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Getting Local Love for Your Book with Carlyn Montes De Oca

May 18, 2023

Carlyn Montes De Oca is a passionate animal advocate, international speaker and multi-award winning author of Dog as My Doctor, Cat as my Nurse who has also been featured on ABC and CBS and in Woman's Day magazine.

But it was what she did for her most recent book, Junkyard Girl: A Memoir of Ancestry, Family Secrets, and Second Chances, that we focused on. Rather than trying to tackle the whole wide world, she focused on her local area: Santa Fe, New Mexico. As a result, she got in with the local bookstores, pitched the local TV shows and set up local events. Now she's become a bit of a local celebrity.

Steal her techniques and dominate your hometown! From there, take on the world.


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Anna: All right. Well, Carlyn, so glad you're here. So glad I pronounced your name right. Um, what ,car lean? Um, so okay, so let's talk about how you have been able to sort of focus on regional promotion, getting you know, your hometown behind you. Tell me your approach.

Carlyn: Well, first of all, thank you for getting my name right. Second of all, I actually come from, well, I start, I'm from California. So I started off in my adult life in Los Angeles, then I moved up to the Bay Area, San Francisco. And, you know, I launched my first book, and then, from those areas. And then we moved to Santa Fe, which is a much smaller community. And this is where I launched my new book. And I sort of thought, well, Santa Fe is small. It's the capital city of New Mexico, but it's small. How am I going to really connect with readers? I've only been here, you know, four years, how am I going to connect? How am I going to do this? And I was shocked and surprised, pleasantly surprised, to see how this community really embraces their authors and their creatives. And they did the same to me. So, I, so I have just been going ball busters since my launch in November, thinking what I would do would be to exhaust my community. And, and I'm still going, I'm still moving. You know, they always say a book launch is a marathon and not a sprint, but I'm sprinting still.

Anna: I love it. It's a marathon and not a sprint unless you're gonna sprint the whole marathon [laughs].

Carlyn: And I'm not a runner [laughs]. So I don't even know why I use that, started talking about those terms, but…

Anna: So how do you do it? So I love this. Because most people listening are probably not in big cities. They do have a community, they do have a region, how do you start?

Carlyn: Well, this is what I did. One thing is you can never start early enough preparing, at least for me, I'm not a pantser. I'm a planner. And I just start, I started listing all the possibilities of things that I could do in this area. And so I have been really successful with, for starters, local media. I mean, they are really happy to talk to a local author. They're really happy to talk to a local author having a local event. And they're particularly happy to have a local author with a local event that is promoting a local charity. And as an animal advocate, I am all about animals and how to try to create a better world for them. So I always donate a certain percentage of my books towards animal rescues or organizations. And I did the same with this book. So I had articles written in all of the big papers. Articles, not just like about your book, in the Santa Fe New Mexican, in the Santa Fe Reporter. Last, two weeks ago, I went, Albuquerque is only an hour from us. And I was on TV there on Fox News with my dog, you know. Promoting, promoting all of this. So local media has been amazing. The local bookstores are, surprisingly in Santa Fe, are a harder nut to crack. But because the book is very professional looking, it's got a wonderful cover on it, that I was able to crack that nut and they have that in my, in my local bookstores. But let me tell you a really cool story about also how community, how your friends, I mean you never know who your friends know, or who new friends know. Like, for example, when we first were going to move here, I read an article that was interviewing this guy who was a journalist who lived in Santa Fe. And he was into dogs, and he was part of the Santa Fe animal shelter. And I thought, oh, he's interesting. So I wrote him an email. And I said, I loved your article, blah, blah, blah. And little did I know, he thought I was a stalker at the time [laughs]. But he was really nice. And when I moved here, we connected. And soon enough, we became good friends. Well, this guy happened to be, like the head of, at one point, he was a former journalist and the head of Reuters in Asia. And so we became friends. He wrote an amazing little endorsement for my book that's in the book. He has connected me to so many people. And then recently he connected me to a woman who used to, who was a six-time Emmy award-winning anchor in St. Louis, and had her own show, you know. What was it called? Face to Face with Karen Foss, where she interviewed all sorts of national and international lawmakers. So she's doing in conversations with me at the bookstores. And everybody loves them because the level of her ability to interview someone is so high. And yet this was all because I reached out to some guy I didn't know in this area. But this is how just friendships can blossom and people can connect you to other people. So again, I mentioned charities I donate to Animal Protection New Mexico, is a charity that I'm donating with this book, and they support me. You know, they're getting it out to their, to their followers. And some other things I do is I tried to connect with influencers in the area, like, are they literary influencers? Are they other authors? Or, you know, the other day I walked into a, right before my lunch, I walked into a place where they sell stamps and stuff of that nature. I get into a conversation with the woman there. My book is about adoption. She was adopted. She's into animals. I used to work in the film business, she worked in the film business. She says, can we host your event because I have an online bookstore? And I'm like, uh sure. So she hosted my book launch. And it was 35 degrees outside and we were all in the courtyard. I had 35 to 40 people there, sitting there. And this is because people know me, they knew her. And then what do you know, she opens a bookstore in this community. And where Junkyard Girl, my book, is right front center on the table and they sell. I've never had that many books sell out of a bookstore.

Anna: Wow.

Carlyn: So these are kind of these little things that, at least I do, to just continued to connect with people in my community. I'm a vegan, I go to the vegan restaurants. One of them sells my books there.

Anna: Oh my God, you said so many good things. Okay, we're gonna stop. I love it. So many good things. So one of the first things that you, well, you said, okay, so local media, you know, and so you went to Albuquerque, and were on TV. So what should someone listening, they go, okay, so I know my local TV station. Do I, do I write them an email? Like, how do I know? What, what did you do?

Carlyn: I researched. So what I always do is I, and I have a big spreadsheet of research I've done of like, what are the top TV stations, the radio stations, the press. And of course, I read some of their articles, I listen to what's on there. And then I look and see who are the newscasters, let's say, for television, because that was a little harder than the others. So I went and saw who were the newscasters? Because truthfully, I don't watch, I don't, I watch Netflix and Amazon, and I read the news, but I don't watch it. But so I looked and I went, who likes animals? Because that's who, what connection do I have with these people? And then I found people that I know in one of my communities who had been interviewed by them. And I said, and they gave me the personal email. So I reached out to these people, and I, I have studied publicity, publicity. I did study with a company for two years so I feel like I write pretty good pitch letters. And so I pitched it. And quickly, they responded and said, yes.

Anna: Wow.

Carlyn: And they did it right before my next book event, which was at Barnes and Noble. And so they, so they got me on there. Now Santa Fe works really differently, let's say, than LA. Because in the end, I actually called them on the phone to just…

Anna: What?

Carlyn: And you can never do that. But I find you can do it in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. And everybody's okay with that, but not in LA. So you, you kind of, usually an email is the best way to do it. And try not to have any attachments on it, because they often don't open it if they do. But try to find something… And also, I will say I've been told this, is do not give up until they actually say no.

Anna: Interesting.

Carlyn: Nobody's ever actually said no to me. They just, and sometimes they answer after two or three times. But you just keep and offer a little more value like oh, and this is coming up, you know, and this is to benefit this organization, or this is a thing I'm having. So, you know, they need news.

Anna: Yeah.

Carlyn: They need news that's not terrible things going on in the world.

Anna: Yeah.

Carlyn: So, so that’s how I approach media.

Anna: I love it. So found somebody, found out who the sort of posts and newscasters were, found somebody you knew who had been on, which I think is the key thing, got the personal email, probably put the subject line: John Jacobs told me to email, you know, something that makes them open it. And then how many times have you emailed to follow ups?

Carlyn: Well, it depends. It really does depend. I, I would say with the television thing, I did pitch them early on without a couple of those things in place. And I didn't hear from them. This last time I pitched them, I heard from them immediately. Like immediately. And this is what I've been told is, in fact, my friend who's again, this news anchor from St. Louis said, you never ,you keep pitching because you never know who's going to answer that pitch, that letter, who's going to read it.

Anna: Yeah.

Carlyn: They have such a turnaround at these places that one day one person will be like, oh, I'm not interested. And the next day will be like, oh, this is fascinating. In fact, in Santa Fe, the biggest newspaper here is the Santa Fe New Mexican. And I sent a letter to the editor of that, of that. I didn't hear from him. So I decided to call to make sure I was getting the email. He answered the phone.

Anna: Oh my God.

Carlyn: And I said, Do you have two minutes? And I told him what, and he's like, yeah, this is good. This is good. But then the reporter that he gave it to said, he said to her, would you like to do this? And because she had a personal connection to the story, she said yes. In fact, yesterday, I pitched a podcaster locally, and they had a personal connection because they also had a situation where they discovered something through DNA.

Anna: Mm hmm.

Carlyn: That was a surprise. So you never know when somebody's gonna go, wow, I have that connection, or I like animals, or I like knitting or whatever it is to you.

Anna: Yeah, that's interesting because I think that we all are, you know, are scared of being annoying. We're scared of being quote that person. And we are intrinsically very self-involved. So we think like, oh, they're so annoyed by me. No, they're not even thinking about you. And, and I think it's, you know, and because you have these two parts of your story, the, the DNA adoption, and then the animals, where if someone has that in common, that's not like, oh, we both like pink. That is like a heart-to-heart bond. It is something, and it's like, a lot of people who listen to this, and a lot of my books are about recovery. If someone's got that in common, they're gonna feel instantly connected to you. And, and want to help.

Carlyn: Absolutely. I think you're, you're absolutely right. And this is the thing somebody told me once. They said, if you do not promote yourself, nobody else will. And I always remember that. And to be totally honest, I don't think I'm necessarily being annoying. Like, I feel like I start conversations with people and we enjoy each other. And then the connection results from that. Like, honestly, another thing that I do, which sounds silly, but it seems to work, is every day I hike with my dog, I have a rescue dog. I hike with her every day. I kid you not, I meet somebody new almost every day on the trail. And because I have a dog and they usually do too, we strike up a conversation about dogs. I'm an animal advocate, I write about animals. I often then, we'll, they'll say, what do you do? And I tell them, so even like, either I'm going to get them to come to an event. Or I'm going to get them to sign up for my newsletter because it's all about the animal human bond. So they like, and even yesterday, I was, I ran into somebody and I, and I was just thinking that they're from LA. And they're like, wow, and then suddenly I run into people. And I tell them what book it was that I did. And because it's such a good community here, a tight community, they're like, you’re Junkyard Girl?

Anna: Right. I love that.

Carlyn: Yeah.

Anna: Oh, and by the way, it's clever. I'm sure you weren’t being annoying. I think I live in fear of annoying people. I live in fear of following up too much. I'm going through it right now. Because as you know, I'm kind of getting ready to, to launch my book. And there are two people I know who used to drive me crazy, following up when I was kind of a higher-powered person in media. And you know what? Those two people are incredibly famous today. And they had no problem asking me over and over and over and over again. And I have to remember, you know, that, that you, like you said, nobody, nobody's going to do your promotion for you. And I think what I love about your approach is like, you really look, you get that this is part of the job. You got spreadsheets, you, you know are going out there and doing things. So let's talk about getting the book in bookstores and then, and then pitching local media. With, and I've got an event, did you walk into your Barnes and Noble? How did you do that?

Carlyn: Yeah [laughs]. Barnes and Noble? Yeah, I was so surprised by what a great reception Barnes and Noble gave me. Well, I walked into… Albuquerque has a few bookstores. So Barnes and Noble was the first one I walked into, and they took like, 14 of my books. And then they took all my other books too.

Anna: Aww.

Carlyn: And last I did an event there and they kept 30 of them. So I was thinking, lovely, thank you. And so yeah, I walked in and, and that's, this is the thing Anna, it's not like, I like, was born being able to promote myself like you. Believe me, it took a long time for me to just go, I'm not annoying people. But that's the difference between… I think my first book did very well, but I still had all that, those self-limitations. The thoughts that oh, you're not good enough. You're gonna annoy this person. Gosh, what a, you know, nitwit you are, whatever. With this one, some of those layers have fallen away. But they don't, they do a little [inaudible], there's some little voices in there. But yeah, I walked into Barnes and Noble and I just went in there. And remembering like, I'm a published author. I do self-talk.

Anna: Yeah.

Carlyn: So if I hear any negative talk in my head, it's like, no, I'm a published author, I have a great product, a great book. Why wouldn't they be happy to have this book here? And um, and I think maybe that energy sometimes really works in your favor. So yeah, they took the books. Then I went to this other bookstore. And I barely got two sentences out, I was waiting for a pitch. And they're like, we'll take them. Yeah, we'll, we'll order them. So they ordered them. And then there's a third bookstore, who funny enough, has a very strong connection. The woman used to be associated with the animal organization I am in. They’re doing a book event for me in September. So I've got, so that was those bookstores. And then here in Santa Fe, all I needed to get it into, was this one that is the hardest and the most popular, and everybody knows it. And it's kind of like a prestige thing. But she took it and she was very complimentary and took a lot of copies. And I walked in there the other day, there's only one left. So that was good. So it's really a matter of, and this local bookstore, we made this connection, and they're constantly calling, saying, bring us more books, bring us more books, because we're running out.

Anna: Wow.

Carlyn: So I think it's a matter, and the thing is, I can't approach every single bookstore in the country. So, and bookstores, you know, there's an issue with the, you know, with bookstores, they'll return books, and then you have to, you know, pay a certain amount. And that's part of the process. But it's just like doing a little bit here and there, and, and so this is enough for me for these bookstores. Oh, I have them also in the areas I grew up in, like Santa Barbara. And, you know, I'm planning on doing something in Los Angeles, because I have a community there and in the Bay Area. But that's a little bit, just in another month or so.

Anna: Interesting. Do you, and in terms of getting people to show up, I think this, I mean, you're just, all you're doing is making me want to move to New Mexico. I'm just like, aww, everybody hikes around other dogs. Do you walk around with your book, so like you're on a hike with your dog? Do you have your books on you?

Carlyn: I will tell you, well, it's only because it's a little heavy to put in my backpack. But I pretty much walk everywhere in Santa Fe with this book. But what I do have is my business cards. And right now because I'm having an event in April, at the library actually, in Santa Fe that I'm carrying these everywhere. And to be honest, I probably do have a, a little bit of a fear, [whispers] okay maybe a bigger fear, a bigger fear of failure. So I am determined that people are going to come and so I have made this massive list of everywhere that I could reach out to in Santa Fe. All, you know, all the calendars, you know, in the communities that will write up your thing. I, I go to the dog park, which I do every day. I'm handing out the flyers. I'm on that dog walk talking to people going, I, I’ll pass somebody who's walking the dog, and I'll go, hey, I'm this person, and I just want to invite you to this thing. It'll be really fun [laughs]. And so I do that. So yeah, I'm constantly kind of doing that. But people don't seem to mind.

Anna: In LA, like you might get arrested. They'd be like, what [laughs]? Um, but yeah, I mean, I love, I love this. I love this community idea, this, like, you know, you're becoming a local celebrity. If you're in the paper and you're on TV, and people are saying, Oh, you're Junkyard Girl.

Carlyn: Yeah [laughs].

Anna: I love it. What um, what else? What other tips do we have, for people? Oh, here was also my question. So you said that the bookstore will say, bring, bring us over some. Do you do it on consignment? Or are they ordering through Ingram? Or how are you doing it?

Carlyn: However they want to do it. I literally will put like 60 books in my car. Whenever I go to some, some place like that. However they want to. Some of them have bought them from Ingram. Some of them say, can you, we’ll buy, you know, can you bring them in and we'll sell them on consignment? Whatever makes their life easier. I try not to be a pain in the ass at that point. It's like whatever you want, I will do. And so, so that's what I do. Another thing that I have done, which is, I think has worked very well, is local book clubs.

Anna: Oh, tell me more.

Carlyn: Albuquerque and Santa Fe are my closest regions. I mean, I'm available to do book clubs anywhere online on Zoom. But I have looked up, I've Googled all the book clubs in Santa Fe, all the book of clubs in Albuquerque and sent them an email saying this is who I am. This is what I’ve got. This is, I would love to come in and do an in person, you know, book club event at your thing. And this woman wrote me back I remember from Santa Fe, going oh my God! Who doesn't want an author to come and talk to at the book club? Yes. And so I have those scheduled, and also, I have, just because I'm doing regional right here, it doesn't mean I have an expect-, I'm not constantly on the lookout for other opportunities or look to my greater communities of the areas I've lived in, in the past. So I've done book clubs in the Bay Area. And I'm still, you know, kind of reaching out and moving. But it's sort of like concentric circles. I started off with my book and me, starting with family and friends. They moved to the next concentric circle, which to me was my email list. And then social media. And now I'm in this next circle, which is like the fourth circle, which is region, my area, community.

Anna: Mm hmm.

Carlyn: So, yeah.

Anna: Um, I also feel like, you know, and then your last circle, and I'm sure you do this, but like, I'm sure there are big news stories about DNA test surprises and stuff like that. Like, like, the minute you, about like Donald Trump, it turns out, like, that's not really his kid. Like, that's when we get you on The Today Show. Talking about that kind of thing. Right?

Carlyn: Yes. Absolutely. And to be honest, every morning, I do, I don't read the newspaper thoroughly. I look at every headline from every major outlet, to see if there is anything and so, you know, but part of the issue, I'm a solopreneur. I'm on my own. I don't have a team. So I do have to have my antenna out constantly going, okay, this, this, this, but again, I mean, I, I was in Women's Day magazine in, you know, in January, with my dog. And because I saw an opportunity there and I reached out and they put me on page two, so…

Anna: What was the opportunity? How did you find it?

Carlyn: It was, I have subscribed and now I don't remember their names that…

Anna: Harrow? Was it Harrow?

Carlyn: No, no, not Harrow. But there were some other, yeah, but something like Harrow where you're looking for podcast opportunities and this and that. So I've signed up to all the ones for free that I could find. And this one came through and I looked at it and I went, oh, I'll pitch them this idea. And I did and they ran with it.

Anna: I love it. I love it. Well, so this is fantastic. If people want to find out more about your book, you, find you, where should they go?

Carlyn: Well, I hope people, especially animal lovers out there, I have this phenomenal newsletter that is really heartfelt. And it is for anybody who is interested in the animal human you know, connection, and you can find everything about me at animal human health dot com, animal human health dot com ( And here's all my social media is all on there too.

Anna: This has been so awesome. Thank you so much for all these tips. And thanks you guys for listening.