February 20, 2020


S. D. Tooley

Mysteries with an Edge

Marketing can be fun, or a pain. As a former casino dealer, I look at it as a roll of the dice. You never can predict the outcome. Living in an area of the country where bookstores are as rare as a 70 degree day in August, I was hard pressed to come up with something different. My husband and I decided to do some shopping in an indoor mall. We had to drive 30 minutes to the next state over since all we have are outdoor malls. The sight of ad displays sparked a marketing idea. These 4 ft. x 6 ft. display panels are backlit and advertise a variety of products and services. Some were available for rent. I figured it wasn’t going to cost me anything to find out more information, so I jotted down the phone number and web site.


There are a variety of options to choose from. I saw banner size ads hanging from a second floor banister, escalator wraps, triangle and blade floor displays, and wall murals. If you have deep pockets, they can provide you with whatever you want. But the floor displays are more price friendly and have a better chance of catching the attention of shoppers. Course, with everyone on their phones, it’s a wonder they don’t advertise on the floors. (Actually, they do! They are called floor graphics.)


These ad companies also service outdoor malls. This can, however, reduce viewership during inclement weather. A mall in your backyard isn’t necessary, but makes it easier to stop by and make sure your display panel is in the right location and hasn’t been damaged when installed.  If close to home isn’t important, a mall in Hollywood would be great, for the right price. And believe me, it is pricey. You might also get a deal on newly built malls. Just be careful that it isn’t so new that too many store spaces are still empty.

Once you have decided which mall, next is where in the mall. The ad company will send you a map of the available locations. There were several spots I had to choose from. There was one right by one of the entrances, a few in the aisles, which I felt would not get as much traffic because of the stores they were near, and one by a Barnes and Noble. I selected the Barnes and Noble. Unfortunately, it had an entrance from the parking lot which might cut down on foot traffic. Since I was advertising books, though, I thought it was the best location. In hindsight, having a display right by an indoor restaurant or food court would have been ideal. You have a captured audience for at least an hour vs foot traffic rushing from store to store.


Read the contract carefully. Most companies want to lock you into a 12-month contract. However, some do have a six-month-out clause which might also come with a one-month rental penalty.


More is better, some people say. In display panels, though, too much is not good. Walk through the mall first and take a look at the other display panels. Some only show a couple items. If your ad is cluttered, it will be too distracting. You don’t need the covers of all ten books plus your author photo and bio. A catchy phrase or review blurb, two or three covers, QR code, if you have one, and don’t forget your website. For a nominal fee, the company will design your ad. Just make a mockup of what you want it to look like, include the text, and provide the images. They will provide a proof and do allow you to make changes. As you can see in my display, with the theme of my books being mysteries, they placed a dark forest as the back drop. In the two malls I walked, not one display ad was from an author much less a publisher, so the company was excited to work with me, especially since I would be placed next to a bookstore.

As with all marketing, do your homework. There are a number of companies who provide this type of advertising, and pricing can be worked out. Just like car salesmen who are desperate to get the cars off the lot, ad companies do not like unrented signs. Now that I have whet my marketing curiosity, I wonder if my local library would allow me to put up a cardboard ad in the vestibule when my next book is released. There are A-board signs and free-standing sign boards. I would imagine a book cover, website, catchy phrase, and perhaps a pamphlet holder which could be filled as the supply runs down.

When time and money make it difficult for you to travel to every author conference and book fair, there are always alternatives. You just have to think outside the box!

Sandra Tooley is an award-winning author of mystery novels.  Library Journal calls her series, “An exciting mix of police procedure, spiritual intuition,’ creeping suspense, and page-turning narrative.”

Her Sam Casey Series features a detective who can hear the dead speak. Her Chase Dagger Series (written as Lee Driver)blends mystery with an element of fantasy, sometimes horror and sci-fi. Chase Dagger has a dark past and a partner who can shift into a hawk or a wolf.

The Skull, her book for ages 11 to 111, is a traditional Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys-type mystery.  Being a fan of all of the CSI programs, Sandy gave each of the teens a talent in forensics.  The Skull won the Ida Chittum Award for best YA mystery.
Her cross-genre mysteries have won a number of awards: Independent Publishers, Readers Choice, ForeWord Magazine, and a finalist for a Derringer Award for best short story.


  1. Sandy, what a great idea! I never thought about using the display panels in the mall. Truly that would get attention.More and more authors are thinking out of the box these days. My mind is beginning to start searching for ideas too.

    On another note, your book The Skull. . .very unique to give each of the teens a talent in forensics. Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys would be envious!

    1. Thanks! I am definitely going to seek out the two libraries (3)? in my area about putting up the cardboard displays.

  2. What a novel idea! One that I will think on and explore. Thanks.

  3. Do let me know how it works out.

  4. Wow, did you work as a casino dealer? This is very interesting job. I like to play at this casino called online cause they offer a lot of casino games and bonuses. They also have a lot of tournaments. But I've never visited land-based casinos. How's it like inside?