Why The Gas Cans


A friend recently asked me if my publisher for my women’s fiction/contemporary romance series would be marketing for me. Common question. As much as I enjoy working with my publisher, and my editor rocks, the majority of the marketing is my responsibility. Doesn’t matter who your publisher is; one of the big five or yourself – marketing your book is your job.

And that’s no easy task. Not only am I not experienced in marketing ( I was a director of special events before I had kids) I don’t have enough hours in the day to write multiple books, and market them well. But I’m trying. Believe me.

What I am is creative. Creative people think outside the box because usually their box looks a lot different than the standard, beige, cardboard, rectangle with four flaps.

I attend many conferences for writers and readers. Often the conference offers a “goody room.” The goody room is a place for authors to display promotional items to get buzz out for their books. I’ve seen everything from pens to candy penises. I don’t know if any of this stuff sells books. Especially the pens, bookmarks, and chocolate. (I love bookmarks. Don’t get me wrong.) Personally, I won’t read your book just because you gave me a nail file for free. I have a nail file.

At the RWA conference in Orlando this past July I wandered the goody room and saw pretty much what I’ve seen before. I even passed over the candy penises attached to a card for an erotic romance. Yeah, I get it, book with explicit sex and a penis made of chocolate. Boring. Next.

Later I thought – if that chocolate penis had been attached to a card for a contemporary romance whose cover had a vase of flowers, a cute dog, and colored in pastels then I might pick up the book and say, “what’s this all about?”

I knew I had to do that for my book A Second Chance House. It’s a women’s fiction/contemporary romance coming out in early 2018. The cover shows a wrap around porch and a porch swing. What could I create to make someone say, “what’s that all about?”

I needed a light-hearted scene from the book. I needed a promo item that wouldn’t cost a fortune and would get people’s attention. My heroine runs out of gas. She’s mortified because the hero comes to save her, which is exactly what she didn’t want. I had to find gas cans. Nothing else would do.

I brought those bright red cans attached to a card with my cover on the front and the excerpt on the back. I heard, cute, clever, I love it, who came up with that for you? (I tried not to be offended. I don’t think she meant it maliciously.) All my cans went. I was very excited.

Will my gas cans sell my books? I don’t know. I can only hope that someone said, this author is creative and when her book comes out I want to read more.

For the second book in the series, A Bridge Home,  I’m thinking a men’s razor. Or maybe a kit for stitches. That chocolate penis might work too. We’ll see. I’ll keep you posted.


5 thoughts on “Why The Gas Cans

  1. I always take a nail file from the “goody room” and chip clips, too. You can’t have enough of them. Unfortunately for the authors, I haven’t bought their books because of it.

    1. As an attendee of the goody room the goodies offer many opportunities: A new nail file, chocolate for the afternoon sugar boost, a notebook perhaps. But for the author, I don’t believe any of those items sells books. Sure, the author gets his/her name in front of people. Items in the goody room send the message: I’m taking my career seriously. All of that is good. But promo items cost money. How can we maximize the return on our investment? I just don’t think nail files are the way. And I now have a Christmas gift idea!

  2. Who would’ve guessed that one day even chocolate penises would be blasé? It’s a cynical world, isn’t it?

    You know — and I’m hardly an expert on this stuff — I think the idea is to just write the best material you can, market it to the fullest and most creative extent of your abilities (which definitely includes building relationships via conferences and blogs), and don’t worry about the one thing you can’t control — which also happens to be the thing that sells books: word-of-mouth. But I’ll be curious to get your insights into the process over the next six months or so, between now and the release of A Second Chance House

    1. I completely agree that the best way to sell books is to write the best book you can and then write more books. Content is king is a phrase I often hear around town. Wink! Word of mouth sells books better than any other method and that happens one reader at a time which is a long, slow process. I’m grateful for the handful of faithful readers and supporters. My group might be small, but it will grow and hopefully one day I’ll see someone sitting on the beach with my book in their hands.

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