I was packaging a book for my editor and realized I only had one [promotional] 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?