Small Business Saturday Interview: New Website Fuels “Read Local” Movement

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What to get for the book lover who has everything? Hometown Reads allows shoppers to find new authors—from their neighborhood

Shoppers will shell out billions of dollars this weekend on shiny new Christmas gifts. Much of that will be spent shipping new books, Kindles, and other goodies for book lovers from far-away, impersonal warehouses.

What if a website sorted published works not by worldwide popularity, but by authors’ locations? Shoppers could find a new business book for Dad in Pittsburgh, a parenting book for a sister in L.A., or a book about the Grand Rapids brewery scene for a nephew—all written by authors local to their favorite book lovers.

That’s what entrepreneur Becky Robinson envisioned when she started Hometown Reads, an online showcase for books designed to highlight authors based on their locations, instead of a popularity algorithm.

“So many books are being published, and the digital market for each book is so huge, that each reader is overwhelmed with too many choices,” she said. “Until Hometown Reads, there was no way to harness the power of online connection to introduce authors and readers living in the very same zip code.”
Readers can browse more than 700 published books by 32 U.S. cities or by genre—Biography, History, or Travel, for example— at http://www.hometownreads.com. Authors can still sign up to feature one book free of charge at http://www.hometownreads.com/join. Each author receives a microsite with a unique URL for a published book, and Weaving Influence experts provide assistance for effectively marketing their work. New cities are appearing on the website weekly based on author interest.

Currently featured cities include Ann Arbor, Mich.; Atlanta, Ga.; Bend, Ore.; Boston, Mass.; Chicago, Ill.; Cincinnati, Ohio; Cleveland, Ohio; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas, Texas; Detroit, Mich.; Fenton, Mich.; Fresno, Calif.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Kansas City, Kan. and Kansas City, Mo.; Las Vegas, Nevada; Louisville, Ky.; Los Angeles, Calif.; Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn.; Oakland, Calif.; Petaluma, Calif.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Portland, Ore.; Raleigh, N.C.; Rhode Island; Salt Lake City, Utah; San Diego, Calif.; San Francisco, Calif.; Santa Rosa, Calif.; Seattle, Wash.; Spokane, Wash.; and Toledo, Ohio.

Robinson, CEO and founder of Toledo-based marketing company Weaving Influence, has launched over 70 books for clients since 2012, guiding them on how to establish and maintain a strong digital presence and get noticed by the traditional media. She started Hometown Reads because, in the midst of this market oversaturation, she felt authors and experts were often hidden in their own local areas.

With up to one million books published in the U.S. each year, it can be difficult for an author—especially one who is self-published—to cut through the noise and reach readers, even those living just a few miles away. Some bookstores, like Gathering Volumes in Perrysburg, Ohio, set aside valuable ‘real estate’ for local authors.

“Being a local author humanizes and personalizes the experience of both writing and reading,” said featured Oakland, Calif., author Naomi Rose. Rose’s work, Starting Your Book, coaches first-time authors on writing methodology.

“Like the ‘eat local’ movement, ‘reading local’ does not require intermediaries between the organic ‘grower’ (the author) and the ‘consumer’ (the reader) taking in the nourishment of the writing,” she said.

Robinson is available for interviews on topics such as:
-Why reading local helps local businesses.
-Challenges facing independent authors in the age of Amazon.
-How authors can use social media to sell books—and how readers can find them there.
-Why more than 600 authors flocked to this brand-new site in less than six months—and what it says about the publishing industry.
-How bookstores and authors can work together to sell more books.

Weaving Influence, a boutique digital and public relations firm that specializes in serving authors, has launched more than 70 books since its inception in 2012. Find more at http://www.weavinginfluence.com. Follow Hometown Reads on Twitter and Facebook for more news.

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More about Weaving Influence:
Weaving Influence, based in Lambertville, Michigan, partners with authors and thought leaders to grow their online influence and market their books. It has grown into a team of more than 30 skilled professionals, offering full-service traditional publicity services and website development, in addition to our social media work and book launch promotion. We currently serve more than 40 clients and have launched more than 70 book since our start in 2012, with more planned for this year. While we primarily serve authors and thought leaders, we also work with corporations, small businesses, and nonprofit organizations.

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Becky Robinson
@hometownreads
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