Author uses novel tactic to promote book

I did a double take when I got out of my car in the parking lot of the Penfield, N.Y. Wegmans supermarket.

A car two spots from mine had a magnetic sign on the driver’s door that said, “AUTHOR ON BOARD.”

What a clever idea!” I thought. It’s such a novel tactic. (Pun intended.)

The author wasn’t literally on board at that moment, so I took a couple of pictures and decided I’d contact her later  to see if she’d answer a few questions for a blog post.

I did, and she did.

novel tacticAuthor Tracy Fontaine, who promotes her paranormal mystery Beyond Lilla with the car sign, is a laboratory technician at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, N.Y. Beyond Lilla is her first book.

Here’s our conversation.

What gave you the idea for a car magnet for your book?

I was so excited when I first published Beyond Lilla in 2013 that I joked with my husband that I was going to shrink wrap my car in a design to advertise. Why not use the car for advertising when I’m driving all over town, right? I had noticed magnets on other vehicles, and it seemed like the most practical, affordable place to start.

Where did you get it and how much did it cost?

I order the magnets online from Vistaprint. Using their templates, I uploaded a file of the cover of my book, and designed the text to suit me. They have two sizes of magnets, a smaller one for cars, and a larger one for trucks or larger vehicles. I drive a Honda Civic, but I still opted for the larger magnets for more impact. They fit on the doors nicely.

The current price is $20 each, which I don’t think is so bad. However, Vistaprint occasionally runs some great sales — buy one/get one free, or other discounts. I wait for those sales and stock up.

I leave the magnets on year-round, even through the winter (people are always looking for that good book to read on a cold winter night). The magnets last about 12 to 18 months before they get too faded or start to peel. (Of course I remove them before I go through the car wash.)

What have been the reactions to it?

Very positive. Folks are drawn to the magnets, and also amused, and have been interested in learning more about the book.

I try be aware if someone parking or walking nearby is checking out the magnet. I’ll engage them and offer them a bookmark so they can check out my website.

One time while my husband and I waited to exit the Thruway in Albany, a man gave us a thumbs up from his car in the next lane. We lowered our windows and he exclaimed “Great advertising!” So, my husband quickly grabbed a bookmark and handed it to him. Who knows how far that bookmark traveled?

Recently, as we exited our car at the grocery store, a woman who had stopped next to our car apologized for staring at the magnet. I told her that’s what it’s for, as I handed her a bookmark. She said she was looking forward to checking out the book.

author on board sign

Would you do this again? Why or why not?

I would definitely do this again. It’s an inexpensive way to spread the word,

What impact do you think it’s had on your book sales?

While I can’t give you solid numbers, I’m sure the magnets have encouraged a few purchases.

Thanks to the magnets, Sandra has invited me to contribute to her blog. (Sandra, thank you for this opportunity to share!)

What other things have you done to promote, publicize, or market your book?

Bookmarks: I designed and printed a bookmark (with a photo of my book cover, a short abstract, and my website URL). I always carry bookmarks with me in my purse and in my car, sort of like my business card. I’ll stick a few on public bulletin boards next to other folks’ business cards.

Posters (11″ by 17″): I designed and ordered the first set from Vistaprint ($5 each). I still have a few in reserve, but now I copy them locally for a lower price. I place the posters wherever I can find a public bulletin board, including at my workplace. I also had a couple of them laminated so I can display them when I sell books at craft shows.

Selling at events: I purchase inexpensive booth space at all sorts of craft shows — books really stand out among the throngs of traditional crafts at Christmas shows, and arts/craft shows.

Thanks to those handy bookmarks and posters, people have contacted me to sell my book or present it in several settings, including teen audiences, book clubs, and at séances or in bookstores — even at chicken barbecues! I love it! It’s so fun to visit with folks.

Of everything you’ve done, what do you think has been the most effective tactic?

It’s hard to say, but I might lean toward the bookmarks because I can hand them to someone and they have the reminder with them to encourage them to check my website.

When I sell a book in person, I always place two bookmarks in the book. — one for the customer, and one for them to give to a friend. I know of one person who loved my book and gave the bookmark to a friend, a teacher at a local high school, and suggested the students might like the book. Her high school classes read it in their summer reading program, and loved it! They invited me to speak to the class. Although my book was written for adults, apparently teens like it, also.

Would you like to add anything else?

novel tactic 3When I designed the magnets for my car, in the top section, where the business name is supposed to go, did I put the name of my book? No. Folks would just ignore it, assuming it’s a business, like insurance.

Instead, I designed big bold letters on the top of my car magnet: Author on Board. That’s why people notice my magnet and find it cute and amusing. In the body of the magnet, there’s a picture of my book with a short description. At the bottom is my website address.

For my posters, I didn’t start with the name of my book. My posters are dark blue and black with a picture of my book cover. At the top of the poster, a creepy/haunted bright yellow font reads: Meet Rochester’s newest ghost in: (underneath is the cover of my book with the tittle Beyond Lilla). When this poster is displayed on my book table at craft shows, as busy shoppers file by, the words “Rochester” and “ghost” grab their attention.

Big thanks to Tracy for sharing with us! What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen an author do to promote a book?

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  1. I also use the car magnets and bookmarks and got them at Vistaprint. My first novel is not scheduled for release until November and I already have them on my car. I’ve had people ask me about it at the grocery. I put my website as the largest font at the bottom. I taught high school locally for many years and I am hoping that my name which is also my website will catch the eye of former students and parents living in the area. But it is hard to know how well this works. I had not thought of craft fairs so when the book is released I will give that a try. I was already planning on selling my Civil War trilogy at reenactments.

    1. I’m sure you’ll benefit from name recognition, Mary Ellen. Good luck with the launch later this year!


  2. It’s a brilliant idea for sure! Here in Canada you have to be a little wary of that type of advertising as for our car insurance it could fall into using the car for business- which means a higher monthly insurance rate for us! I inquired about that when I contemplated putting book cover magnets on the back of my car to help promote my clients. Not sure if that’s the same in the U.S though- you have different insurance parameters. Best of luck to her!

    1. Great tip, Rachel! Thanks! Maybe Tracy will stop by and tell us if she took that into account.


    2. Yes, I did wonder if there were any legal or business considerations, etc., but I figured I will go ahead with the magnets anyway. So far, nobody has stopped me with any repercussions and/or insurance bills of any sort, so I think I’m okay.

  3. I love this post. I was ordering bookmarks from Vistaprint last week and saw the car magnet template and thought that’s a good idea but then brushed it aside. After reading your post Tracy I am inspired to take the plunge and order one online. Thanks Tracy and thanks Sandy for bringing this to us.

    1. I’m glad it was helpful, Susan, and that Tracy was willing to answer my questions. Sounds like she inspired you!


  4. My co-author, Jason, had suggested doing something like that before, but I was not sure how to go about doing it where it would catch someone’s attention. After reading this post, and seeing how Tracy has done it, I do believe I will do it as well. I already have an account with Vistaprint (I probably bought them a car or two :)), so it wouldn’t be any problem. Thank you Tracy and Sandra for sharing the story.

    1. Hey Sara, you’re welcome! I’m a Vistaprint customer, too, so I know just what you mean about buying them a car or two!

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.


  5. Hi Sandra, Great column. Fun and clever idea, esp. with the bookmark followup. I’m going to share this with my 5,000 “gang of writers” since this applies to self-published as well as traditionally published authors.
    Hope life is good for you and yours!
    BTW: We might consider a marketing partnership.

    1. Totally agree that it applies to all authors, Molli. Tracy is self-published but the tactic isn’t limited to self-published authors by any means.

      Feel free to contact me via email about other biz.


  6. Sandy, I shared this article with my writer friends too. I’ve used Vistaprint for a number of promotional items, but this idea is super. Thanks to you and Tracy for letting us know.

    1. So glad you liked it, Michael! Thanks for letting us know, and for sharing it, too.


  7. I had considered getting magnets for my book, though not with this author’s clever headline. I was concerned that my book cover might attract the wrong kind of attention since, as a book about America’s response to the Holocaust, it has a yellow star on it. I couldn’t care less what a hater might think about the book’s contents, but I can’t afford damage to my car. Most people wouldn’t do anything; unfortunately it only takes one.

  8. I’m Tracy’s friend, and I can confirm that her author magnet makes it super-easy to spot her car! 🙂 Also, I’ve read her book, so I wanted to give her a plug. It’s set right here in Rochester, a ghost story filled with bits of history plus some fun twists.

  9. What a great idea and I like best how she came up with the clever top ‘Author on Board’ – so smart!

    I’ve ordered biz cards from Vistaprint but that’s it. I just went to their site and they also have $3.49 custom bumper stickers.

    Hmmmm, I think I need to get car marketing!

    1. I’m a Vistaprint fan, Molly. In addition to using the site for business cards, I print some of my favorite photos as note cards. Kind of fun!

      Good luck with those bumper stickers — share a photo in the Build Book Buzz Facebook group when you get them, OK?


  10. What a fabulous idea! I’m just starting to ramp up promotion for my latest book of paranormal nonfiction, 44 Years In Darkness (coming in October). Thanks SO much for drilling it into my head yet again, Tracy, that I need to slip bookmarks into every book I sell. Putting two in there is brilliance! And I will definitely be heading over to Vistaprint to check out their car magnets. Thank you, thank you for the neat tip!

  11. Wow, great idea. My wife will never let me put them on the car when she is in it, but I think I’ll do it when she is not.

    I wonder if she put one on the back so at lights and stuff people have to star at it for a few minutes.

    Instead of book marks, I have a glossy business card with my book cover and one side and my info on the other side.

    I talk to people everywhere all the time and give then the business card for my book One Million in the Bank: How To Make $1,000,000 With Your Own Business, Even If You Have No Money Or Experience.

    It has lead to sales and some people will call me or email me to thank me for telling them about the book after they have read it.

    Thanks for the idea.

    1. Michael, Tracy’s magnetic sign isn’t on the back of the car.

      I’m glad this got you thinking!


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