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Swag to Market Your Words: Bookmarks

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by Terry Doherty —

BookmarksIndustry events are made for networking … and marketing. So are everyday events like waiting in line at your favorite coffee shop. Do you know what kind of collateral works in big arenas and small delis? Bookmarks!

Bookmarks are my favorite kind of marketing collateral from authors. Business cards are great, but they get alphabetized and dusty. I love bookmarks so much that I converted a five-compartment sewing box into my go-to spot when I need a bookmark for whatever books are currently on my nightstand. I’ve also been known to use bookmarks in poster displays when I’m at trade shows.

Bottom line: I keep bookmarks and use them!

Bookmarks are not only easy to make, they are highly portable. They fit in your purse, laptop bag, briefcase, etc. A bookmark also stands out more than a business card – making it more memorable for the person who holds and uses it. Last but not least, they fit nicely on the bulletin board in your local coffee shop, too!

With Publishing University right around the corner, and BookExpo America not far behind, now would be a great time to update your book marketing collateral.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Making Your Own Bookmarks

The Supplies
  • Cardstock quality paper (white, ivory, ecru recommended)
  • High-quality image of your book
  • Paper cutter
  • Laminator (optional)

BookmarksNot that long ago, I would have recommended that you create your bookmark using a word processing program (like Microsoft Word) or a Presentation or drawing program (like PowerPoint, Google Draw). Those are still great options.

However, I would also suggest that you consider www.canva.com. This is a free, browser-based design tool that will let you create all kinds of visual marketing products. You can use one of the pre-sized templates or create a custom size to meet your needs. You can find out more about this platform in my Canva blogpost!

The Steps

Pick your target audience
Is it for readers to use? Are you handing it to potential book buyers? Is it to announce a specific event? Is it a “preview” for a not-yet-released title?

Pick your bookmark style
Although the “tall rectangle” is the most common size, it isn’t the only option. My Bookmarks Resources Guide (issuu.com) has links to websites with bookmark ideas, as well as templates that you can print.

Plan your format
Decide whether you are creating a one-sided or two-sided bookmark. This not only helps you decide how much information you have room to provide, but also helps with layout.

Design your bookmark
Going back to Step 1, think about the important elements of your bookmark. All of your bookmarks should have an image related to your book. It might be the book cover, maybe the main character, or maybe an interior image.

  • For readers you might include a quote from the book or an endorsement citation.
  • For book buyers, you want sales-related meta data.
  • For events, you want invitation-style content (when, where, et al)

Think carefully about any add-ons you may be considering.

  • Glitter can give your bookmark a ‘pop’ of color, but it usually leaves residue on anything it touches.
  • Gems and sequins might be cute, but they will distort the book’s page.
  • Tassels can be fun, just make sure your content doesn’t get “cut out” by the holepunch.

As much as I love bookmarks, I don’t love squinting my eyes. Tailor the bookmark to the audience – even if it means creating different ones. Please don’t shrink fonts so much that we feel like we’re reading “the fine print.”

Beta test your draft
Create three or four versions, then share them virtually with readers to get their opinion. Have a contest on your blog (or Facebook, Google+, … ) page to collect votes. Share them in a newsletter and ask for feedback.

Print the winner(s)
Variety is a great thing! If your fans like three designs out of six, go with the top three! Finalize the designs, and print them. Depending on how many colors are involved, how vivid they are, or if you want to use a dark background, you might want to send your “proof” to a local printer.

If trimming the bookmarks is part of the price, then by all means, have the print shop cut the bookmarks for you. Otherwise, bring home the sheets and do it yourself. To ensure that “professional edge,” I would recommend using a paper cutter, not scissors.

Voila! You’re ready to market your book.

If you’re attending Publishing University in Austin, be sure to find me. I’d love to have one of your bookmarks!

Image 1: IBPA Members’ bookmarks from ALA 2014
Image 2: Various bookmark styles

About the Author

DohertyTerryTerry Doherty is a voracious reader with a keen analytical eye and a lifelong passion for writing. Combine a passion for reading and kids, a natural affinity for analysis, and a love of solving puzzles, and you’ve got Terry. Before becoming a Mom in late 2001, she spent nearly 20 years as a research analyst, supervisor, mentor, trainer, and analytical program manager with the federal government. She has drawn on her acclaimed expertise as a national security analyst in her roles as senior editor and publishing director for an independent house.

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