This summer I will attend SoonerCon 2017 as a media guest. I attended two years ago in this capacity, and I had a pretty good time, but I don’t think I utilized my market potential very well.
My appearance this year will be a bit more useful to building a brand because I’ve hit on a couple of surefire ways to market myself:
- Don’t Buy Table Time – In my experience, buying a table to sell books doesn’t really net much profit. Sure, you might get your book in front of a few new readers, but in the long run you will be out valuable money and time. By the time you invest in printing up a bunch of books and posters and other swag, rent a table and figure out a good way to do credit card payments, your hours sitting alone at the table will feel like a spiraling black hole for your finances.
- Get On Some Panels – If you manage to become a media guest (this requires emailing small conventions, having some Twitter clout and a few books under your belt and about 90% luck) it is worth volunteering to be a panelist. The first year at SoonerCon I volunteered for too much, suggested panel topics that didn’t make the cut, and even though I enjoyed myself, I didn’t market very well. Panels give you a captive audience to show what you know about writing or other topics, and if you play your cards right you’ll find more prospective readers that way. And the panels are loads of fun, choc full of healthy banter.
- Suggest Some Panels – This usually happens if you get invited for a second time, but suggest panels that would give you opportunities to talk ball it your own writing. I was able to get 5 panels on the schedule this year, and all of them will give me the soap box I need to show my skill as a storyteller.
- Invest in Great Business Cards – I’ve made book marks in the past and simply handed them out at random, but this doesn’t really do much for marketing. You need to get some great business cards designed. Don’t do it yourself. They need to be bigger than normal, say 4-5″ square, glossy, and display your author page, a professional glamor shot, some of your book covers and a Twitter handle. These are much more impressive, and if they are bigger than a business card they won’t get lost in the back of the wallet.
- Give Stuff Away – When you are a guest on a panel, you can use the opportunity to work some soft sell magic by giving a lucky member of the audience a free book with one of those big business cards stuffed inside. Ask the audience a trivia question, and then hand the lucky winner a book. If word gets out, perhaps folks will come to the panel to get the freebie and in the meantime you can show them why they should read you.
The most important tip here is that writers need to work toward a goal of engagement. If readers can see you are a real person whose not so concerned about hocking wares, you might just inadvertently hock some wares.
3 thoughts on “Conventioning: A Promotion Idea”
Speaking of soft-selling wares … aside from being a mentor, facilitator, blogger, author and speaker … I also have over two decades of experience in branding, marketing, advertising and design. So if you haven’t yet had those cards designed, give me a holler. Drop a line if you’d like: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Either way, you’re making the right decision to design something atypical. Design is more important than size. Keep in mind that people have to be able to save the design somewhere. The rule of thumb is that, if it LOOKS like a standard business card, it’ll get thrown in the trash at the first opportunity. Every successful business card today needs to look like a high-end billboard or piece of art; if it does, people actually feel guilty throwing it away, because it feels like it’s worth something.
So a different size is fine. But keep “save-ability” in mind. Where will people put it?
Concentrate on stand-out design quality card stock (weight and/or texture, even material), and consider tasteful inclusions of non-standard treatment (e.g., embossing/debossing, subtle foil, cut-outs, die-cut shape, etc.)
Again, you’re on the right track! The event isn’t until June, I see, but congrats and best of luck there. Sounds like you have a solid plan.
Coming from you, that is a high compliment. I appreciate your advice, Erik, and I have a local designer in mind. He’s designed my past two book covers and is an excellent graphic artist. I’ll be meeting with him in the next few weeks to hash out the details, and I’ll consider some embossing or foil to give the card that extra push.
If you haven’t already, check out the non-standard options at http://www.moo.com. Sometimes, knowing what you can do can drive actual design choices. (BTW, I don’t work for moo or get any special perks from them for recommending them. I just think they do quality work for a good price, so I use them for such jobs often.)