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Q & A : What software makes bookmarks to hand out at book signings?

What software makes bookmarks to hand out at book signings?

By Chris Dunmire

Q: I am looking for software to make bookmarks to give out at book signings for my novel McKays Island, The Beginning. Do you have software that would do that for me? My printer is an HP PHOTOSMART 7260. Also do you have any other software that a writer could use at book signings? — Ken

A: Congratulations on your new novel, Ken. Bookmarks make great promotional give-aways (marketing pieces) for authors and are relatively easy to make.

The short answer to your question about software: A variety of drag-and-drop programs in the software aisle of your favorite computer store will do the job. Most of these programs are packaged as "Greeting card, sign, and poster" makers and are quite affordable. HP is one common brand.

The long answer: Bookmarks are easy to make with software you may already have on your computer, IF you have basic design and graphics skills. You also have the option of going all out with your bookmark promo piece with professional design and printing which you can hire out to a graphic designer, or now with great Web technology, accomplish easily through online all-in-one design and print businesses like VistaPrint, which I used and recommend for small design jobs and marketing give-aways like business cards, brochures, flyers, pens, keychains, and novelties (feel free to use my affiliate friend link for special promotions).

If you're interested in more specifics, I'll go ahead and cover three typical scenarios for producing those bookmarks, ranging from a total do-it-yourself (DIY) project, to incorporating professional design and printing for your marketing piece. More options exist, but these are the most common and fit your needs as an author looking for an easy give-away to your adoring fans.

Three options for producing your bookmarks are:

  • DIY design and home printing
  • Pay-for design and professional printing
  • Guided design and professional printing

Option 1: Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Design & Printing

Design and print the bookmarks yourself using existing software or low-cost greeting card / bookmark creation software.

Effort: The most of these options
Cost: Your time and materials
Quality: (Depending on skill level) tacky to decent

Do you have Microsoft Word or Microsoft Publisher and a graphics editor such as Photoshop Elements or Jasc Paint Shop Pro? If so, you can use the design features in those programs to layout and print decent-quality bookmarks on your HP Photosmart printer. I made the floating bookmark below in Adobe Illustrator, but could easily have created it in Microsoft Word.

For best results, remember that anything cheap or amateur looking and feeling will reflect a poor opinion on you. Here's more design and printing tips:

  • Imported artwork should be high-resolution (300dpi), CMYK color, tif format. Do not use low-resolution (72dpi) RGB Web graphics (.jpg or .gif) because they usually look terrible when printed.
  • Save on paper and costs by laying several bookmarks out on a page side-by-side for printing.
  • For durability, print bookmarks on card stock paper.
  • For more durability and protection, laminate bookmarks between self-adhesive laminate sheets before trimming (also keeps ink from running should bookmark get wet). Giving prospective clients or customers any unprotected fade-prone inkjet-printed materials will again, reflect scroogely on you.
  • Trim printed bookmarks with a sharp paper cutter for a clean edge and professional-looking cut.

If you don't have the aforementioned programs, there's plenty of professional-grade design programs (ranging in cost) that will do the job. These programs include Adobe's InDesign and Illustrator, Photoshop, and QuarkXPress. Really, any "graphics" program can be used to design bookmarks if they include type editing tools, 300dpi (or more) resolution printing capabilities, and RGB to CMYK color management options.

Now, if you aren't design-savvy or got lost in that last paragraph around "dpi", consider the next option.

Option 2: Pay-for Design & Professional Printing

Let someone else do the job.

Effort: Simplest of these options
Cost: Design and printing
Quality: Best

Free Creativity Portal Bookmarks! Click to Download & PrintIf you want top-notch bookmarks printed with high-quality ink that doesn't run, pay a graphic artist to design and professionally print them. I know, the first thing that comes to mind is cost. This route is certainly more expensive than doing it yourself, but you're assured to end up with an impressive marketing tool for your book. Think of it as an investment. And let the designer handle all of the details, or have them create a printable PDF file for you to fulfill however you wish (download a free sample PDF file with my promotional Read, Write, Explore, Express bookmarks I designed just to show you how easy it is to work with a graphic designer).

OR, if you're still dissatisfied, combine the best of both DIY design and professional printing into option number three.

Option 3: Guided Design with Templates & Professional Printing Online

Use Web-based bookmark creation tools or templates for guided designs and then order your printing from the Web.

Effort: Simpler than total DIY from scratch
Cost: Printing only
Quality: Best

Save money by designing your own bookmarks with guided designs and dealing with the printer yourself. This option combines DIY design with Web-based templates and professional printing. Best of all, it doesn't require heavy design skills or spending money on software.

For this option I'll again mention online printing companies like VistaPrint or PrintPlace which are super, competitively-priced, easy-to-use services with extensive libraries of pre-designed templates you can customize with your own text and artwork or the option to upload your own from-scratch design files if their templates don't fit the bill. They also offer creative services, so if you still need some graphic artist help from a professional, it's there for a fee.

A related option is checking out the free printable bookmarks and bookmark-generating Web sites you can use to customize blank bookmarks with your own text and artwork or photos — like those on Creativity Portal's free printable bookmark generator sources page. However, note that "free" usually means the bookmarks are licensed for personal use only and often retain site origination or brand information. Still, if you're interested, try asking the Webmaster or artist if you might barter a promotional deal with them if they'll allow you to use them for your project. Who knows, in the end, it still might save you a lot of money and work. •

© 2005, 2009 Chris Dunmire. All rights reserved.

Creativity Portal® founder Chris Dunmire wears many creative hats. More »

Updated 4/1/12