stories) has sold an incredible amount of print books for me, given she doesn’t even sell GARDENING books in her store. But her very busy nursery, open every day,  has been in business in the small town of DeBary for decades, and when she tells people they should read my books, they believe her. And they do! And of course, Captain Jeanne and Doug sell my books at their ticket booth at Highbanks Marina, after every tour, and without their support and encouragement…well, hopefully I’ll never have to find out what that would be like.

I STINK at spending time doing online marketing, but I excel  at meeting lovely folks who like to talk books and reading. And if it works for me, it can work for you! What do you think?

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You’d be surprised at which local shops might want to carry  your books!
Bev McCain, at DeBary Nursery has sold hundreds…yes, HUNDREDS…of mine!

25 thoughts on “How to Turn a Classroom Into A Tea Parlor – #BuildingLocalReadership

    • In an ideal world, I’d be doing a decent job of both. And I hope to get better with online marketing. I’ll never hit the big sales numbers locally, however, what I AM doing well with is building my Tribe. And that makes it all worthwhile. Plus, it’s just so much fun!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Go girl! What a fantastic niche you’ve created for yourself and your work 😀
    Its certainly something I will think about doing when I eventually move to the Highlands full time, right now, I don’t have the time to be doing such things (too busy working), but when I do drop my hours, I hope I will find people as welcoming as your supporters.

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    • Keep your eyes open in the meantime, Deb. There may be local shops and such that would like to carry your books now, and that would give you a jumpstart on the day when you have time to do some of these fun things. Good luck!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Even so, Olga, there are places that would enjoy having you visit and do a meet and greet, and signing. And each of those people you meet face to face is a potential member of your Tribe. When you have enough of those good folks reading and recommending your books, you’re home free. So every one of them is a precious resource. Hope you do give it a try. If so, let us know how it’s working for you. And good luck!

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  2. How many times have I told you ‘You Rock’ You’re such an inspiration Marsh. You’ve got the gift of gab, comedy and creativity. I see you’re not wasting any of those talents anywhere! Thanks for the tips. ❤

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    • You are SOOO nice, Deb! I’m creakin’ a bit in various arthritic joints, but still rockin’ on! *snort* I keep bringing up this local readership thingie, because I truly believe in it. I always sell a few books, I have a great time, I think the audience usually does, too, AND, I’m seeing familiar faces who tell me they’ve bought everything I’ve written and are waiting for more. THOSE are your tribe members, and the more of them who join in, the easier it is to get your books “out there.” They will buy them, read them, share them, and spread the word.

      Yesterday, I met two that I know have all of my books, and they were begging me to hurry up on the next one. Plus, I think I added at least two more. Now that doesn’t mean only 4 people are buying my books. But it means that there were four there who will buy everything I write, assuming I continue to make them happy, and will tell others about me. That’s pure gold. And I LOVE them, too. Nothing validates you more than talking face to face with someone who is so invested in your characters that they are worrying about their well-being. 😀

      BEST FEELING IN THE WORLD: WRITING BOOKS PEOPLE LOVE AND CREATING CHARACTERS THEY CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF!!! And face to face meetings let you know when that is starting to happen for you. I’m still walkin’ on air today. (When I’m not being busy ROCKING, hahaha.)

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      • Again I’m lol’ing you, you are amazing. And I’d have to agree with you Marsh, there’s is no greater feeling for a writer to have a reader who loves to talk to us about our books. I’ve had a few surprise incidents from some who I would’ve never thought read my books, and it was truly validating and an awesome feeling. You are certainly on your way to claiming your fame. xo 🙂

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  3. As I say, you are endlessly fascinating as well as resourceful, Marcia. You’re helping to make your own success, not sitting around waiting for something to happen. Good for you, lady! Enjoyed the photos you shared as well. Shows that you’re a visual person. 🙂

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    • Thanks, Linda…and I knew there was something I wanted to tell my husband. I’m “endlessly fascinating!” He’ll be STUNNED. But I have proof right here, in writing! (Hey, it’s on the internet. It must be true!)

      Hope you had a great weekend. I have to say, I’m worn out. Mark was off today for his birthday, so I was on the go for three days, something I’m SO not used to. Back to writing tomorrow, though, except for a trip to deliver some books to the DeBary Nursery, and a quick stop by Enterprise Heritage Museum. But that shouldn’t take too long, and I plan to write like t he WIND the rest of the day!

      Have a great week, Linda!

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      • Of course, it’s true…make your husband read it!

        Busy weekend for me, too. I’m putting the finishing touches on The Breadth of the Soul. Got sidelined by a migraine. I’ve fought the darn things all my life; I had my first one at nine years old. If the symptoms are gone by tomorrow, I can count myself lucky.

        Hope you had your chance to write like the wind! 🙂

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  4. Your advice is so spot on, Marcia. It makes much more sense to sell your book in a market where you have little to no competition from other authors.
    When Die Laughing was released, I went to comic book stores, Kiwanis Clubs, and even a hairdressing salon to sell the book. Why? There were no other novels to compete with.

    Though Amazon Facebook, Twitter, etc. etc, are a necessity, you’re competing with every author and their uncle.

    In anticipation of next month’s release of Pedal, I’m formulating a plan speak to speak with local bike shops to house the book and bike clubs to promote the book.

    As you’ve so aptly proven, thinking outside the box is crucial to success.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Louis! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and I think you’ve been doing all the right things. Yes, we have to sell on amazon, and we’ll never get the potential for those types of numbers locally, but you can’t EAT potential. And ideally, we should be doing both.

      I love that you found places to put your book that made sense, and I think your idea of speaking to local bike shops is a good one.

      For me, I just genuinely love meeting and greeting readers, and sharing things with them. So I get the benefit of having my books on display in some of these places, PLUS building a friendly relationship with readers who like my work. Add that to whatever’s going on with amazon at the time, and it really starts to make a difference. And these places are now starting to call me, rather than the other way around. Wow, what a difference THAT makes.

      And I like to think outside of the box, alongside of the box, UNDER the box, and on the next table OVER from the box. 😀 You never know where a good idea or a great contact is going to come from, so you have to be ready, and open to new ideas. At least, that’s how I see it, anyway. 🙂

      Best of luck with Pedal. It sounds like a very intriguing book, and I hope it really takes off for you. Be sure to keep us in the loop, so we can promote from here, too.

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    • Hi, Debby! I do think local sales impact your overall market. These folks start looking for more of what you’ve written, and buy them online, for instance. Or they tell their neighbors and friends. Or they suggest the books to their book club. Whatever. It all helps. And several folks I’ve met due to Swamp Ghosts have now read my other three books, and are waiting for the sequels. (I know, because they email me asking when the next Wake-Robin book will be out, and when I’m I going back to Riverbend to let them know what’s happening with the “other Painter brothers.”)

      Plus, like I say, it’s very rewarding for me to take an afternoon off from work, go talk about Florida wildlife, the St. Johns River basin, and how I wrote Swamp Ghosts. I enjoy sharing my years of wildlife knowledge with others, and I love talking books, in general, as well. I come home all inspired, and ready to write another chapter of my latest WIP. 😀 It’s a win-win.

      Thanks for stopping by, and taking the time to post today. Happy Holidays!

      Liked by 1 person

        • I do love what I do, especially that part where I sit and write for hours on end. Seriously. I would rather be writing than just about anything else in the world, and I’m so happy I FINALLY got around to it. Only took me 65 years to decide to pursue the dream I’ve had since I was FIVE! 😀 But, hey. Some of us are late bloomers, right? 😀 The important thing is that I DID finally get around to it, and I love writing, and meeting new people. The rest, I’ll deal with as best I can. Hopefully 2016 will see me getting better at marketing strategy. That’s my goal.

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  5. Thanks for the inspiration. This past year I started going to markets–craft shows and farmers’ markets–and I sold a lot of books face-to-face. Next year, my goal is to get my books into local shops. It’s little steps. I’ve tried to do everything at once, and I flop. So I tackle one small thing, then go on to the next idea. It’s difficult for me to find a balance between it all–kids, farm animals, writing, editing, marketing–but I’m getting better at it.

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    • Hi, Diane! Nice to see you here, today.

      I think you are exactly right about little steps. You can walk all the way around the world, if you do it one step at a time. And trying to do it all at once tends to cause ME to lose control, completely, and then I can’t do anything right.

      I don’t have decades to get my stories told, so I’d rather write than anything else, but I know I have to find marketing strategies that work for me. Doing these Meet & Greet style signings and readings is one way that I truly enjoy, compared to putting together all my social media stuff, and figuring out how to work amazon to the max, which I don’t. The only social media I love is blogging, but I know I have to get better at the rest. Until I do, building a local readership is a real help, and it reminds me that there’s a FACE behind every reader. It’s a feel-good form of promotion, and I like to think the folks who attend one of my presentations enjoy themselves, too.

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comments. Best of luck to you as you move forward with your plans, and happy holidays, as well!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, Marcia. You wrote, “…it reminds me that there’s a FACE behind every reader.” Yes! It is wonderful to see the faces, meet the people who read our books. In our heads, we may have an image of who we think our readers are, but until we meet them, we are never sure. It’s interesting to watch who picks which book to buy. Sometimes it’s obvious; other times it’s a complete surprise. I have a few genres–fantasy, romance, humour–and although I have an idea of the person who will read each of them, I’m often wrong. A man in his 40s bought my romance novel and shared with me that he loves reading Harlequin Romances. I find a lot women over the age of 60 love them too. My mother, now 87, who I never thought read much when I was younger, turned out to be a big romance reader. You’d never know it from her conservative upbringing and manner.

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        • I agree with you, Diane. Meeting our readers is fun, surprising, and educational. We can learn so much from them, and I’m always amazed at the variety of things in my books that stick with different readers. They each bring such a personal perspective along when they read, and you never know which of your words are going to resonate with any given reader.

          I have readers in all age groups, too, and men, as well. But I do think my demographic is largely female, probably between 35/40 and 55/65 or so. So it’s fun when you meet someone who falls outside that range. I had the sweetest 90-year old lady come up to me at my last event and grab my hand. She held it close to her and leaned over to whisper to me, “You are my new favorite writer.” And by golly, she talked about the characters in my books as though they had become friends with her, and she was worried about what might be coming up for them in the next books. (She’s read all four of my novels, so 2 in each series, and she’s invested.) 😀 She simply made my day!

          These face to face events work on every level for me, and I hope you’ll continue to enjoy doing them, as well. (I’ve been thinking about craft shows and farmer’s markets, too, as we have several very good ones locally. I’m just not ready to commit to every weekend for the farmer’s markets. But who knows? Tomorrow, I might decide it’s the perfect next step.) Keep us posted on how you are doing, and share pics any time you’d like. (You can email me about the best ways to do that.)

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