Friday, September 25, 2009

Fundraisers and Promo

Every month, this day will be dedicated to either fundraising or promo. This month, I’m going to share some info on promotions. This is an article I had published on another blog in April.

The Secret Handshake

It’s ironic that promotion is the topic for the week. I just had a long discussion with a friend this past Friday about promoting yourself as an author. It’s a must. I know people who half-heartedly do it (or don’t do it at all) and I know people who are promo machines. I’m in the middle, and I think I do well.

First, off: YOU MUST SPEND MONEY TO PROPERLY PROMOTE YOURSELF. Yes, I capped that sentence on purpose. You don’t have to spend a fortune but you will have to invest some cash. In order to help you, I’ll list what I spend (on most things) and where I get my promo items. Trust me, I am a cheapskate promoter so I look for the best deals on everything.

So here goes:

1. Website. Investment: $200-400. You must have a website. There are a bazillion places available. For zero investment you can go to Freewebs. You will have more flexibility and be easier to find if you invest in a site from a pay site. I have my site hosted through GoDaddy. They also provide domain name service. If you are paying for a site, you will need both a domain and a host. For a three-year investment, I spent less than $300.

Some of you might need a webmaster/mistress to create or update your site as well. That is an additional fee.

2. Blogs, guest blogs, access sites. Investment: Time. This is FREE promo. Guest blog wherever you can. Create a blog for yourself and update it. You should blog at least four times a week. Don’t look to me as an example. This is one thing I’m terrible about, but I do know the rules. Make sure that your releases and appearances stay up-to-date on your blog. I have three reader access sites: Blogger, MySpace and Facebook. Many people are into Twitter but I’ve yet to venture there.

3. Chats. Investment: Time. This is another FREE promotional tool. Join reader loops and get out there to interact with your readers. This is one of your strongest tools.

4. Author mail loop/list serves. Investment: Time. This one is the same as chats. Interact. Be accessible.

5. Newsletter. Investment: Time and $10. Create a monthly newsletter to keep your readers up-to-date with your writing career. Let them know about works in progress, up-coming releases and contests. A little writing-related info about what’s going on with you is nice, too. It’s best to put your newsletter in pdf format. I purchased PDF Creator software for $10.

5. Business cards. Investment: usually $25 - $150. With the way Vistaprint offers free stuff, there’s no reason not to have business cards. I just ordered 250 premium, custom-designed glossy cards for all of $9 plus shipping. They would have been completely free plus shipping if I wasn’t one to insist on glossies. So what do you do with business cards? Do you only need them if you’re going to a conference? I give out cards all the time. I give them away at the bookstore, I slip them into bills, I leave one for my waitress, I give them to people when we discuss what I do for a living, I give one to the lady who prints my book covers at the store… The opportunities to promote yourself are endless. If someone seems interested, be sure to have a card.

6. Cover flats. Investment: varies. Some publishers print cover flats for their authors. Some do not. It’s incredibly easy to make your own cover material. Again, you can go to Vistaprint and take advantage of their sales. I ordered both extra-large and regular-sized postcards with my covers and information on them. How much? Free plus shipping. The regular-sized postcards fit nicely in a coupon carrier and can be signed and given out to readers. I usually carry around a few in my purse to give away.

7. Display covers. Investment: $2 print, $2 frame. Print out your covers and put them in acrylic display frames. I’ve had 5x7 copies made of most of my covers. It’s nice to be able to show them when you make a public appearance. Covers draw people and a cover can sell a book.

8. Bookmarks. Investment: $25-$500. These are a staple. When I first started writing, I thought I’d eschew this promotional tool. Everyone does bookmarks, I thought. I’ll get lost in the shuffle. But everyone loves bookmarks. Not doing them is a mistake. I design and print mine through Next Day Flyers. They have incredible quality, service and price. I was able to get 500 bookmarks for $32 plus shipping.

9. Pencils/pens. Investment: $.09 -$5 each. These can add up, but they get your name in front of readers. I have pens in my purse from authors I met two years ago. Their names are definitely well known to me. Again, outside the conference circuit how does this apply to you? Let me ask…how often do you sign credit card slips or forms? You have the opportunity to leave behind a pen every time you do this. Most service places that need people to sign papers/receipts will use whatever pen they can get their hands on.

10. Author/book specific promo. Investment: up to you. I spend the entire year scouring online sites for promotional items. I don’t want to spend a fortune, but I don’t want something really cheesy, and I don’t want something everyone else has, too. This year, I went with thumbcuffs (I am a bdsm writer, after all) and small acrylic picture key chains. The two-sided picture frame will hold a copy of my book cover and info about me. I found an awesome deal and I’d encourage you to search for your own deal, too.

Does promo help? Yes. Do you have to be careful about what you do? Yes. Your promotional materials should speak about you as a writer. Don’t make it steamy if you’re a sweet writer. Don’t make it all flowery if you’re a steamy writer. You’re materials should match you as a writer or it should match your books. Personally, I try to make my materials author specific rather than book specific. They’ll last me longer that way. I can use them to promote any book from any of my three publishers.

So looking at the “Secret Handshake” promotional package, what have I, as a writer, invested this year?

Website: $0 (once every 3 years--I'll have this next year)
Blogs: $0
Chats/mail loop: $0
Newsletter: $10
Business Cards/Postcards: $23
Bookmarks (500): $43
Covers/Frames: $28
Pens: $110
Author Specific Promo: $73
Total: $287 - An invaluable investment of less than a dollar a day. Perfect.

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