Monday 26 February 2018

Merchandise to Promote Your Titles

There are two companies that can be very helpful here: Vista Print and CafePress  

Vista Print often advertise on television and offer a special code for a discount. Once you've purchased something, they often offer you a time-limited discount on your next purchase. Take care, though, they're very good at up-selling and cross-selling. You need a thick skin.     

Vista Print is slightly cheaper but you're expected to purchase one of your designs straightaway. However, you can have them dispatched to a third party. So this might be useful for gifts at an online launch. CafePress has the advantage that you can design items and leave them in the "store". You can even get your fans to buy them. Again you can have items sent to a third party.  

Items you might consider

Postcards, bookmarks and business cards

Bookmarks are rather obvious though here's a thought. At your event you want people to buy your book so why would you advertise it on a bookmark you give away free? Might it not be better here to have something about your backlist? Or about any services you offer? On the other hand, you can often leave a stack at your local library or if your book is appropriate at your local primary or secondary school. Take bookmarks that advertise other books to your event. 

Book front-covers fit both postcards and business cards beautifully.  Your postcard should have the front cover on one side. On the reverse you should have the blurb, information about where to purchase the book and a short bio. You may leave some blank space so that you can sign them for people. I always take a heap of postcards on my school visits to give out to youngsters who can't afford to buy the book. They often want an autograph but if they just collect it on a scrap of paper it will probably get lost before they've even got home. They'll be proud of the postcard and you're supplying them and their parents with information about the book which they might buy in the future. You might also get permission to leave postcards at local businesses. You can use them personally as a place to write notes for other people you meet. Keep a few with you all the time.   

Business cards should have the front-cover of your book and on the other side you should have your contact details – if only an email address – and information about where to get the book. These can be slipped into any snail mail you send, inside other titles you send out and used as your regular business card.      


These are always fun and I tend to make myself one every time I have a book out. Both Vista Print and CafePress allow you to produce "carousel" mugs. You can have multiple book covers running round the outside of the mug. My latest mug always becomes my default mug. 

This probably won't do a lot for your sales though arguably if you collect a few you could consider using them at an event especially if you hold it in your own home. It's good, though, for massaging your own ego and building up your self-esteem. It might also help you to say "I am a writer" to the rest of your family.

T-shirts and other wearables

Yes, you wear your advertising. I've had ones made with a front cover on the back or the front and others with lists of all my titles, colour-coded as to whether the book is fiction, non-fiction or educational. I wear the T-shirts to the beach and the gym or as casual summer wear. They make a subtle impact. They remind everyone that you are a writer. And they're T-shirts, after all, if you need them.

Pens and notepads

These do make excellent gifts, particularly at events. The pens and the notepads are useful anyway. Every time your fans use them they are reminded of your work and that you are a writer.

Mouse mats

You could give these to loyal fans or anyone who buys lots of your books at an event. It will serve again as a constant reminder of your work and that you are a writer.


It's possible to make a calendar with a different front-cover for every month.  I once made one like this as gift to each of the people who work with Bridge House. It was well received.
Would this work for friends? Maybe ones who are interested in art or in your writing?
Again, this might just be something that will help you feel good about your writing.

A note of caution

You can get carried away with all of this and you have to be careful that you don’t spend too much. It's also very difficult to measure the impact that these items have. I suggest that you try the one that you feel most comfortable with and see if you can really make it work. Once you're sure it's helping, try another.                               

Friday 9 February 2018

Designing and Making a Book Trailer

This is good fun to do, though time-consuming and actually more effective than you might imagine. It can be particularly useful in reawakening interest in your backlist. You can also do it completely for free.

The mechanics of it

I use the Movie Maker programme. However, this is now being discontinued so I'm starting to experiment with
You may find other software that you prefer for creating videos but what I say below still all applies.  

Approaches to the task

Your trailer really needs to represent your book. It should contain images, words, music and even short videos that capture the mood of the book. You might start with a front cover image. You should end with any acknowledgments and information about how to get the book.
Your trailer should never be more than two minutes long. Shorter is probably better.

Planning your trailer

The "story" will be somewhere between a blurb and an outline. It mustn't give the ending away. You should aim for twelve to twenty-four frames plus title slide and credits.


You might like to choose these before you choose the pictures.  Remember, there is not all that much room for text. Consider direct quotes from the text, titles of individual poems and stories in collections and plot points. Sometimes you come across a picture that suggests something else. This is fine. Be flexible            

A few words about pictures

These must be copyright free, the right size and preferably free of charge. You must really respect copyright. You could be sued for millions if you infringe someone's copyright.
Making your own or getting a friend or relation to paint or take photos will give you images that are free and copyright free. However, this may be time-consuming. A better alternative may be to use Pixa Bay:
Type a search term into the space, find your image, and click on the image you like. Your book / or story title can produce amazing results.
Once the image is open you can check the copyright. You really want to see the words "Free for commercial use. No attribution required ".
  Occasionally you are asked to acknowledge attribution. This is easy. In the credits you create a section "Images by" and list any attributions.
Next, download the image and save it to your computer. Often the smallest image is the one you need. In the case of one I've just looked at: the 640 x 427 is good.  The next one up may be a little too big, but often 750 X? is good.  Try your image out full-screen to see if the picture has enough definition. If you're not happy at how it looks you can always go back and grab a larger one.

A few words about music

The same copyright issues exist for music as they do for pictures- though if you're sued it may be for billions, which you'll not be able to pay, and you may end up with a custodial sentence.
Commissioning your own piece would be prohibitively expensive.
However there is the Free Music Archive:
This is a little more complex that Pixa Bay. You must go to "Curators" then "Music for Videos". You are presented with a search box and some filters. You should tick Creative Commons License, Attribution Only, Attribution-Share Alike, Public Domain, Allows for Commercial and Allows for remix or video.
If you have already made the rest of your trailer, you can also type in the length you want. 
Then type your book / story title into the search box. If you have no matches, try refining your words. You may have to search just by genre. I found this: by keeping all the filters mentioned above and just genre, "Classical". This has an Attribution License, so you must acknowledge the artist. It's easy – you put the name of the music, players and composer in the credits on your trailer. This is most often the case with music.   

What to do with your trailer

You should upload it or provide a link to where you have it on You Tube to all sorts of places where you flag up your book. You Tube anyway is one place where you should store your video.
Here are a few others place where you may embed it or link to it:
·         Your blog
·         Your author Facebook page
·         Your book's Facebook page
·         Twitter - even though it may not prompt your followers to buy your book it will annoy them less than a "Buy my book" Tweet. It may amuse them enough to become more interested in you in general or in particular you as a writer.
·         Your web site
·         Various other places where you may list your book:
o   Good reads
o   The Society of Authors
o   Linkedin
o   Amazon Author Central
And of course, put a link to your book in the description box on You Tube. 
In a subsequent chapter I'll talk about marketing routines and also social media routines. You may at that point want to create yourself a rather longer list.
Trailers do make a difference to sales. They also often remind people of your back list as well.