5 easy and effective ways to start locally with book marketing

Start locally with book marketing to gain experience, get practice, and fine-tune your messages while snagging a few successes, too.

One of the best ways to stay motivated while marketing your book is to secure a small victory or two when you introduce your book to the world.

That’s why I encourage many authors to start locally with their book marketing.

It’s easier to get a media interview or speaking invitation in your own community than it is regionally or nationally, so you get that “win” sooner.

You don’t want to limit your book marketing to a local audience, of course (unless it’s on a local topic that lacks broad appeal). But there’s plenty of time to expand your promotion and marketing outside your home base after you start locally.

Why you want to start locally

Here’s why I encourage local book marketing:

  • Local media outlets — daily and weekly newspapers plus TV and radio talk shows — are often receptive to talking with local authors about their books.
  • Starting locally lets you discover which of your publicity angles and interview messages resonate with local media outlets and which fall flat. With some local experience to your credit, you can use what worked when expanding outward to larger, less “hometown-writer-makes-good” markets and toss out those that didn’t work.
  • You can can leverage local connections and relationships to uncover and secure marketing opportunities.
  • You get valuable practice and experience before hitting the big stage — the national scene.

5 ways you can start locally

How can you start locally to market your book? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Contact local media outlets to talk about the story behind your book.

Your hometown press often appreciates a good “local resident writes new book” story, especially the TV network affiliates with local talk shows. If you live in a major market, you aren’t likely to get daily newspaper or TV talk show coverage, but don’t overlook neighborhood/community weekly newspapers and regional bloggers covering a subset of the city.

Make sure you contact the right individual at each outlet. See point 3, “Start local,” in “How to build a killer book publicity media list.

Need help writing that “pitch” letter that gets you local media interviews? Get a fill-in-the-blanks template and actual pitch letter sample in Build Book Buzz Publicity Forms & Templates.

As with other book marketing activities, writing a book that is clearly high-quality will give you an edge over another local author who took the “I didn’t spend anything to write/edit/publish my book” route.

2. Host a presentation and book signing at a venue with a connection to your book’s topic.

Marketing is so much easier when you go to your audience instead of trying to bring them to you. Bookstores are one place to do that, but another equally good (if not better!) option is a venue with a direct connection to your book’s content.

Marketing is so much easier when you go to your audience instead of trying to bring them to you.Click to tweet

Where might that be? Options might seem more obvious for nonfiction titles. For example:

  • Written a book on how to be more organized? Lead a short instructional workshop at stores that sell products that help people do that. How about Bed Bath & Beyond, Home Depot, and Staples?
  • A parenting book author can host a discussion at a new parents Meetup.
  • The produce section of the supermarket makes a great backdrop for a cooking demonstration by the author of a book on how to select and prepare healthier meal options.

Do you write fiction? Your book’s settings, storylines, and character professions will inspire you.

  • A local fitness center is the perfect book event setting for a romance novel about a relationship that started at an extreme fitness competition.
  • Is a hair stylist the star of your book? Plan a gathering at your salon and other in your community.
  • An art gallery or museum is an excellent backdrop for a thriller that centers around an art heist..

3. Plan a “meet the authors” night with other local authors at a bookstore or library.

There’s power in numbers. When all participants promote the event, you all benefit from a larger turnout than any of you can generate on your own.

Create an interactive event that allows each author to showcase their book with a brief presentation and take audience questions.

4. Collaborate with a nonprofit.

Consumers respond well to promotions that benefit a cause they care about. Get increased visibility while doing good by donating all or a percentage of profits to your favorite local charity for a limited time.

For maximum impact (and manageability), use an event approach so you benefit from the organization’s event-marketing muscle. One example: The author of a cozy mystery involving cats can collaborate with the local animal shelter to host a book presentation and signing and donate proceeds to the organization.

5. Lead a workshop on how to write and publish a book.

Many communities have adult learning centers or community classrooms that offer one-session classes taught by locals to locals. (Here’s the one where I live.)

You can’t teach authors-to-be everything they need to know in 90 minutes, but you can answer some of the beginner questions you had when you decided there was a book in you.

How I started locally

I was an inexperienced speaker when I started getting local invitations to speak about the topic of my first book, the lighter side of gender differences. Most came without a specific topic request  — “You decide!” they’d say.

One of the first came from an acquaintance who asked me to speak to the women’s group at her country club. I accepted the invitation on the condition that she provide honest feedback on my presentation.

That was a brave move on my part because I knew she wasn’t going to tell me everything was “great!”

And it wasn’t.

Our follow-up conversation was as humbling as it was productive. She helped me improve both my content and presentation style. I took her feedback seriously, kept working to improve, and was soon flying to paid speaking engagements in other parts of the country.

Those lucrative speaking opportunities wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t figured out what worked and what didn’t locally first.

Start locally with practice, practice, practice

Practice makes perfect. Get that practice locally with the media and in-person audiences.

Expect to learn from your local experiences. When you do, you’ll be better prepared to expand beyond your region with messages that resonate with your readers.

What have you done to market your book locally — or what will you do? Tell us in a comment. 

(Editor’s note: This article was first published in November 2017. It has been updated and expanded.)

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  1. I always start with a local launch. I rent a hall – a cheap one – and have goodies and coffee, bookmarks to give out, and do a reading. That’s when I sell most of my paper books. I am always lifted up by the response. It’s a great boost after so much solitary work.

    1. That’s so smart, Yvonne! What kind of a turnout do you usually get? And are your books in a series?


  2. Sandy, so far prior to my publication, I rented a table, placed a large placard of my book cover and handed out leaflets regarding my book at an art and craft show. (I was the only guy) I carry the leaflets with me wherever I go: restaurants, barber shop, doctors office, you name it. In return I get names and emails for my marketing program. Also, I’m able to better determine my target audience. Thanks for another good post. Your gold.

    1. Jim, I love how you use this face-to-face marketing to figure out your target audience. Genius!

      Thanks for sharing,

  3. Thank you for the useful post, Sandra. I’ve considered asking my local secondary school about the possibility of talking to their students about the writing Nd publishing business, but haven’t got the courage up yet.
    A couple of years ago, I did an interview on a local radio station that operates each year for a few weeks at the local Arts Festival.

    1. Go for it, Vivienne! What do you have to lose? The worst that happens is that they say, “No, thanks.” You can handle that, right?

      Congrats on the radio interview. I hope that was fun.


  4. I sent a standard press release to my local paper when the first book in my humorous mystery series was released in 2010. They never contacted me so three months later I stopped at their office with a basket containing my book, a media package, and two dozen cookies in the shape of a crime scene chalk outline. I left it with the receptionist and 15 minutes later they called and asked for an interview, complete with photos. In the past dozen years, they’ve reviewed every book I’ve released. The power of the personal touch! Thanks for a great checklist.

    1. I LOVE this Cindy! So smart! When I worked for what was then the world’s largest PR firm, we sent press kits with bike horns for a Schwinn bikes promotion. It made telephone follow up easy — everyone remembered and loved the horns! Anthing edible probably wouldn’t fly today, unfortunately. The anti-media sentiment coming out of the previous presidential administration would make reporters (rightfully) fear your clever cookies contained poison.

      And by the way, I suspect they wouldn’t keep giving you coverage if your books weren’t good and you weren’t a good interview that first time, too. Your goodie basket PLUS how you handled yourself helped you create long-term relationships there with people who want to see you succeed. That’s just what you want. Congratulations!


    1. Lindsey, both topics are in the news constantly (unfortunately, and often together, as you know), so one tactic you might want to consider is op-eds — opinion essays. I’d recommend writing a couple and hanging onto them until the next tragedy makes news, then customizing one for the situation and pushing it out there quickly. Here’s more on writing op-eds: https://buildbookbuzz.com/how-write-oped-column-or-essay/

      Good luck, no matter what you do! I’m sure your book has important messages.


  5. When I hear local book marketing I always feel overwhelmed and never know when/if I should start.
    So I live in Istanbul and I write romcom novels in English, which are set in the States and are about American characters. 🙂
    Of course, there are tons of people who speak English and read in English, but I don’t know where to start. 🙂

    1. Pinar, the article offers advice on *where* to start. As for when, start as soon as people can buy it. I’m not familiar with the Istanbul market, though. Do you speak Turkish? I would think that would influence whether or not these avenues are available to you. Is there a market there for the books you write, or do you sell mostly to American readers?


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