Promotion possibilities — and how to mess up big-time!

8 Jul

I confess, I did just that last weekend. I can’t imagine where my brain was to have allowed such a monumental boo-boo! I’ve certainly known better for the last 25 years!

What did I do? I participated in a grand (50 plus authors!)Local Author Festival, and other than the books themselves that were there because of the bookstore manager, I was totally unprepared. Eeegads. I still can’t believe I really did such a dumb thing.

Of course, when I started in this business, in 1989, there were lots of local-type bookstores. Independents (as the above-referenced one was) but also branches of national chains. At that time, those stores loved to have book-signings, by local as well as nationally-known authors. It was a big deal to have people come to a bookstore to see the author and hopefully buy a personally-autographed copy. Generally speaking, one could have every Saturday for three months spent in a different area book-store. And I’m not referring to New York or Los Angeles, either. No, I’ve lived in Cleveland for 50+ years, and this is where I had lots of book-signings in 1993 and 94.

The situation is much different now – there aren’t so many indie-stores, and even fewer national chains that might be inclined to host such an event.

How I messed up was in not having any promotional material to hand out! I did at least have my business cards, and I did give out quite a few. And, a few copies of my books were sold. But still . . . there’s just no excuse for this lack on my part.

My first book came out in May, 1993, but it was the weekend of Thanksgiving six months earlier which brought me copies of my cover. For a romance author, there’s nothing better than having a cover to work with – for stickers or bookmarks or any other hand-out materials. Color copiers were brand new in the self-serve copy centers of the time, and I had planned on making some smaller copies to put on book marks and post cards that I would make for myself. (Once on a shoe-string budget, always on a shoe-string, it seems. Nothing much has changed in that part of my life.)

However, on my way to the copy shop, I made a quick stop at the camera store to pick up the photos for which I’d previously dropped off the film. (That’s certainly different these days, too!) Anyway, while waiting at the counter, I noticed a SALE basket of goodies, with, among other things, packets of adhesive-backed magnet stock – the kind to which you’d affix a business card or photo. Something clicked in my head, and I promptly bought all they had.

From there, I went to the copy shop and made hundreds of greatly-reduced-in-size copies of the front cover. (I’m probably the only person anywhere who didn’t like that cover, but that’s okay.) Then it was home again, and I spent the weekend cutting the little cover pix apart, and affixing them to the magnet stock. I think the entirety was 4” x 6” which made for four decent-sized magnets per sheet. I had already created the bookmark design, so I printed them in the colors used in the cover art.

I then mailed out a letter with 15 bookmarks and a magnet to some 400 carefully chosen bookstores and a few libraries. To the best of my knowledge I was the first romance author to make these magnets. Did they work? I don’t know for sure, but I do know that during the following years – until the bookstore world changed so drastically – I would see my magnet in bookstores in the area. And in fact, several friends still have them on their refrigerator – after 25 years! I think that’s awesome!

I won’t ever be so unprepared again, I can promise you that. And if you’re an author, please learn from my ineptness. Make bookmarks or postcards or something that you can hand out to anyone who even glances at your table or desk space.

In fact, the co-author of my most recent book – An Intensive Care Guide For the Family – suggested a brilliant idea, which he will implement – acquiring a QR code which when scanned will take the holder directly to an e-store, and thus make the purchase even easier! In fact, you could do the e-book on one side and the print book on the other. Whoda thought of that – 25 years ago? We barely knew anything about the internet back then. WOW!!! We’ve come a long way, baby!

But now, there’s almost no end to promotional ideas: I’ve seen pens and pencils, erasers, decks of cards (this works best for very prolific authors!), pre-paid phone or other gift cards, charms for bracelets, stickers for envelopes (remember them?) and even – digital memory sticks! Take a look around your world and see what might be a good match for you and/or your book(s)! The sky’s the limit!

If you have a really great promo idea that you’re willing to share, please tell us about it? Write to me at Thanks!


2 Responses to “Promotion possibilities — and how to mess up big-time!”

  1. Mary Ann Wetzler July 11, 2014 at 9:00 pm #

    kelly, I love your creative way to look at the world! it’s so refreshing in a hectic world

  2. James A. Miller July 23, 2014 at 5:32 am #

    Great long-lasting Idea!

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