Thursday, November 15, 2012

Writing 101: Print Marketing

No, you haven't fallen into a time warp. Print marketing is still relevant, up to a point, and there are a whole lot of good reasons why you should be using it to market your self-published books. 

Really, It's a Good Idea

I know, I know. Everyone and everything is online these days, including self-published books. So what can print possibly hope to offer to a digital-savvy writer who's hip to social media and an entire world of e-marketing? 
Bookmarks. Lots of people still love their paper books, and each one of those rectangles is a marketing opportunity. First, print them up using images from your book cover. Add pertinent info in easy-to-read text, like "available in print and online at" and maybe your author blog address. A quote or two praising the book probably wouldn't be out of hand, either. Remember to print images and text on the front and back. 

Once you've got them, give them away. Go to your local bookstore (if you still have one) and ask if you can set them on the counter to give away for free. They can also be set out at card shops, novelty shops, and even the grocery store. Just ask someone for permission, and set them out. And whatever you do, don't forget the library. Your local library is probably very willing to give out your bookmarks, hang up your flyers and maybe even have you in to give a little presentation about self-publishing, literacy or another book-related topic. Take your bookmarks with you. Local marketing is a powerful tool, because people are going to find it much harder to reject you when you're standing there, in their faces.

Make up some flyers, as well, and if you're truly feeling ambitious make up a couple of posters. Make them beautiful. If you're going to do it, then go ahead and do it well. The more gorgeous your printed materials are, the more successful your local campaign is going to be. Hang posters and flyers in the library and bookstores, if they let you, and anywhere else you can. Local coffee shops and music store are often very supportive of local artists of all types, including authors. While you're at the coffee shop, ask them about open mic night if they've got one. Read a short story, a poem or a compelling excerpt of your book. And before you leave, make sure you pass out all of your (that's right!) bookmarks. This tangible proof of the existence of your book will make it much easier for them to remember to buy it. Go to the college bookstore and college hangouts as well to give our your stuff. The campus environment is very supportive of indies and local artists.

It does cost an investment, and there's no promise of a return on that investment. But print is such an unpopular medium these days, you can probably take advantage of sales and budget deals that will help you save a little money. You may also find it more cost-effective to print the stuff up yourself. Take the time to do some pricing on your bookmarks, crunch some numbers, and figure it out.

To get more for your time and effort, you can always re-use the graphics. Post the bookmarks on your blog or website as a template so people can print out their own copies of your bookmark. You can offer it at-large, or maybe as part of a special gift that you give to readers through a promotion. People do still read on paper, and I have paper copies of books that I'll never part with. Bookmarks are still the best way to save one's place in the middle of Harry Potter, or whatever, and there's no reason why I can't be using yours to do it. Maybe I'll look at the book cover and think it seems interesting, and I'll remember your name the next time I go shopping for ebooks on my Kindle. 

Aren't you willing to take that risk?

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  1. I made up business cards. They are easy to carry. But to make them interesting I made them up for my character! "Temporal anthropologist" gets a lot more notice that "indie author" and people will hang onto it just because it's fun to show friends. At the bottom I have my blog and website as the contact information.

    Also I found great software for setting up bookmarks, business cards, posters and such. It's called Serif PagePlus and it's about $100 and is comparable to InDesign. (Well, at least it works a lot better than CorelDraw or Publisher which costs more.) You can download a free demo of PagePlus at the Serif website. I also found the people at Serif very helpful and reachable and they all have delightful English accents. (They are based in Nottingham, UK.) I got a really good deal and they let me download it for $60! I don't know if that is still going on, but you can ask them.

  2. That's an amazing idea, Jeanette. Thanks so much for the tips!