Kathryn Lively, Writer

With a K. And a Y.

Tuesday Twaddle: Postcards From the Curb

I feel twenty pounds lighter. I just sent a shit-ton of expired book promo to the trash. Yessir, yessir, three bags full.

When I attended my first book festival about ten years ago, people told me, “Oh, you have to have promo.” You have to print postcards, make key fobs with your book cover, hand out pens with your URL engraved on them. You have to spend all this money to produce crap that a person might look at once before tossing in the garbage – just like I did today.

I don’t want to know how much money I’ve spent in the last decade on promotional items for my books. I definitely know I didn’t see a good return on investment. Over the years, too, I’ve had to throw out much of it because the postcards had book covers I no longer use, or had URLs that no longer exist, or promoted books now out of print. Also, I tossed out a bag of promo from other authors, collected at the last book con I attend. Barely looked at most of it. Sorry, guys.

You’re asking, “Why did you take it if you were going to throw it out anyway?” Well, much of it came in the registration bag, and often I’ll give away a con bag with goodies as part of a contest. What I had here, mainly leftovers.

It occurred to me that I have yet to buy a book based on the blurb found on a keychain or emery board. What are the odds somebody has done differently for me?

See the pic? That’s all the promo I took to the last event I attended. I hope some people kept my stuff and have remembered my name. At least I get to write it all off on this year’s taxes.

Now, some authors may feel the opposite about promo, and perhaps some saw a good ROI on postcards and buttons and whatnot. I’ve bought ads in magazines, bought into group promotions, printed sample booklets. People have snatched up stuff at my book tables in the past, but I can’t say it’s translated well into sales. Somebody told me once a person has to see a brand or product 5-7 times before they decide to buy. I guess one ad once in a blue moon doesn’t cut it, but I don’t have the budget for that kind of promotion.

Hell, I can’t afford the Pure Buttons anymore, with the discount code.

I can tell you, though, what I will keep. Pens. We don’t throw out pens in this house. I always have pens in the car, in my purse, at my desk. I may not follow through on buying a book because of a pen, but I’ll see your name on it.

Lip balm. Again, tubes in the car and purse. Lip balm costs money, especially the expensive Burt’s Bees stuff. I’m cheap. If you’re giving me lip balm I’m keeping it.

Mini hand sanitizers. The world is full of germs. My husband sneezes a lot. I coat myself in this stuff.

That’s pretty much it. I don’t know if I’ll buy promo again, but eventually some site will send me a sample and a good deal, and I’ll auto-click. I don’t want to discourage you authors from buying promo if you have an event coming up. I can only offer you my experience with it. Some authors don’t do the bulk items, but maybe order one awesome thing – like a few etched shot glasses or a blanket with an embroidered logo – and win fans one at a time. It sounds like a good way to build up a street team, if there’s value in one.

Me, I’ll spend the money on wine. And chocolate.

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    1 Comment

    1. Love this, Kathryn! I’ve spent money on bumper stickers, bookmarks and even t-shirts and I don’t think any of that has resulted in a single sale. Maybe I’ll try lip balm next time. 🙂

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