I’ve returned from the Romantic Times Convention in DFW, and after a week of considering promotions, I’ve come to a few conclusions.
First of all, I can offer my own evidence:
I went to the con with about 250 pens, came back with 63. In fact, I’ve actually told a bookseller and a couple of librarians that I would send them some, so I’ve already ordered MORE PENS.
I probably gave away about 150 bookmarks, 100 of which went into the bags at the Mad Hatter party (in other words, I forced them onto people rather than people taking them.) I will need more, as I’ve offered to mail some to, once again, a bookseller and some librarians.
The business cards didn’t do as well. Other authors suggested that a) they needed to have a ‘fantasy’ element on the cover. They also needed to say FREE EBOOK somewhere, which I’d left off because I can’t guarantee that Amazon will continue the price match.
So over all, I think that my pens were most successful, and since they’re pens, people are likely to hang onto them.
I have a degree in marketing, and I know that there are two important aspects to any form of promotion: 1) people have to look at it and remember it, and 2) people have to recall who or what it was intended to advertise. There are plenty of commercials on TV that people adore, but the viewers can’t recall what they were advertizing.
I’m trying to apply those principles to my promotional choices, and invest my promo dollars wisely.
So what do I think works?
Pens will be kept, and people cannot escape what they advertise. Another item that I adored was these: lens wipes.
I have these courtesy of Jenna Black (whose book I bought), Julie Kenner (I’ve already read those), and INscribe Digital. The lens wipes run about 50% higher than pens, but they are things that people will keep and use. They start around 60-65 cents each, making them pricey, but perhaps they’re worth it if they’ll keep a name in front of potential customers. (FWIW, you can chose not to put them on swag tables, but if you put them on the table during a panel, people will come up and take one, thereby giving you a chance to make a connection.)
Oddly, I received this fortune cookie last night, which seemed apt to this situation.
(OK, it’s a bit cryptic. Or perhaps it’s simply an example of poor grammar.)
Other ‘keepers’ that have been suggested to me are notepads and notebooks. Again, these are more expensive. Also, some have said that buttons work, but they need to be distinctive. In other words, they should be traceable back to the author somehow. There was a really clever one floating around RT, but I have no idea what company or author gave it away, so it was a wasted effort.
Oddly, here’s an inexpensive one that I thought was great:
These are packs of beechies chewing gum (2 per box.) The author here, Samantha Chase, informed me that these were only a few cents each (from Oriental Trading) and she affixed the labels herself. (They are reproductions of her covers.)
While this particular box will get thrown away (I threw mine away), it served as a fantastic conversation starter, and I saw her engage with readers and end up giving them other things. So I think that little candies/gum can be a great starter as long as the writer is present. (In other words, not the best for a swag table.)
Some final notes here: someone noted that different venues do better with different swag. For example, bookmarks are great for libraries and booksellers. Not as great as other things at cons, it seems.
A bookseller told me that Romance readers want a bookmark small enough to fit entirely inside the book. SFF readers will take a larger bookmark (like mine.) Having looked at a lot of bookmarks there, I think she’s correct about that. Therefore, I’m contemplating making mine smaller next time.
I am going to look into lens wipes, notepads, buttons, and a few other smaller things. Just so you know I have been paying attention this week ;o)
However, I will remind everyone that NOTHING works as well as old-fashioned Word of Mouth. I would give up all of the above if only Oprah, Ellen, or Brad Pitt would mention my books. Or NPR. Or nice readers on Facebook and Twitter….that’s what really works best in the long run.