Promo Items - What would you like?

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Promo Items - What would you like?

I read a fabulous blog the other day from Tammie King of Night Owl Romance where she spoke about things an author can do to help promote her work.

One of her points was to have promo items that readers can use and not just throw away, ie things like lip balm, pens and tip cards can be used multiple times but items like book marks or flyers can be easily trashed. In fairness, Tammie didn't specify book marks or flyers -- that's just my guess on what might be easily trashed.

Book marks or flyers (a paper that announces your book, maybe has a copy of the cover and a short excerpt) are fairly easy to create. And from an author's point of view, they're fairly inexpensive. As the queen of bargain hunting (sounds better than the queen of cheap, lol), I like the idea of inexpensive. Lord knows, we authors don't make a huge amount of money (unless you use initials for your first name ::insert chuckle:: like JK or JD) so we have to be on the look out for promo items that won't cost us more than we earn in royalties.

I'll be honest. I've done post cards, book marks and pens. Those were inexpensive. I've also done key fobs, and calendar books which, while I got a good price, cost a whole lot more than the pens or paper products. I don't begrudge that cost because they were good, quality products that promoted my name and, though the calendars had a life span of a year, the key fobs could be used just about forever.

I've seen authors give away candy wrapped in paper promoting their books but, ahem, I'll be honest -- I take a look at the wrapper, then rip it apart to get to the candy. It's a clever idea because everyone is willing to take a piece of candy (and if it's chocolate so much the better, lol) but the promotional part, the wrapper, ends up in the trash soon to be forgotten. I don't mean to be disrespectful, honest, but hey who keeps an empty candy wrapper around?

Pens are great - they last a goodly amount of time and are useful. Best of all, they're not that expensive. I'm intrigued by the idea of the lip balm promotional item. And the tip cards (though there must be other things of interest one can put on the cards other than how much to tip) are a clever idea.

I've got a book coming out next year (doesn't hurt to think ahead for promoting :D ) and I'd like to get jump started with my promo items.

So I'm putting it to you, dear readers - what do you like in the way of promo items?

And authors - what have you found to be most successful?

Drop a comment to let me know. Thanks and have a great week!

-- Lynda

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35 Responses to "Promo Items - What would you like?"

Myst Bloodstone said...

I'm an aspiring author, so I haven't gotten to the giveawy promos yet. However, I won a contest where an author friend gave away refrigerater calendar magnets for runner up prizes. Functional in so many ways. Even after the year is up, you can still secure your kids report cards, etc. I'm not sure of the price range for those; but I believe it's a pretty nominal cost.

Also, an idea I've thought of is promotional candy tins. They are metal, re-usable...and are pocket/purse size. Also pretty reasonable when bougt in bulk. (200 or so?)
As a reader..I'm happy with anything. The author is spending their hard earned money not only to buy these things...but to ship them as well. It's just nice to win/be included!
Hope this helps!

Beth Caudill said...

Personally, I love bookmarks of the books I'm interested in. I hate pens. 1) I have so many and 2) they usually are cheap (not all but to get the nice costs more)

A friend of mine makes jewelry and I use earrings as a special contest prize. Jewelry could also be used in a basket for a book signing. (Sign up for my newsletter and be entered in the basket type thing).

Lynda K. Scott said...

Metal candy tins? That's a good idea. Perhaps with your book cover on the lid?

Great suggestion, Barb.

Lynda K. Scott said...

Beth, I like book marks too and use them till they wear out. But, at conference, I see a lot of them in the trash receptacles. And the jewelry idea is very good if you have an inexpensive source. A good friend of mine makes jewelry but unless I'm buying just one or two pieces for a special prize, it seems to expensive. Of course, if I made it myself...well, no one would want it, lol :-)

Alexis Morgan said...

I personally like post-it note pads with the author's name and website on it, although I've also gotten them tucked inside a miniature cover of the author's next book.

Aother clever idea that I've only seen once was a retractable keyboard brush (to get all those pesky crumbs out of the keys).

As an author, I've done both postcards and bookmarks with all the covers of my Paladin series printed on them in order. I've had readers say they love them because it helps them read the series in the right order.

Lynda K. Scott said...

Alexis, I like that idea (postcards and bookmarks with the covers printed in order). Where did you find the retractable keyboard brush? That's a nifty idea too.

Patricia Altner said...

I can only address this question as a reader. I love bookmarks! and pens!

The candy tin idea sounds fun as does the calendar.

I don't find postcards or flyers useful and tend to look then through them away.

Just my 2 cents said...

lip balm, pens , post it, (though where we can actaully see what we write, i know some authors put their whole thing covering and they really not much use ,not to be able to write on. though some i have gotten from authors was great. like magnets ,lol though my fridge is groaning every time i put a new one on.
some of the ec authors, sent condoms as lolipops and in match book like cover for comdoms, which was well need, and they are so cute. )wonder if they still have them)
im for useful , bookmarks, i love to have ones for to put with the books especially my keepers, and matching bookamrk

1 author had like a mini clip with her name on it, very useful, i use to hook outgoing mail, so the kids knows exactly what to take out inthe mornings if i dont go. i have gotten booklights with authors name on them, useful

like buttons. with funny sayins , though had to take off pocketbook, granchild kept trying to yank them off LOL
i have gotten candle and matches in a little baggie, with the author name on the matches, which is great, to sit close for the power goes out and they are together
(htough i do use it a little too :)
calendar is nice, i gotten one from jeane stein ,reg size...and magnet calendar from quite a few authors
well i just woke up, so my brain not working yet. but ill be back LOL said...

lol o yes, my well at the time she was 11. just grapped a ink pen and went to school, came bnack it was a erotica author LOL she got teased all day

she alot more careful now

Karin Shah said...

I always look at this topic with interest. There are certainly a lot of great ideas! Candy tins, and notepads, pens, and clips sound particularly clever!

Julie Robinson said...

I like retractable pens the best---retractable becasue I lose the cap on others and I end up with an uncovered pen marking up my purse. Plus, I can pull a pen out of my purse if I want to remember the author's name that I want to buy, 'cause you always have to have pen in your purse, right?

I also like refrigerator magnets. In fact, my DH has forgotten that the fridge is white because it's covered with magnets.

Other good items are post-it notes with the author's name and/or book and lip balm (also carried in purse).

Of course, it's not good if the author has to spend money on expensive things, so bookmarks can serve the same purpose. If I get the book, i always put the book mark with it. It's even better if the bookmark has been autographed.


31months said...

For our book, 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park, my husband and I use chopsticks and fans with stickers listing our book name and website. They are inexpensive and very popular. We also have M&Ms with our book title on them which we use for signings. They are eaten, but people remember them!
We also do bookmarks.
For our anthology, Snowflake Secrets, my writing partner, Sherry Derr-Wille crocheted beautiful snowflakes for the first 150 books we sold. For our latest, Seasons of Love, she crocheted seasonal-themed bookmarks. We are giving away an e-book copy of that book and several of the bookmarks right now. Get the details at

Julie Robinson said...

Ooh those candy tins are a good idea---if they're relatively cheap for the author.
Barb, I feel the same about about being happy to be included.

Lynda K. Scott said...

Patricia, your input as a reader is very valuable to us authors :-) so thanks very much for sharing your ideas/likes/dislikes.

Lynda K. Scott said...

Blackroze, wow, those EC authors have some great ideas on promotional stuff, don't they? Though, lol, yes, having your kidlet take a promo pen to school might be a little interesting :-) Even more interesting would be the 'lollipop' condoms, lol. Imagine opening one of those in study hall!

Lynda K. Scott said...

Julie, me too! Me too on the retractable pens (I call 'em clicker pens :-D) for the same reason you mention. Plus, the clicking noise lets people around you know you're getting peeved if you've been kept waiting too long.

Among my promo items are clicker pens and capped felt tip pens (because they write purple, my favorite color). I like to pass out stuff that I like...but I'm getting some great ideas for new things to add to my promo basket.

Lynda K. Scott said...

31 Months, when you have a themed book like that, you can really come up with some new and unusual promo items, can't you?

Rita Hetand said...

I make home-made keychains with pic of cover. Also make beaded keychains. I got a bookmark with a beautiful feather on it once, I thought a lot of that one.

I think the unusual catches the eye. Pens are always nice and calenders, but they are higher usually.

Marty Rayne said...

As a first time RT goer this year, I've been stressing over what promo items to take. I've decided to take some paper, mostly business cards. But I personally love (and use) bookmarks, magnets, pens, and post-it notes.
But I also like homemade things. I believe that it adds a personal touch and people are less likely to get rid of them as easily (I'm hoping). So I'm making a variety of things that have my business card attached to it. IE- book thongs made with ribbon/thread/beads/charms. I'm hoping not to find any of those in the trash like the paper ones. The supplies aren't too expensive, but they take time to do, which I use the time I sit and watch TV with hubby at night.

Lynn said...

It is so hard to know what will work and what won't. I personally like pins, post-its, candy, bookmarks, key fobs and disks.

Each one can be done up special for promoting a book, a series or just the author in general.

My rule of thumb is that it needs to be something unique which calls to the reader. If it can be useful, it's a bonus.

Lynn Crain
Experience the Magic

Lynda K. Scott said...

Rita, wow on the keychains. I wish I had the talent to do that sort of thing. I can make bookmarks and do some easy (and I mean easy, lol) crafting but that's about it. I envy you people who can do this sort of thing.

Lynda K. Scott said...

Marty, I have to agree with you about handmade things. I hadn't given it much thought until you mentioned it but handmade is something most of us like (I think). As I mentioned to Rita, I've got a lot of envy for those who can do it.

Lynda K. Scott said...

Lynn, how often do you see the pins during or after conference? I'm just wondering 'cause it seems to me that would be an easy item to set aside and forget about.

Janis Susan May said...

As a reader, I find paper things - fliers, bookmarks, postcards - completely resistable. It hurts, because I know the author spent good money on them, sometimes a lot of money on them, but bookmarks and such are just so much clutter to me. I don't pick them up and if I get some, as in a conference bag or such, they go straight into the recycling bin after a cursory glance. Occasionally I'll see little daily agendas (expensive) or tiny purse-sized notepads (inexpensive) that are nice.

As a writer and a poor one at that, I have two levels of giveaways. First is the inexpensive things that I can give away openhandedly - personalized coasters, ballpoint pens, that kind of thing. Second is the still fairly inexpensive but nicer stuff - mugs, tiny reading lights - that I give to bookstore managers who host me for a signing, or as prizes, or for something special.

I want to leave something of value, however inexpensive it is, something that will still be around a couple of days hence.

Julie Robinson said...


I like it when authors offer prizes that relate to their books. For instance, I just got my prize from Jody Wallace's contest. It is a crocheted gnome (by her) in camo colors smelling wonderfully of roses. Mr. Commando G-man is now perched on my computer desk serving as my muse, along with Anne Kane's black were-cat beanie baby, Midnight,


Julie Robinson said...

Excuse me, Midnight is a were-panther, to be specific.

Vicky W said...

Instead of a tip card, I once got a credit card envelope with the tip information on the back side and book info on the other. You know, one of those little plastic/ paper pockets that you keep a credit card in so it doesn't get scratched envelope. For about eight years now, my husband uses the one I got at an RT convention even though it has a romance on the front side. :)

Lynda K. Scott said...

Janis, I hear you on the paper giveaways though it does seem a number of readers like them. I guess it's a matter of personal preference?

Those are great ideas re the coasters or book lights. Thanks for the tips!

Lynda K. Scott said...

Julie, how clever (the camo gnome & the beanie baby were-panther). When my book Heartstone was first released in its very short first appearance, I gave away a couple of beaded crystal hearts that could be worn as a necklace or used as small suncatchers. I made one of them but ended up having my very talented friend, Norma, make the others for me.

Lynda K. Scott said...

Vicky, that envelope for credit cards is pretty clever too. I don't think I've seen one of those.

Lynda K. Scott said...

Hi Karin! Thanks for stopping by! Yep, promo items is a subject of interest to many of us authors. We're always on the lookout for popular or desirable giveaways :-D

Pat McDermott said...

My first novel was released last month, and the promo thing is all new to me. I've been doing lots online, but I very much appreciate all the great ideas I saw here. Thanks everyone, and thank you Lynda for sharing this info!

Lynda K. Scott said...

Hi Pat, congrats on your release and good luck on your sales.

I've gotten some wonderful ideas from these comments myself and I'm glad to help any of my fellow authors. Thanks for stopping by!

Julie Robinson said...


Purple pens are my favorite too! Not the gel kind 'cause I can't read that---it's too faint. Funny about the clicking while waiting---I'll have to try that. hehe

Those beaded crystal hearts were perfect for Heratstone.


Lynda K. Scott said...

Hi Juli,

I like some of the gel pens but you're right, some of them can be pale. Oh yeah, try clicking the clicker pen -- it's an effective tool especially combined with a scowl, lol.

Yep, the beaded crystal hearts were a great gift for Heartstone. I might see if I can con my buddy into making a few more for me...for a small price, lol