Thursday, February 18, 2016

Is Swag Really Worth It? #authorproblems

One of my favorite pieces of author swag: I Read YA tote and button

Yesterday I was walking on the beach with a friend whose debut novel is coming out this summer and we were brainstorming how to help market her book. While chatting, I thought about so many friends who had also pondered the question of swag, and whether or not it's worth it.

In a nutshell, after talking to tons of authors, reading blogs, etc. here are the most common comments I've found on the question:
The beach that inspired this discussion

* Swag doesn't sell books, and it is rarely worth the cost
* Making swag can be a therapeutic way to feel like you're in control of your career when everything feels out of your hands in the very stressful season after last-edits and pub date
* Most authors cut WAYYY back on swag after a debut novel when they realize the cost/benefit ratio is not in its favor
* Bookmarks are the most popular swag item, and many people actually do keep/use them. 
* Bookmarks, bookplates, and postcards are nice to have on hand for school visits because kids who don't have money to buy a book that day can meet you, get it signed, and many do go buy the book later or Instagram a picture with you.
* Many authors feel far more comfortable having swag when they visit places because it's nice to be able to hand a bookseller, school, etc. something
* The second most popular swag item is the button--especially for YA. There are several book people who collect them at conferences, and they're easy to throw out to an audience. is a popular place to have them made.
* Popular buttons generally have a fun/funny short slogan or picture
* Stick to one image because people will want one of each & it gets expensive
* Buttons or any swag that does not have your name or your book's name fails the primary purpose of swag which is to have target audience keep it & REMEMBER YOU.
* Character trading cards, etc. that have no real-life use are quickly thrown out.
* Candy is popular, but gets eaten quickly so you are forgotten quickly
* T-shirts are expensive and often don't fit well
*  Themed-swag can be fun as long as it is cheap, something a person will actually keep/use, and has your name or book title on it.
* My personal favorite swag item I received was a recipe that came with a cookie baked by the author from a cooking-themed novel. She told the story behind the cookie in her panel discussion, and I ended up buying several of her books later because I felt like she connected to me personally.
* Everyone loves a good tote bag at conferences like ALA/BEA, but they are expensive.
* Pens seem to be popular as well, but unsharpened pencils get tossed out easily
* Sometimes you can talk a local indie bookstore into putting your swag into all of their pre-orders when it ships so you don't have to worry about shipping
* Swag is cool for hype/giveaways, but you have to be careful because shipping costs add up really really quickly.
* Bookmarks, stickers, and temporary tattoos ship the most easily. 
* Many teens think temporary tattoos are a little young for them, and they get used up/thrown out so some avoid them as swag.

Some additional reading:

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the breakdown! The low-cost, easy to ship items- like bookmarks, postcards, etc- definitely seem like the best option for swag.