Thursday, July 27, 2017

What's in Your Swag?


            Today’s post is about swag. You know, that stuff authors give out at events to get people to remember them.

            I have several events coming up, so I had to think long and hard about the swag I’m going to give away. It’s not an easy decision for me, as is true with many other authors, because I want something that stands out and I can’t spend a lot on it.

There are authors out there who give away tote bags, bookmarks (and not just any bookmarks—the dangly kind with a charm on the end), cute little spiral-bound notebooks with a book cover printed on the front, even seed packets (which are great for authors who write about farmers and gardeners, but I’m not one of those authors), but I don’t have the kind of money one needs to give away things like that.

So at the risk of being the most boring author out there, I’ve ordered postcards. Again. Each one is printed with one of my book covers on the front and my photo and social media URLs on the back. I love how they look—I just wish I could do something really out-of-the-box. But out-of-the-box is expensive.

I’ve also ordered bookmarks. Again. These have the covers of each of the three books in my current series. Like the postcards, I think they’re nice-looking bookmarks. I hope people use them.

            But in addition to the postcards and the bookmarks, I have managed to include two more interesting things.

            First, I did a little research and learned that some of the most popular items for authors to give away are pens. Thus, I have ordered pens with my name and a small graphic of a rose on them. This is the same rose photo I use on my website’s Contact Me page and some of my newsletters. It’s not just any rose; it’s a rose from a bouquet my husband gave me when I signed my first contract with a publisher. It means a lot to me and I love the photo, so I use it often.

            Second, my most recent book and my next book are both set in Scotland. What comes to mind when I think of Scotland? Sure, the beauty, the majesty, the lochs, et cetera, et cetera. But I can’t give those things away.

            What comes to mind next? For me, it’s shortbread (it’s always about the food, as far as I’m concerned). Buttery, crumbly, delicious shortbread. I found a website ( where I could buy twenty individually-wrapped two-packs of Walker’s Shortbread Cookies for about $11.00. Since I only needed fifty packages (this particular swag is for gift bags at the Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival in August), I could get away with spending $33.00 or so and still have some cookies left over for another event. My plan is to staple a package of cookies to one of my Scotland-themed postcards.

            What do you think? Is it memorable, or would you do something different?

            I’ve got a book club appearance coming up in a couple weeks. The club is discussing my book set in Hawaii. I’d like to take a homemade dessert with me that the members can share at the meeting—something with coconut or passion fruit or macadamia nuts. I don’t know how big the group is, but I figured if I make a large pan of something, there will be enough for everyone. Smaller, more personal events like book club appearances make it easy for me to take something because I love to cook and I love to come up with foods that connect somehow with the setting of the book the club is reading.

            Incidentally, I do host giveaways once in a while through my newsletter. For the giveaways, I like to do something a bit more elaborate than postcards and bookmarks. For my last giveaway (to celebrate the release of my book set in Hawaii) I had a reusable shopping bag that I stocked with tropical-themed items and Hawaiian foods (pre-packaged, like macadamia nuts and candies). For my next giveaway I’ll probably award a tote bag with some Scottish-themed items.

            I’d like to hear what other authors are using for swag. What do you give away, if anything? Is there something you received at an author event that was particularly memorable? Share your ideas in the comments below—I’d love to hear them and I’m sure other writers would, too.



Charles Gramlich said...

I'm always partial to bookmarks. I've got a lot but I use 'em constantly and switch between 'em

Amy M. Reade said...

That's what I like to hear! I use bookmarks all the time--I get sick of using gum wrappers, receipts, etc. in place of nice bookmarks.

Unknown said...

How about recipe cards, based on the settings of your books. I know that many folks go online for recipes, but I still have a recipe box. And pens are a great idea! And for contests, I love getting s signed copy of a book. Have been introduced to many good authors that way. Enjoy your day, I hope you get lots of new ideas.

Maggie King said...

I like Sharon's idea of recipe cards.

I'm debating about getting pencils for the upcoming Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival (where I'll get to see you again, Amy!). They woould just have my name, a catchy sub title, and web site. To date, I use bookmarks and business cards. For my launches I bought gifts and created a book-themed gift basket.

For a recent book group visit, I gave away two of my anthologies

I'm very frugal. More so than you, Amy!

Maggie King said...

BTW, I love your rose!

Amy M. Reade said...

Oooh, Sharon, I love that idea! I'm going to steal it, if you don't mind. I've got so many recipes that I can share. I'm off to find a place that can print them right now...


Amy M. Reade said...

Maggie, I hope I can snag one of those pencils. I use only special pencils for plotting, and I can see myself using one of yours.

Giving away an anthology is also a great idea. For your launches, do you do a Facebook giveaway or a newsletter-subscriber giveaway or a blog tour giveaway? I'm curious because I think it's a great idea.

I'm glad you like the rose--it's pretty significant to me.

Jacqueline said...

In my honest opinion, I don't see the sense (except if one can comfortably afford it) in spending so much on giveaways when on a shoe-string budget. I can never have enough of bookmarkers, pencils and pens. Someone mentioned recipe cards and that sounds like a great idea. All the best.

Unknown said...

Of course I don't mind! And I love the rose too, especially the significance of it!

Amy M. Reade said...

Thanks, Sharon!

Amy M. Reade said...

Jacqueline, you make a good point. I think a big part of the reason authors give out swag is because other authors do it. I think we stretch ourselves too thin on social media for the same reasons--it's hard to sit there and wonder if you're doing all you can to reach as many readers as possible and make yourself memorable. And it's tempting to try everything just to see what works. Hence the swag. There are a few very memorable swag items I've gotten at conferences/festivals and they stand out above all the rest. We all want to hit on that certain thing.

I agree that the recipe cards are a great idea, too.

Thanks for stopping by!

Neil A. Waring said...

I hand out bookmarks and business cards - thinking about adding pens but like others, I don't want to spend too much.

Amy M. Reade said...

Hi, Neil,

I hand out business cards, too, but not very often and usually not at author events. I usually hand them out when I meet people in conversation--people who are interested in knowing more about my writing. I don't carry postcards with me anywhere but author events, so business cards come in handy sometimes.

Thanks for dropping by!

Lidy said...

I'm partial to pens and bookmarks. I'm yet at the stage to give out swag but have done research on it. If I'd the funds to, I'd like to print something on a mug, pinback button, small tote and or fridge magnets to give away as swag

Carol Mitchell said...

I do a lot of postcards and to put information on them that will encourage people to read them, to share them, and to interact with me as a result of the card. We've tried trivia, puzzles, and so on. I love the idea of the recipe and I have just the book for it. I like the idea of the shortbread, a nice touch that will have people associate you with a deliciousness and generosity!

Liane Spicer said...

I love bookmarks too, Amy. I don't do events in person but every now and then I have a giveaway--for signing up for my newsletter, usually, or when I do an online book club guest appearance. I've given away books, Amazon gift cards and once a set of sparkly gel pens. I recall there was a lot of excitement over the gel pens. So, I'm no expert on swag, but I think the shortbread is a great idea. Nibbles are always nice!

SJ Francis said...

I love getting postcards, bookmarks and postcards. I use them all as bookmarks and rotate out. I have no problem sharing them with others, too. Pens are another big hit for me to accept and give out. Everyone uses pens. I love the idea of giving out food samples related to the book, but will readers actually remember a book from it? Perhaps.
I just won a book from author Margaret porter. With it, she sent me maple sugar candies. Will I remember the author and her book? Yes, I will.