During the early stages of writing Blood Red, I thought it would be fun to set my apocalyptic horror novel in my own town. I had just finished a detective novel called The Naked Dame, and I had taken great pains to really nail the 1950s geography of Los Angeles, going so far as to acquire a street map of the time and actually traveling to downtown LA and walking around, getting a feel for the place, finding old landmarks, and so on. That fine level of street detail found its way, to a certain extent, into Blood Red, only this time, I’ve focused on Fort Collins, Colorado, the place I call home, the place I’m already quite familiar with. I drive these streets, and visit these businesses, and interact with these people nearly every day.
The setting happened quite naturally, but the more I became aware of what I was doing, the more fun it became: I’m writing about a horrific end-of-the-world scenario occurring right here in my back yard. Even early on, I was thinking how fun it would be to get the book out into the town so that other residents could laugh and recoil in horror at the notion of their city being overrun by monsters. (That’s a simplistic way of describing what actually happens in the novel, but I’ll leave it at that.) So I ended up with a book that has a firm sense of place, rooted in actual locations, particularly around the famed Old Town area of Fort Collins.
And now I’m facing the prospect of using that angle as a major selling point—at least locally.
Publishing, of course, is enduring its long slow evolution toward digital distribution, and I have no doubt that the majority of Blood Red copies I sell will be ebooks. And hey, that’s great. I will actually make more money per digital copy sold than per physical copy. That’s just the way of the world now. I frequently decry the reality of physical books becoming antiquated, a dusty relic of a soon-t0-be-bygone era. But there’s one place, at least, where the physical copy still reigns supreme, and that place is where the author organizes local events in bookstores or other venues, personally signing and talking about his or her book.
Every once in a while, I’ll be wandering the aisles of a local bookstore, and I will come upon an author hawking his book. In fact, this happened just last weekend while I browsed Barnes & Noble: A YA author was on hand with bookmarks, offering to sign and discuss her books at a small table. I watched her for a while. In the span of 15 minutes, several people stopped at her table, two had a copy of the book personalized and signed, and when there was no activity at the table, the author would wander around, handing out bookmarks, smiling, smiling. I imagine she sold a fair number of copies during her day at the store—time well spent to get the word out. (Marketing rule #1: It’s ALL time well spent.)
Obviously, I imagined myself in her place. I’ve never been terribly good at approaching people cold and just chatting, but for the sake of my creation, I can get over that. Plus, I have great, existing connections for designing and printing posters and standees and bookmarks and flyers. I’m definitely covered there. And I feel as if I have one more HUGE ace in the hole.
The local angle!
I’m going to be selling an apocalyptic horror novel set in the very town where these potential customers live. My mind is whirling with ideas for pumping up that attribute in my marketing materials. I also hope to influence the design of the cover art so that it includes local landmarks in the background. And I plan to extend my reach beyond just bookstores and into other venues, particularly businesses in Old Town that happen to be decimated in the novel. I imagine there’s a lot of fun to be had with this angle, and I’m curious if other authors have been able to take advantage of it in unique ways.
I’d love to hear from them. In the meantime, the planning continues.