SWAG~ What to bring to your book events

In today’s market, authors face a unique marketing challenge. Gone are the days of people attending book events and gobbling up print copies. The digital frontier is here, and authors know a great portion of our sales are now made far from the traditional bookstore, in the various e-book platforms. Which means that to sell effectively, you need not just carry books at your events, but SWAG as well.

There is a weird, neurotic desire as an author to have the bestest, coolest swag on the block. Unfortunately, we are usually out of pocket for it, and that expense can add up REALLY fast, especially if the book hasn’t hit shelves yet, or is newly released.

But, if you’re an author who travels, does lots of conventions, or even just has signings at the local bookstore, swag is really important. Not every person who comes to your table is going to buy right then–the vast majority won’t. Many people will wait and look for it on e-books, which is awesome if they can remember your name. So I’ve compiled a list of the best book swag and where to get it without breaking your budget.

1) PAPER SWAG

This is the MOST COMMON type of swag and it includes bookmarks, postcards (which, if you are doing one or the other, I prefer postcards. They can act as bookmarks, but you can also mail them, and they present a larger image of your book. Plus, lots of fans collect them.) and flyers. You can also buy business cards with your book cover on one side and your contact info on the back. They are like mini bookmarks and are really cool.

The best place I’ve found for all my paper swag is Vistaprint. They always run great sales and can do everything from postcards to wall posters. Generally, I can get 250 postcards for about $12.

Gotprint.com is where I get my bookmarks. They have good prices and are excellent quality.

2) STICKERS AND TEMP TATTOOS

I love both of these, however, it’s been my experience that people aren’t AS into them as some other types of swag. Still, specifically if tattoos are a theme in your book, they can be great. They are small and light and easy to grab. StickerYou is a great place for these.

 

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3) RUBBER BRACELETS

These are a lot of fun, and this is another thing that people collect, only they last longer than the temp tattoos and people even wear them out and about. They can be on the higher end of the scale, price wise, but you can buy in bulk for steep discounts. You can get 200 for about $55 plus shipping. (That’s the lowest price I’ve found, just FYI) Grab these over at Wrist-Band.com. 

 

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4) T-SHIRTS

This one isn’t very practical as a mass swag item, just because they are SO expensive. The cheapest I’ve found are $10/ea and aren’t very good quality. For me, my marketing budget is very tiny, so I have to be careful how much I spend. PLUS, it’s a real pain to get them to and from events (especially when I’m flying, HELLO baggage fees).  Items like this are better reserved as limited giveaway or street team prizes. Also, while you can use online printers for shirts, you can almost always get a better deal at your local print shop. This is also true of things like cup coozies, hats, etc.

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5) BOOKTHONGS AND MINI CHARMS

These aren’t your normal paper bookmarks. These are often cord or ribbon with fancy dangles at the ends. You can make them yourself (again, if you’re crafty) or you can have them made. The price isn’t outrageous, but again, these are better as limited giveaway items, because of the cost. Also, while cool, they aren’t as envelope friendly as paper ones. I know many authors who use these and/or book charms as giveaway goodies. I’ve also seen several authors who sell them at events for a small fee. They are very cool.

This is a great resource if you’re interested:

https://www.facebook.com/TheBookSwagShop

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6) BUTTONS

These are a cool, kind of throwback idea. Great for YA/TEEN books (since most adults don’t sport buttons anymore). They aren’t super pricy but are fun to hand out at events.

You can get 100 mini buttons with your book design for $30 here:

https://www.etsy.com/listing/120931395/100-custom-1-buttons-one-graphic?ref=shop_home_active_10

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7) POSTERS

I LOVE posters, but again, they aren’t really in my budget. At around $50 for 15 smaller size posters, they are a special occasion buy for me. I bought a pack for UtopYA where I signed them to celebrate the release of Queen of Someday. They are good for those limited edition things, but they are murder to ship (unless you fold them, which I kind of hate) and not super budget friendly unless you buy them in huge bulk.

I normally order from Vistaprint.com or my local print shop.

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8) BAGS

Oh my heavens these are my favorite things ever especially when I go to book events. I LOVE getting bags to haul my goodies in. As an author, they are great because, as people carry them, hey, free advertising. Plus bags are one of those things people tend to use over and over. Now, there are literally a billion places to get bags so I’m not going to list them here, but I will say one of my favorite places is 4imprint. If you have a favorite bag printer, please, feel free to share links in the comments.

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9) PENS AND PENCILS

These are really cool, especially if you writer for kids or teens, because they make excellent school and library swag. You can get pens for around $.15 each, but you usually have to buy at least 500. Now, you can buy less bulk at places like VistaPrint, but the price goes way up. Pencils are good too, though less flashy. You can get them at Discount Mugs (which Is where I get mine) and really any online promotional printer. The only downside is they are hard to stick in an envelope and mail.

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10) EVERYTHING ELSE

OMG, there are so many things you can use as marketing swag. Oriental Trading has millions of goodies you can get, some personalizable. Is your book featuring a soccer player? Try inflatable soccer balls. Is your book about kings and queens? What about mini tiaras or necklaces with crowns on them? (FYI, I just ordered both of those things from OT, at a killer price). I know an author who writes vampire romance bought dozens of vampire mini-rubber duckies for swag. Does your main character play guitar? How about guitar picks? Think outside the box. Shop for deals. Make a budget for both mailable stuff and in person swag. Start out slow. Don’t be afraid to try something new.

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Canary Club matches for my speakeasy novel

11) AUTHOR BANNER

Ok, this one really isn’t swag in the traditional sense, but it WILL attract people to your table and give you a very professional appearance. You can get these banners in various sizes, I normally use the 6 foot option from Vistaprint. I can’t recommend these highly enough!

Author June Stevens Westerfield

Author June Stevens Westerfield

 

The biggest mistake I see authors make with swag is buying everything, spending a fortune, and just kind of tossing it Mardi Gras style at the crowd. Think honeslty about what kind of return you want to get from your investment. Consider your audience. WHO are you marketing to? What kind of things would that demographic want? And most importantly, what kind of items are going to get your book the most visibility? If you are marketing a series, it may make sense to spend more on upfront marketing than if you are marketing a stand alone novel. Remember, the idea is to get as much BANG for your BUCK as possible! Hope this helps a little, and happy swagging!

*** UPDATE ***

I took an informal poll at my last book event, asking what swag readers like the most. Here are the results in order:

Pens

Bags

Bracelets

So there you go! Good info to have!

Cheers!

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Comments

SWAG~ What to bring to your book events — 17 Comments

  1. Great post! I do a lot of promo products for my cleaning biz and have been sourcing the suppliers for pricing and quality but you just took a bunch of the work out of it for me! I was surprised that you mentioned GotPrint, they were the most expensive of everyone I looked at, how did you get the best deal?
    You asked for bag printers, though, so here you go: Untouchables Embroidery – personal fave – Deedee is amazing to work with and I was shocked at how reasonably priced embroidery ended up being for my logo. It was $4 per shirt, and I was able to get the shirts at a great price through her supplier catalogs (although I could have bought my own if I could have found them cheaper). Might only work as a special give-away, something to sell, or for your personal luggage and bags, but the quality is amazing. I would check with Jen Fogarty at Kolorado Resources for screen printed t-shirts, she was talking about a new kind of method that keeps them looking good for a lot longer last time I talked to her. While I was able to get cheap shirts from VistaPrint at $6, they only looked decent for about 2 months.

  2. Fantastic list and great resources. Loving all of the swag. I want to buy pretty much everything that etsy shop has and wear it all the time. 😉 Will definitely be using these tips. Thanks so much!

  3. I found a great source of embroidered bags on ebay. You would do it as a prize. The winner gets to pick the logo (crown) and the name (Sherry Ficklin books). I got one with an owl reading a book with Lisa’s book lair. $8!

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  5. Hi Sherry –
    our kiddos are doing a bookfair during your signing this weekend at Grand junction barnes & Noble!!! So excited to meet and greet – we have included your info in our promo – so hopefully will be beneficial for all – email me if you have any questions!!!
    Beth

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  8. Wow! I love Vistaprint, but Oriental Trader definitely has cooler ideas. I’m involved with a month-long tour for my latest release, and had no idea what type of swag readers loved most. Thank you!!!

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    • Congrats on the first signing! It’s always so exciting and the butterflies in your stomach feeling never goes away, either! <3

    • It depends on what you want. Sizes, personalized, etc? I’d try Oriental Trading first, but you may have a ocal print store that can help you for higher-end items. Good luck!

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