“Do your damnedest in an ostentatious manner all the time,” advised General George S. Patton. It’s advice that can be applied to the business of selling books. Maybe the word “ostentatious” is a little strong; but if we want to be successful as booksellers, we must have our books (and ourselves) stand out from the rest of the pack. The use of color is an inexpensive way to help ourselves achieve that goal. Here are three “colorful” suggestions:
1. Order some self-stick labels in bright colors to be used in a variety of ways. When my first mystery book was published, I ordered bright-colored address labels to put on the envelopes of my correspondence. The first two lines read as follows: Gail E. Farrelly; Author of BEANED IN BOSTON. My address was on the last two lines. It really helped to create a buzz. Friends, relatives, neighbors-even the mailman-wanted to know all the details about Beaned. These address labels can also be used on envelopes to the bill collectors. Why not let the people from the phone company know about your books?
Labels are inexpensive; and any four lines within the proper letter count can be used. You may want to get some labels printed with the book title, author, publisher, and ISBN number. Or use one of the lines for a holiday greeting: Merry Christmas, Happy Valentine’s Day, or whatever. Remember, “mailing” labels aren’t just for mailing! Your imagination and your budget are the only limits.
2. Commercial, illustrated stickers produced in color may help to brighten your correspondence. If you are doing a promotion for a special holiday, for example, a sticker on the envelope or on your letter may attract attention. Non-holiday “fun” stickers-butterflies, flowers, balloons, or funny sayings-can also be useful. For mystery writers like myself, Halloween is the time of the year to stock up on “scary” stickers (picturing skeletons, spiders, ghosts, etc.) to be used all year round.
3. Handouts on colored paper, rather than white, may be quite effective. Whenever I make presentations at libraries, bookstores, or conventions, I always provide at least one handout for the audience. I do this for two reasons: (1) To be helpful and provide the audience with some information; and (2) To ensure that everyone has my name, the name of my book, and author contact information-should this be needed (and I hope it will be) in the future.
For example, I recently gave a talk at the Bronxville, New York Library and provided four handouts. Two of them gave some general information for people interested in the mystery genre: names, addresses, and phone numbers for mystery bookstores in New York City as well as for the Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime; names of two mystery magazines; and some information about Bouchercon, an international mystery conference to be held in Philadelphia in October of 1998. The other two handouts were copies of op-ed pieces that I had recently published. Each handout was a different pastel color. The variety of colors helped to brighten up the “presentation” table and also made it easier for the attendees to check whether they had all four handouts.
When I was a kid, coloring was one of my favorite activities. Now I’m doing a different kind of “coloring.” But as you can see, I still love to color!
Gail E. Farrelly is an associate professor of accounting at Rutgers University in Newark and the author of the mystery novel, “Beaned in Boston,” named to the 1997 Washington Irving Book Selection List. The sequel, “Duped by Derivatives,” will be published soon.