Start Locally - Grow Nationally


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Most self-publishers don't have the budget to be all things to all people in all places. There is nothing wrong with starting in your immediate area, then letting things ripple out from there.

I say this with two caveats: Don't overlook sending galleys to the major national reviewers initially (if you miss this window of opportunity, it slams shut permanently); and line up a few national wholesalers/distributors—you never know when your local promotion will catch fire in a big way, and you need to be ready.

Because it wasn't practical for Brenda Ponichtera to extend her efforts financially much beyond her own region, she focused on local bookstores, media, and signings for Quick & Healthy, her book of recipes and ideas for people who don't have time to cook healthy meals. Instead of being a detriment, this approach proved to be beneficial because it helped her establish credibility with chains such as Barnes & Noble and Waldenbooks. Having seen how successful her promotion was in the Northwest, they were more receptive to carrying books nationally. Apparently the strategy worked in spades. Brenda has two books out and has sold more than 600,000 copies.

Richard Cote is a South Carolina author/publisher who launched Mary's World: Love, War and Family Ties in Nineteenth-century Charleston in November of 2000. His strategy for this scholarly biography was to use concentric circles, starting out where it was cheap and easy. That meant phase one covered a 25-mile radius around Charleston, South Carolina. He wanted to totally saturate sales in the hometown market—and take advantage of possible Christmas sales—so he set out to personally stock every major Charleston bookseller in the first two days after the book arrived.

Phase two took in coastal South Carolina, while phase three encompassed the rest of the state. From there he moved to all of the former Confederate States of America, and finally to the whole nation. And when you're taking the “big fish in a little pond" approach, don't overlook regional magazines for your area, such as Los Angeles Magazine, Palm Beach Life, and New York magazine. Many give special feature consideration to local authors.

Why not take the “big fish in a little pond" approach at first, then let your marketing efforts ripple out wider and wider? It can make promotion and sales much more manageable.

Local bookstore strategies

Richard used four strategies I feel are brilliant:

1. Although he had called and gotten initial stocking orders over the phone, he automatically arrived with a larger order. Since the book has lots of visual and emotional appeal, seldom did he have to take back any inventory.

2. He signed every book and had them affix a “Signed by Author" sticker to each one.

3. He asked that the books be displayed in three different locations in the store: under “New Arrivals, " in the “Local Author" section, and by the cash register.

4. He gave each store two 11" x 17" color mini-posters and suggested one be taped on the front door. Most agreed. (These were copies of the book's cover and were made for $1.79 each at Office Depot. )

©Copyright 2005 Marilyn Ross

Marilyn and Tom Ross are the coauthors of 13 books including the best-selling Complete Guide to Self-Publishing and the award-winning Jump Start Your Book Sales. Through phone consultations and ongoing coaching/mentoring, Marilyn empowers authors and self-publishers to realize their dreams. She can be reached at 719-395-8659 or

Visit for free meaty information on writing, self-publishing, and book marketing strategies.


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