I have been doing signings, readings, and presentations for several years now, and I’ve had by far the best results when what I was peddling had some sort of connection to the location where I appeared. I’ve noticed that attendees gravitate toward other authors’ books with local connections as well. This has been particularly true at author fairs and other mass-signing type events.
I have a couple of theories for why this is the case. I think, except for the rare voracious, super-passionate reader and authors, the general reading public doesn’t care so much about local authors. They’re more interested in the household names and those authors whose books appear at the top of the best-seller lists. So when they go to a mass book/author fair, they are going to be looking for some connection for making a purchase. Unless you happen to be a local author who has one of those household names, the connection is going to be a geographic connection. Since the attendee is likely to be a resident of the location hosting an event, your book about or taking place in or near that locale will probably fare better than your general thrillers, romances, etc.
Another reason book fair attendees look for some sort of connection, of which the geographic is going to most easily satisfy, is there are just too many books available. They want to purchase a book but aren’t able to purchase them all, so they gravitate towards books in which they again feel some connection. If you’re a relatively unknown author (which most of us are), you need something to hook in potential buyers when there’s so much competition. Having a book where readers can say, “Hey, I’ve been there,” foots the bill.
My first four books (two poetry, two novels) have no particular geographic connection. The two poetry books have no geographic identity, one novel is set in a generic unnamed Illinois town, and the third is based in Camanche, Iowa, but with no strong sense of that place. My fifth book, a novel, takes place in Camanche, Iowa, and the story is set off by an actual event, a tornado that occurred on June 3, 1860. I’ve had the most success, by far, with this book because Camanche is only about 1/2 hour away from where I currently live. It’s done really well at Camanche and Clinton County author fairs and other events.
My most recent book is a poetry book with pieces written while hiking northwest Illinois and east Iowa State Parks. It is too early to tell how well it’s going to do, but I know it’s local chances are greater, so much so that I’m focusing on local marketing rather than online. I was able to get it for sale at the Quad Cities Convention & Visitor Bureau gift shops, the first book I’ve even tried to get offered for sale there because I know that visitors most likely aren’t interested in local authors’ books, but they may be interested in books about the area their visiting. We’ll see.
Do you have any thoughts or experience with selling geographic-focused books in person? If so, I’d love to hear about them, so please comment.