Promoting Romance

By Poison Ivy,

Romance writers have jumped into self-promotion with two feet and a determinedly professional smile. They energetically guest blog, offer free copies of their books to commenters, enter their books into obscure reader popularity contests, send e-mail newsletters, buy reviews (yes, really; it’s a semi-legit business these days), get their relatives and friends to like them on Facebook, hit up everybody they know to check out their books on Amazon and boost their rankings, badger those same people to vote for them in the contests, and on and on and on.

With all the cash romance writers spend on promotional gifts such as pens, mugs, key chains, coasters, scratch pads, postcards, and bookmarks, it’s a wonder they ever make a profit on their books. In fact, some writers don’t. They think of promotional expenditures as investments in their writing career. They’re all about creating name and brand awareness. Although a free mug might be useful and attractive, I believe any item that relates directly to the book itself is more effective.

What promotional items caught my eye at the annual New Jersey Romance Writers conference this fall? First, the trading card with the cover of Boyfriend from Hell. The pouty vixen looks like a malevolent stripper, with her T half-bare and her A sticking way out. Plus, that tire iron she’s carrying doesn’t bode well for anyone. Yet the back of the trading card insists she’s a law student worrying about studying for finals. Perhaps the title should have been Girlfriend from Hell? Interesting contradictions between the art, the title, and the blurb. Of course I don’t need a romance trading card and I doubt I’ll be trading it with anyone. The striking promotional piece entices me to check out the book.

Love Delivered, another trading card, tells a very different story with its comforting glass of ice tea on the porch. Sweet romance ahead, for sure. Karen Cino’s business card sends a similar message, consonant with typical romance novel covers about somewhat older women: a beach scene, with all its inherent beauty, timelessness, and wistful sense of human time being fleeting. Look for her books in the women’s fiction section.

Heidi Betts wants you to know she has a playful spirit and writes more than one kind of romance. Her doorknob hanger, with its naughty-or-nice choice, perfectly advertises that there is more than one side to this author’s oeuvre, but they’re both cute and appealing.

K. Reed’s bookmark for Dark Inheritance, Fallen Empire, with its grey and black and shot of white, strongly telegraphs the attraction of an unusual dystopian romance set in Regency England. Regency covers tend to be colorful, often having beautifully detailed period garb. This bookmark is vague on period pictorially but uses lack of bright color to set the mood and say up front that this book will be very different.

Sabrina Jeffries, Janet Mullaney, and Susan Mallery each created stylish pocket-size brochures with book excerpts and cover art. Nothing sucks a romance reader in like an excerpt. Free reading! I vote these the winners, because now I want to read more.

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