(Note: Still revamping the site with the new design so there may be a few glitches yet. :>) )
Becoming a published author means you not only have a book, but you suddenly have to get all this author "stuff" - bookmarks, pens, biz cards, etc. Some is necessary - like the biz cards. Some isn't.
Some authors take this promotional stuff a step further, dressing in costume, or sending out prizes or pens and other things. Do they work?
Well, maybe. Sometimes. It depends.
The big no-no, of course, save the gimmicky stuff for your appearance table. Do not send it to newspapers, where reporters joke about this kind of stuff. The Chicago Tribune's Q section occasionally has a giveaway where people write in for assorted weird "junk" the paper's staff collected over time. Most often, though, this kind of stuff gets thrown out or passed around. Save your money.
The best tools are free: a good press release and author information; a press kit with some fun q & a's about you to fill in interview gaps or for fun background; a sell sheet on the book; book blurb and biz cards.
Bookmarks are great promo tools also (for extra savings: design two bookmarks on an oversized postcard and have them cut in half. Don't forget to flip the design on the other side so it lines up right.) Your book cover makes a nice front on a business card with your information on the back. Sign up for the Vista Print newsletter for various freebie deals for the cost of shipping.)
Above all, make connections. I've found that talking to people, even connecting again with old contacts I've interviewed before for my own newspaper writing can have advantages. You never know how someone can help or what kind of advice they can offer.
And the costumes? For some it can work. That's a personal decision. But I'd forget the whoopie cushion with your name and book cover on it.
** Your Turn: What kinds of promotional book items do you like to use as an author? What kinds of things do you like as a reader? What's the worst items you've seen? Funniest?