3. Contracts, Production, Promotion
(ix) SOMETHING TO GIVE AWAY
You should always have something to give away. One thing you’re already giving away is yourself and your time. You may not have earned megabucks or sold movie rights, but you still have the aura of a published author. Most people feel a little flattered that a published author will give up time for a chat with them.
But you need more, you need freebies. Bookmarks and postcards are good, with a cover image on the front, a blurb on the back. There’s less chance they’ll get thrown away if you personally sign them first. In fact, sign everything! (J. A. Konrath’s dictum)
The best freebies are special and memorable. Bookmarks were once special, but now, alas, they’re common as dirt. I found that badges worked well for my Wolf Kingdom books (children’s fantasies). I’ve also used t-shirts printed with the book cover. Other authors give away inscribed pens and drinks coasters.
The beauty of badges and t-shirts is that anyone who wears them will be advertising your book to other people too.
Whatever your angle, you need to do your budgeting. Bulk orders keep costs down. I can get badges done for 50 cents each, but t-shirts at $10 are a different proposition. Still, you wouldn’t want to keep costs down by cutting corners. Freebies that look cheap send the wrong message. This applies to everything you give away, including posters.
At the same time, you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket. Nobody can predict which forms of promotion will or won’t work. You need to run with a few possibilities, and see what has the best effect.
Above all, be original. If all the talk about selling your book makes your heart sink (mine used to!), here at least is something you’re good at. As an author, you’re a creative person; if you write speculative fiction, you’ve got imagination. Use your special advantages to invent a new angle first.
For The Vicar of Morbing Vyle, fifteen years ago, I devised quizzes with copies of the book as prizes, and persuaded student newspapers to run them for free. Quirky gothic quizzes targeting my cult audience. For Worldshaker, I think I’ve got a great new idea … only I’m keeping it under wraps until I’ve done it first!