Monday, November 2, 2009

Creative Marketing

Authors normally have a ready market in book stores. My local independent book store, Snow Goose, in Stanwood, WA willingly carries my books, Rosemount and McClellan’s Bluff. A number of times I have been invited to be a guest author with a nicely arranged table set up for me in a convenient location in the store. What a blessing! I appreciate their recognition and support.

Another splendid opportunity has opened up locally, Brindles Marketplace. Brindles at the Camano Commons, has been a special-interest store and more recently a restaurant, and has now invited local artists, and others with crafts, quilts, baked goods, fresh produce, cheeses, etc., to sell their goods during the holiday season. Sounds like a good place for books to me! I’ve rented three shelves for my books. My husband Bruce created a poster for each book, giving my work a special look in this creative market. Shopping for a unique gift at Brindles not only saves a trip to a distant mall, but it supports local vendors. A win-win for the community.

In addition to writing fiction, I also write destination articles, mainly for RV and travel magazines, and also articles of interest to homeowners. We combine research with camping trips, using our truck and camper, making the trips a vacation, fodder for articles, photographic opportunities for Bruce, and book marketing possibilities for me.

Not every town has a book store, but in our travels to rural areas, we’ve found ready markets in drug stores. Many small-town drug stores actually have a book section and are eager for new material.

Gift stores is another potential market. Often, when a gift store buys my books, I also give them book holders, a way to show off my products to their best advantage.

Since my books have a western flavor, I’ve also found interest at feed stores, western apparel and tack shops.

Many of our trips take us to eastern Washington and Oregon. We like the atmosphere of wide open country, or remote mountain landscapes. Stopping at small towns along the way is a wonderful way to appreciate the area, to get a feel for how the locals live. Most often, we find their lives run at a much slower pace–a nice change for us.

These trips are our vacation, time off for Bruce from his job and time off for me from writing and from my volunteer job with the Red Cross. If I’m wearing sweats or shorts, I don’t let that stop me from calling on a potential customer. I refuse to make these calls a dressy event–I wouldn’t call that a vacation. I’ve never had a store owner look askance at my apparel. Sometimes I’ll mention that we’re camping in the area and they’re pleased to share their part of the country and suggest places of interest to visit. Often, they’ve given me tips on who else might be interested in my books.

It’s common for me to sell 100 or more books on a two-week vacation, all accomplished at a very casual pace. I’ve signed my books in advance and adorned them with appropriate stickers, such as "Signed by Author," "Local Author" and McClellan’s Bluff’s "EPIC Award Winner." Store owners love stickers.

One advantage of non-book store markets is that most often they pay up front, rather than on consignment. In distant towns, bookstores will often pay up front, too, knowing that we won’t be stopping by frequently.

Locally, I’ve participated in fairs or other events. Sometimes I’ve shared space with another writer. That way, we can split the booth cost and we have each other for company. For these events, we sell each others’ books with as much enthusiasm as we sell our own.
I know there’s a huge market on-line, but I haven’t had that much success with on-line sales. My books are registered on many sites, I have a website and this blog. E-books are catching on so that market might open up more on-line sales.

In the meantime, I keep watching for opportunities to reach customers in unique ways. I’d welcome comments about how creative marketing has worked for others, either as a seller or a buyer.


Julie said...

Lots of good suggestions, Mary. Also, it sounds as if you and your husband have such a good time with this. My husband, too, is a photographer and he comes along to my readings, setting up the painting that is on the covery of my book and several photographs that he took that are also in my book. I'm going to try some of your ideas! Thanks!


Eunice Boeve said...

Hi Mary,
Sounds like fun. Selling a 100 books in that manner is quite impressive. Good for you and thanks for telling us about it, for we all need all the help we can get. Eunice Boeve