Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Promo ideas gleaned from Malice Domestic

Today, my tidbit from the Malice Domestic convention has to do with promotion.

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).


Karen Walker said...

I find this so very encouraging to hear. I am not at all comfortable "promoting" but I am very comfortable being myself and talking about what I love - writing. This is wonderful feedback. Thank you so much for sharing.

Dr.Mani said...

The dilemma of being 'remarkable' again! How did it go? We all know brown cows, and black cows, and white cows... but a PURPLE cow? Now, that's remarkable.

In a word, be DIFFERENT!

And no, as you've shown, chocolate alone doesn't make the cut ;-)

Thanks for sharing those insights.

All success

Think, Write & Retire

Karen Brees said...

You've hit the nail on the proverbial head (to flog a dead horse). Sorry, in a tired metaphor phase today. Anyhow, it's true. We remember the people who see US as people.

Too bad about the chocolate, though.

Elle Parker said...

Very useful post! I'm going to be a conference in July, and I'm bookmarking this as a reminder.

Elle Parker

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I enjoyed this post. I hate sales and promotion, and am delighted to see that a soft-sell, gentle, pleasant approach works best! Thanks for the great info.


Galen Kindley--Author said...

I tried giving away chocolate chip cookies at my bookstore signings. It sorta worked.

However, what you have to watch out for is “random children”…those with no apparent parental supervision…swooping down on your table and taking not one or two, but a handful of cookies, then, disappearing. Before long, there’s no cookies, and no booksales.

Still, some kids came with parents attached, that meant I at least had a fighting chance to sell one of my most worthy, reasonably priced, socially important, world-changing… uh, well, you get the idea. (Grin)

Best Regards, Galen.

N A Sharpe said...

That is wonderful advice. I think people are easily turned off to a "high pressure" pitch for anything, not just books. You put up barriers anticipating every remark to be for the sole purpose of selling you something and you stop listening to whatever they continue saying. Speaking freely and naturally and with enthusiasm about the process of writing the book, why the topic is fun/interesting and appealing and engaging the reader from that perspective would be much more comfortable from my perspective both as author and reader.

Great advice. Ummmm...maybe we can hold off telling the rest of the world chocolate isn't the "sure answer" though, ;)

NA Sharpe

Ann Parker said...

I will admit that, even though I had "proof positive" that chocolate wasn't quite the "magic ingredient," I still plan to bring it to my signings and events ... If only to provide an ice-breaker, or a source of backup energy (for me!). ;-)

Claire M. Johnson said...

I know that everyone is heaving a sigh of relief at this post, so why does this makes me cringe? Because it says to me that my personality is critical in selling my book. And not that you aren't as charming as hell (because you are), butbutbutbut...

Ann Parker said...

Hiya Claire!
Nonononono. I've seen you in action. You are yourself, and you don't try to be someone you aren't. That's the key, I think. You are refreshingly straightforward and tell it like it is... And your books are GREAT! :-)

Rachel Brady said...

Just found this post today, Ann. I'm with you... the chocolate was a definite pick-me-up that I'll certainly use when it's my turn in the barrel. Folks may not remember who gave it to them after the flurry of pitches has ended, but it is surely a great ice breaker! 8)

Still, I think the #1 selling point for me was the author's personality and how genuine I felt each was being. You, for example, are a gem!