Swag Story:
A Debut Novelist Connects With Her Readers With This Cool Giveaway

Postcard, Biz card, Book, bookmark and branded measuring tape

Author Accelerator book coach Saralyn Bruck recently launched her debut novel. She used a very unusual and very cool giveaway in her launch specials — a mini branded tape measure! I always love hearing about innovative approaches to connecting with readers, so asked Sarahlyn to answer a few questions about her launch campaign,

Q: First, can you give us your “elevator pitch” for the book. It’s your first book!
 
A: Sure! Designer You is about Pam and her husband Nate, who’ve created an empire in the lifestyle market via their Designer You brand. They live in Philadelphia with their teenage daughter, Grace. So when Nate dies in a freak accident, a heartbroken Pam is left on her own to save the family business and repair her relationship with Grace, who can’t seem to overcome her grief. In the end, the book is about reinvention and renewal after great loss.
 
Q: What was your path to publication?
 

A: My path was a little unusual. I remember when I sent you an early draft to read, one of your first comments was that Designer You was “a small book.” I socked that feedback away and when the book was ready, queried agents. A lot of agents. The book had received partial and full requests, which is great, but ultimately, I was seeing a lot of “I like the story/the writing but I can’t sell this.” I kept returning to the idea that this was a “small” story and thought, I should query small presses, so I did. Within one month, I had three offers and signed a contract with Crooked Cat Books.
 
Q: How long ago did you start planning the launch?
 
A: As soon as I received my launch date in March, I worked backwards. The first thing my publisher told me to do was establish my “brand.” That made me laugh. Who knew I, a Philadelphia-based community college professor, part-time book coach, long-distance runner, devoted mom, and wife, had a “brand?” Well, I did. It started with knowing who my audience was and grew from there.
 
Q: How would you define your audience?
 
A: My audience is mostly college-educated women — many of whom are moms — between the ages of 35 and 65 and who tend to live in urban and suburban areas. Certainly not a 100% (quite a few male readers have enjoyed Designer You, too), but that’s who I gear my marketing efforts toward.
 
Q: Can you give us a brief rundown of what your launch plan looked like?
 
A: Sure. As soon as I signed the contract, Crooked Cat provided resources to help me figure out how to grow followers in my social media outlets and offer content that would resonate with them. I wanted to stay true to the themes of my book: family, mothers and daughters, grief, hope, Philadelphia, renewal, reinvention. I also wanted to keep it light and fun. I posted items that were personal to me and also spoke to the themes of the novel, such as photos of cool architecture and lush scenery around my city. I incorporated the photos into my website as well
 
Q: How did the adorable tape measure/level idea come to you?
 
A: This idea I stole from an antique shop in D.C. I visited many years back. I had bought something from them — probably something small like a piece of jewelry or a print — and as I was checking out, they offered a little tape measure for free. I loved that tape measure. It fit in my purse and I ended up taking it everywhere. When I moved into our current home, a townhome built in 1869 that needed a lot of cosmetic work, I relied on that little tape measure. So when my book was under contract, I thought, hey, maybe a tape measure could work as my swag, since my book is about a home designer and DIY personality? I looked into it, found out printing them up wasn’t all that expensive, and ordered a bunch.
 
Q: How did you get them produced and what was the cost, if you don’t mind sharing that?
 

A: Not at all! I bought 250 of the tape measure/levels for $.69 apiece. My brother works in marketing for Facebook, so he pointed me in the direction of the company that he hires to do swag for his events. They were so easy and extremely patient with me as I decided which model to go with and what design I wanted to use them.
 
Q: How are you using them and what are people reactions?
 
A; I’ve used them in all of my giveaways — signed paperbacks plus swag. And I also give them out at book festivals. Most people love them. Who doesn’t like a cool freebie? And they always spark conversation. My favorite question is “How does this tape measure connect to your book?”
 
Q: What do you answer?
 
A: I tell them it’s connected to the design theme of the book and take the opportunity to give them my elevator pitch.
 
Q: What else is working well in terms of connecting readers to your book?
 
A: Anything that engages readers is effective. I enjoy connecting with readings via social media, my newsletter, blog, online reader groups, book clubs, conferences, workshops, author talks at bookstores and libraries, etc. Designer You is my first published novel, so any way I can get the word out has been fun and worth the effort.
 
Q: What has been disappointing?
 
A: I put some effort into creating a website that showcases my author profile and book info. I don’t think ordinarily readers want to read information about authors at their website — not when they can directly get in contact through live events and on social media. However, I’ve been featuring Q&As with other authors on my blog, which is fun for me and always increases traffic. In the end, I like having the website, but it’s been some effort to keep up without the same return as a live or online event.
 
Q: Do you have plans for a “second wave” of marketing for the book now that it’s launched?
 
A: Yes! I will discount my book in the future and apply for a BookBub. And I’ll schedule another round of live events in the spring. Certainly not as robust as my current event schedule, but I’d like to do a few. I’m also working on getting an audio version of my book produced. And of course, the best way to sell your current book is to write a new one!
 
Q: What are you working on next?
 
A: My latest book — Daytime Drama — has been so much fun to write, and I’m just about done with revisions. It’s about a soap opera star, Calliope Hart, who thinks that at 41 years old, she’s got her life just the way she likes it. But the day she learns her show’s about to be canceled, her world starts to spin out of control. She finds herself scrambling to provide for her son, Jonah, and her mother, sustain her sky-high mortgage payments, and hang onto her relationship with her head-writer boyfriend. But she’s also secretly struggling to pay to keep her ex at bay — Jonah’s biological father, who Jonah doesn’t even know exists. In the end, the book is about whether it’s more important to cling to what we know or take a risk and start over from scratch.
 
Q Has your experience having a book in the world helped you become a better book coach?
 
It’s certainly helped me streamline my own writing process, which in turn has helped me understand ways to zero in on the most effective strategies for my clients. As writers, we’re unique and have our quirks, but we all want to write stories that are meaningful and hang together. We all want to cross that finish line — whatever that finish line looks like. Listening to my writers’ needs and goals (both short- and long-term), and then implementing a plan that makes sense as we move forward has proven very successful so far. There’s nothing more rewarding as a book coach than witnessing my clients reach their goals!


If you are interested in learning more about connecting with readers, check out my friend Dan Blank’s new free ten-day Reader Connection Project HERE. Also see his new giveaway, 5 Ways to Immediately Connect with Readers.