Beyond Bookmarks: How Publishers Can Help Authors and Booksellers

Elizabeth Bluemle -- April 22nd, 2016

Oh, publishers, you do love your promotional doodads. And we sometimes love them, too, but much of the time, they honestly don’t help us promote and sell your books. You might play to your strengths by helping where we need it most. Publishers have entire departments devoted to creating marketing and promotional materials, whereas we stores often have small staffs with varying levels of artistic ability. Instead of sending us 200 bookmarks that only 12 customers will end up taking, or shipping us those books-nestled-in-Easter-grass-in-a-special-fitted-box – which too often arrive looking sad, squished, and decrepit from their postal journey – consider sending us instead:

Author (and Authorless) Event Flyers
Professional, appealing design impresses customers and makes them take more notice of an event. While many stores do a fine job creating flyers for events, your designers’ efforts will generally knock ours out of the park every time. It’s a one-time design job for publishers that hundreds of stores can use. If you come up with an eye-catching, professionally designed, downloadable flyer that we can plug our time, date, and logo info into, I guarantee you that your authors’ events will be promoted earlier and more effectively. (For picture books, the book’s illustrator might be happy to help create a flyer; we’ve had a couple of visiting artists who were incredibly proactive and created their own flyers to offer stores. You can imagine how charming and wonderful those flyers were!)

To make it even simpler on your end, you could post the template on Edelweiss instead of emailing it to event stores.

If you wanted to get fancy and extra helpful, you could generate two sizes: 8.5″ x 11″ to post at the store and around town, and 18″ x 24″ to mount on foam core at the store with the book display. We always love the pre-printed poster boards you sometimes send, but remember, even a PDF of these to print out ourselves is helpful.

Sample Facebook Event Page Copy —Promotional writing is a special kind of writing, and not everyone is good at it. Not only that, but the person responsible for creating promotional materials at a bookstore is not always the person who has scheduled the event and knows the book. It can be a challenge to make a reading sound brand new, to capture the essence of a book in a few sentences, and to present an author’s personality and appeal to customers who may not be familiar with his or her work.

“But don’t independent bookstores want to be unique?” you ask. Of course we do, and of course we are. But we are also overworked and always, always short of enough time to make things as perfect as we’d like. So it could be extremely helpful to have some snappy text to use as a jumping-off point.

Demo Pop-Up Books
You know this problem: pop-up books are expensive, and gorgeous, and everyone wants to look before they buy. Often, small stores won’t buy those books because they know they will take a loss on damages. We can lose hundreds of dollars on those books we have to remove from their protective shrink wrap so customers can see their glorious contents. I would SO much rather see some of that book’s marketing budget be spent on a demo book we can display without taking a loss every time.

How About Some Promo for the Midlist?
We know that a few books get the lion’s share of marketing dollars, and the rest need to make their way in a Darwinian world. But what if a few of those big-budget-book dollars made their way toward shelftalkers for the quieter titles that need help to find their readers? Small shelftalkers, with an eye-catching graphic and maybe one review pull-quote. Not too many words, just enough to catch the attention of a bookstore browser.

These are a few of my wish list items. The main one is the event flyer — it seems like such a natural, easy solution to offer stores, and one with a potentially big payoff of higher attendance, more sales, and fewer returns.

Bookseller colleagues, which promotional items do you find useful, which don’t you, and what promo efforts would help you sell more books?

good promo

Traditional promo we do love, for TELL ME A TATTOO STORY by Alison McGee & Eliza Wheeler (Chronicle). The finished book, the carefully wrapped tattoo packet, the little promo sheet affixed to a kraft card, and the colorful art — all simple, beautiful, and useful items for booksellers.

7 thoughts on “Beyond Bookmarks: How Publishers Can Help Authors and Booksellers

  1. David Rozansky

    I’m currrntly writing a book on book marketing, titled Fishnets & Platforms: The Writers Guide to Whoring Your Book. There’s a whole chapter on author events. I advise authors and their publicists and publishers to create an event kit for bookstores that cover not only promotional flyers, graphis and copy, but also signs, dumps, displays and co-operative advertising. I see plenty of success when authors have handbills distributed on the street the day of the event.

  2. Laura H.

    I agree on demo pop-up’s. Our store is down to selling two maybe three pop-up titles. It is impossible to keep the books undamaged. No one wants to buy or give a book with a piece pulled off or mangled. Especially if it is in the $30 to $35 range. Freebie bookmarks are still a big hit with the customers. People ask for them on a daily basis. Most publishing houses have discontinued their physical catalogs. The children’s catalogs were a major promotional tool. Our children’s dept. would pull out desk copy catalogs of upcoming releases, make recommendations and create buzz. It was a great help. Stickers end up all over the store and other books, posters are wonderful, pencils not so much. Chapter samplers are the best. The customers love them!

  3. Tami

    As usual, you are reading my mind! These are great suggestions! The FB copy and graphics especially, for me. Sometimes I stress so much over the perfect thing to post (or tweet) that I end up missing the opportunity altogether.

  4. Carol B. Chittenden

    Small promo items — stickers, pencils, tattoos, shelf easels — are much more adaptable than bulky dumps and big posters. nd any house that sends things out in elaborate packaging is, IMHO, broadcasting that it has lots of money to throw around, no matter how much it poormouths coop pools or justifies price increases.

    For a picture book, sometimes a bit of costume or prop to help a storytime would very likely pay for itself.

    But I’d love to hear from publicists about the relative disposition of their budgets. Media exposure, other than the internet, has to be so expensive as to drown all other considerations. True?

  5. Leslie Hawkins

    YES to the event flyers! Anyone with enough staff time and talent to create original ones won’t be put off by their availability, and they would be very helpful to the rest of us. Leave room for a logo, address, and time/date. Sometimes when I get an event kit from a publisher, there will be a nice glossy poster ready to go with space to write in the date and time. I love those. But even a simple letter-sized flyer ready to print would be great.

    Regarding Facebook, PLEASE OH PLEASE make readily available photos of author and/or book covers that are wide enough to satisfy Facebook’s ridiculous requirements for an event photo. I dread creating FB events, even book club meetings, because it always means a lot of frustrating time spent searching the web for an image wide enough to be accepted or trying to enlarge one myself and ending up with poor resolution.

    As for pop-ups… yikes. At the very least, please put a color insert in the package with photos of the spreads–as many as possible. Then the customer can see what’s inside without needing to open the book or even the packaging. (Some will still want to, but being able to show them the interior photos would make it easier to say “not until you buy.”) Once in a blue moon I see this, and I really don’t know why it isn’t standard practice. A little sample of just one spread, even, could go a long way, as well.

  6. Monica

    How about — event Facebook copy is nice, but Facebook GRAPHICS are great. Wouldn’t coloring pages of book covers be awesome? For all ages!

  7. Rachel Z

    Yes to demo pop-up books! I’d love to hear from anyone who has a good example to share – I just asked our printer for something like this and they had no idea what I was talking about. I want to help the stores sell our book!

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