Thursday, July 26, 2012

Swag the Dog

by Allison Pang

Unlike some of my fellow word-whores, I'm not at RWA this year...but that doesn't mean I don't have some cons coming up.

And cons mean swag - both the giving and the getting.

 Books. Pens. Stickers. Trading Cards. Rubber boobies. Handcuffs. Condoms. You name it, I've probably seen it given away either on author tables or goody bags or publisher parties.

At a convention, you've only got a few seconds of time to try to catch a reader's eye  - and you're competing with everyone else's chip clips, magnets, candy and bookplates.

You get the picture.

So I guess the real question is, does swag do anything for making books more visible to the readers? 

And the answer is? I don't know. Most of us try to balance our swag between what we can afford vs what will reach the most number of people. I like bookmarks and flat things, simply because they're easy to send in an envelope, but the truth of it is that there's probably no correlation between what I spend on swag and magazine ads and my book sales. It's already a given that I'll most likely never make that money back in sales.

Add that to the fact that some conventions are actually banning the use of paper swag and the picture starts to get a bit more convoluted. (My understanding is that a lot of the paper stuff gets thrown away - convention peeps are tired of  dealing with tables of left overs - so they only want "high quality" swag these days.)

But to be honest - I've never bought a book off of swag. Ever.

Most of what I get a con is dumped in the trash or given to my kids, never to be seen again. (Unless it's something really clever.)

So for my own swag items, I tend to stick with fewer types, but hopefully higher quality stuff - my trading cards, for example. They're all hand-drawn by Darchala (who does nearly all my website graphics. And additional artwork --> the snowflake design is going to be this year's Xmas cards, for example)

The downside to this is that it costs me a *lot* more than just printing costs. I can easily drop about $200 for a good piece of artwork alone (and part of that is for the rights to print it up). But it's worth it to me, because  I adore Dar's art.

On the other hand? I don't just leave my trading cards in piles on tables at cons, either. They are exclusively given away during my signings, from me personally, or if people want, they can send me a SASE.

This is partially because it's really too expensive for me to just waste them by tossing them on a table (street teams are an exception here - I do have a few people that I send swag to and they are awesome and hand it out or put it on shelves at the local bookstores.). But it's also because things have value when we treat them as *having* value. I'm not saying my trading cards are collectibles, per se...but by making them a little harder to get, hopefully readers will weigh their value a little more. If I can get readers to fall in love with the characters in this fashion, maybe that translates into book sales.

I realize I'm probably doing the swag thing wrong. After all, the idea is to get your books noticed and out there, and I seem to be doing the opposite of that. (Though I certainly hand out bookmarks as much as I can.)

But honestly? I just like illustrative art -  so I make swag based off of it.

1 comment:

  1. I hadn't heard about the paper thing at conventions! Your trading cards are collectible as far as I am concerned. They are beautiful! and they are the reason I gave your series a look and why I used a gift card recently to buy both of your books! I think you are right about trading cards meaning more if they aren't so easily obtained and a nice treat for you loyal fans who will treasure them.
    When it comes to general swag, I think bookmarks are the way to go. You can fit all your book covers onto one and get more bang for your buck. and yes they are expensive (I buy swag for my blog often for giving out at cons and in prize give aways). Book lovers who are always looking for new authors/books really do like visual reminders and covers do sell books. So if you can get the image into a readers head, next time they are at the store they will remember. um...did I stay on topic? I tend to stray .