In comparison to marketing your books, writing them almost seems easy. Or if not easy, at least more concrete and rewarding. Marketing often feels like throwing darts at a board while wearing a blindfold. Added to that, one of the more difficult things for indie authors to achieve is finding their books on the shelves at actual bookstores. But I have a potential solution for that: think local for book marketing.
Despite having written three non-fiction books for lawyers and having some moderate success in marketing them to my audience, I was starting all over when it came time to promote my debut dark fantasy novel, Vulcan Rising, which I’ve written under the pen name J. W. Judge. (For more about the novel’s unsettling origin story, go here).
I reached out to ten or more podcasters about being a guest on their show. I didn’t receive a response from any of them. I emailed and DMed dozens or book bloggers and Instagram book reviewers. I heard back from only a couple. It was discouraging. I know I’ve written a good book. Everyone who’s read it has had good things to say. But I couldn’t get any traction in marketing it. It felt like I was about to birth this thing into the void when it releases on June 1. It wasn’t until I started to think local for my book marketing that I found some success.
Think Local for Your Book Marketing Needs
To start with, I’ve done all the right things. I have set up distribution as widely as I can so that Vulcan Rising is available in as many stores as possible. I’m doing some content marketing on this blog and have set up an author website so that when people search for me or the book, there are search results to be had. But when it came to getting word out about the book, I just wasn’t having any success.
Then I had an idea. As I was checking in on which retailers were already carrying the book, I saw it listed on Indie Bound. This was the catalyst for my new marketing strategy. I searched Indie Bound’s directory for all the independent booksellers within 100 miles of me, which includes the three of the four largest cities in Alabama: Birmingham, Montgomery, and Huntsville.
I went to the websites or Facebook pages for each of them in search of their email addresses or contact pages. I sent them this message:
I’m a lawyer in Birmingham, and I’ve written a dark fantasy novel (the first in a trilogy) that is set in Birmingham. It’s available through Ingram. I wanted to reach out about seeing if you’d be interested in carrying the book in your store. I’d be glad to send you an advance copy for you to read.
Logline: Even the most deeply buried past can find its way back to you.
Summary: Agatha and Joseph are raising a family in the quiet suburbs south of Birmingham. But the secrets of Agatha’s past threaten to expose themselves after Joseph investigates a noise he hears in the middle of the night and stumbles upon a world that he did not even know existed.
When their son Thomas is kidnapped, Joseph and Agatha have to rely on each other to figure out why he was taken and how to get him back, whatever the cost. Along the way, Agatha discovers to her horror that even her most deeply buried secrets are finding their way back to her. And the consequences are inescapable.
Vulcan Rising is the first book in The Zauberi Chronicles trilogy. It is a work of contemporary/dark fantasy where Stephen King’s The Institute meets Brandon Sanderson’s Steelheart.
About the Author: I am a lawyer by day and a writer in the wee morning hours before the sun breaks the horizon. Although I have authored three non-fiction books (under my given name), Vulcan Rising is my debut novel.
Publisher: Scarlet Oak Press
Publication Date: June 1, 2021 in e-book (9781733665599), paperback (9781733665582), and hard cover (9781954974005) formats.J. W. Judge
Of the dozen stores I reached out to, four responded within a couple of days. Three had placed pre-orders for the book already, and two of them wanted to talk about doing author events during the summer.
I’m not expecting a huge payoff from any of that. But it starts the ball rolling. Maybe it leads to some sales and some word of mouth marketing. Or maybe it just fizzles. Who knows? But it felt good to have a couple of small successes.
Now the book is going to be sold in stores that it otherwise wouldn’t have. All because I asked. Based on the success there, I’m going to expand the geographical reach of reaching out to more stores. But more importantly, I’m going to make sure I think local for my book marketing.