Thursday, January 12, 2012

The End of Bookmarks?

By L.J. Sellers, author of provocative mysteries & thrillers

I was packaging a book for my editor and realized I only had one bookmark left. I wrote on my to-do list: Order more bookmarks? The fact that I put a question mark after the notation indicates just how much this industry has changed. Even a year ago, having bookmarks on hand seemed essential. I would have never let myself even run low, let alone run out completely. Yet now, I’m not sure I should spend money to buy more.

In the past, many of my bookmarks went out with books I mailed—review copies, contest winners, gifts—or with books I sold at events such as the Holiday Market and at book signings. I've also given away hundreds at conferences like Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime and at literary events in Portland, like the Library Association’s annual meeting.

But I send out fewer print books with every new release. I recently published Liars, Cheaters & Thieves and only sent out seven review copies in print. Two years ago, I would have sent thirty. But I no longer waste money mailing books to organizations that have never reviewed my work. I used to think it was worth the $8 each ($5 for the book, $3 for mailing), in the off chance that I might get a national print review. Now I don’t bother. And most of my regular reviewers want digital copies instead.

I also used to drop off bookmarks at our Borders store every two weeks, but we all know what happened to that.

In addition, I’m attending fewer conferences and events. For example, I no longer drive to Portland (five hours on the road) to sit at a table in the Willamette Writers booth for two hours passing out bookmarks. It’s simply not worth it. (Driving and sitting in bad chairs are very hard on my knee.) And I did my last bookstore event in late 2009 (seven hours on the road!). Last year, the only conference I attended was Left Coast Crime, and that will likely be true again this year.

Don’t get me wrong. I love conferences! I love meeting people and hanging out with my writer/reader friends. But conferences are expensive, and travel out of Eugene is a royal pain. To get to Bouchercon, I have to take three flights, and each descent makes me physically ill. I can’t justify the financial or physical costs anymore. And people at conferences are not picking up bookmarks like they used to.

If I buy bookmarks, what am I going to do with them? Most of my readers purchase ebooks and have no use for bookmarks any more. Yet I can’t stand the idea of not having any, because I also pass them out to people I meet instead of handing them a business card.

So I've decided to buy a few. But this time, I’ll order 200 instead of 2,000. And it will likely be the last time I purchase bookmarks—another staple of the industry disappearing.

It makes me a little sad. What about you? Do you still use bookmarks?


  1. Yes, I definitely still use bookmarks, LJ! Even better, I use YOUR bookmarks! And I love them! They're gorgeous!

    I think there'll be quite a few of us around for a long while yet who still prefer to hold a paper book in our hands - and we'll always need bookmarks! (I do read on my Kindle, too.)

    But I'm afraid I don't have any bright ideas about how to get the bookmarks out to the print book readers without spending $1000 or more to go to a writers' conference or a fan convention!
    Take a bunch to the Left Coast Crime conference for sure.

  2. I use bookmarks. Sometimes several in one book. But more and more, those are non-fiction books. I continue to prefer to read NF books in DTB form.

    For the fiction DTBs I read, I have a favorite metal book marker. Right now it's stuck in one, actually.

    The question is really marketing potential. They need to get in to the hands of readers. Local libraries?

  3. Most folks don't seem to want them anymore. I had postcards printed by Vista because they're inexpensive and I can stick those inside all my books, mail them, and/or sign them.

  4. I recently ordered 1500 bookmarks for each of my novels knowing full-well that most people do their reading on e-books nowadays. Why? Because I still believe they're a great marketing tool, even if they're not used for the purpose in which they're intended. I use them as business cards because people are less likely to toss them than they would with the latter. I also leave them everywhere I go, every chance I get (I keep them in my car). I'm almost halfway through this box and I plan on ordering more. Does it sell books?I have no way of knowing, but at the dentist's office where I keep a fresh stack going at all times, they tell me quite few patients have downloaded the book on their Kindle while waiting to see the doctor. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the receptionist read and enjoyed the book as well ;)

    Also, I get them at an extremely reasonable price, so there's really not much to lose.

  5. I still love the physical feel of a book but haven't put any of mine into print.
    The postcard Idea sounded good, put all your info and other books on it.

  6. Hi - I do not have an e-reader and do not plan to get one. Yes, I could use an old envelope as a bookmark, but I prefer author book marks. It is a good reminder to look for a new book by that author, too. I take goodies like bookmarks to my local Library as other readers like them too. Sometimes I find them in Library books and that is a nice surprise. Dee

  7. I use bookmarks since my preferred choice of reading platform is a regular (print) book.

    In the past, like Dee, I have taken extra bookmarks in to the local library. I have also left them up by the mail boxes for the complex. I'm known around here as being a heavy reader with folks stopping by while walking their dogs to ask me what I am reading out on the porch.

    Did it ever translate to sales for the authors? Yes. How many? I don't know. But, I do know my local library system has bought books based off of my reviews as well as the bookmarks because staff has told me so many, many times.

    But, I also know times are changing. I never believed e-books, as currently constructed, would take off the way they clearly have. It came home to me how much things have changed when my wife started chemo for her stage four cancer back on December 5 after spending three weeks in the hospital. There are approximately 40 recliner beds for the chemo patients at the cancer place at the hospital. On her first day of chemo, about mid afternoon, the entire place was full. Sandi was sleeping and I had just finished the paper. I looked around and slowly realized that nearly everyone but me had an e-reader of some sort. I started counting. In fact, thirty patients had e-readers they were using while meds dripped into them from various colored bags. There were about ten more folks who were sitting with somebody, like I was, that were also using e-readers.

    I was the only one with a physical copy of the paper. I also was the only one with a physical book.

    The same was true with round two at the end of December and I suspect it will be the same with round three of her chemo next week.

    And while I understand why, it also saddens me somewhat because it certainly is much harder to strike up a conversation with somebody who is working an e-reader as one has no idea what they are reading.


  8. I use postcards that I designed myself from I can mail them, put them in print books to be used as bookmarks or for pass-along, leave a small stack at libraries, stores and conferences, and put them inside my Christmas cards. I use them as thank-you cards following a radio interview.
    John Desjarlais

  9. I still read a lot of print books (libraries, giveaways, The Mystery Guild) and use bookmarks. But when I released my newest as digital only I didn't get bookmarks made. I still have them in my purse at all times, and I'll hand them out like business cards (which I also hand out). I never send them to conferences to stuff in goodie bags--I've left far too many of those in hotel room wastebaskets, but I do put them on giveaway tables in small quantities when I'm at a conference. And I hand them out to the people I sit with at meals, or next to at workshops.

    I've had people email me and ask for one (I have it noted on my website that they're free if you ask)

    My last bookmarks was for my entire Blackthorne series, not just a single book.

    And ... if anyone IS interested in bookmarks, I can give you a coupon code for $50 off your first order at the company I use. I've been VERY happy with their work and customer service.

    (And, Kevin -- you can always say, "How do you like your e-reader?" or "What are you reading?" I never mind when people ask me.)

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  10. Gram and Kevin, thanks for stopping in. It's good to know some people still use bookmarks, and of course, some people will always prefer print books. I imagine that some bookmarks will be around for a few more years.

  11. I still use bookmarks and I collect them because they're so pretty. We have a weekly giveaway of bookmarks, post cards and other swag on the blog. Apparently, lots of people still love them. Whether they use them or just collect, I have no idea. But they LOVE to get them.

  12. I know that some people miss completely the potential to gift properly ebooks. Bookmarks, postcards and all could be a way to 'materialize' gifts.

    You could for example propose to give or sell signed bookmarks or postcards, either for gifts or for the "collectors" around.

  13. I would use postcards.
    I'm a Book Blogger from over at Laurie Here - Contemporary Fiction and MORE - Book Reviews.
    I DON'T think ebooks are the END of the PRINTED BOOK. As a matter of fact, go on over to YouTube and check out In My Mailbox, inspired by MANY Book Blogs have taken this very MEME and discuss the books they get every week in their mailboxes at home. If you see how much people LOVE the PRINTED word, these will SURELY change your mind!
    In my experience with participating in Blog Hop Giveaways, where we sign up to participate, and there is a linky linking ALL of us who are participating so you can HOP from Blog to blog, the #1 desired article IS A BOOK! NOT an ebook, but a BOOK.
    Today MANY authors want to give out ebooks to Book Bloggers for review. It's nice, but . . . we can't share them with others. Not our friends, nor family, especially if they don't own an ereader. The ONLY person in my family besides me who owns an ereader is my father who probably ONLY has about 10 books downloaded onto his Kindle so far. The rest of my family is not in the position to just go and purchase an ereader, nor are my friends. Our kids are now in college, and we are the LAST on the list for anything. Our kids come FIRST right now! Shall I say COLLEGE COMES FIRST!
    If you go on over and watch some of these videos and watch how much Bloggers LOVE the look and feel of the books, the pure BEAUTY of them, they will NEVER die.
    If I were you, I would DEFINITELY print up postcards! That way, at least, people can recognize the cover of your book. It is harder to remember a name than it is a cover of a book sometimes. The cover of a GREAT BOOK sticks in your memory. Go check it out! See how the Bloggers LOVE the covers, how they care for these books, TALK about the covers and more! It will amaze you!
    I did a survey on my Blog one time and survey said: BOOKS! NOT ebooks. Ebooks are almost invisible. Like someone else said, no one knows what you are reading! You really DO want people to know what you are reading! If you imprint the cover of your book into people's heads, if people see your book on blog after blog, it WILL BE NOTICED! That IS what you want!
    I DO see the trend going towards Postcards. Signed postcards.
    That's my opinion. I did write another comment, but it turned out to long, so I had to delete it. It had links to YouTube videos. When Bloggers discuss what they got in their mailboxes, they SHOW THE BOOKS! NOT ALL PEOPLE WITH EBOOKS SHOW THE COVERS. They might mention the name of the book, but it's SO hard to remember them, as there are SO many. Personally I would STILL concentrate on a GREAT cover and advertise it!
    From a Book Blogger's opinion!
    Hope that helps?
    Laurie Carlson

  14. My local library system has brought back bookmarks. Yea!!


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