"Start Local With Your Books" - An Interview With Hattie Edmonds
“Start local”. This is more than simple sound advice, it’s almost sort of a philosophy. While we were previously writing on the Reedsy blog about how internet was obliterating territorial rights and boundaries, these obviously still exist to a certain extent. “Starting local” simply is a matter of acknowledging this fact.
The ability to meet people face to face or sit down for a coffee with them means your discussion will be longer remembered. The mere fact of sharing a location with someone creates a common interest, or even empathy.
Author publishing has been made possible by Amazon, a company that created a way for authors to (almost) directly have access to millions of readers across the world, at almost no cost. Kobo has also insisted on this vein, offering their Kobo Writing Life authors distribution in over 150 countries. As Joanna Penn sometimes puts it: “the world is our market”.
However, the step between “having access to millions of readers” and “actually reaching them” is an enormous one. One that can be shortened a lot, though, if those readers are close to you. Literally. This is the whole meaning behind “starting local”.
Today, we’re interviewing Hattie Edmonds, a West London author, who managed to invite her mayor to her first book launch, and have Waterstones throw her a second one. She knows all about making the local approach work for discoverability.
Hattie was the in-house writer at Comic Relief, working on projects with Richard Curtis, Armando Iannucci and Sacha Baron Cohen. Her debut novel Cinema Lumière is out now and available in print and ebook from Amazon, Waterstones and all other good bookshops (£7.99). She also blogs for the Huffington Post.
Hi Hattie, good to have you here. You self-published your first novel in September, Cinema Lumière, and were able to have the Mayor of Kensington and Chelsea at the launch. How did you manage that?!
It wasn’t intentional! I hadn’t yet grasped the very complicated (!) system that is Mail Chimp and ended up unwittingly inviting all sorts of unlikely people including my dentist, someone who once sanded my floorboards, and the Mayor (I still have no idea how I came to have the Mayor’s email address on my computer). Up shot was, she came (and was delightful), and because of that, a journalist from the Evening Standard pitched up, who in turn brought along Julian Temple, one of my favourite film directors. Result!
Self-publishing has really been enabled by the emergence of the digital distribution channels (i.e. Amazon). And it is often said that “digital” obliterates territorial barriers, that as an author, you can reach ‘the whole world’. But you decided to start local. What powered that decision?
I love book shops and can’t imagine a world without them. So I feel very strongly that they need our support. In return, they do us a great favour by increasing the visibility of our books – especially if you can wangle some space in their window display. If they stock your book, you will also get onto their website – and mailing list, which isn’t a bad thing either. Of course, Amazon is an amazing tool, but we can’t just have a world dominated by one great big faceless algorithm. Not fun.
How receptive would you say local bookshops are to local first-time authors? What is the best way to approach them?
They’re very receptive – providing the book has been well edited and looks like a traditionally published book (and is hopefully half decent too). I just walked in off the street, book in one hand and Advanced Information sheet (a press release for book shops) in another. I’d also prepared a little sales pitch and changed out of my standard writing uniform of tracky bums!
Apart from contacting local bookshops and libraries, what else can authors do to promote their books locally?
Think about the themes in your book and where else it might sell; in local cafes, gift shops, farmers markets, local B&B’s … Since Cinema Lumière is set partly in a one-seated cinema, I blagged wall space in three of the (vaguely local) picturehouses to put up posters. Don’t forget that you can do stuff in return – such as mentioning them on Facebook and Twitter and including them in blogs.
Do you think that the ‘local’ and the ‘global’ approach are conciliable? In other words, is it worth it to spend so much time promoting your book locally when your audience is much broader?
Personally, I do. I love my neighbourhood and the local community and it gives me so much pleasure to cycle round the various bookshops, cafes, B&B’s etc each Friday and see how many books they have sold and what sort of people bought them. Don’t forget - if your book is set near to you, locals are naturally going to be interested in it. And never forget the ripple effect!
Have you ever thought of using “ambassadors” (either friends/family, trusted readers, fans, or fellow authors) to promote your book the same way in other local places?
I think that if you are passionate about your book (and it’s a good read), friends/family/ trusted readers will automatically become ambassadors for it (at least you hope so!).
Are you part of a local author collective? If yes, can you tell us more about the benefits of being in a collective?
Are you planning on publishing a second book in 2015? If yes, what do you reckon you’ll do differently for the launch?
I am midway through novel number 2, so fingers crossed. Next time I would be quicker off the mark with the bloggers. This time about five came to the launch and were brilliant, tweeting about the book on their way home, then writing some great reviews. Next time, I want dozens of them there. No, make that hundreds - a seething mass of highly enthusiastic bloggers.
An easy one to finish: what has been the most rewarding moment in this whole adventure?
Probably the call from the manager at Waterstones, who rang me six days after I had pressed the book into her hand, saying that she loved it and that Waterstones would like to give me a whole window display as well as a second launch. I was nearly sick with excitement!
Thank you for your time, Hattie!
What do you personally think about the “local approach”? Has it worked for you, or do you prefer concentrating on discoverability channels with a broader target market? Do lets us know your thoughts in the comments below!