Laura is blue. Fiona is green.
As book release date approaches---eek! that's just around the corner, Laura!---one of the things I'm thinking about is giveaways. Freebies to give to people I meet so they'll remember my book, and hopefully, one day, they'll look at the freebie and think, "Oh, yeah, that was a really cool book. I meant to buy a copy. I'm going to do that right now." or they'll see the book in the children's book store, remember it from the freebie or the visuals on the freebie, and buy a book. Well, that's the marketing theory, anyway!
Have you thought about printed or promotional items for Stampede!?
This is a great question, Fiona. The truth is, I've thought about it, but only in a distant way--as in, someday I'll do something like that. Bad Laura! I really need to get moving on this, especially on the printed part that I could order right now.
The first thing that comes to mind is bookmarks printed with book cover, title, author, ISBN etc. It's an item related to books, easy to carry, and does the job. The problem is it's done so often, it seems like the default. So many authors give them out, I wonder if mine won't just get lost in the bunch. And then, I tend to think of bookmarks as more suited to novels, so is it really a good fit for picture book readers? I'm leaning away from doing bookmarks.
I love getting author bookmarks. I know what you mean about the picture book aspect and do bookmarks "fit." But...I think bookmarks are great to give to adults who might buy picture books for their kids, students, libraries, etc. And those people read books...longer books, usually, that would need bookmarks. So for me, I think bookmarks work well as something to promote your book, but not necessarily as the best giveaway with your book, if you see what I mean.
[nodding] I understand what you're saying about the usefulness, but I still worry about mine getting lost in a sea of bookmarks. What about something like a bookmark that could be used as a bookmark but is a little more unusual than a bookmark, so it stands out a little more? Keep reading. :^)
Poet J. Patrick Lewis had the great idea of writing a skinny poem just for bookmarks and making it downloadable on your website, so schools can print them out. I love that idea and might even do a poem that didn't get used in Stampede, so it can be The One That Got Away (from the zoo or the classroom).
Love the poem idea. That would be a perfect match for your poetry book. And adding something to the bookmark that folks won't find anywhere else turns the bookmark into a keepsake. Smart.
I also really like the downloadable aspect. Chris Crutcher has a page of bookmarks for teachers to download, cut apart and distribute to students. I've heard of other authors doing this, too. Someone once told me that if you sign the master copy with a felt pen, it looks like a signature on the finished bookmark. That would sure cut down on bookmark costs for school visits.
Definitely the whole sheet at a time works great. I know teachers love that.
So, how about postcards?
For a conference last spring, I did a small print run of postcards that had the same info as a bookmark. Since then, I've kept my purse stocked with the leftovers. Whenever anyone asks about my writing, I pull out a postcard and give it to them. Because they asked first, it's not me being pushy. In fact, the reception has always been great. People are glad to have the book information to take away with them. When the book launch dates were set, I printed address labels with the launch dates and details and added them to the back of the postcards, so now that information is there, too. The postcards are running out, though, so now I have to decide whether to print more or try something different.
The postcards worked so well, I think I'd always like to carry something printed to hand out, but I'm not sure I'll do postcards again. They're pretty big, and pricier than bookmarks. At one writing fair I attended I noticed an author had printed up cards that were something between a bookmark and a postcard—more like a trading card size. It can hold more information than a business card, and I like the idea of having something that's a little unusual (works like a bookmark, but isn't a bookmark) so I may go that route.
I definitely plan to do postcards or something the size of Artist Trading Cards. And I need to get cracking. I'd like to order something in January so that I'll have them to hand out several months before my pub date (which is early April).
Shouldn't be a problem...printing turnaround time is surprisingly quick.
Of course I want book info on the printed piece, but I'd like to do something a little different than just the book cover. Something to make it stand out from the hordes of other postcards, as you said. So...that might be a poem, either from the book or something written just for the piece.
I don't know. We want it to stand out and be different, but on the other hand, having the cover on the card serves as a visual reminder of the book...it plants the cover image in people's heads, so when they come across the book elsewhere, like in the book store or online, the cover seems familiar. That's pretty powerful from a marketing standpoint. I wonder if including the cover might be a good choice for new authors until they've built a name for themselves. J.Patrick Lewis, for example, is established enough that we look for and are sold by his name, rather than one specific book he's written. That only works because we know his name from his body of past work, which you and I don't have yet, at least in the trade field. But maybe there's a happy middle ground...for instance, including a small cover image somewhere on the card, while being creative and thinking outside the box for the rest. Hmm...you've got me thinking.
Excellent point. And I don't want text only. What I really enjoy are postcards or whatever that incorporate the look of the book, the art of the book, but aren't simply a reproduction of the cover. But, as you pointed out, the cover has a real functional value. Now I'm going to have to think more.
What about promotional items?
This would be for limited giveaways, say at signings and launches rather than school visits. To go along with Bubble Homes and Fish Farts, I want something related to bubbles, and because of the numbers, it has to be cheap.
At first I thought of those mini bottles of bubbles they give away at weddings. It would be possible to print book info on the bottle instead of the happy couple's names. Then I thought about book signing venues—book stores, libraries, aquariums—and thought about spillage, mess, and distraction, and stroked it off as a possibility.
Oh, that's too bad, because that would be fabulously popular! But of course you don't want to tick off your hosts. I guess bubble gum is out, too, for the same reason.
LOL! Yup, for sure.
Is there a possibility of little baggies of dry soap of some kind that can be mixed to make bubble solution?
Now that's something I hadn't thought of, but since kids would have to wait until later to mix up the solution, it would certainly solve the mess problem. And I could do it in small one-person quantities and include it in some kind of paper sleeve on which I could print the book info. What a great idea! Thanks, Laura! Oh, I hope there's a soap powder/flake that'll work.
I have a folder of promotional materials I've picked up and liked over the years. Here are a couple of very cool printed variations:
Sunflower Seed Packs - Susan Marie Swanson, for her picture book To Be Like the Sun, had sunflower seed packets printed up. They say "These seeds want to be like the sun!" on the front. On the back is all the book info, plus brief planting directions. Brilliant! Something kids would like to do, and then maybe they'd also want to get the book.
Cute. Sounds like the same packaging idea as your bubble powder idea above. I may have to talk to Susan to see who did her printing. :^)
Pyramid Hat - This goes with John Grandits' book, Technically, It's Not My Fault (a fantastic poetry collection). I assume Clarion made these for him. It's an 11x17 piece of cardstock with the poem "My Sister Is Crazy" on it. The sister in the poem wears a pyramid hat. And the poem is printed in a way that you can cut it out and tape it together to make your very own pyramid hat. I'm sure this is pricey. But I love the idea of something to do!
Me too! These are wonderful ideas. It's the fun, creative efforts like these that people remember...that's what we're after.
For Stampede!, I'm wondering about something like a glossy piece of paper printed with book cover and info but also with some kind of animal mask related to one of the poems. Something the kids could cut out and tape together and wear...Hmm. I'm going to have to read through my galleys again soon with an eye just toward this kind of thing. I do want a basic bookmark or postcard, too, though.
The mask idea is great, and it would do double duty if you go ahead with the readers theatre idea we talked about a while back. And your masks and Grandits' hats would make great downloads for teachers to print off copies for each student to make one. That would cut down on your costs.
Something else I've thought about is temporary tattoos, which are inexpensive, but they're small and limited in what they can display, so I'm not sure how well it would work to keep book info in someone's mind. And, they're designed to be "temporary", so they don't last very long.
I'm currently considering making up small buttons with something like "Got bubbles?" and the book title or my URL on it in a more subtle ink colour. Buttons would be more closely tied to the book and have longer staying power than tattoos. As something that's worn, it would also be more visible to others, so could mean more exposure, especially if the fact that they're advertising isn't blatant.
I think having an incredibly cool design would be really important for a button. Something the kids say, "Look at this!" to other kids, so they want to wear it beyond the one day they get it.
Yeah, that would be the key.
For book launches and signings, I'm also exploring ideas for bubble blowers kids could create. This would involve shaping a length of wire and poking the ends into a handle of some kind, which would be printed with the book title and URL.
Love the idea of making bubble blowers. I think kids would totally get into this.
I'm trying to think about bubbles and what other giveaways might be fun. Balloons look like bubbles. I wonder how pricey it would be to have book info or fun facts printed on balloons.
It's cheap. I love balloons...they're so festive, but...trying to stay green and be environmentally conscious, I gave balloons a pass.
Plus many schools now have latex-free environments...Just remembered that.
Bubble wrap is one of my favorite things in the world, and kids (ok, adults, too) love to pop it. Any way to use it in a simple craft/promo item?
LOL! Yes, yes, who doesn't like bubble wrap? [grin] Oh, if I could think of a way to incorporate it somehow. I've been pondering, but so far no great ideas. More thinking to do.
Maybe one of our brilliant, imaginative readers will have a good idea (hint, hint).
Hee hee...yes, what a clever bunch they are! It would be great to get some comments with ideas.
I'm thinking your book must be so full of cool facts, and that maybe some kind of activity sheet for kids to take with them. Like a straw that's attached to a printed sheet with book info, activities for blowing bubbles into various things using that straw, and nifty facts about bubbles.
That's a great idea, too. Thanks! I'm going to work on that. So, what about your book? All those animals...the zoo connection...
I know! And the whole theme of the book is comparing kids to animals, so some kind of craft or project where the kids can become animals...I guess that's where the mask would be good. I'm in the process of trying to come up with a couple of very simple, not too expensive crafts that could go along with my book for library and zoo presentations and stuff like that. For promo giveaway things, I wasn't really thinking of stuff with my book info on it. More like stuff to entice people to come to the table. Mine would all be animal related, and there are tons of cheap little things to choose from, like mini-plastic animals, tiny animal puzzles, animal stretchies, etc. I do need to start doing research on that.
Maybe this is where tattoos would fit in...like candy, the temporariness wouldn't matter.
Exactly. They draw the crowd, and then you get them looking at the book, wanting the book, buying the book...
Treats are always good, and I thought chocolate animals would be fun, but then I read something (probably in Shrinking Violet Promotions) about not giving out messy treats that will leave kids with sticky fingers in a library or bookstore. Duh. Good point. So, now I'm thinking gummy animals might be fun. Or animal crackers. It would be really cute to have little cardboard boxes for the animal treats that would be printed up with the book info, but I'm guessing that would be WAY out my price range.
Mmm...treats. Always a good magnet at a book table.
Other promotional giveaways I've thought about:
A printed piece that the kids color or decorate in some way and cut out to make a cool Zookeeper or Safari Leader badge they can wear.
Pencils in animal prints that have the name of the book on them.
An animal-related "board game" that can be color-printed on one piece of paper. Something that ties into the book and of course would have book info printed on it, too. Something fun enough for kids to play that they keep it around for a few days:>)
Pencils is another one of those done-to-death ideas, around here, anyway. But the game and badge have definite possibilties both for in-person giveaways and downloadables.
At book fairs I've been to, it's nice when there's a giveaway for everyone, but something a little extra special for people who actually buy the book. I think it would be cool to build a plywood animal frame that the kid sticks their head through an opening and gets a picture taken. Then a helper would take the pic with a digital camera and print out a picture of the kid as the animal right there onsite with a portable photo printer. Of course, if the kid wasn't there, only the grown-up, that's not as fun. But I do like the idea of something a tiny bit more substantial to give away with the purchase of the book.
Neat idea. Sounds a little pricey, though, unless one was planning a book tour, a lot of signings, or maybe a series of books for which the same board could be used.
True. And it would be hard to have to tell kids, "No, I'm sorry, I can't take your picture unless you buy the book." Much easier to have a basket of a special giveaway that comes with a purchase of the book. So I've got to sort stuff out. Lots of chaotic possibilities whirling around my brain.
Yeah, lots of great ideas rattling around. Love the exchange of ideas. Now comes decision time.
So, what promotional giveaways have worked for you? Which ones were duds? We'd love to hear about them. And, oh, and if anyone has suggestions for bubble powder or flakes for Fiona's bubble packets, let us know that too.