In an earlier "Notes" post, A Niche Market Book Can Be a Plus: Why It Pays to Be 'Narrow-minded', a reader wrote the following comment about her struggle reaching her niche audience:
I was interested in your comment that your good friend won’t read your book. My best friend won’t read mine either. It hurts and I don’t understand why she won’t. I’m having a hard time reaching my niche for my latest book (Unfortunate Women) for birth mothers and adoptees and their families.
We knew that many indie authors face this challenge, so we asked a fellow BW member to respond. Niki Tschirgi has a similar audience for her newest book "Stretch-mark My Heart" about how she built her family through adoption, so we wanted to know what kinds of things were working for her.
Here's her reply...
Writing for a narrow niche audience can feel daunting, overwhelming, and discouraging. However, through both of my book launches, I have found it quite exciting, empowering, and satisfying. There are people out there who want to read your book. As I pound pavement, knock on doors, reach out, and fling my book out in to the world, I trust that I will connect with who I am supposed to connect with as long as I do my part. What’s that? Leave no stone unturned and have patience with the process. Relationship and adding value to others are, in my humble opinion, the key to lasting and worthwhile success.
My first book was about growing up in Alaska—in the 1980’s—by a literary “nobody” who didn’t even live in Alaska anymore. My second book chronicles our adoption story through foster care in America. Both books are specific and by an unknown self-published author. How was I going to reach my niche audience? By taking my books to the people.
Local & Grassroots is a Very Good Place to Start
Let’s talk local. Grassroots, local, broad efforts can really add up when it comes to marketing your book. My vision has always been right here, right now in my city. Then my state—then the nation—then the world! Does your city have local craft fairs or farmers markets? What about city events or festivals? Check with libraries, schools, rotary clubs, book clubs, support groups, and even your chamber of commerce.
Regardless of how many books you sell, setting up a table at a craft fair, market, city event, or giving an author talk at a library or school, gets your name out there. I have done numerous high school craft fairs in the fall and spring. You might think with a book about Alaska or adoption from an unknown author, the effort would be fruitless. But, it has more than paid off in book sales, promotion, bookings, and networking. Author talks at libraries can cast a wide net to draw in people from all areas of your city. Library talks are among my favorites because people who attend are book lovers. Getting my book into the hands of readers, however that may be, is my goal. My books are also available to borrow at my local libraries. Yes, I do sell books at my library author talks, but it’s important for me that everyone has access.
Events & Organizations Relevant to Your Niche Audience
Another great way to get the word about your book is through events and organizations related to your niche audience. For my second book, “Stretch-mark My Heart”, I had already been building relationships with organizations involved with adoption. Before my book was published, a local non-profit asked me to be their keynote speaker at a fundraiser breakfast, and I pre-sold my book with 100% of the profits going back to the organization. Through this event, not only did I end up getting my book into the hands of local judges and commissioners, but I also made strong networking contacts for future events, all while supporting a cause I believe in.
Not long after my book was published, someone invited me to an open house at our local home for boys in foster care. That visit had me placing my book in the hands of each of the directors. They in turn asked me to write for their next quarterly newsletter, and information about my book went out to 3,000 local families. Getting out in the community often has a ripple effect.
Small Steps Add Up
No event is too small—no crowd is too small. Partnering with relevant organizations builds relationships and gives you a platform to sell more than just your book(s). Because my second book is geared toward understanding kids in foster care, I have the opportunity to educate my community on how they can make a difference. One library event rallied someone to collect clothing, and another sparked an attendee to partner with a non-profit to create welcome boxes for youth in foster care. My events aren’t just about book promotion. They are about adding value to my community and connecting. Now, I always share information about 4-6 local organizations that help children in foster care and hand out their brochures. Cross-pollination at work for the neediest kids in our city.
Being a local author means being intentional. Many indie bookstores will consign your book and even local boutiques will carry hometown authors. We have to ask ourselves, “How do I incorporate my book into the things I am already doing.” For example, I was invited to go on a girl’s weekend to Arizona, so I called up Barnes and Noble there and inquired about doing a book signing, and they said "yes"! Sometimes this works out, and sometimes it doesn't.* But, as long as I continue to be intentional, I can seize such opportunities. Carry your business cards and books with you. Once while shopping at a boutique, a friend introduced me to someone who was interested in my book. She bought it right then and there. I was prepared!
*[Note: You need to have a buy back option and be in the system for Barnes and Noble to carry your books or order them for a book signing. If you are doing consignment with an indie store, that is not an issue but for national chains, you need the 100% buy back program.]
The Same Applies to National Outreach
In August, my husband and I are booked to be a vendor at the NACAC (National American Council on Adoptable Children) conference in St. Paul, Minnesota. I googled local and national adoption conferences and found one occurring exactly when we would be three hours away in Wisconsin for our family vacation. When I travel I always think, “How can I get my book to this part of America?” Sometimes it's a bookstore signing and sometimes it's consignment selling. This time, a National Adoption Conference. What better way to get my book out there then to vend to a whole crowd of people who are in my niche audience? The adoption niche.
Here are a few resources I recommend.
https://readersfavorite.com/book-reviews.htm (free reviews...the wait time can be months, but worth it)
https://www.indiebound.org/ (be sure your books are also listed here)
Hometown Reads (great way to be discovered/connect with your local community) See also BW post: "Local Author Groups: An Important Indie Resource"
What about you? Do you have any good suggestions that can help other indie authors connect with their niche audience? We can all benefit from each other's experience. Leave your comments and/or questions below this post. We'd love to hear from you!
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Niki Breeser Tschirgi, author and stay-at-home mom, resides in Spokane, Washington, with her husband and six adopted kids (five still at home, ages eight through eighteen, all boys). Niki’s first book, Growing Up Alaska is a memoir about her crazy, freezing childhood in the interior of Alaska. Niki’s second book, Stretch-mark My Heart, shares her family’s adoption journey through the US foster care system. To connect with Niki, follow her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/growingupalaska or Twitter @nikitschirgi and visit her website: http://www.growingupalaska.net/.