Book Marketing: Bookmarks in My Pocket

Bookmarks are a widely accepted promotional device in bookstores and libraries, and definitely something you should have in your marketing arsenal.  However, just sending them out can be both ineffective and expensive.  Imagine my horror when I discovered that one bookstore manager last year had given the ones we sent him to a lady who wanted them for a crafts project for her kids.  That was twenty bucks, our cost, out the window.  And nothing to do but grin and bear it.  We always carry extras, so we had enough for the book signing that day.

We have a great bookmark designed by the same guy who put our cover together, George Mattingly.  It’s two inches wide and nine inches long and printed on just one side.  Leaving the other side blank leaves room for the bookstore to rubber stamp their information.  It also leaves room for you to give an autograph.  I use a Sharpie on these, and when I do book signings.  Signed books are “sold”.  They can’t be returned.  My book is not appropriate for kids, but a lot of them are collectors.  You’re trying to get that cover image out there as many places as possible , right? The more times they are exposed to the image, the more likely they are to buy the book – or so the theory goes.

I like that cover.  We spent a lot of time on it and we use that image on posters and postcards as well.  It sells books, because it gets people to pick up the book. At sixteen cents each, I can’t just give them away to everyone I meet, however.  I make them ask.  I carry a few in my shirt pocket now, everywhere I go.  Sooner or later someone asks and then I give them one.  If they don’t buy it then, they probably will later.

When I am playing poker at Las Vegas casinos, this produces direct sales at full price, not just to dealers and other staff, but other players.  I try to get them to buy from a retailer like Amazon.com or where I am going to do a signing, but some want a signed copy right then.  Signed copies are extra value, as are the bragging rights of actually having met a real life author.  (People are tremendously impressed by that, no matter what you’ve written.  It’s a lot of work; more than they would care to do themselves.)     I accommodate these requests, even though it means a trip back to the room.  Selling a copy at full price does offset the free review copies and sales samples we have to send out.

And having bookmarks at breakfast at the various Comfort Inns and Holiday Inn Expresses we stay at has also produced sales.  Some customers have bought multiple copies and had me inscribe them to friends and relatives.  (If they are not into the Civil War, they likely know someone who is.)  We sell about half of the books we sign as gifts.

Now carrying the bookmarks in my shirt pocket only works as a marketing tool because I am prepared to talk about my book, and I present myself well.  If you are the shy and retiring type or just not a morning person, then this is not going to work for you.  It’s a conversation starter.  You have to make the close with some follow-up.  Nothing too aggressive or needy.  You have something they want, or they would not have asked.  You are being nice to them, but you don’t need single sales so badly as to beg.  On the other hand, all contributions are welcome.

If you are out of temper or unwell, this won’t work for you.  Your affect has to be friendly and welcoming.  Your cover design also has to be eye catching.

Places that print bookmarks include:

1. Cafe Press
2. VistaPrint
3. Print Runner