Monday, April 9, 2012

To Swag or Not to Swag

This is the question for so many authors. What promo items are helpful to drive up sales, which ones are a waste?

I've ordered loads of bookmarks, magnets, pens, posters, cover flats -- you name it. But when it comes down to it, how is an author to judge what works best?  How much time and money should you spend?

After attending many conferences and picking up everything from homemade sachets to beaded bookmarks and business cards, I've learned a few things. At a recent conference, I saw one attendee standing next to a trash can throwing away a ton of bookmarks, cover flats, business cards and postcards. What do all these items have in common? They are all paper and with the exception of the bookmarks, they have no lasting value to the receiver. And frankly, with the number of bookmarks given out at conferences and signings, most end up in the trash.

What I've noticed people keep are the durable, useful items -- the pens, the small bottles of hand sanitizer, the nail files.

All swag is not created equal. In my humble opinion, the very best promo items are those the receiver feels they get some value from. They will keep that pen in their purse and see your name over and over, every time they use it. Same with the notepad with your website on the top or the conference totebag with your book cover. The magnet very well might end up on their fridge, where they will see it over and over.

What about you? What promo items have you kept around? Which ones do you think work best for you?

8 comments:

Celia Juliano said...

I think that depends on whether the swag is for readers or for a conference/convention (as you describe). Bookmarks have been useful for my other pen name--but I've never been to a conference. I haven't tried much else. I think other authors are more jaded about swag than your average non-writer reader. I'm going to try tee shirts next. :)

Wynter Daniels said...

Thanks for your input, Celia. I've never tried t-shirts since the price can be prohibitive. I have done tote bags, though and used them as giveaway for contests.

Dalton Diaz said...

I've found that different people collect different things, so when I get a good amount of grouped items, I offer up a box/bag as a contest. I tend to keep some bookmarks around, lip balm, matches, and candy.

Jina Bacarr said...

Wynter, I think with all the change to everything digital, we have to re-think what's important to the reader; something useful as well as something that has an emotional pull, like a souvenir photo. I've had my pic taken with a lot of different backgrounds at trade shows. I even have a bobblehead with my face on it! Crazy...

As writers, we have to be cost effective as well as promotional. Not easy. I think pens or pencils still work, but nothing beats a well-done business card with your name, website and a book cover that sizzles...

Wynter Daniels said...

Dalton - great idea to give away boxes of goodies!

Good point, Jina. Professional business cards are so important. Things are definitely changing as the publishing world evolves.

Naima Simone said...

Hi, Wynter!
I love pens but then again, I have a pen fetish! I do keep bookmarks, especially the unique ones. I once received a totebag, and I still have that. But the promo item I've kept around the longest is a mousepad I received at a Readers Luncheon four years ago! You know what might be a cool idea? Going with Jina's idea about digital...a thumb drive with an author's name and website on it. I wonder if we can do that...

Casey Crow said...

Wow. All great options. I think budget plays a big role. Cards at Vistaprint are almost too cheap to pass up. When I use them, I try to attach a "keeper" to them like my bag of grits to go along with my "Sexy, Sassy & Southern" tagline. Y'all have convinced me, though, in the value of pens next time!

Jax Cassidy said...

I horde pens, mini-notebooks, highlighters, and anything that is usable. I think people are tired of paper goods because the last few conferences I attended, no one took the bookmarks, trading cards, or excerpt booklets. On my list of future promo items to send to conference is lipstick, earthy friendly recycled pens, and other fun goodies. I think those things are more memorable to folks.