Table Swag

I love attending book conventions, not just because of the books, but because of the swag. Face it, we all love free stuff, but some items catch our attention more than others. So what’s hot and what’s not when it comes to table swag? I reached out to Twitter, Facebook, Google, and used my own experiences and got some interesting answers.

A bit thank you to Jenn Thompson and Indie Author Book Expo (of Des Moines) for inspiring this post with their blog Writer Resources: The Best Book Swag Readers Actually Want. If you haven’t heard about IABE, you really need to check them out. They’re currently running a Kickstarter to help raise money to buy a printing press that will allow them to print other author’s books for cheaper. You can check it out here!

What’s Hot? 

  • Bookmarks: This one had mixed reviews, but the majority of readers leaned towards liking bookmarks, especially if they have interesting art on them. As an author, this can also double as a business card. Make them unique either in style, size, or material.
  • Pens: I can’t tell you how many people have tried to swipe my pens out of poor #yorick’s head! I’ve finally started buying purple pens for people to take when they visit my table. People love things they can use, so this is definitely a hot one.
  • Sand jars/ keepsakes: While these can be expensive, readers really love the sand jars I keep at my table.  I sell mine alongside my book, but, if you can find a cheap creator, this is a great item to give away.
  • Buttons! Believe it or not, but buttons are coming back. Have a nice mix of buttons that people can go through to find the one that they want.
  • Stickers: My stickers have flown off of my table faster than anything else. Some people use logos. I personally have character art on mine, helping to show the diversity in the book. It gives me an opening to talk about my story, too.
  • Themed Swag: You write erotic romance? Maybe provide something with a penis on it (thank you Cassy Albee lol). Is your story music-based? How about giving away guitar picks? Fantasy? Little plastic dragons will hit the spot (thank you Beth Hudson).
  • Candy! Seriously, you should see the people flock to the table when you have a bowl of candy available. I have purple kisses to go along with the color of my book. If you can make little treat bags and put a label with your book info on it, that’s an easy way to get your name into people’s hands. Just as a note, though, if you leave your swag in the car…don’t have chocolate with you.
  • Jewelry: Have a necklace with your book cover on it? A bookmark that doubles as a bracelet (I grabbed one of those really fast). Earrings or bracelets that can promote your work? It’s a great way to get a reader’s attention.
  • Free E-book: This is a wonderful idea if you have a large series and someone’s looking to get started. Have a QR code available at your table that allows someone to get a free e-book. Maybe even provide a sample of your book for free.
  • Mini Journal: You can have either plain ones or have small notebooks with your cover on the front. While the latter might be a little more expensive, it may stay with a person longer.
  • Character Art: Whether on postcards, posters, stickers,  or cards, character art is bound to draw in people’s attention, especially if they can collect them all.
  • Posters of Book Covers: Once again, this is something I sell, but you can also turn it into free swag. Many book covers are absolutely gorgeous and would make a fantastic piece to hang on your wall.
  • Mugs/Tumblers: Who doesn’t like a mug/tumbler, especially with special art, logos, or characters on it? While this can get very expensive, it’s also a great thing to offer in a giveaway. (I may or may not be having a tumbler made for Wolf Pit for a giveaway *wink*).

What’s Not? 

  • Cheap Swag: You get what you pay for, and if your swag is lacking in appearance, color, and quality, it’s not going to leave your table.
  • Swag that Falls Apart: Handmade stuff is fantastic, but again, make sure it’s a good quality. A reader will be disappointed if they take something and it falls apart on them.
  • Glasses or Screen Wipes: These often end up in the trash.
  • Unrelated Swag: Items that have no connection really to the book or to you as an author is sometimes overlooked. There’s a big difference between giving away a generic tube of chapstick and one that actually has art or something themed on it. Even getting a tube that’s the same color as your book can brighten up your table.

Things to Consider: 

  • Budget: As I mentioned, you don’t want to go cheap with your swag, but you want to make sure you stay within budget. Notebooks, mugs, and usb drives are all awesome, but that can really drain a bank account. Find what’s most cost effective and what you can get in bulk. Look for coupons online, too, or check out printing sites on discount days.
  • Where Do I Start? It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the idea of giving away free stuff and finding the best way to make your items. Some places to check out would be Etsy, Vistaprint, Printrunner, Sticker Mule, Discount Mugs, or your local artistic friends.
  • Don’t Stretch Yourself Too Thin: It’s better to have one or two high-quality items than to have several low-quality items. Put your time and effort into focusing on key elements that will help you sell your book.
  • Goals: What’s your goal of having the swag? Do you want to give it away at book events? Are you planning to put them in special giveaways? Know why you’re creating the items and how they’ll help you promote yourself and your book.

Is there any kind of swag that you love or dislike? Feel free to share below!

Marketing 101

After months of writing blog posts, I’ve come to realize that many authors agree on one thing; they hate marketing their books. I can understand why. Marketing isn’t an easy job. You spend all of your time and energy writing an amazing book, and still there’s so much work to do after that to ensure that your baby makes it into the world.

I’m by no means an expert when it comes to marketing, but I’ve learned a few tricks through my own experiences and also reading articles/blogs from experts in the field. I would definitely suggest looking into Jenn DePaula of Mixtus Media. She’s actually running a sale on her Book Marketing Foundations class. Also, check out Alexa Bigwarfe from Write. Publish, Sell who also provides valuable information and courses in marketing.

  • Build a Community: Whether this is through social media, readings and signings, conventions, or gushing over a book, make connections with writers and readers in your genre. Building connections helps open you to other opportunities in the literary world, like signings you never heard about. It’s also just nice to make new friends. Try to focus on those in your genre because they will be the people you sell to later. It’s better to have a smaller group of interested people than a large group of followers who won’t take a second look at your book.
  • Social Media: As much as some people hate it, social media is important. It’s how your readers get to know you. You can share information about your story or your everyday life. Keep in mind, you don’t have to do all social venues. Pick the ones that work well for you. Maybe update a blog every week, or keep a twitter account active. Don’t try to do everything, otherwise you might become overwhelmed. Just make sure people have a place to find you, buy your book, and learn more about you. Readers want to feel connected with the author.
  • Author Website: Going along with social media, you want to be able to market your book through an author website. You can get one for free through WordPress, or you can spend a little money on it through sites like squarespace. Here’s mine for example.  Make it unique. Make it you. The best thing about this is you can store all of your social media links, your appearances, your purchase links, etc in one location. And if working on a lot of social media platforms is too daunting, this is a good place to focus your attention.
  • Author Signings: As much as we would like to stay behind the computer screen, it’s important to participate in author signings. An author named Alexandra Penn says she sells most of her books through in-person signings. To prepare for it, have your elevator pitch ready. Know how to explain your book in 30 seconds or two sentences so you can keep the people engaged. Decorate your table to make it eye catching. Also, consider holding raffles or special sales at in-person signings. It might attract more attention.
  • Swag: Seriously, people love swag. Bookmarks especially tend to go over well with people because they have a dual use. Character stickers, postcards, small journals, key chains, etc. All of these things can be used to promote your book. You can either make the items yourself or enlist others to help you like Sarah Cunningham who made a lot of my swag. Below is a mix of items I have available to promote my book.

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Give away

  • Press Releases: When your book is about to come out (or even if it is out), it doesn’t  hurt to write a press release and send it in to your local newspaper, radio show, or tv station. Contact your local newspaper company (or go on their website) to find out where to send a press release.
  • Interviews: Look for authors or bloggers who are hosting interviews of other authors. This is your chance to talk about your book and introduce yourself to your readers. If you have a book coming out, make sure you get some interviews out around that same time. I host author interviews on my own website here.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. If you have any marketing tips, please feel free to post them down below!

Cheers!

Erin