Meaningful Marketing

Janet Grant

Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

Authors often wonder what marketing materials they can ask their publishing house to create for them. A list of suggestions for new titles appears below for both physical events and online marketing.

Let me add that these are common requests, but every publishing house has a limited budget for every title. If the marketing department says yes to everything you request, you might use up the entire budget in less-than-effective ways. So ask only for those items that would be most useful in the promo opportunities you’re planning on.


You can handsell your book at bookstore signings, speaking events, and at an exhibit booth during a convention. But before people purchase your book, they need to know what it’s about. These tools help to announce the book and draw attention to you, the author.

Fold-up Poster/Tabletop Display

Retractable, floor display posters of your book’s cover, with a quote from an endorser or a review shouts out that something noteworthy is going on. These posters roll into a tube for easy carrying or for mailing ahead of time to an event. Here’s just one sample of what they look. Often the publicist will oversee the design, the copy, and actually buying the poster.

You also can ask the marketing department to supply artwork for a tabletop poster. It doesn’t shout as loud as a floor poster, but it adds an element of professionalism to any table that holds stacks of your book. Here’s a sample.

Pre-Event Flyers

If you’re doing a signing at a bookstore, having a book launch in any public space, or speaking in a library or museum, provide the staff at the venue with pre-event flyers. The flyers help to build an audience for you. A bookstore could create such a flyer, but how much better to ask the publishing house to do so. The publisher already has assembled promo copy for your book, taglines, endorsements, reviews, and designed the cover. Sometimes all the publisher needs to do is supply a PDF of the flyer. The venue can then print them up in whatever sizes work for them. They might even print posters that can be displayed before and during the event.

Sample Social Media Pre-Event Copy

The publicist can create copy to promote your appearance in a particular venue. Such copy might already be used on the book’s back cover, in the publishing house’s catalog, or for the sales staff. Then it can be adapted to differing lengths and with various audiences in mind. The publicist can indicate where details about time, date, and location of your event can be easily inserted.

You should make this type of request if you’re appearing in more than one place. It’s a bit much to ask a publicist to create this copy for one event. But even if you do have just one event, you probably can provide this copy yourself. You will have previewed some–if not all–the promo copy your publicist writes.


Shelftalkers call attention to a book in a bookstore and are relatively inexpensive. Here are some samples of what shelftalkers look like. Many bookstores create their own shelftalkers, which include a brief review by one of the store’s clerks. But sometimes publishers create a shelftalker that includes the book’s cover image and a tagline or excerpt of an endorsement or a review. Or the publisher might create a shelftalker that includes the book’s cover image and leaves a blank space for a store clerk to write a review.

Shelftalkers keep a book from becoming lost in the lineup of spine-out books. The shelftalker creates visual variation from all the spines. Plus this marketing piece requires that the book either be displayed face out or that multiple copies of it be displayed to match the length of the shelftalker. Shelftalkers make sense if your book is likely to be bought by store chains.

Swag Bag Contributions

Many conferences and conventions (especially those designed for women) give out swag bags to registrants. These bags are loaded with promotional goodies. Often at Christian conventions the “swag” consists of new book releases (if you’re a best-selling author) or some little gadget with a tag that draws a connection between the gadget and a book.

Swag bags are treacherous territory. If the swag item is expensive, it might draw attention to a book, all right. But so many copies of that book must be sold to pay for the swag that the money might be better spent on something less dazzling but more effective. I mean, how many books can/will each registrant promote or buy as a result of the swag? And what item will cause the registrant to volunteer to promote the book?

If the item is cheesy (or a ho-hum), then it will be left in the registrant’s hotel room–or land in the trash can.

Weight also must be considered. You’re asking the registrant to lug your swag to the airport. And she might fear incurring overweight luggage, resulting in your swag never making it home with her.

Social Media


A meme strikes me as a sort of online shelftalker. They are spontaneously shared by viewers because they are visually stunning, or because the tagline or quote speaks to them. Publicists create memes as a regular part of their jobs and offer them to the author to share. The publishing house also posts the meme. They can be effective ways to spread the word about your book.

Here’s a meme my client Laura Frantz’s publicist created for Laura.

Facebook Live

Authors who are gifted gabbers do great when they create a Facebook Live event. Some authors launch their books on Facebook and invite their fans to join them in celebrating and having a conversation with the author.

To make the best use of Facebook Live event, ask your publishing house publicist to do the behind-the-scenes work. He or she can handle putting the questions that are being asked in front of you. Or inserting surprise giveaways into the conversation, etc. Even some of my shy clients have had fun launching their new titles via Facebook Live.

But spontaneity works too. A client of mine waltzed into Target one day for a little shopping and discovered her book being sold there. She whipped out her phone and had a look-at-what-I-just-saw moment with her fans. The joy of the moment made it a wonderful connection. And it helped to get her fans to run on down to their Target to buy the book.

Beyond Bookmarks

These constitute just a few marketing options that you can take on yourself or ask your publisher to help you with. For the most part, they aren’t expensive investments, but they do constitute meaningful marketing.

This list is by no means all-inconclusive. Many other ideas can generate word-of-mouth sales and momentum for your newest book, trust me.

What ideas have you used or seen used that struck you as effective?


Beyond bookmarks: Ways to meaningfully market your book. Click to tweet.

Meaningful book marketing. Click to tweet.

21 Responses

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  1. Wonderful resources here,janet. This one’s a keeper.
    * I wonder if we can take a page from Jesus’ marketing Plan:
    1) Public speaking – He told people about the Gospel, face to ‘group’.
    2) Personal interaction – “Who touched me?” This is the rock tossed into the pond, and the ripples touch shores we can’t see, through the testimonies of those who HAVE seen, and believed.
    3) The Street Team – Jesus sent His Dudes into the blue, two by two
    * I’m way to sick to pull this together; will someone please help me now, and make this coherent?

  2. Janet, great list. It also points out another difference between the contracted author and the indie- or hybrid one. The latter has to do (and pay for) all that out of his own pocket. Think of that when you complain that your publisher isn’t doing enough for you. Thanks for sharing.

    • Janet Grant says:

      Such a good point, Richard. Authors can submit a wish list to their publishers–within reason, of course. But the marketing-publicity team want to help get the word out; that’s their job.

  3. Great list!! I’m bookmarking this post for future reference.

  4. Carol Ashby says:

    An interesting list for an indie like me. As Richard says, anything that gets done I must do myself. It’s always nice to get a glimpse of how the big dogs play.

  5. Janet, these are such great suggestions. I have heard other marketing suggestions, but I love that these tips wouldn’t be expensive for the publisher or for the author.

    I’ve been trying to figure out how to come up with some good ideas for Facebook Live as an unpublished writer. How fun that must have been for your client.

    • Janet Grant says:

      I think people are inherently curious about the life of a writer. Even giving them a purview via Facebook Live of your desktop and highlighting why certain items are there would be of interest.

  6. These are great ideas, Janet! I didn’t even know there was a name for shelf-talkers. I just thought of them as “those thingies on the shelves” which isn’t nearly as professional sounding. Love it!

  7. Judith Robl says:

    If you are indie publishing, it’s worth talking to your local print shop. They may have a graphic designer on staff who will work with you to create these promotional items.

  8. Mary Kay Moody says:

    So glad to learn this info., Janet. The terminology and protocol.

    A few ideas I had (though I’m not certain how each rates on the effectiveness scale):
    ~A blurb to magazines/newsletter of organizations to which you belong. My college publishes an alumni magazine with updates, as does my college sorority.
    ~An in-person launch party (in addition to a FB launch party) with tie-ins related to the book. Sarah Sundin had swing music and dancing at the launch of her new WW II series.
    ~ Announce or display at “affinity group” events, such as Quilter’s convention if quilting is a theme.
    ~ Our city library has an annual event for local authors where they feature all books in a display plus feature them on their website for a year. this often leads to other media exposure.
    ~ And making use of author organization promo opportunities, such as ACFW’s Fiction Finder. Or a giveaway through Goodreads. (Not sure if the author or publisher arranges that yet.)

  9. Thanks for so many great suggestions, Janet. I appreciate the information about the shelf talkers. I’m curious how to approach book sellers with a shelf talker. Our local B&N keeps my book well stocked and face out. Would it be appropriate for me to ask if I could provide a shelf talker? And how should I approach independent bookstores? I’m with a small publisher, so I do 99% of my own marketing, but sometimes I’m not sure how to approach situations. — My favorite marketing strategy is when a reader posts a reaction to my book on Facebook. That little line on my Amazon Central sales rank page almost always goes up when someone posts. It’s been almost a year now since my debut, so posts like that aren’t as frequent. However, last week a reader posted and tagged me, and that sales rank line took a nice leap. I love this strategy because it’s organic, and I never asked readers to post to FB. I’d thought about it…knew I should…but I was too embarrassed to ask. What a blessing when it started happening…and I won’t be so shy to ask for my next book because I’ve seen the impact.

    • Janet Grant says:

      Karen, you certainly can approach your local B&N and independent stores about the possibility of a shelftalker. Begin by giving the name of the publishing company so the stores know you aren’t self-published. While some stores support self-pubbed authors, other stores are overwhelmed with requests from them–and since these books haven’t been vetted by a publishing house, it’s simply easier to make a policy not to promote such books. If your publisher would produce a professional design for your shelftalker, that would be wonderful.