Sometimes it feels like the promotion game is about a bunch of authors sitting in a circle. All of us have a cookie, and we all want to sell our cookie to the rest of the circle. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me, and I've tried to focus on efforts that might have at least a slight chance of filtering out to readers more than to other authors who are just as focused on promoting their own cookie.
I'm not implying that authors are not readers. We are. We must read. We are told read, read, read as often as we are told promote, promote, promote. The problem is that while most of us start as voracious readers, if we want to write, write, write and all of its associated tasks, our time is severely limited. Besides, once you network with enough fellow writers, most of your reading is done exchanging betas and critiques of friends' stories.
So we're back to looking for the non-writer readers. As Vonnie Davis posts in her recent blog on the topic, they are not so easy to find. If the comments are any indication, her feeling of frustration is widely shared if not universal. I've posted about it before also, and if you read regularly you'll know that I think over-promotion is far worse than under and that authors who work too hard at it can, and have, created a difficult environment for us all when it comes to reader relations. Still, we write stories in the hopes that they will be read, and so, our conundrum continues. What can we do to get the word to readers without alienating them?
The simple answers are to write excellent books, to be visible but not vocal, to tread gently and patiently--of course. But there is a great pressure to be doing something about this promotion thing, and so far my favorite is the give-away trading card. (you see, we've wandered around to T eventually)
A great reader friend of mine decided years ago that e-books were missing something concrete and physical to be collected, shelved, savored and signed. She suggested trading cards, and as a long-time collector of various cards, I loved the idea. Neither of us did a thing about it, however, until I stumbled upon a group of better motivated ladies with the same brilliant idea. You can find them here: Romance Trading Cards.
Now, I approached this idea like a long-term card collector, which may or may not be a good idea. I print series of cards and each run is a bit different in design. I only print a limited number of each card, and decided from the get-go that when they run out they run out and that card is gone. I can't promise that will never change, but I like the idea of making this item "collectible" to an extent. I like the idea that readers seem to love them, and I think as a hand out they are much less likely to be tossed in the trash.
You can pack a lot of good material on a trading card, blurb, tag line, author, cover artist, genre, publishing house, publishing date, YOUR WEBSITE, and other details. Some authors are doing cards for each character in a book, for settings and for special releases. Really, the options are endless. The cool thing, and the one my friend and I didn't think of that the Romance Trading Cards folks are doing, is making a list of available cards public. This has spurred collecting of them, and I have been contacted repeatedly out of the blue by folks who are trying to gather as many cards as possible.
I suspect that the cards are not translating into sales, and I'll tell you a secret. I don't care. Sales are something that happen when readers love your stories and pass them through word of mouth onto their friends, and their friends, etc. Promotions and give-aways are about two things in my book: name recognition and giving back. I like having a freebie for readers--even more so if they love the item. If they aren't my readers, well, maybe someday they will see my book and recognize the cover from one of their cards and feel inclined. If not, at least these little inexpensive bits of artistry are flying around with my name on them, and I hope, not landing in too many dumpsters.
They even sell books to collect them in, so long as you keep to the 3.5 x2.5 standard size, and yes, I keep a few pages full of my own cards in a book too. I never could resist a pretty card. ;)