I spent twenty years as the lyricist for ShadowFox before I became a successful author of historical fiction and horror. During that time, I helped ShadowFox rise from an obscure local rock band to a regional sensation. This was accomplished by recording a string of hot records and then followed by endless touring to promote each release. This tried-and-true formula to success used by the music industry works equally well for writers of any genre.
There’s a real advantage in targeting the local market when an author starts his career. I began by writing historical fiction books about the famous Civil War regiment, the Bucktails. These riflemen came from my part of Pennsylvania and distinguished themselves in the Shenandoah Valley, at Antietam, at Fredericksburg, at Gettysburg, and in the Wilderness. Because of their fighting reputation, the Bucktails still have a large following that became a voracious reading audience. Along with my co-author, David Rimer, we produced a string of seven novels that traced the entire history of the regiment. We wrote the books for middle school kids but soon found that folks of all ages loved them. After each novel was released, I alerted local newspapers, who did excellent articles that provided widespread free promotion. Once the word was out, I then “hit the road” and did a string of book signings and Bucktail presentations at local schools, libraries, and historical societies. I also joined the Company I Bucktail reenactor group from Smethport, Pennsylvania, and began attending their events, including an annual reunion that brought together members from all over the state. Later, I traveled to Temple University and Shippensburg University to speak at Civil War conferences and was asked to do a presentation for the Pennsylvania Association of School Retirees Convention in Gettysburg. Appearances on three public broadcast television programs soon followed. By accepting those speaking engagements, like ShadowFox, I rose from an obscure local writer to a recognized regional one.
Also like any rock band, I found it necessary to explore different genres to keep my hard-won audience interested. Just as ShadowFox expanded their sound from straight boogie to blues and 80’s rock, I delved into the horror, French and Indian War, and Viking adventure fields. This became especially necessary because I attend a lot of the same local festivals, craft shows, gun shows, and town holiday events year after year. Notice, I go anywhere there’s a crowd with cash to spend. Actually, bookstore signings are often pretty futile considering all the other titles folks have to choose from there. Last year my best-selling day was at a Civil War reenactment held in small-town Angelica, New York, in conjunction with the Boy Scouts. Not only was a kids’ market there but also other reenactors and Civil War buffs who bought 48 books in one afternoon!
Here’s the formula I recommend if you want to promote your book like the rock ’n’ rockers do.
First, create a product that’s big on local appeal.
Second, go “play” it for anyone who will have you. Like starting bands perform at birthday parties, school gyms, and crummy clubs to get noticed, do book signings and presentations everywhere and anywhere. That includes being an after dinner speaker for scouts, civic clubs, and church groups on the “rubber chicken circuit.” Not only will you have a groovy time meeting many cool people, you’ll also hook hard-core fans that will look forward to whatever your pen produces next! Be accessible, be friendly, and be noticed!
Book Titles: The Bucktails: Perils on the Peninsula, The Bucktails at the Devil’s Den, The Bucktails’ Last Call, The Dead of Winter, Terror Time, Dark Haunted Day, Lurking in Pennsylvania, Ambush in the Alleghenies, Attack in the Alleghenies, This Enchanted Land: The Saga of Dane Wulfdin
Image courtesy of uzack01.