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Should Authors Capitalize on Product Placement in Their Books

Updated: Feb 14, 2020

Writing my first novel, He Loves Me He Loves Me Not! (No longer in print), I referenced several places in the story. Imagine my surprise when I learned my book was featured on a website about books that include historical places. The Le Pavillon Hotel in New Orleans has a subtle placement in a short scene centered around a trip to the Essence Music Festival.

Old School Vs. New School

This memory came to mind as I was watching an online service for New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, located in Stonecrest, Georgia. Their pastor, Jamal Bryant, has a history of creating challenges to encourage members to participate in community outreach projects and fundraisers.

During this particular outreach, one segment of the church was team Popeyes, while the other was dubbed team Chick-fil-A. Both top brands in fast food chicken franchises. It was also following a historic marketing campaign that garnered Popeyes an estimated $65 million media valuation…free marketing.

In past challenges, the teams were Black Lives Matter vs. Civil Rights Era or iPhone vs Android.

It was about the 3rd or 4th week of the challenge that Bryant acknowledged that people were inquiring about the reasoning behind the names. It was understandable considering the recent internet beef between the two competing businesses. Using brands in their outreach marketing did seem odd. His response, right before the benediction, was the two fast-food chains were partnering with the church.

Friends Supporting Friends

Aha! The light went on. How often do authors mention businesses and brands in their books? I know I do it all the time. So much so that a reader once wrote to me that she was vacationing in my hometown and visited many of the places I’ve written in my books.

On two occasions a friend and I were out, and she mentioned to a business owner that I was a writer.

In the first instance, we were having lunch at a popular burger joint. A landmark in our city. She told the owner I had written a book and mentioned her place. The owner was so excited she bought two copies from me on the spot. (All independent authors have inventory in their car.)

The second occasion was during a girl’s afternoon out when we were getting pedicures. Once again, she told the owner of the business that I was an author. The owner told me the next time I come in to bring some books because she would love to show support. In appreciation, I wrote her salon into a scene in my next book, which she also purchased.

Value in Brands

Here is the question, since product placement is so huge in today's marketing techniques, should authors jump on board? We support so many businesses in our communities, why not offer to promote their product or service in our books. For a fee, of course. Branding in books happens naturally when the author is adding texture to a storyline.

This is something I see frequently on YouTube. Content creators selling ad space to promote brands in videos. Businesses allowing affiliate marketing links to be placed in videos and description boxes. Instagram is notorious for influencer marketing. This is where celebrities pitch products to their followers 24/7.

Why can’t authors do the same? Books can have a product placement listing page? Or the author could promote brands from their book on their social media pages or websites.

Books Last Forever

It’s true that a book lives on as long as someone has a copy. Imagine getting an email from someone saying they loved your book but when they went to a business it was closed. Not as in we close at 6 PM but closed as in out of business.

This could be a dilemma for some. Others would use it as an opportunity to get a new brand to invest in. One of the many benefits of the digital era we live in is corrections and changes are easily made. With eBooks and PODs, changing product placement content is simply a matter of updating the file and resubmitting it for future purchases. Changes to Kindle files automatically update content on all devices.

Authors can always put a disclaimer in the book, which you should be doing any time you’re receiving compensation for marketing consideration. The disclaimer can simply state there is no guarantee the business or product in the storyline is available at the time of the reading.

Let’s Talk About It!

It’s no secret book marketing is hard without the machines of big publishing companies. It’s time we start to think outside the box and come up with new streams of income.

What do you think? Would businesses today be interested in paying to have a feature in a local author’s book? As a business, how much would you be willing to pay? Are their book genres you would love or hate to be featured in?

Let’s talk! Leave a comment below and let me know what you think.

Peace and Love!


Tracy L. Darity, is the author of He Me Loves Me He Loves Me Not!, Love…Like Snow in Florida On a Hot Summer Day, and The Red Bear Society. Her much-anticipated non-fiction work When Sunday Comes Will I Still Believe God will be released in the fall of 2020.


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