So glad to be hosting Seekerville! Thank you, Tina, and everyone. Y’all hungry? I brought turkey soup, turkey sandwiches, turkey sausage, turkey spaghetti, turkey wings… (Just kidding…)
Y’all know me as the transcriptionist for my Schnauzer, May the K9 Spy, but previous chapters of my life include: working for my dad at his veterinary clinic, teaching 5th grade, a phone sales rep for a pharmaceutical company, a corporate field rep for a promotional products firm, creating and running a supply business, buying and running a franchise that welcomes new movers… Yikes! Through all these experiences and challenges, God’s been with me every page.
Perhaps you have a circuitous route to today as well, or… maybe not. Whatever meaningful work we choose, or even if we’re talking on a personal level, image is what we present to the world.
Now that many of us are authors or working in that direction, what about our author image?
Maybe like me, you’re searching for items to present yourself and your business beyond a simple bookmark.
If you’re traditionally published, some of that image is decided for you. You have an agent plus marketing and art departments to assist. As we’ve learned here in Seekerville however, even those authors must do quite a bit themselves.
But as indies, we can creatively imagine our own. Daunting! Since my first book May on the Way: How I Become a K9 Spy released in September 2011, I’ve tried some things that have worked well, and others not so much.
This past September, Beverly Lewis was signing at MoonPie General Store and The Original Book Warehouse in Pigeon Forge, TN. A friend and I had already planned a trip as the store was interested in purchasing my book series. (And did, along with the Mini-May plush!) Of course, I was elated to meet Mrs. Lewis that day - her name was enough to draw throngs of people to the store - and looked to see what she had on her table, besides the boatload of books she was signing!
There were bookmarks, postcards and tucked away to the side, a quad-fold flyer, only given to those who asked. Notice the right section of the flyer lists all her books, with boxes to check for those in your collection.
But for those of us who aren’t household names (yet!) let’s think beyond the bookmark…
Sandra’s SWAG - Something We All Get - post earlier this year addressed some of this topic.
Helen Lacey touched brand and platform here: http://seekerville.blogspot.com/2013/11/all-worlds-stage.html
Since I was in the logo/ad specialty business, let’s walk through the decision process.
** Think about what you want to accomplish with your investment.
Think short term AND long term. Be specific.
As an author, perhaps you’ve written a series. Or you’re known for writing a certain genre.
You want to be top of mind when buyers (readers or book sellers) are looking for something in your category to read or gift.
Maybe you simply want to announce your new release to potential buyers. Or you’re joining other authors in a boxed set, sharing readers and expanding territory. Or you write non-fiction and your book(s) tie in directly with work, a ministry or charity.
Each situation could have similar yet very different goals.
** Prepare a realistic budget.
Again, think short term AND long term.
To briefly digress, I’m originally from Houston, TX where Mattress Mack’s story is legendary.
Newsflash! We are in business too! Books are our product. But we don’t necessarily have lots of money to promote our image.
Do we have $50 to invest over a year? $100? $500+? Think about what items we could use over time, what occasions will occur in the next year, or two, and buy accordingly.
** Find items to enhance your image
Not much $$ available? No worries. Perhaps you’re the crafty type or know someone who would help to coordinate something with your book or brand.…
Prolific Texas author, Janice Thompson, bakes and decorates gorgeous cookies to coordinate with her wedding books!
Along with purchased items, local author Rita Monette shares a nicely printed short story telling more about her main character, Nikki Landry.
You could wrap tea bags. Stuff a small box with nuts or goodies. Print labels or scratch pads. If you won’t get lost for an hour, or promise to return when you do (!), check out Pinterest here... and here. And here.
Just remember these items will be consumed, so unless the container is stellar, it will end up in the circular file along with your name.
Stores like Hobby Lobby, Big Lots, Oriental Trading, Overstock, or even Ebay carry a host of materials to help you do it yourself. You probably know others to share in the comments section. Next time you visit, browse with your books in mind.
While my phenomenal editor, Sandra Byrd, no longer does personal appearances, she does hold giveaways: “I try to do something unique and tied into the content of each book, as well as my brand. One of the giveaways for my forthcoming novel, A Lady in Disguise, will be a Happily Ever After candle by Prize Candles. My story has a unique Cinderella twist, I always write HEA endings, and there is some bling - so Cinderella appropriate - within each candle, that the lucky winner can find as the candle burns.”
What about professionally printed items? Envision ways to use a pen or magnet over a year or two: in person, by mail, contests, goodie bags, at conventions, drawings… Larger quantities keep your per piece costs down. A print run of 50 books costs less overall, but the per piece price is significantly higher than pieces in a print run of 500 or 1000+.
Everyone loves a bargain. But if you go to the effort and expense to purchase something, and your recipient tosses it moments later, you’ve wasted your money, or worse, the recipient associates your name with something worthless. That's not really a bargain, is it?
A bargain is an advantageous purchase on several levels: objectives met, price, wow factor… Be mindful of quality as well as cost.
How? Like anything else, know your limitations. Enlist professional assistance!
America just celebrated Small Business Saturday. Search under ad specialties, promotional products, or marketing materials and find a local shop to help you navigate the thousands of possibilities. They work with small clients with small budgets too. :)
Look for companies affiliated with ASI (Advertising Specialty Institute). What a treasure of information they can share! Reps know what’s trending, what products have been well-received, best quality, timely delivery, etc. It’s their business to help our business be successful. Plus, they have showrooms to browse. If you’ve never visited one, you’ll be AMAZED.
Develop a relationship with the sales representative. He can help you avoid vendors with pricey setup fees and advise ways to minimize other somewhat hidden fees such as resizing logos and shipping. He can even suggest artwork that can be used for more than one item. Tell your rep what you do, and have him suggest things to promote yourself and your brand. Note: some items have a tremendous markup, so ask him to sharpen his pencil if possible.
Planning ahead (usually) saves money! Ask him to inform you about seasonal specials and clearance items, or which companies will waive setup fees. But see a physical sample of the item before you purchase. (Been there, done that… not in a good way. DRAT.) Should you choose to use an online source, search for verified product reviews and/or see a sample before ordering. Choose American made, if available. :)
Businesses like Staples have a Copy & Print section that might suit your needs. If you sign up for emails, you’ll receive coupon codes like I did last week: 15% off and free shipping. I’ve also used www.123print.com and www.vistaprint.com for business cards, labels, envelopes, postcards, notecards.
Okay. Let’s have some fun!
What branded items do YOU have at home? Why did you keep them? Do you remember the person who offered it? Do you use their services? What is the feeling or thought you have as you see the product? Is that something you’d like for your recipients to think about you and your business? Act accordingly!
Here are some SWAG items I’ve held onto. Each time I use them, I remember the business. Would something like this be beneficial for your career too?
In my May the K9 Spy repertoire are several items, including tattoos. These I tuck into books and thank you notes and also share with visitors at craft fairs and festivals.
My wristband is a dual-purpose item, serving as a prize during school visits and ID collars for my plush toys.
For prizes and street team/first readers, I’ve used Swagmaster Designs for bookmarks and charm bracelets. Note on bookmarks. Size appropriately for your own books. Mine are hardcover 6x9, so this bookmark ribbon is 10-3/4” ~ and May gray! The beads and charms add length.
Check Nashville Wraps. Oh. My… They carry lovely items, many of which can be printed or you could add your own label. I purchased these 2 bags from them.
Finally, here’s a gallimaufry (Gotta love www.thesaurus.com) of other items that might spark ideas. Some have a longer shelf life than others. How could you tie your book or brand into one of these products?
Breath Mints Lip Balm Screen Cleaning ClothSmartphone Wallet Laundry Bag Power Bank
Jar Opener Screwdriver Seeds
Bandage Dispenser Magnet Post-It’s
Christmas ornament Mug T-shirt
Beacon Light USB Luggage Tag
Rubber Duck Eyeglass Repair Kit Guitar Pick
Frisbee Hacki Ball Emery Board
Can Opener Hand Fan Boomerang
Remember many are not expensive and come in shapes: heart, computer, house, foot, bone, light bulb, van, tooth, telephone, light bulb, #1, America… Some are lightweight and flat to mail with your books, but you shouldn’t ship them at media mail rate.
Let’s talk turkey!
Readers, what items would you like have and to hold from favorite authors?
Authors, what other ideas do you have to share? Anything particularly memorable you’ve seen before or used yourself?
We’re giving 2 sets of May the K9 Spy e-books: 1 to a reader and 1 a writer. Please specify Amazon, Kobo or Nook. But wait! There’s more! Don’t answer!
Since it’s nearing Christmas, a third winner may choose any hardcover May book and your choice of plush toy: Mini-May, the star of our series or Nykeeda the Cheetah, from our latest release May Saves the Day: Situation in St. Petersburg!
|Check out the entire series here.|
KC Frantzen learned to speak Critter at a young age. As a veterinarian's daughter, she was always surrounded by four-footed friends. Then in God’s perfect timing, along came “Only Small May,” a 10 lb. rescue Schnauzer who stole her heart and never gave it back. (But who knew May was a spy?)
KC and her husband volunteer with a variety of projects, including the Joni & Friends Wounded Warrior Getaway. They enjoy traveling just about anywhere, which helps formulate ideas for the May the K9 Spy series. The family lives in the country hills of middle Tennessee with two magnificent Arabian horses, several brilliant rescue dogs, and one lovely rescue calico cat.
Discover details here about KC’s FREE visits to schools and groups in this video!
Connect anytime at www.maythek9spy.com and www.facebook.com/MaytheK9Spy.