How Self-Published Authors Found Success by Staying Local

By Devon Glenn Comment

Self-published authors don’t have to sell millions of books to be successful.

By covering topics of local interest and cultivating a readership that’s close to home, they can handle their own marketing and distribution – and maybe even quit their 9-to-5s.

Below, we’ve interviewed two authors in the New York City area who have made it work.

Jessica Vander Salm is making tracks with her Brooklyn-themed children’s app, Maid Marian Muffins.   The app “is a light-hearted tale of a muffin fan’s journey from mere muffin admirer to Brooklyn baking sensation,” said the author.

Vander Salm, who is an elementary school teacher by day, was unable to find the perfect fresh-baked muffin in her neighborhood – so she decided to bake her own.  After perfecting her recipes, Vander Salm started selling muffins off the back of her bicycle.  She enjoyed the process so much that she decided to write a children’s story based on her adventures.

Vander Salm and her brother Jamie Vander Salm collaborated with New Jersey artist Ana Banamya on a storybook app with beautiful illustrations and a self-record mechanism. Maid Marian Muffins was met with rave reviews from critics and kids alike (Watch a video review of the app here).  To help sell her books, the author passes out flyers advertising the app while she sells her muffins.  If you hear a bell outside, that might be her.

Craig McManus is the resident psychic medium of the seaside resort of Cape May, New Jersey. His self-published book series, The Ghosts of Cape May, grew from a weekly column in the local paper, Exit Zero. Drawing from his experience in the wine business, McManus was able to write, format, print and distribute the books on his own. With over 30,000 paperbacks sold, McManus’ success relies on his strong ties to the community: in addition to the books, the medium holds séances in the local Victorian-era bed and breakfasts and also has a partnership with the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities for a Ghosts of Cape May Trolley Tour.

“I had this micro niche in Cape May that was basically a destination,” he said.  “People would go into the stores – people love ghost stories – they would turn around and buy the books.  I made them paperbacks so they could bring them to the beach.  They get stuck in the beach bag and get the wear and tear, and they’d buy them again when they’d lose them.  Most of my books sell out of the stores in Cape May.  But they sell a tremendous amount, because I have a good reputation.  At the Atlantic bookstores in Cape May, the shop owner said that when one of the Harry Potter books came out, that was their biggest seller – my books were actually out-selling the Harry Potter books.  I am her number one seller in the store.  In peak season.”