How Not To Make Book Swag

Jeannine Hall Gailey’s terrifyingly useful PR For Poets is packed with ideas completely new to me, even though this is my third book. (Or fifth, depending on how such things are counted.)

Notice how many pages I dog-eared.

Like nearly every other writer I know, I’m a friendly hermit with a serious allergy* to self-promotion. So I didn’t follow most of Jeannine’s good advice, like developing a PR kit or getting a headshot. But her book did foster another idea. “Hide in the house,” I said to myself. “Make something fun to help sell the new book.”

Book swag can include postcards, magnets, bookmarks, t-shirts, mugs, tote bags, pens, custom-decorated cookies, toys, and more. All the stuff most writers, let alone most publishers, can’t possibly afford. Jeannine calmly explains postcards and business cards are the most useful, and how to produce them at a reasonable cost. Of course I wanted to do something complicated.

I am particularly fortunate, because my wonderful publisher, Ginny Connors, of Grayson Books, commissioned artist Bethany Bash to create a simple, evocative cover.  I figured if I rummaged around the web for ideas I’d come up with a neat give-away as a perk for folks who bought two or more books at a reading.

Initially I hoped to create tiny replica book necklaces that could open to a poetry sample, somewhat like this project on Buttons & Paint. The time required, however, was too daunting, especially with time constraints like my actual editing job.

Then I decided to make book pendants that could be worn or used to mark one’s place. It seemed simple. Reproduce the cover image in tiny rectangles to fit pendant tray blanks. Adhere them to the trays. Cover with a layer of clear epoxy or glaze, let dry, and thread with a sheer ribbon. I got the images made at Staples. I read comparisons of adhesives and glazes, finding out more about Judikins Diamond Glaze and Mod Podge Dimensional Magic than I ever imagined. And with my husband’s help, got started.

It did not work out well. I got so frustrated that my more patient spouse took over the project. He tried adhering the images with glaze, applying a layer over the top when it dried. The paper buckled and colors bled. He tried spraying clear coat on both sides of the image to seal it before adhering to the tray. It didn’t buckle, but the colors bled with the top coat of glaze. No matter what he tried, the image bled or the top layer (of glaze or Mod Podge) turned cloudy. (Actual photos of the cover probably would have worked better, but we had tiny images copied at Staples.)

So, with readings coming up, he gave up on the dimensional top layer. Instead he used white glue to adhere the image to the tray, then sprayed it with several layers of clear coat, letting it dry well each time. It’s not as professional as I’d imagined, but still cute enough to be my main swag.

Despite my hermit-y ways, I have four events lined up, three readings and an Epic Art Sale!
May 4th and 5th from 10 am to 5 pm. This weekend I get to hang out with actual artists for two days.
Friday, May 10th at 7:30.  Lara Lillibridge is launching her sparkling new memoir Mama, Mama, Only Mama at Visible Voice Books in Cleveland. Marsha McGregor and I get to open for Lara.
Sunday, May 19th at 1 pm. I’ve got a shared reading at Loganberry Books in Shaker Heights with Kim Langley whose book, Send My Roots Rain,  uses poetry and reflection to address grief.
Sunday, June 2nd at 2 pm. My solo reading at the Wm. Skirball Writing Center at South Euclid’s CCPL.
And I have the incredible good fortune to have received two amazing book reviews.
Michelle Wilbert writes in Mom Egg Review, “There is nothing static in these poems–they move with a dynamism that holds the center of each poem without shaking the structure and or offering a summation…”
Kathleen Mickelson writes in Gyroscope Review,  “This is the very glue of this book. Oneness with everything – our families, our neighbors, the prisoners and children and battered women, the cow who lays down to die after 17 years of offerings, the coyotes and birds and beech trees, the oracles that come to us through everyday objects, the bee that leaves her stinger in the bottom of our foot. These poems draw an ever-expanding circle of life that includes even the smallest organisms.”

*Talk about a mindbody connection. You know that “serious allergy” to self-promotion I mentioned? I was in the ER for sudden food allergies just days before my first book promotion… I am going to be fine.

9 thoughts on “How Not To Make Book Swag

  1. Wow, wonderful reviews, well done! And on the promotional activities, and the swag. I can’t go past bookmarks, personally, being completely unable to keep a bookmark going for long. At one point, I retrieved at least six from various spots (down the side of my chair, in the kitchen in cookbooks, in my sewing room, under the bed). Now, they’re all gone again, and we’ve moved house. I’ll never find them… I’d take them in handfuls if offered.

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