by Mindy McGinnis
Too many authors think of self-promotion as the equivalent of a used car salesman. I can't tell you how often I've heard writers say they just don't feel comfortable pushing themselves—or their book—at people.
There's a neat little trick to get around that feeling of icky—give people something they already want and make the fact that it has your book, your links, or even your face on it just a useful sidebar. They get something free, you're giving away yourself without feeling pushy.
That sounds totally easy, right?
Not a Drop to Drink is fast approaching, which is exciting and intimidating at the same time. I need to start thinking about innovative ways to get my book out there, without rehashing the same stuff that everyone has seen a thousand times over.
There are options, sure. Pens, pencils, band-aid dispensers, t-shirts, personalized mints, postcards, bookmarks ... and everything else you've seen a dozen times and conditioned your mind to stop noticing. Drink is a genre-buster; I want something new and fresh.
Unfortunately the rest of the world has already discovered what I had originally wanted to do for DRINK—customized water bottle labels. How perfect is that for a book built around the idea that the world has run out of fresh water? However, I recently took an author branding class that addressed swag. One of the big rules for swag is that in order for it to be cost-effective it should be something that the recipient will use more than once, not toss away.
I don't know many people that use a water bottle more than once, but I think the simple idea of tying my book to the idea of a water bottle could have a heck of an impact. The obvious water message is an easy association, and even if they throw away the bottle I put my cover on, the next time they take a drink out of a bottle they might think ... "Oh hey! That book looked pretty cool. Too bad I threw the bottle away..." But with a name like Not a Drop to Drink they might be able to remember it in connection with water, and a Goodreads or Amazon search might just land them in my lap.
I don't see this working for bookmarks in the same way. Someone might think, upon seeing another bookmark, "Gee I wish I hadn't thrown away that other bookmark..." but unless the name of the advertised book was Not a Bookmark Remains I doubt their brain will be able to make the association leap for a good Google result.
And giving away water would hardly make me feel smarmy. Everyone needs it. Most people like it. It's very useful, and I have yet to meet someone allergic to it.
What do my fellow readers and writers think? Is there a magic swag item out there that you've always wished someone would put your brand on or that you've wanted to see handed out?
Mindy McGinnis is a YA author and librarian. Her debut Not a Drop to Drink—a post-apocalyptic survival tale—will be available from Katherine Tegen / Harper Collins Fall 2013. She blogs at Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.