I was like a kid in a candy store. And Vistaprint was my candy store.
As a newly-published author, I was over the moon about marketing my book Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell. So, I went crazy buying all kinds of promotional material. You name it, I bought it: posters and postcards, bookmarks and sticky notes, and mugs and magnets.
Vistaprint met most of my needs. But there was one special item I was dying to have. Like the State Farm commercial - I had to have it.
I made the decision to splurge on a Budsie doll. Budsies are customized stuffed dolls that can be created from a photo. After seeing several finished products online, I felt confident that the manufacturers could create just what I wanted. In a short while, I'd be holding my very own Maggie doll.
Several weeks later, she arrived. I could hardly wait to open the box. But the moment I saw her, I was crushed. Simply devastated.
The doll's face did not resemble Maggie's face at all. Its head was floppy. The hair was made of red felt which made her look like she was wearing a hat.
Maggie did not look like Maggie.
This doll cost a fortune. We're talking close to one hundred dollars and I could not use her. She looked as sad as I felt.
But rather than giving up on her, I made a bold decision. This doll was going to get a makeover.
To begin, the "hair" had to go. I snipped it off and sewed a small red curly wig (think Little Orphan Annie) to the top of her head. Next, Maggie underwent cosmetic surgery—I reshaped the nose and the mouth with thread and black markers. Lastly, I strengthened Maggie's neck. My husband suggested using VelCro to make the head more stable. Finally when all of the work was done, Maggie looked more like Maggie.
Now that she looks happier (and I am happier) I bring my Maggie Budsie doll to events. She helps draw people to my book signing table. However, spending lots of money on a doll that did not meet my expectations made me wonder if the money was well spent. This big purchase brought me to my senses. As the newness of authorship wore off, I started to tally my expenses—and I discovered that I had spent a fortune. But the rationale was, I'd sell a lot of books to make up for the spending and get reimbursed from my publisher.
Wrong on both counts.
Every author envisions or plans how they hope to get their fans interested in their books. With hindsight, I discovered that not every marketing tool was effective. Here are some of the items I would not purchase to promote a second book:
- Wooden ornaments used as gift giveaways
- A Facebook campaign boost
- 500 oversized postcards announcing the book signing
- Large cardboard table top displays for selling books at local shops
There were several items that were inexpensive and worth having. I would purchase these things again:
- Balloons for the book signing
- Pencils and candy
- A poster of the book cover
- Bookmarks (200)
- Large envelopes for mailing books
- Small metal display tripods
- Personalized post-it notes
- Plush mini toy puppies as a giveaway gift
Promoting a book was new and confusing for me. If I had realized that my publisher was unable to reimburse me, I would have had a stricter budget. I would have made sensible spending decisions.
There are no regrets however, because this was my first book and it was a learning experience.
But next time, I will check to see if the publisher will shoulder some of the costs.
Next time, I will know what marketing tools to invest in and which ones to resist.
And next time, I will be wiser, thriftier, and Budsie-less.