Preparing for a Large Author/Reader Gathering

Or, as most of us call it … Prepping for RWA!

41341101_sWhether you’re attending Romance Writers of America’s huge July conference, or a smaller regional conference/workshop, there are a number of things you can do to effectively promote yourself and your work.

In a smaller setting you have the luxury of one-on-one time with both other authors and readers. They are able to put a face to the name and, more importantly, to the book. Promotional expenses are minimal. The contacts you will make are priceless.

Today, though, I’d like to talk about preparing for that larger conference, the one where you’re lucky if you can find your friends, much less readers you’ve never met, or authors you’ve only connected with online.

I belong to a number of author Facebook and Yahoo groups. At the moment, a huge part of the daily conversation is “what are you taking to National for promo?” The pros and cons of printed matter vs novelty item are being weighed carefully. And, as I’d expected, printed matter (while cheaper) is lagging far behind.

As I’ve said in a number of these conversations, a bookmark has never prompted me to buy a book. Don’t forget…you’re preaching to the choir. What’s placed in the Goody Room is going to be seen only by conference attendees (other authors and agents). Most busy authors don’t have time to cull through printed matter looking for a new book to read.

16 HomeIsWhereTheHunkIsI thought I’d take my research on promotional materials a step further and ask readers what they like to receive from authors (e.g., Rafflecopter draws, newsletter contests, etc.) and the majority responded with gift cards and free books. A very few cited bookmarks or other printed promo.

All this said, where is the biggest bang for your promotional buck? Certainly, concentrating your efforts on promotions that reach the reader should be first and foremost in your budget. Personally, I run a Rafflecopter draw with each new release. I advertise it on my blog and promote the heck out of it on social media. This approach has garnered me quite a few new readers. I give prizes ranging from $10 gift cards, to copies of my back list books.

That’s not to say, you shouldn’t promote at the big conferences. But, here’s where strategy comes into play. I’ve attended over twenty national conferences, some before I was published, some in the beginning stages when I couldn’t afford promo materials and, fortunately, quite a few since the promo budget became a reality.

Here are a couple of suggestions (and what I’m doing), for this year’s promo:

Signing at literacy: in addition to having my books available for signing, I will have a basket of gum packets and chocolate at my station. Both will have significant promo for either a specific book, or my website and blog. I will also be doing some print promo here to promote sale prices on back list books.

36502561_sAlternative: for those not signing at literacy (and possibly the best bang for your promotional buck), there’s always what I like to call, “reader stalking“. Where better to hand out a little gift bag of swag than just outside the signing? You’ve got a captive audience with their hands/bags filled with books they’ve just bought. Who wouldn’t want something for free?

Librarian’s networking event: not all of my books can be ordered by libraries (naughty, naughty), but most can. I will also be doing the gum packets and chocolates there. Note: I didn’t order my gum packets pre-printed from a promotional supplier, I did them myself. I purchased bulk variety packs from Costco and then printed labels with my book cover and blurb for the back of the packets. I geared the book (e.g., sweet or spicy) to the flavor of the gum. Obviously, the librarians will get a lot of the “sweet” flavors.

Alternative: if you’re unable to attend the librarian events, they will be at most of the luncheon functions and some of the workshops. Always have a bit of swag with you to promo your books. Focus on getting the information in the hands of those who can order your books.

35274206_sGoody Room: this is where I will trim the promo budget. As I said, “preaching to the choir” isn’t always a good use of promo dollars. Besides cutting back, you also have to ration. I have my swag (the gum packets) separated into seven packages. I distribute one package in the morning and one in the afternoon on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and the final packet in the morning on Saturday. It’s not a lot of promo, but I hope my fellow authors/editors/agents will appreciate the thought (and enjoy the treat).

Just FYI, some of the other items ranking HIGH on the preferred list: chip clips, coasters, drink cozies, good quality pens, chocolate, mints, hand cleaner/cream, screen cleaners, and kitch (something outrageous that promos the theme of your book).

Even if you’re not in the position to do promo this year, don’t forget to visit the Goody Room to get ideas for the future.

For those readers who may be seeing this post, I’d love to hear from you about your favorite types of freebies. Please feel free to comment below.

Until next time, writers keep creating. Readers, please keep reading. You are why we do what we do!


About Nancy Fraser

Like most authors, Nancy began writing at an early age, usually on the walls and with crayons or, heaven forbid, permanent markers. Her love of writing often made her the English teacher’s pet, which, of course, resulted in a whole lot of teasing. Still, it was worth it. When not writing (which is almost never), Nancy dotes on her five beautiful grandchildren and looks forward to traveling and reading when time permits. Nancy lives in Atlantic Canada where she enjoys the relaxed pace and colorful people.
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4 Responses to Preparing for a Large Author/Reader Gathering

  1. Thank you Nancy, some great ideas. Especially when suitcase weight is a consideration. I like the idea of being outside the librarians meeting and the literary signing. See you at RWA.

    • Nancy Fraser says:

      Annette, I’m glad you could use some of the ideas. As far as how to package your stalking materials … the dollar stores have those wonderful plastic bags (like the kind you use to give out treats at kids parties). Usually you can get 50 for a couple of dollars.

  2. Beth Carter says:

    Great ideas. I do love buying (and receiving) unique swag but it does get quite expensive on this scale. I want to go next year! How do you pack all of your books, swag, and clothes!!! That’s what I want to know. 🙂

    • Nancy Fraser says:

      Being that I’m coming from Canada, Beth, I usually box the stuff I’m not going to be bringing back (e.g., swag, books, etc.) in an airline shipping box. They charge a freight rate rather than a second piece of luggage and it’s cheaper than shipping from Canada to the hotel. Luckily, this year, I’m traveling first class (thanks to a snafu on my last trip), and I can take the swag box for free.

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