Postcards, bookmarks, business cards and flyers have all been consistent elements in book promotion for several years. Together they make a standard part of a publisher’s marketing plan and an asset to an author’s promotion toolbox. And yet, they are just so… old.
Marketing is about creating a splash and catching someone’s attention. More than that, our industry requires marketing campaigns to build relationships with readers. Merchandising pieces have traditionally offered a take-away that not only catch attention but also give the reader something to look at later to remind them of a book’s title, an author’s name, or a character description. But once that reference has been made, what happens to the postcard? Inevitably, it will be discarded.
It will be discarded unless you make it something worth keeping. But how do you do that? How do you reinvent something so basic? How do you move from a traditional mass-marketing approach (printing hundreds or thousands of recyclable pieces) to a unique and targeted promotion that has lasting impact? How do you prevent the tried-and-true from becoming the same-old, same-old?
Here’s one idea: Instead of printing large quantities of one design, ask your publisher to print smaller quantities with unique designs.
- Design your merchandising pieces around a theme. It’s really easy to put the cover on the front and a book description on the back and call it a day. But what would happen if you featured elements of your book instead of the book itself? If you’re a nonfiction author, choose different quotes from throughout your book and feature a different quote on different cards. For fiction, maybe you can focus your theme around your characters. Offer a behind-the-scenes profile of each character, giving readers a deeper look at the people who move your story.
- Place the different cards and bookmarks strategically. Ask your local library and book stores to offer them near their cash register or even as bag stuffers. One of my authors got permission from the bookstore manager to place one of her cards in other novels that were stocked on the same shelf in that store—a little cross-merchandising, if you will.
- Position the merchandising pieces as trading cards, letting readers know their card is one of a set. Tease them with clues to the other cards and where they could find them (maybe you offer different cards to different stores so readers can go on a “scavenger hunt”). Maybe you’re at a writing workshop or conference and every time you hand out a card you encourage the reader to talk to other attendees and find the rest of the set. If you’re interacting with your fans online, consider hosting online book discussions where readers share the behind the scenes notes they have on their cards.
- Use the design of the pieces is other ways. One of the novelists I work with kept the designs of each of 6 postcards she used and turned them into web graphics that were then formatted into an animated introduction into her website.
- Offer specials or giveaways to people who promise to pass our cards for you. Have then email or Facebook you with details of how they distributed your cards and then award a prize (could be as simple as an Amazon gift card) to the most creative. Your readers aren’t just readers. They can be great marketers too!
- Be creative in your messaging. A business card doesn’t have to be boring. Communicating your basic contact info is one thing, but what if the card could provoke further interaction on your website? Think of a catchy line that begs people to look at your site for more information. Kregel novelist Patti Lacy’s bio starts with the line “I was born in the front seat of a Buick. I guess you can say my entrance into this world sparked a love for travel and the unpredictable.” How’s THAT for catchy? Offer a statement like that on the business card, followed by a URL, and your website unique visitors will skyrocket.
What else? How do you use postcards, bookmarks, business cards and flyers in unique and exciting ways? Share your ideas! We’d love to hear them!
Cat Hoort has worked with Kregel, Abingdon Press, and Worthy. She wasn’t born in the front seat of a car but still considers herself lucky to be able to work with fabulous authors who have such amazing stories to share.