Can we talk swag?

Lynda Aicher conf 2013Conference season is coming up and my FB stream is starting to fill up with other authors talking (or posting pictures) of the swag they’re ordering to give out to their readers. We used to order bookmarks, postcards and trading cards, and the bigger names or more successful authors splurged for pens and more expensive items. Nowadays a lot of conferences are banning paper products — mainly because they discovered most of our bookmarks and postcards ended up filling the hotel room garbage bins. So now we’re having to come up with unique ideas. I’ve seen a lot of different items being given out at conferences, from candy to tissues to chip clips to computer brushes… Because we’re having to think of whether it’s something that a reader will keep rather than toss, and one that won’t break our bank accounts. (Did you notice I snuck a photo of fellow Carina Press author Lynda Aicher at RT in there instead of a picture of me? She’s so much more photographic than me…and she had better looking swag. And she’s got a new box set out today — containing the first three books in her Wicked Play series. Check it out!)

In the months before the conferences, we–or maybe it’s just me–spend hours scouring websites looking for something unique, something we can adapt that will remind the reader of our writing. And is something we can afford in bulk.

pens_WebFor a mid-list author who doesn’t have a big royalty check, that’s a big challenge. I don’t have a publisher who will give me copies of books to give away free. And most of my books are digital, so I wonder whether it’s even worth doing bookmarks for a book you read on a Kindle or Nook. Or your fancy new phablet. With each conference season, I mutter to myself, wondering if the money I’m putting into swag is really going to buy me anything?

I know the marketing people say that you have to see a name at least seven times before you remember it. And that swag is a way of getting your name out there so people will see your name again and again.

Okay, you could probably also argue that it’s subliminal product placement, but still, as I use my Beth Kery chip clip (one my hubby and son fight for) or my Christina Dodd pen (OMG I picked it up at a conference in 2008 and I’m still using it — it’s a great pen), I wonder if anyone has ever bought a book because of the swag. Or even looked at that author’s website because of it. (I’d already been a fan of both authors when I got their items, by the way.) I also have to wonder if it’s worth it when the swag costs more per item than I make per book.

So as I try to finalize my plans for my trip to New Orleans next month for the RT Convention, and for my trip in June to the Lori Foster Reader and Author Get Together, I wonder if I’m bringing too much, not bringing enough, if any of it’s all worth it…and then I have to wonder if the border guards will stop us again because our trading cards…but that’s a whole ‘nother issue.

For me, when I first thought about getting professionally published, I had no idea how much time and energy would end up being spent on marketing. I’d rather just write…which is, most people say, the best form of marketing there is–having another book out.  (Did I mention I have a book coming out next month? No Accounting for Cowboys, it’s book 2 in my Grady Legacy series…check it out too!)

Have you ever bought a book or looked up an author based on their swag? What would you pick up at a conference? Or ignore completely?


Can we talk swag? — 9 Comments

  1. Great post, Leah. I wonder this, too. Last year for RWA, I stocked up on post cards. 90% of those are still sitting in my cabinet. People seemed to like my business cards (folded bookmarks) but I’m not sure that would entice anyone to buy a book.

    As for me as a consumer? No swag ever has gotten me to buy the product/use the company the swag is advertising.

    • I have a lot of trading cards sitting on the shelves. They were hot for a while, but they seem to have died off. (Although I prefer their size to the postcards, but there you go.) I love the idea of having a “folded bookmark” as a business card.

  2. I like this post, Leah! I don’t think I’ve ever bought a book because of swag, but I have remembered an author’s name and maybe bought another one because of that. And I still remember a pretty handkerchief an author gave away back in the 90s…

  3. Thanks for the shout out, Leah! And the book push, too. :) So I guess I can let you off the hook for stealing my Thursday post. LOL! Oh well, I’m not changing my now. We say basically the same thing, so it must be a common thought/theme for us authors. Does SWAG work? Who knows?

  4. I’ve got to agree. I’ve never bought a book because an author gave me a bookmark. At the moment I’ve got a small plastic tray full of bookmarks. I use my ereader or my MP3 player to read most of my books these days so I don’t really use them. I like things I can use again, like pens (I’ve never gotten a chip clip) but I don’t know if I’d buy a book because of it. But it might make me remember an author’s name. My favorite thing to take home from a conference is a book. It’s also my favorite thing to win in a contest. And if I like the book I will look at something else the author has written. I know that observation doesn’t help you at all, Leah. Sorry!

    • I love bringing home books too–which is one of the downfalls of digital publishing. (Though I’m trying to figure out a way to deal with that.) And I end up paying as much as the reader for my own books, so I can’t afford to just hand them out willy-nilly. :( The only time I have bought a book from something I picked up at a conference it was because of an excerpt booklet an author handed out.

  5. Picked up a lot of swag but never bought a book because of it. Most times I don’t even pay attention to the name or logo or whatever printed on the swag. The travel size tissues I got got at last year’s RT? They’re in my purse and I’ve used them, but I couldn’t tell you the author or book imprinted on the package.

    • LOL, yes, considering I know authors who include condoms with their trading cards 😉 Luckily the trading cards the borders guards at Windsor picked up were very tame. But still, it was a hassle to get through and now I’m worried about getting past them this year having even business cards on me.

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