Back in prehistoric times when I was at school, there were no laptops, no mobile phones, no iPads or Kindles, no World Wide Web and no online shopping. If you wanted a book, you went into a physical bookstore and bought a real book with pages. Those pages needed a bookmark and I had dozens of them. Some with encouraging scriptures, some illustrated with my favourite Peanuts characters, some with tassels, some laminated and some made of leather that were too thick to actually use as bookmarks.
Although we tend to do a lot more electronic bookmarking these days, most of us still own, buy and borrow physical books. The humble bookmark still has its place and I decided to use it as one of my marketing tools for my historical novel Scattered. Using bookmarks for marketing is nothing new, of course, but there’s a lot to think about, especially if you’re designing your own.
Why Do You Want to Use Bookmarks?
Given that there are dozens of merchandising options you could use to advertise your book (e.g. flyers, business cards, magnets, postcards, pens, banners), why do you think bookmarks are a good choice? I can think of a few reasons (though some of these aren’t exclusive to bookmarks).
- Booklovers love bookmarks. If you meet someone in a bookstore, a signing or a writing event, you know they already love books, so why not put your bookmark in their hands?
- Bookmarks make great gifts. It’s easy to pop them in with a present, card or letter.
- Bookmarks are great examples of ‘takeaway’ marketing. Someone might not buy your book at a particular event. But if readers take your bookmark away with them, it serves as a great reminder. Every time they turn to the page they’ve marked with your bookmark, they’re reminded of your book or brand, and you might get a sale down the line.
- They’re great conversation starters. If you’re at a book event, it’s easy to approach people and say, ‘Hi, would you like one of my bookmarks?’ If they look like a startled rabbit, you can leave it at that. If they look interested, you can tell them a bit about your book.
If you decide that bookmarks are a good marketing choice for you, think about what you want on your bookmark. This might seem obvious, but it takes a lot of thought. Do you want it to showcase your books or one book in particular? Are you going to include the book cover? A book blurb? Info about where to buy the book? Do you want the bookmark to advertise you as an author? If so, are you going to include all of your social media links? Do you want to advertise services you offer? If you’ve written a book for the Christian market, do you want to include a scripture? Do you see your bookmarks as part of a broader ministry or are you focusing on one aspect of your work?
With so many potential inclusions, your bookmark could get very cluttered, which may take away from the visual appeal. You could have a double-sided bookmark, but that costs more money. What do you want to achieve?
Designing and Printing
Copyright and permissions - If you’re using any images on your bookmark, such as book cover images, check that you have permission to use them. This could mean checking with your publisher or anyone who has assisted with the cover design (e.g. your graphic designer or other service provider). If you designed your own book cover, you should have already checked that you had permission to use the images. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re free to use those images on other merchandise, so check any licensing agreements.
Budget Considerations – It’s good to have a rough idea of how much you want to spend on bookmarks. Do you have the skills necessary to design your own bookmark or do you need to hire a graphic designer? Do you have dozens of upcoming book events and need hundreds of bookmarks, or do you want a small print run? The more you order, the cheaper it usually works out per bookmark, but it’s no use having a thousand bookmarks sitting at home that you can’t get rid of. How fancy do you want your bookmark to be? Double-sided printing, higher quality card and different kinds of surfaces cost more. What do you definitely need and what are you willing to compromise on for the sake of price?
Designing the Bookmark – A full discussion of this topic is beyond the scope of this blog. However, I just want to mention a couple of tools I found useful. Some graphic design sites like Canva have bookmark templates to help you design your bookmark or you can create a custom design. I use Stencil for creating most of my memes. While they don’t have a bookmark template, you can create a custom design in any format. Whichever program you use, you can generate various designs and get a feel for which one works best. You can even post your designs on social media and do a poll to see which one grabs potential readers.
Finding a Printer – This turned out to be harder than I thought. Not all printers do bookmarks and some have certain stipulations regarding the size of the print run. You also need to take note of any special formatting restrictions they have and whether they can cater to your requirements (e.g. certain fonts and colours).
I settled on a Melbourne company called CMYK Colour Online, as I could use special fonts and colours, and they seemed to have the best balance of what I wanted for the price. It was a bit of a learning curve using their templates, but they have some really detailed instructions. When you go to order, they also have an option where you can pay a bit more to have someone check the artwork. I decided to go with that option, so that I could be 100% sure the bookmarks weren’t going to have any nasty surprises like blurred images. When ordering, there were also a lot of pricing options, so it was easy to play around with it and find something that fit my budget. The bookmarks also arrived quickly and I was very happy with the final product. (Disclaimer: Although this company worked well for me, it may not be for everyone. Before deciding on a printer, see which company is a good fit for you and always check customer reviews. If you can get a personal recommendation from someone who’s used them before, all the better.)
Time is Your Friend – I was so busy leading up to my launch, that I left it a bit late to get cracking on the bookmarks. It turned out okay, but it did cause undue stress. Allow yourself plenty of time, as all the steps I’ve mentioned above take longer than you think.
How I’ve Used The Bookmarks
My novel Scattered was released in October. Since then, I’ve given the bookmarks out at my book launch, a book signing, and a writing workshop. I’ve also included them with any books I’ve sold directly to readers.
When I did a recent signing at Koorong, my local Christian bookstore store, I used them as conversation starters. It was easy to walk up to someone, offer them a bookmark and tell them that my book was on special in the store that day. Sometimes I just left it at that, as I didn’t want anyone to feel pressured. However, some people asked me more about the book and ended up buying one.
The manager of my local Koorong store was happy for me to leave some bookmarks on the counter. She’s since told me that a lot of people have been picking them up and some customers have then asked if the book is available in the store.
The Ultimate Aim
In one sense, the aim of any type of marketing is to boost sales, but it’s not all about making money. With such competition these days, very few authors make pots of money anyway. If you have a book God has laid on your heart to share, you need to think about how to get that book into the hands of potential readers and then leave the rest to God. Bookmarks are just one of many avenues available to you.
What about you? Do you have hoards of bookmarks stashed in books all over your house? What makes a good bookmark? Have you designed your own bookmarks? Do you have any tips you can share? I’d love to hear your comments.
To find out more, please visit her author site: www.nolalorraine.com.au
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