Whether you love promotion or you hate it, let’s face it: you have to do it if you want to sell books. For some people, it’s the most dreaded part of being a writer. But it doesn’t have to be. I’ve come up with some fun ideas that you can put into practice quite easily. Give one or more of them a try, and let me know how they work!
1. Have a three-ring notebook for people to sign up for your newsletter. Take the notebook with you wherever you have a book event and encourage people to sign up even if they don’t buy your book. All they generally need to do is provide you with their name and email address. Make sure you have a pen for them to write with, and use a ribbon or string to attach the pen to the rings in the notebook so it doesn’t disappear.
2. When you design promotional materials, stay away from the usual. I’ve noticed at conventions that the swag tables have a huge array of different promotional items and it’s interesting to see which swag readers—and other writers—reach for first. For example, one author I know of staples a package of two Pepperidge Farm cookies to each of her postcards. These postcards are among the first to disappear at conferences. Another author has pens specially printed with her name and website. One of the coolest things I’ve seen is from author Wendy Tyson, who writes the Greenhouse Mystery Series. The first book in the series is out and Wendy takes the book cover and prints it onto a seed packet with seeds you can plant in your garden. Inspired!!
But what if your budget doesn’t allow for giveaways? There are still things you can do to make your swag interesting. Here are a few ideas, but you can brainstorm and come up with so many more. Each one assumes you are using a postcard with your book cover on one side, so put one of these ideas to use on the back side:
· Print a recipe from the place where one of your books is set.
· Provide readers with a list of interesting facts about the setting of your book.
· Travel tips for people visiting the setting—these can be funny or serious, but make them fun to read.
· If you write non-fiction, make a list of reasons people should read the book.
· Print a crossword puzzle using character names or fun facts about your setting.
3. For little to no extra cost, you can design a business card or postcard that reminds people of your brand. The font you choose is one of the most important elements of this. If you write thrillers, use a font that suggests speed or movement. If you write cozies, use a font that suggests warmth and charm. And beyond font, choose your background carefully. Are you a mystery writer? Make it shaded (but not too dark—you want readers to be able to see everything on the card clearly) and eerie. Do you write sweet romance? Swirls and curlicues might be appropriate. Do you write horror? Think about incorporating black, white, and red into your background. If you use a symbol as part of your brand, make sure that ends up on your card.
4. I put candy in a basket when I go to a signing. I always have two kinds—chocolate and hard candy. This attracts people who might otherwise have passed me by (the old “feed them and they will come…”) and it gives me a chance to engage them in conversation—maybe about my books, but not necessarily. When people feel they’re getting to know an author, they are more likely to think favorably about that person’s books.
5. This is one of my favorite ideas: I’ve begun auctioning off the right to name a character in one of my upcoming books at local charity auctions. This comes with my promise to put the winner’s name in the acknowledgements of the upcoming book, too, to thank them for naming such-and-such a character. This is fun for me and fun for the person who wins, and it generates a great deal of interest from people who attend the auction. This has the added benefit of helping the charity, too, because people are spending money for a chance to name a character.
Note, there are a couple of caveats that come with this promotional tool: first, you must make clear that you, as the author, have the right to choose the character you want named. Second, you must make clear that you have the right to reject names if necessary (does anyone remember the recent Boaty McBoatface hubbub in naming a British research vessel?). Third, give your winner some guidelines. For example, the person who named a character in my current work-in-progress had a few parameters: I needed a contemporary name that wasn’t too outlandish and that had Celtic or Welsh origins. My auction winner came up with a great name for me.
Do you have any other ideas that have worked for you? By all means, share them in the comments below!