Okay…I don’t want to alarm youall or anything, but one of these hats in my bag belongs to an author. Shh…I know, I could have fooled you with the way I update this place. Truth is, since I don’t have all that much stuff out, I’m a pretty small potato and you’d be hard-pressed to give a rat’s…well, you know. But over at Dear Author, there’s a lively and enlightening conversation going on about the top ten promo don’ts, and why you shouldn’t do them. Very good stuff for aspiring authors, newly-pubbed authors, and authors who are still green at this game. Also those of us who may or may not be socially clueless depending on the wind direction and alignment of the planets.
But lemme tell ya about something promo-fied that is, in my humble opinion, promo-riffic. Most posters are of the agreement that the quality of their online interactions with authors means more than the quantity, and that the most egregious of author gaffes does come from the online arena. But in other venues and in other conversations I’ve had with readers and authors and PR people with an interest, the tchotchkes invariably come up, and the DA thread is no different. Some people love the bookmarks. Some people love the postcards (honestly, from the little research I’ve done, the postcards seemed cheaper, but if you roll-your-own bookmarks, five to a sheet, you can actually come out ahead. Postcards are only four to a sheet). Some people loathe both with the passion of a thousand erupting Hawaiian volcanoes. As a reader (and writers start out and continue as readers), I’m equally okay with bookmarks and postcards. Your bookmark comes in handy when I’m marking my place in someone else’s book (so does your postcard, but I bend paperback spines too. I am evil. EVIL, I tell you), but your postcard looks more like a scale-model of your book (and can fit more blurb text on it, too!), and thus it intrigues me more. Has a better chance to hook me.
However, both are items of transient usefulness and limited relevance. Eventually, and it will be sooner rather than later if I’m on a decluttering rampage, I will toss that bookmark or that postcard in the recycling bin. I will eat your candy and probably forget about you (but not before sending up a good thought at that kind fellow author that provided emergency chocolate to tuck in my purse at the event or conference). Your pens will get used, and used well, but ultimately die an untimely death at too young an age (because they seem to always go fast. I don’t think they’re making pens quite the way they used to). Plus, your name will have worn off rather before the pen dries up. Your keychain, business card, or plastic doohickey will blip up on my radar, but do so in a manner unrelated to either your career or your book. But I will tell you freely and with great passion, that if you happen to give away a bag at a booksigning…I am yours.
No, I don’t mean a grocery bag or a baggie. I mean one of those canvas totes with a picture of your book ironed on or silk-screened onto one side. And I will confess, the bag doesn’t have to be of particularly sturdy or well-ornamented quality, either. Although that’s a huge plus. Several years ago I won a drawing for a canvas tote of Rosemary Laurey‘s. It contained some nominal things I don’t even remember (although I think one of them was a stuffed bear dressed as a bat because my kid chewed the ear off it at one point). But the front of the bag has an iron-on transfer of the covers of Rosemary’s Forever Vampires books from Kensington Zebra, and the back has her autograph.
I take that bag everywhere.
It’s held books, dancewear, lunches, computer equipment, more books, groceries, crochet supplies, more books, notebooks, changes of clothes and diapers for children, totable toys, and books. In point of fact, it’s held every one of Rosemary’s books that appear on the bag front, and one or two more, to boot. And I know those titles and those covers on sight and by heart.
I have another bag, given by Samhain Publishing to attendees of Lori Foster‘s Readers and Writer’s Get-Together event held in Southwestern Ohio the first weekend in June. The Samhain bag is awesome–canvas panels and made extra roomy with mesh inserts. Nice long handles. I could fit a small kid in there. My oldest did fit a small kid (my younger) in there. Thankfully, he didn’t get away with it. I take that bag with me to many, many places, too. The book covers are smaller and a little harder to read, but Samhain’s never far from my mouse when I’m scouting for something to read.
In this day and age, going green is all the rage. I reuse and recycle grocery bags. I have crocheted net bags from leftover scraps of Ye Olde Yarn Stash (and I have a stash, yes I do. I am a happy and well-kept hooker). And the canvas bags I’ve amassed from years of conferences, conventions, subscriptions to magazines, and professional meetings have all found life and use, safely tucked one inside the other and accompanying me every time I go to the grocery store. I get a three-cent discount for every new plastic bag I don’t use, thanks to my bag o’ bags.
I try to conduct my “author presence” by being thoughtful, relevant, and useful, and promo should be the same way. When I next find myself ready to promote a book, and with the wherewithal to do so, I’ll be doing it “green” as well as “relevant and useful” and via canvas tote.