Thursday, May 29, 2014
When it comes to giving away swag, I've started to have a bit of a love-hate relationship with it. Part of that is just trying to find the right balance - the cost of producing it versus the whole "return on investment" thing.
I honestly couldn't tell you if swag directly results in sales or not - but sometimes swag isn't really about selling a book as much as it is about selling the product that is you.
When my first set of books came out, I jumped on the bookmark bandwagon - as well as the trading cards (which you can read more about here in this post from a few years ago.) While I liked the uniqueness of the trading cards, they are really more for fans of the books than they are about getting new readers, so when you're trying to figure out what might work best for you, be aware of which audience you're going for.
That being said, I've collected a lot of swag over the years at various cons. The best swag is small and easily portable - I'm more inclined to pick up things I can use like pens or bookmarks. (Though with ebooks, I don't even use bookmarks anymore, so I tend to look for teh pretteh.). I'd stay away from larger items, to be honest. One con I was at gave people these huge umbrellas in the swag bags - which were nice...but way too big for my suitcase so I ended up leaving it behind.
Compact is good for handing out purposes as well. It's way easier to keep a handful of bookmarks or pens in your purse or pocket and hand them out as opportunities present themselves. (But YMMV - and keep in mind that some cons have actually banned paper based swag simply due to the amount left behind/thrown away, so watch out for that if you're going to a planned event.)
These days the only thing I'm producing swag for is the Fox & Willow webcomic - mostly in the form of postcards that I can either mail out or (more realistically) leave a pile on the counter at various comic book stores that I might run into. Anything that might grab someone's attention long enough to check out the website works for me.
Also, with the advent of things like kickstarter and patreon, don't overlook digital swag - if you're trying to keep print costs down, thing like wallpapers, screensavers or pdfs might be a viable option, particularly with so many electronic devices out there. Something I can use as the background on my phone might be more appealing then a bookmark, depending on the image in question. :)
Also - a quick word of caution. If you have swag out at book signings, etc. keep in mind that anything on the table is often seen as fair game. While a lot of readers usually ask me if they can have something (yay, polite!), I've also had "demo" swag up and walk away when my head was turned. (Usually samples I was displaying that could be bought in an online store - usually it's small stuff, like keychains or whatever, but I've had stuffed toys walk away too, so just be aware!)