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Writers, Go Home!
Hold on there! Wait just a minute before you get your dander up and turn off the computer. Just take a moment to read, what I have to say!
I spoke recently to an old friend (from grade and high school) who attended one of my book signings in our hometown. Her enthusiasm for my books confirmed what I had already realized--what a valuable marketing resource a hometown is for the writer. I had the most wonderful teenage years that anyone could possibly have. My hometown was a small West Virginia town with many good friends, gobs of secrets to share and lots of parties after the ballgames.
As most writers know, you must market yourself. Even the best publisher won't market you extensively unless you have a title that has sold tens of thousands of copies. What to do? Be aggressive, assertive and just get out there and let your name be known. I knew this, but to go back to my hometown was a dreaded venture that I put off for years. Oh sure, I go back for class reunions and to visit my family, but putting the limelight on myself as an author was not something I looked forward to. I was very confident with author visits in areas where no one knew me, but going back home was a different matter.
Then one day my agent, Janet Moreland, called regarding my scheduled author tour in the Midwest. She said, "Shirley, have you been to your hometown since you became published?"
"Not a chance," I said. "They wouldn't want to hear what I have to say or have an interest in what I have written."
"Really," she replied. "Are you certain?"
Then I gave it some serious thought. It would be fun to go back home where I once taught children as a member of the Future Teachers of America. Maybe the kids in the grade school I attended as a young girl would like to hear me read my stories. (They did.)
That conversation with my agent led to one of the most successful author tours that I have made so far. The libraries in my hometown and the teachers in the areas where I attended school welcomed me with open arms and made me feel very special. I read to over 800 children/teachers and adults during that one-week visit to my hometown area. I'm not going to boast here how many books I signed and sold, but they have invited me back again in May of 2004.
Notice of my author visit was posted in the schools and libraries well in advance of the actual visit. The local newspapers came to interview me while I was there and published articles about my writing accomplishments. Wonderful West Virginia Magazine asked me to write an article, for which they paid me. That article subsequently led to many of their readers ordering my books. See the article at http://www.wonderfulwv.com and click on My Grandmother's Passion in the upper right corner.
Friends of the Library in the town where I was born, honored me at a reception. Seventy friends showed up, including many former neighbors that I had not seen in 30 years. Many members of my family came. Friends arrived prior to the sessions to have me autograph my books which they bought and even told me to look for their grandchildren, who would attend the school sessions. One very close friend from high school left me a note at the library and told me, "Don't dare move until I get there." One cousin, whom I hadn't seen in years, came and waited at the library all day for my evening session.
What fun it was to go back home again!
If you don't have a clue where to head as far as marketing yourself and your books, call your hometown school or library. Let them know that for a nominal fee you will visit the area, discuss or read your books and be available for a book signing. Or, volunteer to read to the children for free, as long as you can sell your books. Definitely take books with you so the children can purchase books after your session. The teachers will be happy to send a note home with the children before your visit informing the parents that your books will be for sale and that the child can bring money to school on the day of the session.
This is a very valuable area for marketing yourself. Be sure to ask the hosts to write you letters after the visits so you'll have much needed closure on your visits. Publishers like to read letters that applaud your marketing and performance abilities.
I guarantee that going back home will boost your self image and give you the confidence and desire to keep writing. Make that call today. Writers, go home!
Well known author and storyteller Shirley G. Webb has published many children's books, including her new book, Tales from the Keeper of the Myths, and a historical novel for Young Adults, Cherokee Love. Shirley is currently working on another historical novel, My Old and Only Love, the love story of Jefferson and Varina Davis.
Shirley's article, My Grandmother's Passion, was published in Wonderful West Virginia magazine, December, 2003.
Shirley is an active member of RWA and SCBWI.
Her Web site is: www.shirleygwebb.com/home.html