The Limitations of being a Local Author

It’s been over two years since I began promoting my first book, Modern Persuasion. In that time I’ve learned a lot about marketing and promotion. I’ve learned I need to be wearing my author hat when I promote my books at events, I can’t be both a librarian and an author. I’ve learned my reach is far greater with digital marketing. I’ve learned about doing events, getting reviews, building a mailing list, and things I don’t think I’ve even realized that I’ve learned yet. The one most interesting lessons have been that of what it means to be a Local Author when it comes to promotion.

My Local Author Scene

For the sake of this post, I’m going to focus on events in the towns surrounding where I live in Massachusetts. Technically, when I’m in Miami for events, I could be called a local author, but I’m only there once a year. The problem I’m going to write about doesn’t seem to happen when I’m in Miami and why will be clear by the end of this post.

I attended events before my book came out. In fact, I organized a few as a librarian. I typically did this to support other authors or to help Mill Pages promote our issue. I was more interested in the authors surrounding me than I was in much else. I liked meeting and getting to know my fellow authors. I can speak, with some authority, about what many of them have written and helped promote them. I quickly realized that I was seeing the same people attend as I had seen at all book events for the past six years I had lived in town. Not only were the attendees the same, but many of the authors were promoting the same book they had been promoting for years. People who came to the events were coming to support their friends and family, not find other authors.

Two things happened at about the same time that helped me realize the problem. I’ll call it Local Reader Fatigue. The first thing that happened was a well known local resident decided to plan a big book fair for the city we lived in. Within a few months, he canceled it and switched to trying to create a literary fan base for future events. The second thing that happened had to do with ongoing conversations with other local writers about the low number of readers in the world. This was a point of view I don’t agree with, but one primary difference in my approach to finding readers is digital engagement over physical.

Local Reader Fatigue is the idea that you can only promote to local people for so long before they stop paying attention. Imagine a local author who wrote one book ten years ago and continues to promote that book (and nothing else) at events. All his friends and family have heard him talk about the book. They’ve all bought the book. They’ve all heard him read from the book. They have no reason to come to the event other than to show support. They don’t come to see other authors at events because they’re your supportive friends and family. Imagine a local reader who has been to a ton of events, but is tired of seeing the same people talk about the same books over and over. Imagine having to listen to an author just read from their book, the same passage over and over. Why are you going to come to another event just to see the same authors and hear the same readings?

This is the dilemma of a local author and why I’m growing cautious about participating in events. I don’t want to contribute to Local Reader Fatigue. Here are the times I go to local book events:

  1. When I have something new to promote.
  2. When I’ve had success at previous years at the event (if it’s an annual event).
  3. When it’s a community I’ve never been to events in (or rarely at events).
  4. When I know people are coming to buy books.

There have been some events and circumstances that I’ve found more successful than others. A bunch of local authors, for two years, had a table at a local art event. We would have 15-20 authors with books on the table and those of us attending helped sell books by those not there. We did well because we were far less expansive than the art. On the other hand, I find it difficult to sell at farmer’s markets. I don’t find people are all that interested in books at this type of event.

I find I do better at events when I’m selling my own books and can talk to readers. Recently my friend and I did an event together and we gave away dates with some heroes from our books. It was fun and people really liked them.

I think the key is to know the reader community and find groups that can help you promote your books to those people.  What about your local reader community? If you’re an author, have you felt the effect of Local Reader Fatigue? Are you a local reader who is tired of the same authors? What could local authors do to regain your interest?

Our own Sara Marks is a self-published author. She primarily writes chick lit and contemporary romance books. In 2017 she decided to focus her efforts on self-publishing over traditional publishing. This monthly series is about her experiences publishing and promoting her own books. You can learn more about her and her books on her webpage.

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