Swag – or promotional items given away at events – is a topic we’ve been discussing recently on an email loop I belong to, and when I attended the RT Convention in Kansas City earlier this year I was amazed at the all the different things on offer. The creativity of some authors was astounding and I came home inspired, wanting to try out some ideas of my own!
There was, of course, the usual array of postcards, bookmarks, pens and key chains, but it was fun to see how varied you can make them so that they stand out in the crowd. It also quickly became clear to me that badges (the metal variety with printed logos etc) were extremely popular with US fans. I hadn’t thought to bring any because they’re not big in the UK, but if I go to the States again I most definitely will!
It was an eye-opener to see what else could be done to promote one’s book – bags (really nice shoulder ones as well as the usual little carrier bag types), plastic glasses, T-shirts, mugs, rulers, tape measures and little booklets, to name but a few. Collector’s cards were intriguing and then there were the sweets and chocolates – always a favourite with me :-) I particularly liked little chocolate bars printed with the author’s book cover.
But do swag items really work when it comes to selling books? After a recent conference I attended here in the UK, I talked to some of the other attendees and they said they would just go through their ‘goody bags’ and throw away most of the promo stuff unless something caught their eye specifically. That means a lot of it is for nothing, but you might just be lucky and be the one who has designed something that catches a reader’s interest. So can you afford NOT to do it? I don’t think so. And at some conferences, like RT, the readers get to help themselves from promo tables so presumably they only take home things that appeal to them?
For my new novel (a young adult contemporary romance which makes a change from historicals) I’ve had fun creating some promo material with the help of one of my daughters. We’ve experimented with various things and I’m considering some other ideas as well, but it all takes time and money so even if it’s fun, I guess it’s best to think carefully before jumping into something.
What are your favourite types of ‘swag’? What would you definitely keep and what would you throw away? And does any of it make you actually buy the book? I’d love to know!