Let’s talk swag, as in, “Products given away free, typically for promotional purposes,” (thank you, Oxford Dictionary). Swag became popular in the 1990s at rock concerts and Hollywood red carpet events when companies would contribute little freebies of their products for the swag bags to give to starlets and concert goers.
Question: What is the point of paying money to give away stuff for free?
Answer: Your swag should support your brand and, if it’s memorable enough, it will plant a little seed in a reader’s memory that says, “Buy this book.” When readers talk, that magical force called “word-of-mouth” can bring your book sales to a whole new level.
Plus, it’s fun. Here are a few categories of swag that can help you hook new readers.
As an author, your most important swag item will be bookmarks. You should hand these out to: book clubs, book sellers, librarians, and readers who come to the live events you attend. Also leave them in books at hotels, bookstores, coffee shops, and libraries. Be creative. Where else could you leave your bookmarks? If you write a book like “Under the Tuscan Sun,” see if local wineries will keep a stack of bookmarks at the tasting area. If you write a book like the Harry Potter series, visit your local gaming store. There are wizardry role-playing game tournaments and see if you can participate in one, then hand out your bookmarks to all the other players.
For my bookmark (above), I wanted the front to be provocative yet fun, so the image of butterflies in a mortar and pestle fits the bill. I also wanted it to be as simple as possible, so I only included the title of the book, my website, and my tagline (“Experience love, purpose, and the paranormal in New Orleans”) which supports my brand. On the back, I included a blurb about Voodoo Butterfly, along with “Available on Amazon” (so readers know where to buy it), the book cover, my website, and my Facebook and Twitter usernames.
If you don’t feel comfortable designing your own, try Ninth Moon or Earthly Charms that design and print custom bookmarks. For some crazy reason Vistaprint does not print bookmarks, so you can design your own at:Uprinting, 4over4.com, or Print Place.
In place of bookmarks, some authors use Vistaprint’s rack cards, which look like an over-sized postcard. My plan is to hand out rack cards with the cover of my book on the front (along with pertinent buying information like “Available on Amazon” and “camillefaye.com“), and a Cajun or Malaysian recipe on the back. These two cuisines come into play in my book. Plus food and culture is a big part of my brand, so the recipes will appeal to my target audience who likes 1) learning about new cultures and 2) trying new things.
Other Print Materials
If you are wanting to present at schools, writing groups, or other organizations, it’s a good idea to print up business cards and brochures that explain what you have to offer. If you are writing a book that will appeal to a specific town or region, you may consider printing up postcards. Several of my friends have written Images of America history books based on their hometowns and they send out postcards within the town to promote the book.
All you have to do is Google “author swag” and there will be a ton of Etsy stores that pop up in your search results. The thing is you can spend a fortune on these trinkets and it won’t guarantee increased book sales. So come up with a budget and a plan.
- What’s the total amount you are willing to pay for swag? For print materials? For giveaways and contests? For swag bags at events?
- What live events can you attend where your target audience will also attend?
- What will you give away for free? What will you give away with a purchase?
For Voodoo Butterfly I’ll attend a couple of Mardi Gras events in Saint Louis because it’s my hometown (so I can save on hotel) and that city also happens to host the second largest Mardi Gras celebration in the US. My novel is based in the world of New Orleans voodoo, so it fits my brand to attend these events. Then when the book makes some money and future installments of the series are released, I can attend events in New Orleans. My swag plan includes handing out bookmarks, Mardi Gras beads, and love potions marked with my book’s info.
Keep in mind that your swag should do two things:
1) Support your brand
2) Reach your target audience
By focusing your swag strategy, you will get cool items into the hands of more than the random person. You will get those items into the hands of your target audience. Your creative promotional items will plant the seed of your author brand into the minds of readers who will seek out your books in the future. And get readers talking to generate that magical force we call “word of mouth.”
In my next post, we’ll talk more about the importance of attending live events in your marketing strategy, so stay tuned. Until then, think about your bookmarks and other fun swag that represents your author brand and enjoy the marketing journey.