Okay, so with all the book noise and chatter out there authors are always trying to figure out how to be heard in the din of thousands of books. We’re always trying to find that little gadget that will lead a reader to our books. One reader actually said “an author’s promotional item is like a little gift to me”.  And maybe little doo-jiggers don’t have readers buying your books, but simply seeing your name. It’s a general rule of thumb that someone needs to see your name 10 times before they stop and look into it.

So the question becomes … how do we spend that promotional dollar effectively?

On all the loops I participate in authors are discussing what draws a reader to buy your book. In e-publishing this it’s even more difficult as your product is sort of nebulous… not something the consumer can put their hands on… and that makes it a difficult sell.

So with all sincerity we’re discussing bookmarks and postcards; sticky notes and glitter pens; emery boards and flashlights; trying to come up with the gimmick that will make a person so fired up they just can’t wait to get home and download your book!

I’ve spent alot of time designing and printing romance trading cards for my books. I send them out to reader conventions that I’m not attending. I’m fortunate in that I have an artistic eye and putting something together like that is enjoyable. Anyhoodles… I thought they came out beautifully. But left to their own devices, sitting among all the other glitzy author material, will they entice someone enough to 1) pick it up and 2) buy the book or at least 3) check out my website. Frankly, I don’t know.

Through this whole process it’s occurred to me… I don’t buy books. (Or I didn’t until my friends started publishing, now I buy their books. And forgive me for even thinking this… but if it’s coming out in print… I wait to buy that version… oh, I should have my hand slapped!)

So, what’s the point of all this rambling? I’m just curious… if you can’t pick the book up in the bookstore and you only have promotional material available to you… what makes you curious enough to investigate the author/book? A snazzy bookmark? A postcard with a blurb about the book? Some cute trinket?

Tell me… I’m dying of curiousity.

Oh, and here’s a sampling of my trading cards. Email me Nina (AT) NinaPierce.com if you want a full set for yourself.

0 Responses to To Market To Market

  • I run marketing for my brewery and as such have plenty of opportunity to peruse “swag”….and one thing I will say for certain is that you should try to find items that “match” you, your personality, or your story. I personally don’t care for bookmarks although my publisher has them made for me. I have tote bags with “Beer Wench/author” and my website on them but the best thing I had made and spent money on are the keychain/bottle openers with “beer wench/author” on them. Chanel YOUR personality, go to cafe press or zazzle or your local printer of “trinkets and trash” as we call them and find something unique.

    • Good point, Liz, to make the promo match the personality. I once worked for a lawyer who was an avid outdoorsman and fisherman and actually got his guiding license so he could take American friends fishing and hunting. He had his cards printed up with these credentials after his name: Barrister, Solicitor, Licensed Guide. 🙂

    • Yes, I’ve tried to find that unique item that screams … NINA! But I haven’t found anything as appropriate as your keychain/bottle opener. What a great idea. I continue to search …

  • I gave away chip clips at Romanticon and I had a fellow NEC author (who didn’t know I was a member) say that she’d never forget my name because it’s always right there in front of her face when she gets chips.
    She didn’t say it made her buy any of my books, but she’ll never forget my name. LOL 🙂

    • Amber – I had chip clips as well. I think something permanent like that does keep your name out in front of people. Like you, I don’t think it directly made a reader buy my book, but they perk up a little when they hear my name because they’ve seen it multiple times.

  • I’m struggling a bit with this too, so great topic! I just returned from the Authors After Dark convention as one of the “featured authors.” Authors were told we could bring all the swag we wanted….as long as it wasn’t paper. No bookmarks. No postcards. No trading cards. No pamphlets. Excerpt booklets were okay. The rationale? The last two years, conference organizers hauled out ginormous trash bags full of bookmarks and trading cards that conference-goers had thrown out. So what did authors bring? Tote bags, water bottles, flash drives (these seemed to get really good response from the readers I talked to), chip clips. Things I saw left around and not picked up: little mirrored compacts, buttons/pins, beads (the con was in New Orleans so I think that was the reason for beads). For me, the problem with excerpt booklets and all the non-paper stuff is cost: for a con where you’re asked to bring 400-plug swag items, this stuff is expensive.

    • Suzanne – More and more conventions are banning the paper products. The fact is with all the digital e-readers, people don’t need them anymore. I do continue with trading cards because it seems that readers do collect them.

      And yes, we didn’t mention the expense of sending out or bringing swag to conventions. It’s quite a chunk of change for some of the cooler items.

  • The coolest swag I ever got was a flash drive with pre-loaded wallpapers on it and a pdf of an in between story about the characters from the first book in the series. Loved it and it was highly creative. Unfortunately when I moved last month, I pretty much threw out most of the swag I had unless it was something that I could actually use: pens, notepads, etc. Bookmarks no. I read ebooks only now, so bookmarks are out in my mind.

    Great post Nina.


    • Marika – I think most people check out the swag and it goes into the recycle bin or giveaway pile. I know there are only particular pens I can use and the rest I give away. I’m glad you mentioned notepads … it’s definitely something I hold onto and use.

  • Thank you for the ideas! I feel the loss about what to give as well. Can ebook readers really want another bookmark? Although they are great to put in books at the used book store. Please let us know what you find out!

    • Melissa – Lots of great ideas here. Interesting that Suzanne mentioned that mirrored compacts were left behind. I know I’ve had really good luck with small calendars and chapsticks (though both of those were very very expensive and streeetched my promo budget).

  • I always thought I needed (wanted, loved) to have a book in my hand and still do; but I love my Nook e-reader. I wind up taking that with me more than a physical book now because it holds so many books to match my moods.

    • Marian – Which means all those paper products readers used to tuck between the pages aren’t needed anymore. It’s becoming more difficult to find something that readers of ebooks will enjoy.

  • Great post Nina. This is a topic that needs further investigation for sure. I’m a brand new author. My first book comes out in October. I just want to say thank you to everybody for sharing their experiences. It really helped me think about my own marketing plan more carefully.


    • Krystal – I’m not sure if there’s a magic product, but it’s nice to talk about this. I know it’s something every author struggles with.

  • I met you, Nina after getting one of your pink see through pens from a writers conference. Have been a fan ever since. I made keychains out of my romance cards and fanned them out on my table at a book expo. Cool seeing purple and blue hanging from keyrings as people went out to their cars. Sales… three that I know of from emails and an indie book store owner asked to carry my underwater series and I got invited to an Authors fair this fall. I’m making more keychains.

    Cora Blu

    • Cora – Thank you for mentioning my pen. I chose the pink pen with my tag line years ago and stick with it. I do think it’s one of the products that has branded me. It does seem unique enough that I haven’t seen them around.

      Oh, that keychain sounds very unique. I’m glad you’ve found something that works for you. You’re the second author who mentioned that product. Hmmm…

  • I wish I knew the answer to this question, Nina. I did have a promotional thing done up at CreateSpace with my free novella followed by samples from the 3 novels in the series. It looks awesome, but pretty expensive for large conference.

    Mostly, promo works for me if it makes me laugh. I might just go look into the author if the promo item is novel enough. As a conference goer, I love pens and even mouse pads. I’m looking at a lovely one right now with MJ Fredrick’s “Road Signs” cover on it.

    • Norah – It does seem the most memorable items are those things that readers can use. And they are *gulp* on the more expensive side. But I do believe a few more expensive items are better than many inexpensive items that just get recycled.

  • An intriging blurb on a postcard of bookmark will drive me to buy a book.If I like the pen or freebie, I have at times checked out an authors website and read more about their books, but that takes time. For me, bookmarks work best as a promotional tool.

    • Diane – That’s interesting, you’re one of the first that mentioned paper products. (But then, I think we’re in the minority of still reading print books.) Hard to know how many people still use those types of promo items.

  • I love pens, magnets, ‘gadgets’ which go with the author’s book/personality, and notepads/sticky notes:)

    At my last signing, my cover flats disappeared faster than the bookmarks. And a friend who owns a tie dye business is in the process of designing soda cozies (I think that’s what he called them!) for me, with my AU logo on them.

    Molly Daniels

    • Molly – Since you were at a book signing, I’m not surprised people enjoyed the cover flats … something intriguing that can also be used as a bookmark.

      And soda cozies would be perfect for your AU series. That’ll definitely get the younger generation who could also wrap them around an alcoholic beverage. 😉

  • One of the coolest promo items I ever got was a little screen cleaner kit that had a small brush that clipped right to my monitor and had the author’s name and website on it. It stayed on my monitor for a long time, until I had to replace the monitor, in fact, and by then the brush was pretty worn out. But that author’s name and website were always there in front of me, and I have bought some of her books.
    I also favor pens, chip clips, emery boards, etc. Anything that gets used repeatedly is good.

    • Karen – I’m so glad you mentioned that … I had one of those and attached to part of my desk. I used it all the time. But here’s the thing, I never checked out the author’s website and since it’s packed at the moment I couldn’t tell you whose name was even on the product even though I used it at least once a week.

      And I do love the emery boards as well. Thanks for adding to the list!

  • Nina great blog and some relly good comments. Here’s a couple of ideas I’ve come up with. 1is to create your own US postage stamp with 1 ofyour book covers. 2 I just started selling Avon, yes I am a guy and my wife got me to sign up to help a friend of ours to advance. I have a vampire romance and I found a cool vampire ring. It has fangs, red lips, and some fake red jewels that look like drops of blood, that are attached to the ring by a chain. I am planning a contest with the ring as the top prize.

    • GW – Never thought of the postage stamp. What a great and unique idea! Love the vampire ring as a prize for a contest. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing.

  • I tend to lose bookmarks so I don’t pay as much attention to them (unless they’re book thongs with something neat attached to the end–maybe little book covers?) as I do the interesting pens…those of a different color ink (purple, bright blue, etc.), decent lip balm with pretty designs outside, mini flashlights, my favorite swag from RWA was the little cloths (I use mine for cleaning eyeglasses) with Jaci Burton’s Play by Play covers on them (practical as well as eye candy…who could ask for more?) and the rubber jar opener (which I use pretty much daily since I have bad wrists). I also thought the little ribbons imprinted with the author’s name and book title to be used as a bookmark were a nice economical yet elegant touch.

    • Elf- As a glass wearer I like the idea of the little cloths. Cute and practical! Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing. It really is very helpful for authors trying to figure out what trinkets people enjoy.

  • Good question, and one I don’t have an answer for. You know what they say about advertising: only half of it works, but no one knows which half. I have postcards made up of the covers of my books and bookmarks for a few of the books. I send them out when someone asks for swag for a conference, but I have no idea if they do any good. For myself, I like notebooks and post-it notes, so I’ll pick them up when I’m browsing a goodie table. Until last year, I’d never bought a book because of a postcard or bookmark or post-it notes. However, when I attended the booksigning at NJRW last year, I went through the room and got bookmarks of all the books I was interested in. When I got home, I went through the bookmarks and ordered each book for my Kindle. This year I’m signing at the conference and I’m putting out my postcards and bookmarks, along with a few print books, and I hope readers will take home my swag and order my books for their Kindles & Nooks. Also, I have business cards. My husband hands out my card to everyone–doctors, neighbors, his physical therapists.

    • Cara – You said it so well. Advertising is so nebulous. We never know what works. Very interesting that you bought kindle books based on bookmarks. LOL! But hey, who knows how many other readers do the same thing.

      I use my pens as business cards and do the same thing your hubby does. They’re easy to leave behind at the bank or the supermarket.

  • Such a good question, Nina. I have no clue! For my first release, I had hundreds of bookmarks made…it’s an ebook. Then came the pens. I had a few mouse pads made-too expensive for more than 5 or 6 at a time. Oh and I couldn’t resist the postcards!

    Now for this second novella, another ebook, I haven’t ordered a lick of swag. I might order a mug, a tee shirt, or maybe a flash drive for promo, but nothing major. I have no way of knowing how any of the previous swag influenced sales. It was fun, but did I make that money back? *cough* Probably not.

    So my current strategy: I’m going to hit as many blogs as I can, tweet more often, put out a regular blog, and find more reader sites to stalk 🙂

    • Gabriella – I can definitely tell you that advertising isn’t dollar for dollar, but getting your name out. And social media is definitely a great marketing strategy. I just find it so time consuming even though it’s highly productive!

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