Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Promo That Shines


With all the talk about the upcoming Romantic Times Convention in L.A. my thoughts have turned to promotion. Well, they have also turned to the fact that I'm jealous. sniff sniff. I won't be going to this one and will be living vicariously through friends and hoping they post lots of pictures. As my buds have been preparing themselves for this big-time full-out party, they've also been gathering together promotional items to distribute to the many attendees.

There are a boatload of great conventions out there. One has only to look around, check locales and choose. For me, I always attend Ellora's Cave's Romanticon Convention in Ohio. It's a no-brainer considering it's the most fun conference around and EC is my publisher. So every fall, I head off to my own little bit of heaven, hang out with the girls, meet readers, EC staff and editors.

Most of us don't have a clue where to begin when it comes to promotional goodies but I figure we all have to start somewhere. I began my career by getting business cards and a website (with the website being A-Number One). This is your top promotional tool. But for reader conferences the waters get a bit murkier. I tend to be frugal so it only makes sense that I would want more bang for my buck.  Like many of you, I've made plenty of promo mistakes.

Paper goods. Yes they are shiny and pretty and I'll admit that yesterday I went to a popular promo site and ordered up 100 postcards featuring my Panther Moon cover. Since I'm a regular customer, I only paid shipping costs so this was a bargain. Quite frankly, just about all of these will eventually be tossed in the trash weeks after the conference is over. That's okay. Those picking up the postcards will look maybe three or four times before tossing and the price (ie, FREE) was right. This year, I will be doing some bookmarks for the first time. I'll pay a bit for these but I'm seriously wondering if it's a great investment since, they too, are paper and so many readers these days read on machines and have no real need for bookmarks. Still, I plan to order some because I they are relatively inexpensive. I'll be getting 1,000 for about $30. Not bad.

Gift Baskets. Now I love these. Last year at Romanticon I took part in building four different gift baskets that were given away as door prizes. Everyone wants to win one of these and if you do it jointly with a few other authors, it doesn't take a lot of money to add some neat goodies. Try doing a theme! It's fun and gets the creative energy flowing. Last year, I did a Sequins, Saddles, and Spurs basket with Desiree Holt and Ciana Stone. This was, of course, a cowboy themed collection of stuff meant to market the three-book series we did together. We included coffee cups, Texas coffee, recipe books, Christmas Tree ornaments, and lots of other Texas-y things. It was a big hit and of course we made sure to include lots of our person promo stuff...postcards, signed books, bookmarkers, etc. And since there was a group of us contributing, the cost wasn't bad at all.

Gadgets. At Romanticon authors display their goodies at the Swag Zone, where readers can stroll through and pick up all kinds of cool stuff. Sometimes I'm amazed at the imagination that goes into these items. Some of my favorites were pedicure files, sleeping masks, tiny bottles of hot sauce labeled with the authors name, pens (who doesn't like pens) and my favorite from last year...lip balm. I swear this was the best lip balm ever and I kept this tube next to my computer for months until the stuff was just GONE and I finally had to toss it.

I'm still mulling over what I'll be picking up to give away to readers. I've ordered magnets and the postcards and am having bookmarks made up. I know I'll participate in a number of group baskets and do one of my own. What else? What kind of items would you want to take home from a reader convention? I'm up for ideas that are clever and that WORK.

38 comments:

Tess MacKall said...

Great ideas, Regina. Taking any Cadbury eggs with ya? LOL

Amber Skyze said...

Lots of great ideas. I'm doing chip clips and pens for NEC RWA. Have to figure out what to do for RomantiCon.

Regina Carlysle said...

siiiigh. Well, Tess, Cadbury Eggs only come around once a year so I doubt I'll have any. No doubt, I'll be jonesing for some though.Must figure out how to get some chocolate wine there, though.

Regina Carlysle said...

CHIP CLIPS!!!!! What a great idea, Amber. Were they pretty inexpensive? I want to look into little soaps and things like that. Just not sure where to go to find them.

Regina Carlysle said...

You know a really inexpensive thing to do is to put stickers on pieces of candy but when you think about it, once the candy is eaten the wrapper is tossed. I can't imagine that would be a good thing although everyone DOES love their chocolate.

Tess MacKall said...

Can't you have it shipped, Reg?

Regina Carlysle said...

That's probably what I'll do, Tess. Figure I'll ship four or five bottles for those choco-holics.

Ari Thatcher said...

Your mention of stickers on candy reminds me of what I wanted to bring. My daughter makes cute bundles with Hershey's kisses and a tag. I can use a book cover or logo for the tags and have a ton of them for a good price. I plan to make it to Romanticon this year - my first!

anny cook said...

Well...as a reader, I'll tell you what I still have around two...three years later. Magnets, pens, chip clips, lip balms. Some other unique things I can't bear to throw away...a really neat calendar/pen combo from Nina Pierce (though I wish it was an address book instead!) And one of the authors had little flashers you could wear around your neck. Don't remember her name (so that part wasn't bad), but I still have mine (so that part is good)!

Other things that are still around...my penis puppet from Christine. Pencils. Markers. A mug. And a couple things of breath mints.

Candles, candies, and anything disposable didn't make it past the first few weeks. Most people just don't have enough room to keep stuff.

Regina Carlysle said...

ARI!!! YAY. Glad you're coming to Romanticon. The little bundles of candy with stuff attacted sounds really cute.

Harlie Reader said...

Personally I like magnets and coffee cups but cups can get expensive. Bookmarks are popular, too. The gift baskets are great, too. I know that there are trading cards too featuring the authors book covers.

Regina Carlysle said...

Yeah, that's me too Anny. I still have pens to take plus the other stuff. I too loved the Lip balms and such. Some of this stuff you can really use every day and other stuff you just can't bear to throw away. I love the idea of address books. Such a good idea.

Harlie Reader said...

Just thought of something else or least some things that another author is doing for RT...lube and condoms. I know.....might be in bad taste but its out there in LA.

Molly Daniels said...

One of the best item I ever saw was a business card magnetic chip clip:) I took the real estate card out, and inserted mine, and keep it on the fridge to hold my kid's artwork/papers. I called to see how much to order, but they wanted a bulk order no less than 100. Yikes...can't afford that! So I stick with bookmarks, postcards, and pens. Oh, and I use the Smarties to reel 'em over to my table, lol:)

I tried doing lotion and hand sanitizer; the hand sanitizer went over REALLY well at the outside venues:)

I still have notepads, magnets, and of course, pens from other authors:)

Regina Carlysle said...

I love coffee cups too but they are so expensive if you need at least 200 or more. YIKES. The condom idea is good. EC sells the GOT SEX condoms that are packaged like lollipops. So cute.

Regina Carlysle said...

Hand sanitizers are a great idea. I've priced them at Bath and Body Works. Pricey. Would love to find some that are more affordable.

Billy London said...

I love the idea of bookmarks and the lip balm and the condoms. So, you've got the get reading, get kissing and get down to it!

Regina Carlysle said...

LOL. I know Billy! LMBO. I'm pricing various things and they are all really good ideas. You just have to be really smart about how you spend your money. A smaller conference like Romanticon would require a bit less in the way of promo stuff whereas RT is HUGE and you have almost triple the stuff to buy. Must make the dollar stretch.

Shelley Munro said...

Sigh - living in New Zealand I don't get to many conferences, but here are a couple of ideas for you. CDs with excerpts or book teasers. Maybe you could make them audio so readers could listen to them on iPods etc. Or, you could do paper excerpt books.

I also quite like badges/buttons. You could get together with other authors and do genre sets so readers can collect a set. If they wear them at conference they're advertising you for the entire conference. I put badges on my hats etc later on so the advertising could last for longer than the conference.

Have fun at RomantiCon. *another jealous sigh*

Delaney Diamond said...

I like Shelley's idea of audio CD's with excerpts. Something else I like are T-shirts, but those can be pricey. I always keep T-shirts, and when I wear them, I'm advertising for the person who gave it to me.

Molly Daniels said...

I bought mine for .97 each at Walmart; the travel size. The kids fought over the blue and green ones!

Regina Carlysle said...

Shelley, I really like the button idea and you're right. You could team up with other authors to do a themed thing. Even a collect a button 'game' where if someone collects all three or four they could win a signed print book by the authors (assuming the books tied together some way either as a series or genre)

Regina Carlysle said...

The tee shirts are great but really pricey. I love the idea of putting one or two into gift baskets though. Vistaprint offers deals on tee shirts all the time. Tote bags too. Those are great to give away, especially at a conference.

Regina Carlysle said...

I still think I'm going to check out the dollar store, Molly. Figure you need 200? That's $200 plus tax.

Jen B. said...

I've never been to a book conference but it is on my to do list this year. I have been to some other conferences and I have a few friends who regularly attend conferences. Here are some ideas I have picked up. If you have a book coming out around the time of the conference, produce a giveaway that relates to the book. For instance, your next book is set in Texas. So, how about a Texas magnet with the name of the series. Or, a miniature item that depicts something in the story (like a cowboy hat) with your name and series info. My friend attended a conference in the pharmaceutical industry and one of the giveaways was a tiny "dustball" magnet with little google eyes. Sounds weird right? But, she loved it and hung it up at work. It was for a company that sells micro weighing devices. She and her coworkers ended up online looking at their products and actually bought some. Very cool! I always love the tote bags, sun visors, water bottles, and funky pens and pencils. I mean, who can resist a deely-bobber pencil? I actually love bookmarks and postcards because I am an ebook user. You don't get covers with ebooks :( One last thought, something weird like a folder for everyone to store their post cards or a deck of playing cards or even shoe covers to wear in bad weather. Different and memorable! Ok, that's wordy enough. Have fun putting your stuff together. BTW, love the condom lollipop idea. Funny.

Savannah Chase said...

Great post with ideas..I have done a few of them. One thing you know people love is getting free goodies...

desitheblonde said...

since i do this a lot i like the book marks and then the cover of the book on the post cards and then post crds and then the pen and then the key ring hand made book marks

Regina Carlysle said...

Jen honey, you MUST come to a conference. Talk about a BLAST! Yeah, I think a lot of us try to tie our latest releases to our promo giveaways. Just makes good sense. When that happens it's good to get together with others from the series and do a cool basket full of fun stuff or do it alone including lots of the things you mentioned. Who doesn't like great sun visors, cups and tee shirts. I'll never forget a cap I got at at RWA convention once. It was for Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books. The cap was Plum (naturally) and says Plum Crazy on it. I still have that after all these years.

Regina Carlysle said...

Isn't that the truth, Savannah!

Regina Carlysle said...

Hey Desi. I like all those things too. I actually just ordered some postcards with a cover on them. I'm set of pens and designing book marks. I think one of the only things I haven't tried are the key rings. Those are pretty nice!

Anonymous said...

All of us "romance" people love candles. I collect match boxes, even the fold up kind. There's nothing better than swiping that match, watching the fire burst, and if your mans watching you...Pickering your lips to blow it out. :0D

Elece

Kathy Kulig said...

Lots of great ideas. I like printing up little excerpt booklets and stuffing them in a sandwich bag with a chocolat. Those disappear. Pens are popular too. I love pens and bookmarks and collect them myself. Even tho more people are reading ebooks they still like bookmarks and postcards w authors signatures. At BEA people wanted you to sign everything

Regina Carlysle said...

You know, Elece, matchbooks are a great idea! I never thought of that and it MUST be fairly inexpensive. Great idea. I'm checking into that.

Regina Carlysle said...

I like the idea of putting an excerpt into a baggie along with other goodies, Kathy!

Lia Slater said...

I'm bummed that I have to miss all conferences this year. Sigh. But I love all of these ideas--especially the excerpt on CD and the baggie/excerpt/candy idea. I'm going to have to write this stuff down.

Regina, I get those free postcards too! Nothing better than free. :-)

Marcia James said...

Great post and fun suggestions! I present author promotion workshops and recommend choosing PR trinkets that represent your author brand and not just a single book. That way you can buy the items (pens, keychains, lipbalm, etc) in larger quantities (at a lower cost) since you can use those items for more than one book.

That's what I've done with my thumbcuff keychains -- I've given away more than 7,000 thumbcuffs one at a time at conferences.

The primary use of trinkets and bookmarks, postcards, etc, should be getting the reader to your website where they can read book excerpts and click on purchase links. One of the only PR giveaways that can lead directly to a sale is an excerpt booklet or first chapter booklet.

I'm missing RT this year, too. But I have RT 2012 in Chicago on my calendar.
-- Marcia ;-)

Taryn Elliott said...

Oooh. I think I love the idea of the lip balm too. I'm constantly with one at all times. I can't get away from it.
Too bad Burts Bees is so expensive. LOL I would totally sticker over it.
Oh wait.
Copyrights.
dang.
;)

lol

Great idea on the promos--def keep it cheap with the e-world we live in. But that WEBSITE is a DEFINITE.

Mia Watts said...

Promo is always a toughy for me. I want to stand out. I certainly don't want people to throw away what I've got. It's almost a contest sometimes.