When Marketing Ideas Go Bad

One of the benefits of trying a variety of marketing strategies is that you learn what works.

You also learn what doesn’t.

Here’s a list of my worst marketing ideas. I share it with you so you won’t be tempted to make the same mistakes!

1. Order 1000 very simple business cards with just my name and website. That way, I could customize additional information on it to every person to whom I gave it. What a brilliant idea – I could use it for everything!

And I do – for store lists, reminders to me, store drawings (you know the type – you drop your business card in a big glass bowl), and when I want to write down a new acquaintance’s phone number. I quickly realized that I was spending so much time writing other info on the cards, that it was much easier to just hand out my book series book mark, since everyone wanted to know the names of the books and where they could be found.

Lesson learned: make every marketing piece targeted for what you need it to do. All-purpose pieces are wasted money. (Added benefit of book mark: it’s harder to lose than a little business card!)

2. Have a t-shirt made to wear to festival book signings that features the cover of your book. I could be a walking billboard!

But only once, I found out. The t-shirt shrank too much in the wash to be worn again. I did donate it as a door prize at a later festival, but marked the size as “Child.”

(Related story: I’ve seen authors wearing shirts that read “I’m the author” with the book on the back. Mistake here is that if readers don’t want to talk to the author, they can readily identify you and avoid engaging in conversation, which is how you make sales. The stealth approach can be a good thing at festivals, I’ve found.)

Lesson learned: let your book covers represent themselves and you dress professionally.

3. Try to show a different side of yourself. I thought readers would appreciate my expertise about birds in literature (since I’m both a college literature instructor AND I write about birding), so I gave a talk at a festival on that topic.

Yes, I had a large attentive audience interested and engaged! We talked about myths and legends and literature. But I didn’t sell any of my books.  My books are humorous, not academic. I wasn’t there trying to land a teaching job – I was there to find new readers.

Lesson learned: Stick to your brand and deliver what your books promise.

4. The giant inflatable gorilla that I put out in my front yard when my neighbors have garage sales.

Just kidding! I haven’t made that mistake…yet. Although car dealers have used it for years, so it must work for someone. I know!  A flock of pink flamingos…

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About jandunlap

"Archangels Book I: Heaven's Gate" is Jan's new Christian suspense novel that melds cutting-edge science with faith. She is also the author of "Saved by Gracie," her best-selling humorous spiritual memoir and the Birder Murder Mystery series that follows the adventures of ace birder/high school counselor Bob White, who has a bad habit of finding bodies when he birds. When she's not playing with fictional devices, Jan is a birdwatcher, a featured speaker, and the proud mother of five children. She welcomes visitors at jandunlap.com.

5 thoughts on “When Marketing Ideas Go Bad

    • Sharon, your #3 is the tough one, since sometimes you can’t evaluate that till you’ve already spent money and time. Plus, what works for one author isn’t a given for another. Finding your marketing niche is almost as tough as finding your writing niche, I think! And I’m glad you think I’m funny – my kids keep saying that, too, but I don’t think they mean it in the same way you do…

    • Liz, I think a bookmark is the first and best piece to do. You can hand it out, stick it in books you sell, use it like a business card, leave stacks at shops that carry your book (with owners’ permission, of course!), build forts, make airplanes. Actually, I just found a new use for bookmarks over the holiday weekend – I leave one in the hotel room when I check out along with a small gratuity for the housekeeping staff. I’m going to start asking businesses I frequent if I can leave some there, too. Best of luck on your new author journey!

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