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Self-Promo and Marketing Materials that Work
My sequel comes out in week and I've noticed a drastic difference in the amount of self-promotion I did this year compared to last year. For my debut, I tried everything, mainly because I didn't know what worked and/or what was worth spending money on. But looking back, some of those things I did for Taken had a very small payoff. Some of them had a small payoff and managed to drain my wallet and energy at the same time.
So I wanted to take a moment to chat about the marketing materials and self-promo that I think gives you the biggest bang for your buck. These are the things I did for Frozen this year, and at least for the foreseeable future, I can imagine doing them for all my books to come.
Forget business cards as an author. All you need are bookmarks. They hold all the same information as a business card, but they have a very functional purpose. (Can you remember the last time you saved a business card someone handed you?) Furthermore, bookmarks are fantastic marketing tools both pre- and post-launch. Stick them in any ARCs or finished copies you mail out. Give them to readers at book signings. Leave small batches at your local library and/or bookstore. Carry them with you everywhere (in your purse, car, etc). You never know when you'll run into someone who asks what you do. If they seem interested, give them a bookmark.
A well designed bookmark should introduce both you and your book. Here's the info I make sure to include on any bookmarks I order:
Author website and/or twitter
ISBN, space permitting
Blurbs, space permitting
Tagline, space permitting
Like many print products, the larger your order, the less you'll pay per bookmark. If your budget's tight, bookmarks might feel like a hefty investment upfront, but I swear by them. If I could only budget for one type of promotional material for my next book, I'd go with bookmarks every single time. (My bookmarks for Frozen are shown to the right.)
I mail these to local libraries and indies within a one hour radius of my home. For some people, that radius can result in a lot of establishments. It's about 200 for me, and I realize that might be a bit more than some people can handle. Trim your radius down to a half hour, or hand select 20-30 libraries or bookstores you'd like to target most.
The front of your postcards should contain all the info that exists on your bookmarks. (Mine for Frozen are again shown to the right.) The back should be BLANK. Why? Because you need room for stamps and addresses, but also because you're going to handwrite a note to the library/store. These businesses see a lot of promotional material, much of which gets tossed directly into the waste basket. But if there's handwriting on your postcard, it will be read.
Your message should be short and sweet. Saundra Mitchell has fantastic advice when it comes to postcard marketing, and I tweaked her proposed messaging to work for my needs. Like Saundra, I have booked a ton of library visits from postcard contact, so I know this method works!
If your publisher only gives you one or two ARCs, this method probably won't be an option. But if you're like me, and you get 10-15, that's more copies than you know what to do with. Take two copies and hand deliver them to your local library and local indie. Take another 3-5 ARCs and plan a series of giveaways on your blog.
The key to a succesful giveaway is exposure. Yes, only a small handful of readers will win a copy, but over the course of the giveaway, word-of-mouth will hopefully put the book on hundreds or thousands of people's radar.
If you give away all the ARCs in one giveaway, I suggest having the giveaway run for at least a month. Another option is to run several giveaways back-to-back, each with one ARC up for grabs. With either route, considering asking readers to tweet or blog about the giveaway for an additional entry. Rafflecopter is a free service that helps collect and moderate entries, as well as draw winners, and I can only speak positively of it. (It's that widget tool you often see here on Pub Crawl for our giveaways!)
If you don't have a personal blog, or just want a super hands-off option, try goodreads' giveaway service. You specify the prize, how many copies you're offering, end date, and the territories you're willing to ship to. Goodreads will handle everything else, including drawing winners and providing you with their mailing addresses.
Once you have your winners, don't forget to send the prizes using Media Mail. This special USPS rate is available for parcels that are books only. Send 'em anywhere in the US for around $3!
So that's it—my suggested 3-part marketing plan! Timing wise, I recommend ordering bookmarks about 3-4 months prior to launch. Stagger any ARC giveaways in this same timeframe. Postcards should be mailed out about one month before your book hits shelves.
There's lots of other stuff you can do (blog tours, preorder contests, custom swag, and on and on), and they do indeed help. But for me, they sucked a lot of time and enthusiasm, and I've chosen to focus most of my energies on bookmarks, postcards, and giveaways moving forward. If you're pressed for time and/or pinching pennies, I suggest considering one or all of these options yourself.
Done other types of self-promo that was super successful? Seen marketing materials you thought were incredibly clever? Tell us about them in the comments!