Probably one of the most exciting times in the beginning of an author’s journey is creating their own book swag. The thought of seeing images of your book on the surface of different items, with a crowd going crazy to get something, anything of yours in their hands, can cloud your judgment. When it comes to swag, I am guilty of trying a large number of different types. Looking back now, I could have made better choices, at least financially speaking.
I divide swag into two categories, paper, and non-paper. This week we’ll be taking a look at the different types of paper swag and how to make some of it more effective.
There are four basic types of paper swag we hear about, business cards, postcards, flyers, and bookmarks. Every author should have at least one form of paper swag. In most cases it is a waste of money to have more than that. It is important to note that the money you put out for paper swag you will not directly recover.
Carrying business cards is more a novelty than a necessity for authors. They are small and hard to read, but great for business card draws at local restaurants or to keep stashed in your wallet in case you run into someone and don’t happen to have anything else available to give out. I still have stacks of these from my first order that I faithfully display on my event table in a little stand. I would estimate that one person in every five hundred that stop by one of my booths picks one up. On the pro side, they are pocket-sized and anyone who takes one, actually wants it.
Postcards are a nice size from a designer’s point of view. They are easy to read and there is ample room for all of your social media links. Aside from being very nice to look at, they have little other use. Convention floors and garbage will attest to this fact. Since you have two sides to fill, you could print a promotion on the back. Watch that you don’t limit the time of the promotion, though, or you could end up having to throw away stacks that are out of date.
Bookmarks are a form of paper swag that at one time was unique to authors and a lucrative sales item. Those days are gone. Now this sized card is used by all types of vendors at events. Luckily, there is the ability to upgrade this type of paper swag to something that might not be tossed in the trash with other convention paper. The first way is to add a tassel and make your paper swag look like an old-school bookmark. Clear bookmark bags can be purchased for a few cents that will make the package look more professional. Other ideas include author signatures and adding small gifts that have some connection with your book. Although these are generally not a sell-able item, I should note that at conventions I do add a price to them on the table and then offer them for free with a purchase or to someone who appears genuinely interested. This serves two purposes, first to make the customer feel they are receiving something of value, and second to stop people looking for freebies from grabbing handfuls. If someone wants only the toy/item included, I suggest you sell them the bookmark.
If you have someone who goes with you to events, flyers can be a good investment. They cost less than any other type of swag and are customizable. The downside is the wrong message will end up in the garbage. Since flyers are usually time sensitive, you will need a person dedicated to giving them out by the end of the event you are attending. I have had great success using a flyer to list future events I will be attending. Not only have I had repeat customers, but several people have told me that the list made it to their fridge. That’s a win in my books.
Whatever choice of paper swag you make, you should understand that there is a financial cost attached to it that has to be absorbed by the sales of your book. If you have too many, the likelihood of you making money at any event goes down.
Thanks for reading. Join me next week for Surviving the World of Live Events – More Book Swag.