Tuesday, March 27, 2018

More Talk About Swag

            Beginning in April, I’m going to need some author swag. (I wrote a post about swag last July—read it here—and since I’m always thinking about it, I’m writing another one)

            Here’s the thing about swag: have you ever bought a book because of the stuff the author gave away with it? Do you even remember most of the swag you’ve been given?

            My husband’s theory on swag is as follows: “I don’t know why you bother. No one buys books because the author gives away pens or bookmarks or anything else. They buy books based on word-of-mouth if they don’t already know the author.”

I’m paraphrasing (except for the first sentence, which is a direct quote).

He makes a good point, but there’s more to the argument than just getting people to buy books. There’s the name recognition factor, which has to be worth something, right?


A lot of the swag I pick up is at conferences. The piles of postcards, business cards, bookmarks, pens (see aforementioned July post—I cancelled my pen order), flyers, etc. seems endless, and there’s something to be said for an author who can think outside the box and give away something that stands out. One especially memorable giveaway was a seed packet printed with the author’s book cover. The main character is an organic farmer, so that swag makes perfect sense and I won’t forget that author’s name (Wendy Tyson, by the way).

Last year I gave away little packets of Scottish shortbread attached to postcards for Highland Peril, my book set in the Scottish Highlands (see aforementioned July post for some lovely photos). I’d like to think that was a great idea, but I’m basing my opinion on my obsessive love of shortbread.

At Christmastime I gave away handmade gift tags as swag. They were stamped, inked, sparkled, buttoned, and beribboned, and I thought (and still think) they were perfect. I was promoting a Christmas novel, so the giveaway had to have a Christmas theme, too.

And that, I think, was the best swag I’ve given out. It was themed, fun, and—best of all—handmade. I wrote my website URL in tiny letters on the back of each tag so that people could locate the brilliant artist who created it.

So I think I’m sticking with handmade swag for my upcoming appearances. I haven’t decided yet what I’ll make; maybe I’ll do more gift tags, maybe bookmarks, maybe something completely different. Sure, it takes a little longer, but I’m amazed at how much fun I have making things to give away. And it’s cheaper to make my own swag, too, which is always good. And finally, I can tailor the swag to individual events. I hope people find my handmade giveaways memorable.

What do you think? Any ideas for handmade swag? Do you have giveaways when you make an appearance at a conference or other author event? What kinds of giveaways do you prefer?


Maggie King said...

I like the idea of themed, hand-crafted swag. But Amy, you're artistically gifted, so that works well for you. I kind of feel as your husband does, but take your point about name recognition. I've given raffle gifts at my launches, but for appearances and signings I stick with bookmarks and business cards.

Unknown said...

I read on an ereader, so no need for a bookmark. Rather than giving swag, have you considered a “photo booth” maybe with the cover of the book and head cutouts for characters, or even just props? Then they have a keepsake photo.

Amy M. Reade said...

Maggie, I have to say "artistically gifted" are two words that have never been used to describe me, but thank you anyway!!

I've never had an in-person launch, but if I ever did I think a raffle would be a great thing to do. I also like to keep business cards handy for chance meetings with people. But some people collect them, so they're always a good idea.

Amy M. Reade said...

Roxi, I think you may have hit on something there. I'm definitely going to give the keepsake photo some thought and see if I can come up with something unique for my upcoming appearances. Thank you!!

Gloria Getman said...

What a clever idea. But my books are mysteries. It would take some thinking to come up a swag related to that. I think a swag would need to be something useful, not something people would toss.

Sarah Butland said...

I do see your husband's point, and hear my husband say it constantly, but I've also established great relationships with some readers who've received my swag! And regularly use bookmarks I've been gifted and buy their books when they have a new release.

Being top of mind to readers and being "known" is definitely the first step in a long path of steps. As long as you're not paying a fortune I can't see it hurting to get your name out there.

Good luck with all of your steps,

Sarah Butland
author of Blood Day, Arm Farm and more!

authorlindathorne said...

I don't know what works best, but I think any author who wants their name out there should go with all the gimmicks, including swag. I agree with Gloria on giving out swag that has a use. I come back from conferences with way too much stuff I'll never look at or use. Maybe pens and bookmarks are "old-hat, but I use them, especially the ones with good quality and appearance and I see those authors names and or books each time I use them. Good post.

Liane Spicer said...

I've never ventured beyond bookmarks and business cards, and I tend to think like your husband, but I do get the point about swag helping to get your name out there. I have no idea what works, how it works and what doesn't. But I absolutely adore your gift tags and I'd certainly remember an author who gave me one of those!