Monday, December 28, 2015

Innovative Marketing and Promo Ideas: Romance Trading Cards–Are They the New Bookmark?

Copyright © Gina Robinson
Originally Published by 1st Turning Point
For authors traditionally published in print, making bookmarks is almost automatic and practically required as soon as you get your cover.  In the past, it’s something I’ve done without thinking too much about it.  But with a new release coming out November 1st and e-books making increasing headway into market share, comprising between ten and thirty percent of the market, depending on who you talk to, I’ve been wondering if bookmarks are a doomed species.  How, exactly, will they benefit fans who read and buy purely digitally?  Have bookmarks outlived their usefulness?  Become too ubiquitous to be effective even with print readers?
The e-book market, coupled with this tight economy, has forced writers, including me, to think more strategically about the effectiveness of promo giveaways.  In 2011, is a bookmark still the best use of promo dollars?  Will it generate enough buzz and sales to be worth the effort and expense?
Any writer who’s attended a writers’ conference, particularly a romance writers’ conference, has probably come home with a goody bag filled with them.  What do you do with them all?  Here’s what I do–dump them out onto the kitchen table, sort through them, toss any that don’t appeal to me, put a rubber band around the rest, and throw them in a desk drawer to retrieve when I need one.  If I remember.  And the drawer is handy.  Otherwise, I’m known for grabbing any nearby scrap of paper to mark my place.  If I’m reading a print book, not my e-reader.
What benefits do I, as an author, intend to get from distributing bookmarks en masse?  The hope is at some point the recipient of the bookmark will stick it in a book they’re reading and by seeing it build subliminal name recognition next time they’re at the bookstore.  But how often does that happen?
I was pondering all this and trying to think of something innovative that would reach both digital and print readers when writers Jeannie Lin, Amanda Berry, and Shawntelle Madison sent an open invitation to one of my writing loops asking writers to participate in their new promo idea—romance trading cards.
This quote from explains, “Romance Trading Cards is a spur-of-the-moment collaboration that started with a few conversations on Twitter (#romancetradingcards) and has grown from there.  To participate, each author creates and prints their own card featuring a character from their book, hero, heroine, villain, one or more—it’s all up to you.  Bring the cards to signings and conferences for readers to collect and trade.”

I’m excited about this idea and signed up to participate.  But using collectible trading cards as opposed to bookmarks requires a shift in thinking to be successful.  How do I most effectively use trading cards to build buzz?  As opposed to bookmarks, where the goal was to get the bookmark in as many hands as possible, which led to writers sending them to conferences to be stuffed into each attendee’s goody bag and ignored, should the goal of trading cards be to create scarcity, to one degree or another, to create demand?  After all, the fun of collecting is the treasure hunt aspect of the search.
Bookmarks are most effective, in my opinion, when handed out by the author.  It’s that personal connection that sticks with the recipient.  The bookmark is only a memory jogger.  So it would seem that handing out trading cards personally would be the way to go.  But how do you build buzz from handing out one card at a time?
On the other hand, maybe an author does want to blanket the market with cards, hoping readers will keep them, collect them in albums, pin their favorites on bulletin boards, trade them online or in person, and just by looking at them from time to time, build that all-important name recognition.
But will readers, romance readers in this case, act like baseball fans and care enough about collecting the cards to make this venture successful?  Will certain cards eventually become valuable enough to be given away as contest prizes?  Or sold on eBay?  Jeannie Lin is already collecting cards to offer for sale in several charity auctions.  Will someone eventually say, “Hey, I’ve got a Gina Robinson The Spy Who Left Me Ty Miller card from 2011” in the same awed tone they’d use for a 1909 #366 Honus Wagner baseball card?
Will some savvy author make a special edition card, one that’s embossed with gold foil, and swing all the hype that writer’s way?  Or give away a card signed by the male cover model?  Or make a trading card that’s also a gift card?
It’s an exciting idea.  I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out.  I’ve posted my trading card here as an example here.  To check out more trading cards, go to Maybe soon all genres will become part of a trading card craze.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas for using trading cards.  And if you see me around, ask me for a trading card!

I love hearing from you! Authors helping authors is the best way we all succeed. What is your favorite promo tip? Leave a comment and let me know. And don't forget to check out our new book promo specials for December at

Gina Robinson is the author of the award-winning funny romantic suspense Agent Ex series. She also writes historical, contemporary, and new adult romance. She was not a prankster in college, although she knows a good many people who were. They will remain nameless to protect the guilty. She married her college sweetheart and has never forgotten that wonderful feeling of falling in love. Most days she writes while wearing slippers, flip-flops, or tennis shoes, depending on the season. But she loves a great, sexy heel and has a closet full for special occasions.

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