First off, what exactly is Swag? Swag is a term used in the publishing community to describe items an author gives away to help promote their book. This typically includes bookmarks, monogrammed pens, notepads, stickers, buttons, and book plates. I’ve also received key chains, magnets, tissues, matches, chocolate bars, USB drives, and even a tiny sewing kit. If an author can put their name or book cover on it, they can turn anything into swag.
I’ll be honest. I’ve never been a big collector of swag myself. Do I use the pens and notepads I get? You betcha. Do I buy the author’s book because of it? Um, I’m afraid the answer is no, not usually. It takes more than a cute tchotchke to get me to purchase a book. But I do believe the more unique and useful the item, the more apt a reader is to remember the author and buy one of their books later on down the line. You know, name recognition and all that jazz. So, with that thought in mind, I jumped on the swag bandwagon so I’d have something, anything, to hand out at my book signings.
The first thing I did was have the tried and true bookmarks printed up. I’m a Kindle reader, so I have little use for bookmarks myself, but lots of people grabbed them off my table when they stopped by to look over my books. I used Got Print (http://gotprint.net/) and I was able to get 1000 bookmarks for $30. They turned out really nice. Good, thick stock and high quality printing. I’ve heard a lot of people also use Vista Print (http://www.vistaprint.com/) with good results.
But what else could I do? I’d heard that the hit at the last RT Convention was romance novel trading cards. They said people were snatching them up like crazy and some avid fans had special photo albums to display them in. I had to see what this was all about so I went to http://romancetradingcards.com/. There you’ll see samples of romance novel trading cards from a multitude of authors along with instructions and templates so you can make your own. Got Print refers to them as collector cards. They’re 2.5” x 3.5” and look very much like baseball trading cards. And like baseball cards, most authors put their cover or a stock image of one of their characters on the front and put character stats on the back: height, eye color, shifter animal, astrological sign, you name it. Being as my characters in Out of the Ashes have been reincarnated many times (thanks to their bumbling guardian angels) I thought it would be cool to list all of their births and untimely deaths, leading up to their present lives. Below you can see the front cover of David's trading card and the backs of both David and Sera's with their 'stats.' The readers stopping by my table thought it was pretty cool, too. I had several who grabbed them and then came back later and bought the book just because of the trading cards (they told me so). So that investment in swag definitely paid off for me.
So let me know what swag works best for you, as a reader or as a writer?