Selling your book — before it comes out

My new book ICE COLD / THE KILLING PLACE won’t be published for another seven months, but already I’ve been working on promoting it. In the old days, authors could leave all the marketing up to the publisher, but nowadays authors are shouldering more and more of the burden. There are a few things I do for every new release, and while I’m not sure how much they actually contribute to book sales, I do feel these are useful and relatively inexpensive ways to promote your new title.

First, bookmarks. Some of you may sigh and think, “how boring.” But I offer my readers a chance to get free signed bookmarks, if they’ll just send me a self-addressed stamped envelope. If a bookstore or library requests bulk numbers, I’ll mail them free of charge. What I love about bookmarks is how much information I can fit onto them — not only the cover and synopsis of my current title, but also a complete list of all my titles. I carry bundles of them with me to booksignings or speaking engagements, and whenever anyone asks for the order of the Jane Rizzoli series, I can simply point to the list on the bookmark. True, many of these giveaways probably just end up in the trash. But I don’t mail anything unsolicited, so I hope that if a reader takes the trouble to request it, that she’ll actually keep them around and look at it.

This time, I’m ordering two separate versions of the bookmarks, one for the US market and the second for the UK market, because the book will have different titles and covers on either side of the Atlantic. My UK readers can’t use the SASE option for requesting bookmarks (because it requires US postage stamps for me to return them), but again, if a library or bookstore requests bulk numbers, I will pay for the postage. Plus, I’ll bring bundles of them to hand out if I visit the UK this coming summer.

How many do I order? For THE KEEPSAKE, I ordered 7500. It sounds like a huge number, but I’ve given away almost all of them. And the company I use to print them offers incredibly reasonable rates. If you’d like to see just how economical it can be, pay a visit to They specialize in promotional items for authors.

Another little giveaway I’ve used is signed bookplates. I think these are particularly good to mail out to bookstores/readers because there’s really only one good use for a signed bookplate — and that’s to paste it into a book by that same author. Which means someone has to purchase the book. These only get sent if a reader requests them with an SASE. I think unsolicited mailings are a waste of postage, which is why I don’t send out promotional postcards.

And this year, once again, I’m going to splurge on a book video. Yes, I know there’s some debate about whether these are worth the investment. I myself haven’t decided. But I was impressed by how many times the THE KEEPSAKE book video was viewed, and several of my foreign publishers used the video to promote the book in their own countries. For them, it was a quick and inexpensive marketing tool — all they had to do was dub in their own language, or add subtitles. I’ve already written a two-minute script, and the same young directors who shot my last video will be doing this one as well. Assuming they can find a few snowy days in which to film.

As the date of release gets closer, of course there’ll be online promotions, some of it arranged by my publisher. But at this early stage, it doesn’t hurt to be thinking of what I myself can be doing now, as well as months down the line.

14 replies
  1. Rhonda Lane
    Rhonda Lane says:

    Thank you, Tess, for explaining how bookmarks work for you. Bookmarks are a little ways into the future for me, but knowing where to buy them and how to use them sounds like a good tip to file away.

    I do have a question for you and/or any other authors liable to see this: how do you carry your bookmarks in your tote, handbag or pocket, yet keep those bookmark edges crisp?

    After all, business cards can be carried in nifty little leather wallets made for them. But I haven’t found any such accessory as a “bookmark holder.” And not many flat wallets look long enough to hold bookmarks. IMO, rubber bands and a baggie just don’t seem protective enough.

    I know because I tried to get by with keeping my business cards in a baggie back in the day. 🙂

    So, how do you protect your bookmarks when you’re carrying them ready for distribution?

  2. techiebabe
    techiebabe says:

    Hi Tess,

    Regarding bookmarks, I think they are a great idea. I loved getting something signed by you, and although I swore I would keep them safe I ended up using them, so now they are interspersed in books throughout my collection and I’d like some more! Although you send me the US version (to be fair, that’s all you were offering) it did remind me to check out the publication date and put it on my wall planner, so I guess the marketing worked.

    As for bookplates – I’d love one and will easily work out how to send US stamps for an SAE to the UK, that’s not a problem. But the bookplate would go in my book and only be seen by me… *I* would know it is there but I’m not sure how it is helping with marketing? I suppose it has more appeal at book tours when you are there in person and can offer it with each purchase.

    The film is a great idea. Firstly, the last one really tempted me and made me want the book. Secondly, it is something I can share with friends. After all, you know I enjoy your books and I’ll buy them as soon as they come out (I am loathe to use the term “fan” as that sounds too pathetic and fawning!) But with a film I can blog, tweet, email or just plain tell people about your book, and it’s an appealing and eye-catching way to hook new people in. I am sure I won’t be the only one blogging or tweeting “you must see this video”. I think that although film teasers for books are a new concept, and may be hard to evaluate in terms of payoff, they ARE valuable and certainly will aid word of mouth.

    Good luck with your next book – I can’t wait, and if you come back to London I will be there.

    — Flash x

  3. ebenezerearl
    ebenezerearl says:

    Seven months before we can get Ice Cold? In this high-tech, high-speed world, that seems like a long time. What goes on in those seven months?

  4. Tess
    Tess says:

    when I carry around bookmarks, I rubber-band them into bundles of about 100. They’re so rigid, they don’t get banged-up. (Of course they add a lot of weight to my purse.)

    Flash — hope to see you in London next year, if they bring me over!

    Earl — this is a great topic for a blog: what happens as the months tick down toward release. I’ll come up with a post about just that topic.

  5. Ginger
    Ginger says:

    Hi Tess – I get confused. Your posts come up on my “Home” page and I comment, then I find the same post on your blog and feel that I want to leave another comment. Anyway, I still believe it unfortunate that you have to do so much promotion work yourself after working so hard to produce the book in the first place, but I guess that’s the way life is these days. Please let us know if any of your promotion material is destined for the UK, as many people over here would like to apply for a signed bookmark or bookplate. Please also push your publisher to get you an invite to the UK this coming year – we want to see you.

    Best wishes – Gordon Brice

  6. pamie6711
    pamie6711 says:

    Hi Tess, I can’t say enough about your writing. Rereading all all the Jane and Maura until “Ice Cold” comes out. I hope you come to the Cleveland area on your book tour.

  7. Tess
    Tess says:

    Hi all,
    to get free bookmarks/ bookplates, send a SASE (one first-class stamp is enough) to:

    Tess Gerritsen
    PO Box G
    Camden, ME 04843

  8. cheery_sunshine
    cheery_sunshine says:

    Can I send you a SASE from Germany because I would love to get a bookmark. 😉
    What size should the envelope have? I guess the ‘normal’ size?

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