Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Promoting a book with gifts: Julie Sykes

(Many thanks to Julie Sykes for this guest post. Julie will join us as a regular contributor on 26th April.)

It’s no secret that I’m a massive fan of Ally Carter. Her Gallagher Girls spy school series is top of my list of ‘things to take if ever stranded on a desert island’. I loved Heist Society too. So when I heard about Ally’s new series, Embassy Row, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the first book.

Note the word book!

For reasons to do with space and convenience I’ve turned to the dark side and buy most of my books on an e-reader. Real book buying is a luxury restricted to favourite authors or books with brilliant illustrations.

So, early one Saturday morning, after my weekly trolley dash around Waitrose, I ran into Waterstones with the sole aim of buying a copy of All Fall Down before my frozens melted in the boot of my car. But as I reached out to swipe a copy from the promo table I found myself drawing back.

What was that thing attached to the book with shrink wrap?

A mascara wand. Really?But I only wanted the book. I started to go through the pile to see if I could find a book without added mascara before I realised I was wasting my time. Disgruntled, I took the book (and free mascara) to the check out desk.

Driving home, I thought about the reasons why publishers feel the need to entice readers to buy a book with free gifts. Thousands of new books are published every year. Children and young adults all lead busy lives. There’s a whole other world out there in cyber space competing for their free time. It’s small wonder then that publishers, marketing gurus and authors too, have to be as creative in the promotion of their book as in the actual writing of it.

Then I remembered something! When my own Silver Dolphins series launched my publisher gave away a free silver dolphin necklace with book one, The Magic Charm

Hadn’t I been thrilled at the time, wearing my necklace 24/7 for the first month? Didn’t I almost go into melt down when fans of the new series emailed to tell me how much they loved their free necklace because it made them feel as it they might be a Silver Dolphin too!

Is it so very wrong to entice book readers with free gifts? What do you think? What makes you buy one particular book over another? Do you even buy real books anymore?  


Nick Green said...

I know that my boys will beg for anything with a free gift attached. As often as not they'll then lose the gift and not read the book / magazine. But the sale is made.

It's the cherry on top effect. You might hate cherries, but they just look good.

I used to buy Classic Rock magazine for the free CD, till I worked out that it made the magazine cost almost as much as an album.

A Wilson said...

I had not seen this before with books - only magazines. I think it only feels 'wrong' because we have for so long put books on a pedestal as being special and different. The world has changed and books, to many people, are a commodity - possibly in the same vein as magazines. I did feel a little dragging in my heart when you mentioned the mascara though - less because it was a free gift and more because of what it says about marketing to girls. But then my 16-year-old daughter would tell me to get a grip! I guess we are going to have to accept that, as you say, more and more books are being published and we need new and different ways to grab our potential readers' attention...

Ann Turnbull said...

I agree with Anna that for a long time we have put books on a pedestal. This may have made it more difficult to sell them to some people, so perhaps this is not such a bad move - and even if readers buy it for the free gift, they might also read the book.

I must admit that I love that silver dolphin necklace!

Julie Sykes said...

Thanks for all your comments.

I know what you mean about the 'wrong' message, Anna. You're so right, we do have to adapt.

The necklace was gorgeous. I keep mine wrapped around a photo frame with a picture of the first Silver Dolphin in.

Stroppy Author said...

As an adult, I would not buy a book if it came with a free gift. In fact, there are quite a few things I won't buy if they have a 'free' gift, as it's a way of making you pay for something you don't want. It's wasteful, and it promotes the idea that things are pretty worthless. But as a marketing ploy aimed at children, I can see it works. I just wonder whether that's a good reason. A dolphin charm related to the book has a function. A mascara wand? The book can hardly claim any unique connection with mascara, so no. It also promotes the idea that girls should be using make-up to look decent. Not happy with it.
Maybe I'm just an old grouch...

Julie Sykes said...

I'm with you there. I would definitely NOT buy an adult book that came with a free gift.

Looking at the blurb for All Fall Down I'm struggling to see a connection to mascara. I don't agree with promoting the message that girls should wear make-up to look good, either. Nor would I be happy about a similar message being promoted to boys. Can you imagine. Free with Alex Rider, a set of dumbells!