Sell More Books with Bookmarks

While business cards may be the most common way to share your business data, authors and publishers may find bookmarks to be a more enduring and effective way to market your products.

Returning from any sort of book fair or conference, after all the free goodies have been extracted from the complimentary tote bag, I am left with an overabundance of business cards. Occasionally I take the time to flip through them one time, but they inevitably end up in a recycle bin before long.

Bookmarks are often a different matter. Looking through my bookcase and to-be-read piles, I have quite a number of different bookmarks. Some from bookstores where I purchased the title, one sent as a thank you gift along with a tax receipt for a donation, several fancy ones I’ve received as gifts, including one delicately crocheted by an elderly neighbour. A few times, I’ve loaned out a book with one bookmark inserted and had it returned with a completely different one inside. I’m not a collector, but I will rarely throw out an attractive bookmark.

As a bibliophile, bookmarks have intrinsic value to me that I don't ascribe to other means of promotion such as pamphlets and business cards. This may be odd, since the difference is simply the size of a piece of cardstock, but it also provides an opportunity for authors and publishers to print inexpensive items to market their books that may stick around and hit more eyeballs than other printed materials.

Don't Fail to Plan

While it may be tempting to jump right into designing your bookmarks, a little pre-planning can save you some significant money and heartache. First, make a list of all the places you will be able to distribute your bookmarks over the coming year in an effort to estimate your required print run. If you’re doing classroom presentations, book fairs, flea markets, book clubs, library presentations, or book signings, these are all fantastic places to bring along your bookmarks as a giveaway. The number of bookmarks you will be able to hand out depends on the venue. A presentation to one classroom might use up to twenty or thirty, whereas a large regional bookfair could have you handing out a hundred or more. Since bookmarks aren’t too costly, overestimate a little. You can always leave extras inserted into library books, or for use at a hospital or care home library where they’ll be welcome.

Once you’ve got an estimated quantity, you’ll want to search for printers that can produce bookmarks for you. There are many printing companies that have online interfaces, but also don’t discount local companies, since many smaller printers have the capacity to affordably print small-scale runs like this too. Many printers have different default sizes for their bookmarks. 2×6" is very common, I’ve also seen 1½×7" and 2×8", as well as some quirkier dimensions like 2×7¼" or 2½×8½". Your choice will come down to the printer with the best price for the size closest to what you're looking for. Once you've chosen your printer, you can start designing your bookmarks based on their available sizes. When you are designing your bookmark, make sure you pay special attention to the bleed and trim specifications, and keep any text well within the safe area to keep it from being trimmed off accidentally.

Make It Appealing

Your bookmarks are meant to promote your books, but in order to be effective, they need to be appealing to your audience. What that means depends on the genre or niche you’re publishing in. While it might seem like the best thing to do is throw a thumbnail of your book cover on the top, with a bunch of text and links underneath, you may find that your bookmarks hang around longer if they offer more aesthetic appeal.

Consider the types of things you’ll find on bookmarks available for sale themselves. There are varieties with cute pets, cartoon figures, inspirational or funny quotes, nostalgic scenes, landscapes real or imagined, flowers and foliage and more. If you write fantasy and have built an elaborate world, perhaps make your bookmark image a stylized map of that world. If you write science fiction, an image (perhaps from your cover) of space or a spaceship. Military novels might be well promoted with an image showing a disassembled and labelled weapon used in the book. Target your bookmark to your book’s audience for maximum effect.

Add the Marketing Message

Two-sided bookmarks offer you the opportunity to both appeal to your target market, and sell to them on the backside. What you offer on the back depends both on your goals and where you are going to distribute the bookmarks.

You should definitely offer a cover shot of your book or books, along with both the ISBN and ISBN-13 so that the reader can easily find the book online, or ask for it at their brick-and-mortar bookstore. If the title and author information on the cover isn’t clear at thumbnail size, include that as well.

You can’t go wrong with a very short, preferably one-sentence synopsis or a promotional blurb from a review, as long as it’s short and sweet. A brief mention of any awards or award nominations the book or author have won may be good here too.

The question of pasting of links will depend, as stated previously, on your goals. If you have a full-featured website you can direct readers to, by all means, include the URL. If the page on your site you’d like to direct them to is not the front page, a QR code might be the best way to get them there. Typing in a long URL is an error-prone and perhaps too demanding of a task for your market. During the pandemic, however, many people have become accustomed to using QR codes to access everything from menus to services. Making use of them on a bookmark would be a natural way to include seamless links to your presence online.

If you’re not expecting to distribute your bookmarks to local bookstores, or at events sponsored by bookstores, you may wish to simply skip linking to your own website and send customers directly to the book or series page on Amazon. While this will likely produce more sales than your own web link, it may also irk your brick-and-mortar hosts, so be aware of this calculation before you print.

Don't keep them to yourself

Once you've got your printed bookmarks, don't be shy about giving them away. If you're doing book reading and signing events, give them out with each book, and be willing to sign the bookmarks themselves to give to people who can't afford to purchase your book yet. Leave them at the library, tucked into popular books by authors in your genre, give them to school libraries, hospital libraries, or seniors homes, depending on your target market. Give them away generously at book festivals. They can only help you if they circulate out in the world. They don't even hold open your place in a book if they never leave the box.

Wendy Woudstra

Wendy Woudstra is the driving force behind, an ad-supported informational website featuring a comprehensive database of book publishing companies, literary festivals, and literary awards.

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