At RomantiCon 2009, we held a discussion group about promo items. What types of items are effective in reaching readers, what just gets thrown away?
What readers wanted:
- Booklets that had the first chapter or two of the story in them, and maybe a listing of the author's books at the end.
- Author-specific promo as opposed to book-specific promo, which makes sense—why promote a single title when you can instead promote yourself as a brand?
- Readings and signings were mentioned by readers as something they really liked, because it allowed them to feel that they'd made a personal connection to the author.
- Readers appreciated authors who went out of their way to give them something that was useful.
- Nail files
- Note pads
- Luggage or beach tags, especially in bright colors
- Compact mirrors with a case—several people dug their cases out of their purses and said that they'd had them for literally years.
- One of the things that was mentioned repeatedly was that readers wanted to feel that the author was a part of the community in which they were promoting—be an active participant, even when you're not promoting.
What readers didn't like:
- The number one thing readers don't like is overexposure. Everyone understands that you have to promo your stuff, but when every mailing list, every message board, and every blog is covered with HEY LOOK AT MY NEW BOOK, readers get frustrated. Several people said that they'll go out of their way not to buy a book if they see an author doing this.
- "Embarrassing" items—sure, people like to read about hot, half-naked guys, but having them plastered on your luggage tags is another thing entirely.
- Things with too many words. Don't try to fit your whole first chapter onto a bookmark.
- Bookmarks. They're cheap, easy, and ubiquitous, and that's exactly what people dislike about them. It's easy to get home from even a fairly small convention and realize that you've somehow ended up with enough bookmarks to mark every book you read for the next five years.