I am a huge fan of swag. I know that doesn’t come as a shock to anyone. I mean who doesn’t like free stuff. Not all swag is good, I am sorry to say. I have gone to just a couple of conventions, but I get swag from other places as well. It is called marketing tools. I am just one person, contrary to popular opinion, and I know that a lot of people will not agree with me on this subject.
Good swag to me is something I can use in everyday life. I do like the unusual as well and if it makes me laugh, I always remember it. I do not use a lot of the swag I receive. I put it in a keepsake box and when l feel down or I just want to remember something, I can just pull it out and it takes me right back to the moment I picked it up. I know I am a packrat, but that is a story for another time. When I kick the bucket, my poor nephew Squirrel will love cleaning those things out. Moving on.
I am proud to show off author bags and pens. I get more questions about the bags, of course, but that is to be expected. I am also a big fan of pins. I have my Righteous Pervert bags and I put them all on them. When I use my bags, I get lots of questions or at least some strange looks (especially from my I like my Men Rough and Ready pin). I also like the swag that ties into the books. Melissa Schroeder has dogtags for her Military Harmless books. I can’t remember (because I missed out on them), but one of the authors who was at Authors After Dark in Philadelphia had a band aid kit and her series took place in a hospital. Makes sense right? I like things like that. It helps me remember the books and the authors. When you read as many books as I do, every little thing helps.
I have seen all kinds of swag from the normal pens, notepads and bumper stickers to the unusual like sex kits. My favorites are books. I know how expensive this is for the authors but to me, sometimes it is worth the expense. I am not talking about giving everyone a book. That is just crazy. I am talking about having a system of giving them away. I have ideas on this and I am sure the author to whom I beta will love hearing about it. Anyway, to me, getting a book from an author is priceless. That means they want me to read their book and they care enough to actually give it to me (or I like to think they do). The best part is they are right there to get it autographed and yep, I collect autographs. Another popular but expensive thing is t-shirts. I love them. Here is the only thing that is an issue for me. If you put your book cover on it, sometimes I feel like a walking billboard—you know the ones you see in big cities advertising sandwiches. I prefer a witty saying or if there are specific settings that are important to the books then advertise that. I don’t mind having the author’s website on the shirt either.
Now on to bad swag. I hate having to write this part, but I think that it needs to be said. I see a lot of paper being used. No one keeps paper things. Most get tore up just in the packing for home—if it even makes it that far. Most get left behind in the hotel rooms. If you autograph it, it might have a chance of surviving. I know it is a cheaper way to advertise but does it matter if it doesn’t make it home with the reader? Same thing with business cards. Unless you own a bookstore, why give them out? Maybe a first time reader will want one to remember your name, but an autograph and a conversation can do the same thing. Another popular thing is bookmarks. We all know my feelings on books but with ereaders, not many people have need for a bookmark.
I know this is a learning process for most authors. Most do not have a background in marketing and a lot of publishers are not great in communicating with their authors in what they should use as swag. One way for authors to find good marketing items is go and check out a website. Look around to see what is available. It might spark something in your head that will pertain to your books. Another is post the question on your website, Facebook, or your blog. Ask the people to whom you are trying to make contact. I know that opens the door to complete and utter crazy talk but sometimes, you can find a great idea in chaos.