Marketing, Trading and Having Fun

Today I’m talking to Jeannie Lin (author of Butterfly Swords and The Taming of Mei Lin) about a new marketing tool she’s using: Romance Trading Cards.

Jeannie, thanks for agreeing to chat about this fun tool.

You mentioned in your newsletter that there’s a “Community at Romancelandia.” Please excuse my romance-genre-ignorance.  Is “Romancelandia” an actual community title or just a term, like “blogosphere.” If it is a place, where is it?

Jeannie: Romancelandia is a term which incorporates the writers, publishers, agents, readers & bloggers of the romance community. I think the romance world is much more connected than other fiction genres. As a result, there actually is a “place”. It’s a combined sphere of the physical realm: booksignings, fan events, romance reader/writer conventions such as Romantic Times and RWA national conference. Then mix that all in with the blogosphere, Facebook, the Twitterverse. Soon it feels like everyone knows everybody.

Victoria: Now, about the cards, were they invented as a fun way for authors to meet and greet at conferences or what?! It’s such a neat idea, but I’m curious about its beginnings.

Jeannie: I think the reason why it took off was there were already a few authors doing them independently. I had spoken to a few authors previously about them since I wanted to do character cards. Then I caught wind of another Twitter conversation about doing romance hero cards. It felt like there was some potential there and all it took was the first handful saying, “Hey, if I do it, will you do it?”

Soon, we started hashtagging #romancetradingcards on Twitter and asking “Who’s in?” By the end of the first several hours, the number had grown over a modest ten authors. I sensed something would tip if we just nudged it so I put it on my website and started listing names. From there, other authors chimed in and it got to the point where authors and readers were asking each other, “Are you in on this #romancetradingcards craze?”

In less than five days, we created a pink RTC logo, authors Amanda Berry and Shawntelle Madison put up http://www.romancetradingcards.com , I ran and posted online tutorials, and more than a hundred authors had said they were IN.

It was the collective excitement about it that got the whole thing rolling. The beauty of the idea is it’s so simple and cheap to join. It allows authors to be creative and provide a way for readers to get something special and collectible that’s unique to each book—and it all hinges on the strong sense of community within the romance genre.

Victoria: What does it take to join the club? I’m assuming you need to have a published book, but what are the other rules? What information does each card need?

Jeannie: There are no rules. J The only requirement is that the author create and print the card and make them available to readers. The design is completely up to them. There are templates to provide people a starting point, but those are just suggestions. I think it’s wonderful to leave it completely open and I think that’s another reason why people are so excited about this. They can customize it and really make the cards reflect them, their books and their readers.

Victoria: Is there any talk of making these things into playing cards? That’s what I thought they were at first, to be honest and I can see where that concept could also be fun, though perhaps more for the fantasy market than Romance. (You mentioned Dragon.com and I can see EITHER form going like hotcakes there.)

Jeannie: Other people have thought the same. Everyone kept on asking me if they could still join. Some thought that after we hit 52 authors, no one else could come in. That’s not the case at all. There’s no reason why people can’t do playing cards if they wish. (See previous note about “No rules”) They can package cards together and give them away with gum. They can create a role-playing game around it in Pokemon/Yu-gi-oh style if they want.

That’s why I refer to this as grassroots/guerilla marketing. It’s growing organically and the experience evolves based on all the people participating.
And regarding DragonCon: I’m going this year. Who else is in? J
Victoria: To your knowledge, are there other genres adopting either approach (trading or gaming cards)?

Jeannie: I think the potential is there. I’m sure fantasy and paranormal authors have independently created these as promotions. All it takes is a little interest to get the ball rolling.
Victoria: Where did you go to get your cards made and how much did they cost? (If you don’t mind sharing the latter data.)


Jeannie: Many of us are using GotPrint.com simply because we’d used them before for other promotional materials like bookmarks and postcards. The cost is relatively cheap. 100 cards will cost you about $17 and 1000 is only a bump up to about $25. That’s not including shipping.

Where it can get more expensive is artwork and graphic design. Many authors are using stock images as well which can cost around $10-$20 each for nice ones. Some are hiring graphic designers to do the work, which makes sense because they’re job is to write and graphics programs can be time consuming. I designed and created my own, but I had previously commissioned character artwork for Butterfly Swords from an artist I liked on deviantArt.com. So in truth my Ai Li and Ryam cards are a bit expensive.

But you really can be in for about $20 and create a great card with a little computer savvy (see the Tutorials page on http://www.romancetradingcards.com) and a really nice cover.
Victoria: Thanks so much The whole concept has me stoked.

Jeannie: I’m glad to hear you’re stoked. The excitement I’ve seen from authors and readers has been quite uplifting. It’s so good to see people gather around and get excited about something positive. The beauty of it is we’re really seeing how fast the Internet and a community can mobilize and I’m just thrilled to see something positive go viral. Okay, maybe not quite viral, but at least feverish!  I hope it will be a great experience.

10 Responses to “Marketing, Trading and Having Fun”

  1. Barbara Ann Wright says:

    Sounds like a really neat idea. I bet the sci-fi/fantasy community would eat this up, too.

  2. Victoria Dixon says:

    Oooh yeah. I'm ready to talk with my graphics designer husband about making a set of role playing cards. ;D

  3. Janet Johnson says:

    What a cool idea! I love how it started. Sometimes it just takes one spark. 🙂

    And Vicki, I'd love to see yours!

  4. Aron White says:

    Great idea. The playing cards look fun 🙂 Romancelandia reminds me of Jiang Hu or "the land of lakes rivers," the Chinese Martial arts social world and community back in Imperial China. 🙂

  5. Jeannie Lin says:

    Ha! That's a pretty fun comparison Aron. What character would everyone be in Jianghu, if you could choose?

    Right now I think I'd opt for the drunken master…happy hour you know.

    Thanks for the interview Victoria. I'll let you know how the cards go over at the convention

  6. Aron White says:

    Ooh that's a tough one, Jeannie 🙂 Based on a few of Jackie Chan's movies, I think he'd go with your character as well 🙂

    Hmm…I've always favored the wise, stoic warrior so I'd have to go with Chow Yun-Fat's Li Mu Bai from Crouching Tiger. Wudang Mountain forever! 🙂

  7. Walt Mussell says:

    I cannot believe I haven't heard of this before. Great marketing!

  8. Victoria Dixon says:

    Neat comparison, Aron. 🙂

    Walt, I know, it seems so obvious in a way, and yet, this is the first time I've seen it. Kinda hitting myself for not thinking of it earlier.

    Still stoked!

  9. Victoria Dixon says:

    Oh, and yes, please do let us know how the cards do, Jeannie!

  10. Victoria Dixon says:

    Oh, and Janet, I showed them to the hubby last night. He had what I can only describe as a "I'm just intrigued enough that I might have to do this" smile on his face when he asked me "So, do you want me to make you cards?" Hee heee. I know how fast he works, so God only knows how long it might take. It depends if he catches on fire with the idea. We can hope!

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