Wednesday, September 26, 2012

You Can't Trust Me, I'm the Marketing Man

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 cover time, 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. In my opinion the exception to that is the business card, which I don't think will ever cease to be a staple. I'm talking about that particular piece of swag over on From the Write Angle today.

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 for my debut baby.

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 LEFT 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.


  1. Are reusable water bottles too $$$ for swag?

  2. I talked about reuseable stuff in my comment over on From the Write Angle! Too funny. Yeah, reuseable is good--it keeps on selling. And if you can make that connection in the mind of the reader that is one step closer to a sale or a read.

  3. Interesting post! My book features a man facing hanging so I'm not sure handing out nooses--reusable or otherwise--is a good idea :-) All I know is, the best piece of swag I ever got was a pen with a Milwaukee mystery book story logo on it. As a writer who still writes frequently by hand, I loved it and used it till there was no ink left. As for your question, I would ask the same question as One of the MIndys: Could you use reusable water bottles?

  4. I would definitely have reusable water bottles as swag--they really are perfect, and I don't think they are that expensive. Will think on some other options while procrastinating--I come up with my best ideas that way. :)

  5. YES! We lured a Mindy!!

    I love that this post has turned into other people brainstorming swag for me :) Great idea though, I agree that reusable water bottles are an excellent fit!