Bookseller Insights: Elizabeth Bluemle on Promotional Bookmarks and Postcards

by Elizabeth Bluemle

Many bookmarks and get overlooked, thrown away, or otherwise ignored. You don’t want your hard-earned money to be wasted. Here are some tips:

(1) Make them as pretty/handsome as possible.

(2) A simple, striking image from the cover is always successful.

(3) Three book covers can work beautifully, especially if the text is on the back (as you all suggest), but quickly becomes too much if you’re also trying to fit lots of text along with the covers.

(4) Most of the info should go on the back, or be so tastefully designed that it doesn’t interfere with the artistic appeal of the bookmark.

(5) Try to resist the temptation to do much more than a one-line blurb or review on the front. We get zillions of publisher-created bookmarks that are so cluttered with information that the eye skitters right over them and moves on. No one reaches for them, child or adult.

(6) Information that reads as marketing promotion rather than an evocation and celebration of the books is also a turn-off.

Last year, I took a poll of fellow booksellers, and it was surprising how many didn’t like or want bookmarks (or postcards). I think that’s a result of some of the design flaws noted above, because booksellers and readers sure do love a colorful Maisy bookmark, or a YA bookmark with just the cover image on the front, and simple tasteful title, publisher, ISBN info (and maybe the best review quote or a teaser quote from the book) on the back.

Note: you are trying to reach schools and consumers in addition to booksellers, so you can weigh the above against what you are trying to accomplish with the bookmarks. But we see the info-overload glaze-over even in schools where you’d think teachers would love informative bookmarks. They mostly don’t, unless the info is a list of Printz winners, etc.

Happy designing!

Cynsational Notes

Elizabeth Bluemle is the owner of The Flying Pig in Shelburne, Vermont. She also is the author of My Father The Dog, illustrated by Randy Cecil (Candlewick, 2006). Of late, Elizabeth informally offered her insights on this topic to an online writing discussion group, and she graciously agreed to allow me to share her comments.

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