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How to Market Locally

Kersti Niebruegge, author of debut 2014 novel MISTAKE, WISCONSIN, shares how borrowing a marketing tip from musicians—play a local gig—can help writers.

Play local gigs—that’s been my marketing mantra since publishing my first book, Mistake, Wisconsin, last December. I didn’t have any built-in fan base on which to launch the book, and I certainly didn’t have a PR guru creating a “hashtag mashup city” on my behalf. I was a completely unknown author, unless you count annual holiday letters like my 2010 classic about how I spent the year re-watching every episode of Wings (Cheers and Frasier get all the glory, but I love those Nantucket weirdos).

GIVEAWAY: Kersti is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Adrienne has won this giveaway.


Column by Kersti Niebruegge, author of MISTAKE, WISCONSIN
(December 2014, Kerstie Niebruegge), a satire about the Northwoods.

She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree
in journalism, and has worked for BBC Worldwide and Conan on TBS.
Kersti currently lives in New York City where she works for NBC’s Late
Night with Seth Meyers. You can contact her on Twitter, Facebook, or her website.

Besides my family and friends, I had to figure out a way to build an audience from scratch. Goodreads giveaways were helpful, but I needed something to find readers interested in a satire about a fictional small town in Wisconsin. Ugh, but that sounded like a lot of boring work. At this point, my mind redirected its energy into watching concert videos online, because that was a lot more fun.

While clicking repeat way too many times on a song I liked, I noticed a parallel to the way that unknown musicians launch careers by playing any local gig regardless of size, location, or sobriety of patrons. I needed to play the book equivalent of local gigs to market Mistake, Wisconsin. But what was that? New York City seemed like a tough crowd for a story about a Midwestern town obsessed with musky fishing, especially since most New Yorkers had probably never heard of a musky. In one of those light bulb moments, I realized my local gigs were really in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin: land of beer, cheese, and books. Yes, books! Little Free Libraries, the delightful “take a book, leave a book” boxes in communities across the world, began in northwest Wisconsin. Wisconsinites who visited their neighborhood Little Free Library would be a receptive group of readers who would probably share the book with friends if they liked it. Little Free Libraries in the Badger State became my local gigs—they were the perfect venue for reaching an audience that would be interested in a story about the Northwoods.

I traveled to Wisconsin twice this year to donate copies of Mistake, Wisconsin to Little Free Libraries across the state. I left a signed bookmark in each book, and posted photos online of the libraries and my travels. It’s been a fun way to meet library stewards, neighbors, and some very enthusiastic dogs that have barked up a storm of rave reviews about the book’s chipmunk jokes. It’s also been great to promote the Little Free Library mission of literacy and community in its birthplace. I’ll return to Wisconsin at the end of the summer to finish the third and final leg of my Little Free Library book tour.

Building a marketing strategy around Little Free Libraries in Wisconsin was a natural fit for a story about small town life in that state. My next book is set in New York, so I need to figure out where I can play local gigs when it’s published in 2016. I guess I’ll just have to go back to wasting time, I mean brainstorming, while watching more concert videos online.

GIVEAWAY: Kersti is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Adrienne has won this giveaway.


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