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Book Marketing Print Collateral Do’s and Don’ts

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

You put a ton of effort into getting the perfect cover for your book and the perfect image for your publisher imprint that best represents your author brand. Now, it’s time to apply the same level of effort to creating awesome printed collateral to execute some of your book marketing. In other words, we’re talking about swag. The best pieces of swag are those a fan can keep using long after he or she has read your book. Here’s how you can make your swag the one readers hang on to.

Create Swag that Represents Your Author Brand

You can print your publisher imprint on almost anything. That doesn’t mean you should. Keep your book marketing materials to things you know your readers will actually want. Pieces that create an interest in your brand and build your tribe, the core group of people you’re directly marketing your book to. Here’s a few ideas for swag you can give away in social media contests, at author events, and on your author website:

  • Coffee mugs
  • Stickers
  • Postcards
  • Bookmarks
  • T-shirts
  • Stationery
  • Pens
  • Notebooks
  • Buttons

What do readers like? Curling up with a good book and a mug of tea. What do your readers like? Find out by considering the behaviors of your target audience. Asking your readers directly doesn’t hurt, either. You might end up with some unconventional and definitely unforgettable swag this way, like bottle openers, USB drives, framed prints of your book cover, or hats. Consider your book’s subject matter when coming up with giveaway items. Is there a signature keepsake of your main character? If you’ve written a cookbook, could you add your logo to a rolling pin, apron, or some other cooking necessity? Find what clicks with your audience. That’s the swag you want to invest in.

Book Marketing Collateral Do’s

  • Looking for design ideas? Look toward your book’s cover art and illustrations for inspiration. Think of all the materials you plan to use and how your publisher imprint or other distinguishing artwork will look on them. You might have to design a few versions of your artwork (black and white only, full color, an all-blue version, etc.) to make sure it works on all of them.
  • Create a realistic print marketing budget before you start placing orders.
  • Balance your print campaign with a few inexpensive items and one or two pricier picks. Your budget goes a lot further with postcards and bookmarks than with coffee mugs and hats. Stickers can make your readers into members of your marketing team as they advertise your book with whatever they put your sticker on. Stickers are fun, they’re cheap, and they stick on everything. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invest in some bigger-ticket swag, but you definitely shouldn’t sink your whole budget into a run of premium T-shirts alone.
  • Personalize it. Your design and particular collateral piece should remind readers of your book...or pique their curiosity and make them want to read your book. And then after they’ve read it, the swag will be a conversation starter that either gets them talking to other people who’ve read the book or inspires new readers to pick it up. Either way, it’s a win.

Book Marketing Collateral Don’ts

  • Don’t spend money on cheap collateral that is destined to break or look inexpensive. Go for quality. When you’re comparing materials, go with the one you’d want to see your favorite author’s name on.
  • Don’t over order more than you’ll realistically need. It’s not always easy to gauge how much material you’ll need, but err on the conservative side. This way, you’ll have a bigger budget to invest in higher quality materials, and you’ll avoid waste.
  • Don’t go overboard and print your artwork on all the things. Pick a few items that make the most sense for your author brand and budget for the quantities you’ll need of each.

Have a Plan to Distribute What You Produce

Spread your swag far. If you don’t have a mailing list, now’s the time to compile one. Get your swag to as many bookstores, libraries, readers, media, and book reviewers as possible. If you write for a specific audience, send your swag where they are. For a children’s author, that might mean schools and summer camps and for a sci-fi writer, a comic book or video game shop. Find out where your readers spend their time. Then send your swag there.

And keep on sending it out, especially leading up to events where you’ll be promoting your book. If you’re used to only promoting your work online, print marketing can be a new challenge. Read all that you can about it to learn how to do it well, and when you have questions about marketing your book, ask other authors about what they did. Your author community is one of your best resources for everything related to your book...including connecting with the people who read it.


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Calvin Emerson

Calvin Emerson works as Marketing Coordinator for 99designs, the global creative platform that makes it easy for designers and clients to work together. Originally from sunny California, Calvin moved to Berlin in 2015 with degrees in Rhetoric and German from U.C. Berkeley. When not immersed in the world of design, his interests include world cuisine, techno, street style, and historical documentaries.