There are so many options when it comes to self-promoting and marketing your book that it can often seem overwhelming. Which options actually work? What are the best things to do on a budget? In my experience, if you’re interested in purchasing promotional materials for your book, there are a few cost-effective items that are fairly essential, but the rest are unnecessary. I know a lot of authors who overspent on marketing materials for their debut book and scaled way back for subsequent books. Of course, if you have the extra money to spend, promo materials can always be fun; but if you’re on a budget and looking for the most cost-effective items, here’s what I’ve found to be essential:
If you can only choose one item to buy, make it bookmarks. Almost every author I know uses bookmarks and swears by them. Personally, I’ve found them to be incredibly useful and cost-effective. They’re cheap to print in bulk and always come in handy. I carry bookmarks on me in public and use them like business cards, in case the topic of my book should come up and someone wants more information. I also use them for promotional giveaways and for book signings and events, and I hand them out to booksellers and librarians in my area to make them aware of the book. Their uses are endless, and people seem to love them.
As for what to put on your bookmark, make sure you include the following:
- Cover artwork
- Book title and author name
- Publisher logo (if you have one)
- ISBN (essential if you’re having librarians or booksellers order it)
- Release date (This one’s questionable; if you suspect your release date may change, you might not want to include it. But I know many people ask me when my books are coming out, so I usually include the release date if I’m fairly confident that it won’t change.)
- Your author website (so people know where to find more information)
- Taglines or blurbs (if space permits)
- An illustration credit (if the artist who made the cover artwork requires it)
- Blank space for your author signature (if you plan to sign any of them)
My second go-to promotional item: postcards. I mail these to my local libraries, bookstores, and schools (for my children’s books). Because I live in a small town without many libraries or bookstores near me, I send these out in a pretty wide radius. But if you live in an area with lots of libraries and bookstores, you may want to keep it to a 50-mile radius or less.
Your postcard should include all of the same information as your bookmarks. You may also want to add a longer synopsis or additional blurbs, since you have more space. But make sure you leave blank space on the back of the postcard for the address, the stamp, and the postal barcode. (If you aren’t sure how much space to leave where, there’s lots of info about printing postcards online that will give you the exact dimensions, or you can leave the entire back side blank). Also, I’d highly recommend leaving some blank space on the back to handwrite a message. I think it’s more likely that your card will be looked at if it has a handwritten note, and your message can inform the store/library/school that you’re a local author.
As for what the message should say, keep it short and sweet. Something like, “I’m a local author, and I hope you’ll consider my book for your collection/store/students” works fine. You may also want to include a note about availability for author events, if needed.
- Book plates
Book plates are small stickers that can be signed by the author and placed on the title page of a book, where the signature would usually go. The primary benefit of book plates is that they allow you to “sign” books for people who don’t live near you. They also make great giveaway items. I usually bring some book plates with me to author events as well—if someone forgot their book at home, or if someone isn’t able to purchase the book but still came to hear me speak, I can still offer them a signed book plate. (Bookmarks can also be used for this purpose, though, which is why I’d consider book plates less essential.)
As for what book plates should look like, they’re mostly blank so that you can sign them, of course. Mine are basic 3” by 4” stickers with my name printed along the bottom. There’s a simple background design that’s taken from the background of my most recent book cover, but it’s mostly transparent so that it doesn’t obscure the signature. I’ve seen some writers print entirely transparent stickers with nothing on them at all, which look great too.
And that’s it! There are tons of other things you can have printed to promote your book—pens, buttons, tote bags, posters, flyers, T-shirts, you name it. But I find that most of those things are more expensive and less useful than the three items I listed above. Bookmarks, postcards, and bookplates are cheaper, versatile, and easy to mail (since they’re flat). If you’d like to invest in promotional items for your books, this is where I’d start!
What do you think? Have you ever purchased promotional items for your book(s), or have you considered it? What works for you? What might you consider? Let me know in the comments!
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