Monday, October 15, 2012

S(*)#$it You Don't Want—And S@#*it That You Do

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.


LD Masterson said...

Okay, I'm just brainstorming here but last week my grandson was trying to rig some sort of strap to tie a water bottle to the lawn mower. How about a plastic tube (like they use to secure luggage tags) with a loop at one end the size of a bottle neck that could be used to hang a water bottle to keep it handy. It would be re-usable and keep the "water" theme.

Just a thought.

Jennie Bozic said...

I think you could still totally do the labels. Just make them for nalgene or bike water bottles that the readers already own. It could say something like, "Not a Drop to Drink for anyone else except ________". Person writes their own name in with a sharpie and BAM they've got a snazzy label for their water bottle.

Suzi said...

I like the reusable water bottle idea too.

The real bottle of water is a fun idea, but keep in mind that if you're ever mailing them, it's gonna be heavy (in other words, expensive.)

SC Author said...

Ooh the bottle idea sounds cool. I'm trying to think of a cool water marketing thing for my underwater fantasy as well.

Jemi Fraser said...

Swag is tough! I haven't thought that far ahead - but it is difficult to come up with something unique, keepable and fun!

Angela Ackerman said...

We had similar thoughts whe we chose our swag. We did go with bookmarks, but to avoid creating something that will just end up in a drawer or get recycled, we turned it into a writing tool. The size of a postcard, the bookmarks have a list of words that we writers often overuse, and usually need to weed out of our final drafts. Our hope was by doing this, people would use them!

I like the water label idea, but agree, it has to be something you ise more than once to be effective.

Congrats again on your near release!


Mindy McGinnis said...

Nice - thanks for the feedback everyone!

And Angela - nice twist on the bookmark!

E.B. Black said...

Maybe you should do a thermos or canteen. Whatever you decide to do though, it seems like you're headed in the right direction!

Mindy McGinnis said...

Thanks EB - maybe I can dress up like a shower for Halloween, a la The Karate Kid? I'd have to be an eco-conscious shower, though.