Friday, July 18, 2008

Cheap promo

I know a lot of people who make do-giggies for conference. Book thongs, and patches. Bookmarks and pens, *rubbing hands* the ever popular pen. I am such a pen-thief, lol.

I see the lure of bookmarks. They're cheap, they're as flashy as you wanna be, they convey a lot of info in a small package, and you can spread them out on a table and have presence. The last time I went to the conference, I roomed with a couple of very different people. One was a bookseller, and people gave her "bookseller" gifts, which are way different from actual promo AKA freebies. Blocks of cheese, boxes of chocolate, silver ornaments, and music boxes. A squeezie chicken from Squawk radio and enameled pins. We both did a run through of the Goody room and came away with the same things, although she was okay with bookmarks because they're compact, and she thought her customers would like them. I took food and trinkets.

The third person didn't take much of anything, because as she pointed out, her husband would kill her if she took so much junk home. People gave her stuff anyway, and her side of the dresser grew a stack of books and paper. I'm a big fan of books and me and the bookseller got into a competition over how many free books we could get. She won because she kept getting baskets from new authors. I inched in behind her because--for some strange and crazy reason, I entered a raffle and won twenty-odd inspy romances. I thought I was trying for an alphasmart.

But in the time I spent there, I had many chances to think about what works, and what doesn't work.

Bookmarks don't work. Neither do business cards. Although I think you should have a couple for notes, and people who insist they need one. One writer did a stack of energy drinks and attached her bookmarks to them, but she liked Tab. Thing is, Tab's an acquired taste. Red Bull would have been better. But it sure was pretty, all pink and white, sitting on the back of the table behind the tastefully bagged in plain plastic wrappers Black Lace books (limit, one per title).

I walked a complete circuit, took two handfuls of candy. Every excerpt booklet (I like finding new authors!), three postcards with random pictures of things that had nothing to do with the book they were promoting, a book thong, a can of Tab, about five condoms imprinted with the name of the author (for Cowboy), a naughty lollipop (for a friend), two key chains, five magnets, a magnetic clip, and one each of the Black Lace (because I didn't have enough books to beat Debby.)and pens. I love pens.

I enjoyed the nifty freebies, but after eating the chocolate and drinking the Tab, nothing inspired me to "buy". I did check out the excerpts. Out of maybe twelve excerpts (excerpts for some reason weren't popular with authors) I read six that were outright, "oh my GOD! What was I thinking?" Three that I went out and bought because I liked what I saw, and three I was kind of on the fence about. They were all right, they just weren't things I'd search out. Luckily I got one of them for free. was still all right. Just not the most sparkling book I'd read.

Fast forward two years, (since I missed the Dallas conference) and out of all the stuff I took, I still have the excerpt/guide from Suzanne Brockmann's Troubleshooter series. Maybe about ten of the free books (I gave the rest away), a refrigerator magnet in the shape of a star, the Evanovich book I brought because of the excerpt, and a luggage tag I got at registration.

Promo has been driving me crazy. People tell me to go to loop events, or hang out at cyber-review sites. I took part in a Romantic Times ad, it was pretty--and an RWR ad, it was pretty, too. I took out an ad on Romance Studio, and one with Manic Readers. I don't go to loop events, because I honestly can't see the benefit. And from the looks of it, the ads didn't work well. (although they were pretty)Without an actual book in hand (that comes in September), it's hard to get people to kick back with a computer screen. It could be why the bulk of e-authors have to produce so much to get comparable sales with a traditional press author. The author percentage is better, but print distribution has been in place for decades.

In the beginning my logic went something like this, "well, it's not going to make me a lot of money, and I know that. But if I invest money in promo, I'm not promoting my book, I'm promoting myself. Sort of like branding."

Lol, if I'd known then what I know now.

The best promo I'd said as a bookseller. Word of mouth. A good book generates buzz. I sort of have a mild hum, but it's still early. I have years in front of me, and I like to think I've gotten better. But conference is coming up, and being the cheap person I am, I don't see the point in going to San Francisco without some kind of promo (NOT bookmarks!). I don't want to be known as the author with the condoms. And little things (as my former roomie said, garbage?)make me feel better, but aren't doing much for anything beyond my ego.

I did see a couple examples of great promo. One woman, who since sold to Bantam, picked the one thing about her book that made it stand out (the weird looking dog), fixed her hair like the dog, made business cards with a picture of the dog and attached them to miniature handcuffs. She handed everyone these cards, foisted handcuffs on everyone, and talked non-stop. She always grinned, always talked, always had a pair of these godawful cliche-cards in her hand, and I'll admit--she got me. The conference is the one time you should be totally "on", I was in awe. This woman was a promo-machine. It didn't surprise me she sold well.

The other woman, who since joined Divas, lol--wore this "dress". It was the most amazing dress. Long, sweeping, black (for romantic suspense)with floating side panels that made watching her some kind of event. The only thing she could have done to better brand herself would have been to take Marcia's lead, and crank on like a halogen. Her business cards could have used some help too. IMHO, they should have made more of a statement, like--this is my name. My name is enough. Wait for me. One day, I'll be big.

And I think that's where business cards go wrong. We're all romance writers. We're at a romance convention. There are thousands of us. Don't state the obvious. I know you write romance.

The one exception being Tawny. Her tag-line is awesome. C'mon--it's almost ad-agency perfect. Sassitude. I mean, wow.

If it doesn't "zing". Don't. I went with an excerpt cd.

Diana did them for a TX conference. Relatively low-cost, high impact--and targeted at the desired results. Getting people to buy your book. I must have spent months trying to figure out how to present it in a way that would make people pick these things off the goody table. At the end, I finally decided on a clear jewel case, and a colorful label made of covers.

It's bright, it's attractive. It's in a jewel case so people can see it. And it has not one, but eight excerpts on it.

It's going the standard paper booklet one better. I made a hundred. God, I hope they do well.


Alice Audrey said...

Great idea! I bet they do just what you want them to.

jodi said...

lol, if anybody takes them, I hope they'll check us out. (you can never tell)

uhm...Alice? I write long-winded posts, don't I? You think maybe I'm getting Joyce-ian in my old age?

Alice Audrey said...

LOL. Joyce had a devoted following. So do you. Maybe there's a similarity there. :)

Unhinged said...

FASCINATING! I loved reading this one. I wish I was going and that I had something to promote. I'd have a blast designing something, coming up with something. I get TOO carried away with that kind of stuff, actually.

I love your idea. Can't wait to see how it turns out.

Unhinged said...

Um, your posts are not too winded. At least not for me.

Who be Joyce?

Jeanna said...

You had me at chocolate and Tab.