To Market, To Market

Recently I was in the Romance Writers of Australia tent at the Brisbane Writers Festival where I was enthusiastically distributing bookmarks for my latest release, My Reckless Surrender. That yellow cover with the girl ALMOST wearing that beautiful gown really is eye-catching. Thank you, Avon Art Department!

There were some RWA members in the tent and my bookmark frenzy prompted a discussion on what marketing materials I’ve found most effective since I sold in 2006. Michelle invited me to share my thoughts in an article – so here it is, with the proviso that all of this is based completely on personal experience.

When you sell a book, news goes out far and wide and debut authors are inundated with firms wanting to design and print marketing material. It’s hard to keep your head and remember you can’t spend money willy nilly. Well, you can, but you’ll be living on baked beans for the rest of the year!

Because I’m wildly in love with stationery (seriously, a visit to Officeworks sends me into heavenly transports), I went a little wild when I was first published. Luckily, it was mainly with Vistaprint who have the advantage of being reasonably priced and reliable. As part of my marketing push for Claiming the Courtesan and Untouched, I ordered business cards and various magnets and postcards. I also had sticky notes and notepads printed with website details and a picture of a Scottish castle. In hindsight, I suspect it would have been more effective to pay the bit extra to upload my covers for use on marketing materials. I printed desk calendars with beautiful landscapes and used them as prizes through my website and on blogs.

None of this was a waste of time. But each choice had drawbacks (except the business cards – Vistaprint is still a great place to get cards done cheaply). My feeling is that people liked the postcards, then threw them away as they were of no further use once you’d said, “What a pretty picture.” The sticky notes and notepads were useful to get my name out there but they’re expensive. I still have some on hand for charity auctions, etc., but the unit cost would prohibit me ordering them again. One of the upsides of a generic scene on the sticky notes and notepads is that they don’t date with new releases. Magnets are great but are heavy and can be expensive to post – especially larger sizes or larger quantities. The calendars were fun and a special offer (although postage can add up – Vistaprint is a European site) and I would consider doing them again. I know people loved them and each page had my website address and logline on it. Twelve continuous months reinforcing the Anna Campbell brand isn’t a bad thing!

With my third book, Tempt The Devil, and every book since, I’ve had bookmarks designed based on the artwork for each individual cover. On a friend’s recommendation, I used Su at Earthly Charms but you’ll find a plethora of good design firms out there. The bookmarks proved so popular, for Tempt, I ended up placing three more orders; for Captive of Sin, I placed a much larger order originally and ended up re-ordering; for My Reckless Surrender, my most recent release, I placed a huge order and have been delighted with the response. For printing, I used Printing for Less, a US company. They won’t ship to Australia but I now have a casually employed American assistant, Kim of Author’s Best Friend, so they shipped everything to her for distribution.

The overwhelming advantage of a bookmark is that people often keep them, unlike postcards. Because I only write a book a year, it’s worthwhile doing one for each release, but I’ve seen effective general information on bookmarks (several covers or information about an author).

So here are my recommendations (I emphasise this is purely a personal view!). You need business cards with website information, contact details and your most recent release. Bookmarks are very much worth doing. Anything else can be useful but keep a strict eye on your budget.

This article first appeared in the ‘Practicalities, Technicalities’ column of HeartsTalk, the newsletter of Romance Writers of Australia, in December 2011