Friday, March 5, 2010

Pumping up the Promo

At the Three Wicked Writers chat loop yesterday, a lot of us were talking about promotional items and things we liked to pick up on the cheap for mailers and what have you. It was a pretty interesting conversation. I guess with convention season fast approaching, we're all looking for ideas to spice up our booksigning tables. I believe lots of newbies go crazy with that stuff. That's okay...really. Nothing wrong with letting your excitement swing over into all the little goodies places like Vistaprint has to offer. It's cheap. It's fun. So why not? The thing is...don't break the bank.

Since I veer into the thrifty and practical realm, I took things slow. One of the dumbest things I did was order business cards that featured the title of my first book. Ridiculous. Not a smart thing despite the fact the cards were cheap. Now this first book is no longer with the same publisher and the cards were tossed in the trash. Live and learn. Now my biz cards are generic. They have my name and website. That's it. When my backlist started to expand, I ventured a little further. After the business card stupidity, I knew I wanted to get more mileage from things. I often order oversized postcards featuring my latest cover. On the back I list other titles, website, and contact information. Advertising one single title on a postcard seems a waste of money to me. And we all know that paper goods eventually end up in the trash.

Lots of writers dream of blowing up their bookcovers to decorate their office walls. When I had my first booksigning, I uploaded my cover to a cd, took it to Kinkos and for forty bucks they blew it up on put it on a heavy duty foam board. This was a great idea because I used it during my signing by propping it on an easel. The foam board has a hanger on the back so later you can put it on a wall if you want and no framing is required.

I tend to do things in stages. Now, I work with promotion companies to promote my releases. That's a step I've recently made because promotion is time consuming and I found it stole hours of my day that I could've better spent writing and soon I'll be looking at other forms of advertising. Ads on review sites are often a good option and fairly cost effective, I think. A number of magazines offer ad space but you really need to consider the cost here. In my view, if a magazine reaches a very limited number of subscribers and their rates are astromonical, you'll have to sell a ton of books for it to pay for itself. This can be a losing proposition. I like to make a profit. Don't you?

I think one of the worst mistakes a newbie writer can make is to go ape shit with this stuff right out of the box. I've seen writers spend hundreds for promo junk for one book when they haven't even received their first check yet. This is a quick way straight into the red. Guess what I'm saying is weigh your options, make smart choices. There are cost effective ways to get your name out there. So do a little research and find what works best for you.

In other news I got a couple of five angel reviews from Sonya at Fallen Angel Reviews. YAY. I'm so thrilled with the responses I've gotten for the books in the High Plains Shifters series (Ellora's Cave) so yeah...more are coming! If you'd like to check them out, I'm posting the link. Ringo's Ride Edge of Nowhere


Anny Cook said...

Business cards or magnets are usually good. Of all the stuff I've bought, those seem to do the best.

I might get some pens this year and try handing them out.

Not going to spend any other stuff this year. Can't really see any profit from it.

Regina Carlysle said...

I like magnets and they aren't all that expensive. PLUS they don't seem to be as 'disposable' as other stuff. People like them on their fridges (I sure do). I'm also thinking about pens. I think the important thing to remember is the paper stuff usually ends up in the trash.

Madison Scott said...

It's so hard to know what to buy and what works. I've done magnets, business cards, cover flats, and bookmarks. Not sure how much they helped or not. LOL

Fran Lee said...

With places like VistaPrint, I only spent about $100 per book for advertising items...and most of that was for T-shirts that I wear every day! LOL! I feel sorta like those guys who wear a statue of liberty outfit for the tax businesses, walking around with my book covers on my chest. Heh heh heh. I did put a few bucks into some gnarly china mugs that have all of my book covers around the cup...four on some, six on others. Those are for special prizes and personal gifts. I plan to take a few to Romanticon with me this October.

Fran Lee said...

Also...I had 100 large cover flats made to autograph for fans, since e-books aren't "autograph-friendly", LOL! Instead of bookmarks, I had 250 FREE business card sized cover flats that make gorgeous small book marks. 90% of all of this was FREE. I paid $10 or so for SH on a huge load of stuff. I hand out my business card sized covers wherever I go. People love them.

Lucy Monroe said...

So, what promotion company do you use? Email me if you'd rather - happywriting (at) yahoo (dot) com. :)

As for promo items, I see them as a thank you to readers rather than an investment that will pay off in future. I do always try to bring something unique to the big conferences. I don't go crazy, as I prefer to put my promo dollars into stuff I know works like COS book trailers and banners on the right sites, etc. :)

Melissa Schroeder said...

I think it depends on the book and format. While I have several ebook companies, they all handle releases differently. Where one has me up at all their distributed sites the day of release, most of my others way at least a month.
I do web ads and appearances. I don't know if I will ever do another magazine ad because I think print advertising, unless it is HUGE like People (which I cannot afford of course) is just not making the grade these days. I am a part of three promo companies that helps get my name out there.
I am with Lucy. I think that promo items are more of a thank you to readers. That said, I do like to stretch my dollar. The latest two things I have done is a bookmark that is generic, promotes my site and can be used for however long I want. Saves me money in the long run because I buy more of them. Secondly, I bought pens. I have readers tell me all the time they love those.
One thing you need to understand, if you are mainly with digital based companies, that you do need to make sure you keep that contact with readers. Be good about your time, but one of the reasons readers were drawn to ebooks to begin with was that so many authors were easy to access. They would chat with them. You do not need to spend days online at chat groups, but doing a day at yahoo group will give you so much promo.
Sorry, I rambled. I used to teach classes in this for authors, and I am actually thinking of doing some online from my site. You can stretch your dollar online, and if you are organized, spend your time wisely:)