Award-winning author
Unusual times, remarkable places

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

27 May 2009

Gearing up for my book release

Things suddenly seem to be moving quickly for Like Mayflies in a Stream, my historical novel set in ancient Mesopotamia. I now have a pub date: Hadley Rille Books plans to release it between mid-September and mid-October. The artist is working on the cover.

It’s time for me to shift gears from the book itself to marketing it—getting cover blurbs, deciding where to send ARCs for reviews, and coming up with a marketing plan, part of which involves choosing promo items to give away.

Personally, I prefer promo items with a picture of the book’s cover. I don’t usually remember names of books or authors, but I do remember covers. If I receive a promo item with a cover shot and later lose it, I can still find the book by looking for its cover. But if the promo item had only the book’s name and author, I’m out of luck.

Unfortunately, many cool promo items don’t have space for a book cover photo. My personal favorite promo items to receive (now that I’ve collected a lifetime’s supply of pens, bookmarks, and refrigerator magnets) are pocket-sized notebooks, tee shirts, mugs, luggage tags, mini-sewing kits, calculators, and measuring tapes. I also pick up promo postcards if the cover art is beautiful.

What are your favorite promo items to receive?

What type of promo item(s) do you think I absolutely need to have? Probably should have? Absolutely should not bother with?

As you read this, I’m in New Orleans without access to a computer, so I’ll reply to your comments the first week of June.


Steve Malley said...

How exciting!!

May sound a bit mundane, but my all-time favorite gimme item remains the humble bookmark...

I'm *so* excited for you!!!!

Ken Schneyer said...

I agree with Steve; a bookmark is a good promo item.

Don't forget to open up a MySpace page (and possibly an LJ page) for the book itself, not to mention giving it its own Web page.

Personally I'd hit each of our instructors with a reviewer's copy during his/her week of teaching Clarion. How nifty would it be to get good blurbs from all of them?

Use your buddies as loudspeakers. Give us reviewer's copies too, and let us pimp your book on all of our various blogs.

Charles Gramlich said...

Cool. And definetely an exciting time. The only promo items I ever pick up are bookmarks, because I use them. All the other stuff I tend to end up tossing in a box somewhere. But I don't think I'm typical of most folks in this.

Scott said...


Congrats on your book release! I'm happy for you. As far as promo items, I'm not the best to ask, since I don't throw away much, LOL.

Hope you're having a good week. Take care!

Rae Ann Parker said...

Shauna, my favorite is still the bookmark. I also like notepads or post-it notes with the info on them because I keep these in my desk and use them. If the pad has 20 sheets, by the time I've used it I've read the author/book's name 20 times.

Hope you are enjoying your trip to New Orleans.

Shauna said...

Enjoy your trip Shauna, let us know what is going on over there will you??

Excitement regarding your book is not the word I would use...because I am not even close to that stage and I would love to pick your brain about many things about a book when it gets ready to be DONE...then what??? I need to take a Shauna to Shauna class. LOL

Gentle Hugs, and have a great time!!

Angie said...

Bookmarks are always good; I'm still using one I got from an artist friend over a year ago.

About other things, there are lots of cool items -- coffee mugs, T-shirts, mouse pads, tote bags, [Insert Catalog Here] -- but the main issue for me is how much things cost versus how much actual promo you're going to get out of each item. Most of the Rilly Cool Thingies are pretty expensive and a newbie novelist, even with a New York publisher, can easily run through their entire advance getting Cool Thingies with their cover art and web page on them.

Then there's the question of promotional value. I love coffee mugs, but that cover art doesn't do you much good if the mug's sitting in my cupboard at home. If someone at a book fair hands me a T-shirt, I'll be very happy (unless it's one of those icky, cheap shirts made of fabric like tissue paper) but I'm probably not going to stop and change into it right there. If it's a multi-day event I might wear it the next day, so that'd be good, but I'm less likely to wear it later, and that's a lot of money for an author to spend for just a few hours of exposure.

On the other hand, it might be worth it to get a limited number of shirts made, if you have a posse of friends who'll all wear them to the book fair; you don't have to get hundreds of them made, and people who see the same shirt over and over on different people are more likely to wonder what's up.

The best option for the big-ticket items like shirts, of course, is to have fans buy them from your Cafe Press shop. Even if you're not making any money on the shirts themselves, your fans are paying to market your book or series or whatever. Unfortunately you need to already have a body of fairly devoted fans for this to work; this isn't really something a newbie or even just a middling-popular writer can pull off well. I have shirts based on Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan series, and one from David Weber's Honor Harrington series, but both of those are bestsellers anyway, and were before I got the shirts.

Looking at the pics on your post, I think the flash drive is a cool idea. It doesn't have space for cover art, true, but it's useful, it's something the recipient would probably make some effort to keep track of (I really don't care if I lose a pen or a luggage tag, but I can always use a flash drive and once my data is on it I want to keep ahold of it) and even if all it has is your name and your blog URL, it's something that'll be used around the reader's computer. :) A URL on a luggage tag that lives on my suitcase or a water bottle that lives with my exercise gear might never make it over to the computer, but the flash drive will be right there and it'll be no trouble at all to type in the URL some time when I'm between tasks.

I hope you have a good trip, and that whatever promo items you choose to order work well for you. :D


Michele said...

I'm thrilled for you, Shauna!! :)

Also, I almost always struggle to remember the title and/or the author's name (unless it's a friend's book, of course!), but, like you, I remember the cover.

And to answer your question: I actually like to receive bookmarks, pens, and notebooks, as I can never have enough of those around the house.

Hope you have a nice trip.


Carleen Brice said...

Wow, that's fast! Personally, I wouldn't spend a whole lot per give-away. I'm not sure they're worth the $. I think bookmarks, pens, etc. are fine even without the cover.

Shauna Roberts said...

EVERYONE, I'm fascinated that so many people love the bookmark. That's good news, because bookmarks are one of the cheapest promo items. Because the cover art for my book isn't finalized yet, what I gave out in New Orleans was keychain flashlights imprinted with my book's name, my name, and my Website. People seemed genuinely excited by those. For those who asked, my trip was great, and I'll blog about it later.

KEN, thank you for some excellent ideas that had not occurred to me.

SHAUNA, I'm happy to help you with your book any time. Feel free to email or call. Do you still have my phone number?

ANGIE, thank you for taking the time to discuss the pros and cons of various promo items. I do plan to open a Cafe Press shop—it's free to do so, so I'm ahead if just a few people buy items (and hopefully it will be more than a few given how large my family is).

MICHELE, hope to see you next Saturday!

CARLEEN, the process is going so fast because I'm with a small publisher.

Barrie said...

Arriving late to the party, I'm still tossing in my two cents for....bookmarks. Love them!

Shauna Roberts said...

Et tu, BARRIE? I guess I better plan on bookmarks.