Whenever I go to conferences or other authors' events and signings (virtual or brick-and-mortar), I'm always looking for ideas and trying to gage what works and what doesn't. At this year's Malice Domestic, I had a lively post-conference conversation with new Poisoned Pen Press author Rachel Brady (her debut mystery Final Approach will be out October 2009) about different promo approaches we saw during the convention.
One of the things I always do is check out the "giveaway" table and pick up bookmarks, chapbooks, flyers, pens, calendars, sticky-note pads . . . whatever authors provide in the way of promotion to readers. I like bookmarks (they're pretty cost-efficient) as does Rachel, but when it came to trying to remember (without peeking), which ones grabbed our attention, the only ones that we recalled were those that were a little different: a bauble hanging from one end, for instance, or a different sort of design.
The other interesting promotional opportunity that the conference provided was the "Malice-Go-Round" in which attendees sit at tables (anywhere from one or two to seven or eight per table) and authors who had a book come out in the year preceding the conference moved from table to table having, at most, 90 seconds to "pitch" their books to the attendees. Authors moved in groups of two or three in an orderly way through the 20 tables. Yes, that's TWENTY tables, TWENTY times to do a pitch and connect with readers. Needless to say, I collected a ton of bookmarks, postcards, and some candy.
When Rachel asked me what stood out for me during this event, I responded promptly: "Chocolate!" But, when pressed, I admitted that I couldn't remember which authors provided the chocolate treats... After talking about it some, Rachel and I agreed that the authors we could still recall in a positive way, three day later, were those who made an effort to "see" us as individuals, not just possible buyers of their books. And, you can tell, believe me, when someone is so focused on pitching and getting you to GO TO THE BOOKROOM AND BUY THEIR BOOK that they don't "see" you. The other quality that played out positively were those authors that were simply themselves ... and here again, it's a gut feeling thing as to whether someone is donning an "author persona" or not, but particularly in situations like this where a bazillion authors are flowing past in rapid-fire order, "gut feeling" can count for a lot.
So, three promo tidbits I took away from the giveaway tables and the Malice-Go-Round:
- Be yourself.
- Engage readers as people, not just potential buyers.
- Provide the little "something different" in a promo piece that will set you aside from the rest.
- Finally, chocolate alone isn't a sure-fire way to impress yourself on readers' long-term memories (alas).