For instance, bookmarks. I know, you’re probably thinking “Dummy-dummy, you put them in books to mark your spot! Duh.” Except no, because I have way more bookmarks than I could feasibly use and because I haven’t used cardstock bookmarks since I discovered the joys of the book thong. For those of you that don’t know, a book thong is essentially a piece of string with beads on either end that fits perfectly in your book. Actually, before the book thong I was one of those people that *gasp* dog-eared my pages because card stock bookmarks were always falling out or slipping down into the book to be lost until I turned the book over and shook it – either way I would lose my page.
Now, that isn’t to say card stock bookmarks aren’t pretty, because they totally are and if I love the art and the book I will end up sticking it on a bulletin board or on the fridge with a magnet so I can see the pretty, but I don’t really use them. Thus, I feel bad when they are “wasted” on me. Then there are the people who use e-readers – what are they going to do with a bookmark? Logically the connection between promoting a book and giving away a bookmark makes sense, but now just about every author has bookmarks to give away and it doesn’t set them apart or grab attention. The other problem with bookmarks is that they don’t get a particularly wide viewing from anyone other than the reader. The bookmark sits there wedged between the pages living a lonely, solitary existence.
The bookmark, however, is still better than the whatever-they-are-called postcard shaped cardstock advertisements. WHAT DO PEOPLE EVEN DO WITH THESE? Are they just funky shaped bookmarks? Are they over-sized business cards? I have no idea.
As I’d mentioned, the best promotions are things that loyal fans will love and use, preferably in a manner that will also let potential fans see and then pine with jealousy for such an awesome thing. What kind of products do that best?
Personally, I always get asked about book shirts. There are two t-shirts in particular I received as promotional gifts that I wear fairly frequently and strangers will come up to ask me about them and I will tell them about the books. What’s most amusing about this is that they are not promoting my favorite books but they are well designed and are easily viewable because I am wearing them, so I end up discussing them far more than I if I had only read the books. This is an awesome way to promote books, put it on a shirt or tank top and readers will wear it. And talk about it. And love it.
But alas, clothing as a promotional item is more expensive than cardstock and we’re not all made of money, right? The idea holds true though, if you can wear it people will see it. Some smaller and less expenisve-y promo items that totally rock are pins or patches. I love patches. I love mixing and matching them and attaching them onto my bags with needle, thread, and blood (I am not very good at sewing). Pins are fun but I have some sort of weird pin-repelling power that makes them frequently fall off and get lost or pop open and stab me.
Tote bags are another great item that are useful and have high visibility. I am always getting compliments on an excellent Vladimir Tod tote bag that was being given away a few years ago at BEA. It has the benefit of an iconic graphic that is highly recognizable for fans of the series but is also cute and enjoyable for people who have never even heard of it.
I also see a lot of promo products for things other than books (Wait, what? There are things besides books? Crazy) and I always wonder why they aren’t being utilized by the publishing industry - such things as pens, sticky notes, water bottles, magnets, and bumper stickers (or regular stickers. I don’t care how old I get, I will always love stickers). I’d love to see more of these things promoting books!
Finally, let’s talk about food – because really, who doesn’t love food? I personally love fictional food made real – lembas from Tolkien, Butterbeer from Rowling, November Cakes from Stiefvater – and nothing will make me want to investigate a book like having food with it. Of course, this is a bit trickier because one can’t very well ship cupcakes along with books (someone please find a way to make this happen actually) but if an author is having a book launch, signing, or going to a festival or any kind of personal appearance YOU CANNOT GO WRONG WITH FOOD.
I have seen a lot of promo products in the past few years and I honestly can’t even remember what I thought about such things before seeing loads of them, or if I even had thoughts about it back then, except for the main one which is: try desperately to avoid giving away things that will immediately go live in the junk drawer. I’m always curious to hear what readers who don’t get a plethora of promotional products think of giveaway items and what authors think of the promotional items they work with for their books. Feel free to comment here or head on over to Twitter to tell Nicole or myself all about it!
Cassandra is a book reviewer, journalist, and blogger who suffers from a 140-character addiction that can only be sated by copious amounts of tweeting and caffeine. She sucks at sleeping and can be found on Twitter, Facebook, her website, or with a Google search to see which delightful companies have hired her to write stuff lately.