Sell more books in your backyard with these local book publicity tips

When my third traditionally published book was released years ago, my local Barnes & Noble didn’t stock it because it was on a niche business topic – nonprofit publicity.

When I visited the store to talk about getting it on shelves there, the store representative said that wouldn’t be possible. There wouldn’t be enough demand for it, she said.

She changed her mind quickly, though, when I told her the local daily newspaper was interviewing me for an article on the topic and that I’d be speaking about it at a local conference.

That’s because she knew that the local publicity would help sell books.

Local book publicity tips

Would you like to sell more books locally, whether it’s through local stores or online retailers? Here are tips for getting the free local publicity that can help make that happen.

1. Research your local media outlets.

local book publicity 2In most areas, these include some or all of these:

  • Daily newspaper
  • Weekly community newspaper
  • City business journal
  • Radio stations
  • TV stations
  • Community bloggers

After you’ve identified your local media outlets, read/watch/listen to them so you can identify the publicity opportunities.

What kinds of articles do the daily and weekly newspapers use? Do the radio stations have talk shows with guests? Do the TV stations have early morning or noon news casts that feature in-studio interviews with community residents?

2. Determine where you fit in.

Studying how each media outlet handles news and information helps you figure out where you fit in at each.

For example, you might discover that anything related to your book’s topic is too “soft” for TV evening newscasts focused on hard news. But you might see that the local noon news broadcast often has a sit-down interview with a news anchor and someone in the community who’s doing something interesting – you.

And you’ll probably see that weekly newspapers cover just about everything. Honestly, they’re a gift to local authors because of that. They’re also widely read because they’re hyper-local.

3. Get contact information for the section or segment that makes the most sense.

Once you understand where you might fit in to the programming, determine who to contact at each. (Learn how to do that in my article, “How to build a killer book publicity media list.” Tip #3 is especially relevant.)

4. Figure out your “news hook” – your angle.

local book publicity 3Your “hook” is what makes you or your topic newsworthy or interesting.

A journalist needs a good reason to interview you. What can you talk about that will interest a diverse audience?

A journalist needs a good reason to interview you. What can you talk about that will interest a diverse audience?Click to tweet

If you’ve written a book about composting, for example, you might pitch the newspaper on an article about local businesses providing composting bins in office kitchens, or about how to compost at home.

A romance novelist might pitch an article on how to add romance to your staycation this summer. (Get more fiction news hook ideas in “Finding the hidden news hooks in your fiction.”)

Ideas like this can work for radio and TV talk shows, too.

For a community blogger or weekly paper, “local author writes book about X” or “local author sets new thriller in (your community’s name)” is often enough. That sometimes works for local TV talk shows, too. It depends on the size and sophistication of your market.

It’s rarely enough for a daily newspaper, though. (And bookstores pay attention to dailies, so if leveraging publicity to get store distribution is your goal, you want publicity in your daily paper.)

5. Propose your idea.

We call this a “pitch.” You’re pitching your article or segment idea or topic.

You do this via email. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • When pitching radio talk shows, offer to provide questions in advance for your host to ask.
  • With TV talk shows, you’ll need an interesting visual – a prop. If it’s a “local author writes book” segment, your book will be enough.

When I was a guest on “Home & Family” talking about how to get a good holiday gift from the man in your life, I brought the winning entries from my “Worst Gift from a Man” contest.

  • For daily newspapers and magazines, help the reporter by suggesting other people to interview for your article idea.
  • Understaffed weekly newspapers often welcome articles that are written for them. Offer to do that.

book publicity toolNeed a little help? I can give you shortcuts that save you time! There are templates and examples for media pitch letters and sample questions (and many other book publicity tools) in my Build Book Buzz Publicity Forms & Templates. Get your copy now.

You can do this!


I always advise authors to start their publicity efforts locally to get the experience needed before approaching national outlets. Starting locally also helps you figure out which hooks or angles resonate with the press.

Starting locally with book publicity helps you figure out which hooks or angles resonate with the press.Click to tweet

Local media outlets are also more forgiving of a pitch that isn’t as slick as what they might receive from a publicist with far more experience. If they see a germ of a good idea, they’re more likely to hang in there to determine if it will work.

Most importantly, they want a good story. If you’ve got something to say that’s interesting to your local community, you’ll get a fair shot at it.

The resulting visibility will help you sell more books in person and online, boost your profile locally, and open doors to other opportunities that can include public speaking and consulting. Give it a try!

Have you received local publicity? Tell us about it in a comment!

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  1. Great tips, Sandra. May I add a few more?

    –Don’t overlook newsletters for neighborhoods, condo associations and retirement communities. Also, nonprofit newsletters. Many of these groups also have special interest groups on Facebook.

    –USNPL.com is a free directory of daily and weekly newspapers in the U.S., with contact info.

    –If you get publicity from a media outlet, double back when you have a “follow up” story idea to share. They already know you, which will increase your chance for coverage.

  2. Thanks, Joan! I’ve got a link to USNPL in the article about building a media list in point 3, too. It’s a good starting point.


  3. It helps if your book has local relevance, as my “faction” book did — based on a real, sensational murder. It’s easier to get media attention, which opens the doors to bookstores, as Sandra noted. It also helps get the book in libraries; the entire county library system stocked 16 copies of my book after a woman read an article and asked if the library had it. My current book is only tangentially related to local phenomena, but I plan to use these, touting its local setting, suggesting similarities of characters to real persons (while gauging the possibility of lawsuits, which can be great publicity in themselves, though maybe too expensive), and alluding to real local events as the bases for some in the book. These methods can be used to land speaking engagements at Rotary and Kiwanis meetings, and to sell books at street fairs and festivals. If you live by a beach, you might want to try what I intend to: Set up a table with my books on a crowded beach. Got the idea at a recent jazz festival, where two guys were selling some other item from a table on the beach. I might get kicked off, but there’s no harm in trying — is there?

    1. Fantastic feedback, Bob. Thanks! Regarding your beach plans, you might want to check local regulations so you avoid getting hit with a fine.


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