Saturday, October 17, 2015

Some thoughts on swag

I attended Bouchercon 2015's Author Speed Dating last week.  I'd never been to something like this before and it turned out to be a LOT of fun. Up to six Readers chose a table then two authors had three minutes each to tell us about their books. At the end of six minutes a bell rang, and the authors moved to the next table.

It was like a floor show in Vegas, only no one was naked!

Each author brought give-aways. We saw 30 authors in two hours so that was a LOT of swag.

Hands down the best swag was a copy of the book. Only one author did that, and it's not a reasonable thing to do for most authors because of expense.

The next best was book marks. Professionally rendered, normal size book marks. Not too wide, not too short. An image of the book cover, the title, and the author's website is the essential info. I kept all of those and if past experience is any indicator I'll use them for years. Bookmarks can be a great way to keep yourself in front of a reader.

I did like the idea of bandaids. I have a bunch of tins of bandaids from the Edgars this year, and some other quite festive ones I got for Christmas.  This is for Go Down Hard by Craig Faustus Buck. I kept it. I actually carry bandaids in my reticule. You never know when you'll need to bind up an author's wounds.

A lot of authors brought chocolate which was terrific. One author brought home made chocolate. I guess I'm a true New Yorker: I threw that away. I'm paranoid about anything home made. (We throw away anything home made that arrives in the office if it's sent from someone we don't know, too.)

There are no photos of the chocolate (quelle surprise!) I ate the evidence.

The swag item I both loved and hated had clever origami style packaging: no tape. I instantly set about opening it (very good response to swag) and then testing to see if I could get it BACK to its original condition (not good.) The purpose of swag is to remember the BOOK, not the packaging.

This is too clever by half. And of course, what was IN the packaging did not have the book ANYWHERE on it! I wept for all those tired folding fingers!

Least effective swag: guitar picks. It sounds like a clever idea but it's too small for any kind of information, and useless to anyone who doesn't play guitar. That got tossed first.

Also getting the heave ho:
            Anything on a USB drive.  I'm not putting anything in my computer from someone I don't know. My IT guy would have my asterisk in a sling.

            Baseball-card like sets with character's names and stats for a book I'd never heard of. Useless

            An unsharpened pencil. I don't carry a pencil sharpener around. I'm not sure we even have one in the office anymore. Useless.

            Jewelry! My god, the cost of that just takes my breath away but two authors gave away really lovely pieces of jewelry. Except…no name, no book title to be remembered.  
          "Oh I love your earrings!' 
          "Thank you I got them at Bouchercon from an author!" 
          "oh! Which one" 

The goal of swag is to give a reader something to help him/her remember your name and/or book  title.  Therefore something useful with your name/book title on it is the best kind of swag. 

Don't be cute. Don't be fancy.

I bought three books by authors who did speed dating. One I bought simply cause I thought she was terrific and funny, and one cause it was set in NYC and I'm a sucker for that. The third was published by Scholastic and looks like a YA thriller and I was interested in reading it to see what Scholastic is up to with thrillers.

[top to bottom]
For Whom the Bluebell Tolls by Beverly Allen (Berkley Prime Crime)
Code of Honor by Alan Gratz (Scholastic)
Shooting for the Stars by R.G. Belsky (S&S)

BUT, the less than immediate benefit of speed dating is I have several new writers on my radar now. When I see books from them, I'll remember. And I don't mean in the slush pile. I mean reviewed in PW, buzzed on Twitter, that kind of thing.

If you're going to a reader con that offers this kind of meet and greet: DO IT.

For the cost of 100 bookmarks, you'd be nuts not to.


Stephen G Parks said...

When William Kamkwamba’s memoir, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, was finally released in South Africa, where he was attending African Leadership Academy, we (the school) threw a book release party for him.

We got a lot of local celebrities, local media and a few international journalists to come meet him. The school (Myself, acting on its behalf) and the publisher had agreed that we wouldn’t directly fundraise off of his party, but we were allowed to include bookmarks promoting the school with his books.

For the next six months or so we would get calls from journalists who rediscovered the bookmarks and decided that it was time to do a piece about us.

So yeah, seconding Janet’s recommendation, from the giver's perspective. Bookmarks work.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I now have some GREAT ideas for swag!

(And some ones to avoid, thanks!)

Kae Ridwyn said...

I'm all for echoing W.R.Gingell here - thank you ever so much for these fantastic thoughts on swag!

(And - after reading your last post just this morning, Australian time, my conscience won't let me NOT mention that you wrote "We saw 30 in authors in two hours" - that first 'in' is a typo, am I correct? And please accept my profuse apologies if I'm causing offense by mentioning this here; earning the wrath of the QOTKU was definitely not my intention!)

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

What about guitar picks that are also necklaces/keychains and have a QR code on the back? No? Ooh, I know, keychain bottle openers!

(I have no published book. But as currently querying novel has a rock star as a main character, I saw guitar pick and thought "ooh" and saw the downside and thought "well, true")

Somehow, I never use bookmarks. I own several, I'm sure, and have for years, but God knows where they are. I end up using stray playing cards or orphaned Tarot cards or magazine subscription cards or my library checkout receipt (we used to use due date cards, which made great bookmarks, but soooooo much work on the front desk. The receipt printers were a miracle for workflow). If I don't just read the book in a sitting.

I used to love it when we got the little Scholastic fliers in school. It's where my copy of THE BLACK STALLION came from in first or second grade. And, my very last scholastic purchase, my copy of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD in eighth grade, when I was literally the only person in my class who purchased a book. I promptly devoured it, and put it in my reading journal (of the sort we were supposed to keep for class in eighth grade) and my teacher wrote testily next to the entry "I don't understand why you read this. You know we're doing it for class later in the year." Well, lady, I don't understand why nobody thought to encourage me. So we're even.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I will brew an awesome bourbon stout - and put all relavent book information on the label. But first I will need an agent, a book deal so... Wow this author speed dating sounds so much fun. Back to editing - yesterday's topic made me all paranoid about wayward commas and ill intentioned homonyms. Ugh!

Steve Forti said...

So an origami handout that unfolds into a bookmark, is made out of chocolate, and if you peel off the sticky backing, can double as a band-aid. Just make sure the chocolate is store bought. Got it.

Lance said...

What great swag! No nail clippers (toe)?
Some one could really cash in by giving you a big bag with their book cover, etc. on the side to carry all the other swag.
No combs, Pepto Bismol, eye glass cleaners, or (you know where this is headed).
Sounds like a lot of fun.

CynthiaMc said...

I love bookmarks.

Interesting perspective on home-baked vs. store-bought. In the South homemade=made with love for someone you care enough about to take the time and store-bought means you picked up whatever in about a second on the way to wherever you forgot you were supposed to be until the last minute. I understand the reasoning, it makes perfect sense. It also makes me sad.

Fall in Florida - when it's almost too cold for shorts but you can't remember what you did with your long pants.

Opening weekend for our show and my stage hubby is very ill so I am opening with the other cast hubby. We should be fine, we just haven't worked together a lot. We joked that the awkward scenes (meeting and falling in love) should be easy for us since we haven't actually run those . His usual stage wife is also his real life wife. Those scenes are harder for them because they're married in real life and it's more difficult for them to pretend they've never met.

Looking forward to writing in my garden when this run is done. Usually get a lot of writing done backstage but can't do that in a 2-person show. The character I'm playing is writing a book so there is that.

Happy weekend, y'all!

Janet Reid said...

Kae Ridwyn, thanks for the heads up. I DO want to know about typos. I made three here this morning. After yesterday's blog post, I should hang my head in shame.

Susan said...

Oh! I love seeing all these creative marketing ideas and why they do or don't work. And that Band-Aid tin in the middle on the bottom cracks me up--I wish I could read it more clearly; that's kind of genius.

When I self-published my first book, I made a bunch of swag for my book launch, including coffee mugs and magnets as gifts for a few people who helped me a long the way. I also made bookmarks for signings and autographed copies I shipped out myself. The front had the cover of the book and website (as Janet wisely suggests) while the back had an image and one of five quotes I selected from the book, alternating quotes so people who ordered more than one copy didn't get the same bookmark. I also punched a hole in the top and attached a tassel and red converse shoe charm--the shoe matched the cover of the book and runs as a metaphor throughout, so it was fitting, and I think I actually cheered when I found them online. Fun fact: the girl I ordered the charms from read the Twitter account I'd set up for my character and sent me a bracelet based on the tweets. Reverse swag!

To say I had a blast with the marketing is an understatement. It was fun to get creative about something I'd already put my whole heart into and come up with ways to share the book.

Now the wheels are turning--especially with those Band-Aid tins, as that's a metaphor for this new book I'm querying. I'm curious how marketing works in traditional publishing. I know the author has to front some costs, but is there a percentage? How much backing does an author get from the house?

InkStainedWench said...

I'm reading Anne Hillerman's book now. Usually I feel resentful of legacy authors, because I lack any famous relatives myself. But in her case, I'm so pleased she is continuing the wonderful characters and settings her father created. The book is quite good. The dialog doesn't quite measure up to the original, but nothing could.

S.P. Bowers said...

This is perfect. I've often wondered how effective the different kids of swag are and if I'm the only one who throws certain things away.

Colin Smith said...

As I mentioned in my Bouchercon debrief yesterday, until last Saturday I underestimated how useful those bookmarks are. But when you don't have a pen and an author is rattling off her social media/newsletters details, having that info on a strip of laminated card is very helpful. I'd definitely second Janet's top two here.

Alan Gratz was one of the panelists on the YA panel I went to. He was a good panelist, with interesting, thoughtful, and witty comments. If I was looking for MG books, I'd look out for his. I think I remember who gave the origami swag, and it was a panelist on that same panel. Sophie Littlefield said it was cool as she unfolded it... and then couldn't put it back together. :)

One day I'll have to worry about this... I hope. :)

Colin Smith said...

... "this" being author swag. Not the origami thing. I still haven't opened it. :)

Eve Messenger said...

"Promotional bookmarks, professionally rendered, normal size, with author name and book title." Got it. Adding this to my marketing to-do list for future novels. Thanks for the tip!

P.S. I wouldn't have risked the homemade chocolate either.

Dena Pawling said...

Someone once made my #2 son an origami swan. He promptly unfolded it, tried to put it back together, then handed it to me with a sad-but-hopeful look on his face. I had to disappoint him. We tracked down that person who graciously re-folded it for him.

Most of my local RWA members have bookmarks and postcards they give out.

I admit to using my library check-out receipts as bookmarks most of the time, probably because they're handy and most of the books I read are from the library.

And -- I thought you were a shark? That photo looks suspiciously like a hamster =)

Unknown said...

A bottle opener! Just big enougbfor the book name on one side, author name on the other. Perfect give away for a YA novel. Now I am going to rember that!

Unknown said...

I've added CODE OF HONOR to my TBR list on Goodreads. It looks like a thrilling read. I like knowing what my dream published Scholastic is up to as well, and I like books about sibling relationships. Thanks for mentioning it as it wasn't on my radar.

I also LOVE free bookmarks! I'm still a paper books kinda gal.

Adele said...

Minor housekeeping: there's no apostrophe in 'quelle surprise'.

Pepper Smith said...

Thank you for this. We always wonder which bits of swag are actually worth spending money on.

Donnaeve said...

I received a bookmark from Terry Shames. (who probably thought I was a weird stalker when I asked her if QOTKU was lurking about somewhere)

She has some very penetrating blue eyes, which tightened slightly when I asked. Ooops.

Speaking of SWAG - how about the "hook-up?" This gave me no end of fun as I enjoyed the idea of receiving a hook-up at a hotel. First EVER! Yes, I've lived a prim and proper life.

That messenger bag WAS LOADED with BOOKS! And other little goodies. I was like, wow! Look at all this! And then after an hour of lugging that thing around, I started to feel it was a good, yet "bad" hook-up. It kept letting me know it was "there," as I tried to accommodate it - moving it from one shoulder to the other, while trying not to think about the fact it might ruin my experience. I thought about walking it out to my car, except I was a few blocks away and afraid I'd miss something - or someone.

I began to resent the hook-up, wishing it would lighten up. It repaid me by growing heavier by the minute, reminding me, as I looked through it to see if there was something HEAVY I could unload, that it was only there to make sure I had a good time.


Seriously - I had at least nine books in that bag, amongst other paraphernalia!

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

This could be added to the be prepared list.

I've used swag at art fairs. Bookmarks and pens were the best choice. But a real book, what a way for the author to be remembered from speed dating. (I don't have one yet, 400 loose pages would probably be found flying around the parking lot)

If I was meeting the Shark I'd bring a pair of these shark shark flip-flops. But what size? I imagine she has dainty feet.

Yeah, I don't eat home made good either unless friends bring it to dinner. An anonymous USB key, no way.

Unknown said...

I'm curious if most skilled writers are as effective at oral story telling? It seems like such a different skill set to me?

Panda in Chief said...

I love swag and I love designing it. Maybe because my works are visual as well as written, designing it is really a blast. I spend WAY too much time doing that. Love me my Photoshop!

Thanks for sharing what works, what doesn't, what ends up in the trash. I have also heard you can get those QR code thingies for your website and put them on your bookmarks/business/post cards. I really have to do that.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I have come to the conclusion that typos are like BO, even if you think you're clean, you might end up with a few smelly-words.

Um, regarding swag, bookmarks are awesome. They make great Christmas tree decorations for writers.

Anonymous said...

I understand the homemade thing. I was going to send cookies to the shark tank back when I was baking 300+ cookies a week for soldiers, but people have to be so careful these days.

I'm thrilled to see Ms. Hillerman continuing the tradition. Mr. Hillerman sold his books locally at the New Mexico horse tracks for years before he was "discovered". I remember a comment made to him by an agent that he should get rid of all that Indian stuff. I adored they way he brought New Mexico and the Navajo to life.

I can do bookmarks.

On the good news front, my passport arrived. If I feel as bad as I look in that picture, I shouldn't be flying anywhere.

Now the nerves are setting in. I wrote a not of encouragement to myself on the top of my pad. "Only dragons can eat you. Agents are not dragons. Unless they're M'Eiryn, then they might be dragons, too."

BJ Muntain said...

Last summer, my friend's novel was launched. Another friend of ours had made up beautiful business cards and bookmarks for this novel - the cover was beautiful anyway, and the bookmarks were stunning.

However, somehow the books got delayed in the post, because by the time of the launch the publisher had only received 3 books. My friend only had 3 books to sell at her launch.

But she also had these lovely bookmarks to hand out, so people could find the books online and order them. Not as good as having the books in hand, but still good enough to catch people's interest and give them a chance to buy.

Her joke about the lack of books at her launch is: At least she can say she sold out at her launch.

Jennifer: Love that idea of a bottle opener. Those aren't terribly expensive (compared to jewelry and actual books), and they would definitely appeal to certain audiences.

Maybe that's the important thing. Figure out your audience, see what they like, then use something they'll use often.

And, since our entire audiences are made up of readers of some sort, a bookmark is probably a safe bet.

Susan mentioned mugs and magnets. For me, those are the most effective swag - I always have a coffee cup in front of me, and the milk for my coffee is in my refrigerator. First thing in the morning, I'm being swagged (that sounds dirtier than I mean it...)

I'm curious as to what others think of these? I know they're more expensive than bookmarks, but not much more expensive than, say, baseball cards. And definitely not as expensive as jewellery. So how effective are mugs and magnets?

And tote bags! I have heard so many people fawn over tote bags. I have several, and they all get used.

I used to eat any chocolate I was handed. I probably still would... except that I was diagnosed celiac some years ago, and now I only trust close friends who understand celiac disease and commercially-made items with their entire list of ingredients listed.

Regarding QR codes: There are websites where you can input your URL and they'll turn it into a QR code - including any tracking information you want. They were a good idea, but I'd be interested in hearing if people here ever use them. In my experience, they tend to be ignored, much like their predecessor, the bar code. Yes, you can put a lot of information into a QR code, but people rarely take the time to use their phones to read it. A bookmark with a web page is probably just as useful, if not moreso. It doesn't *hurt* to use a barcode, but I don't know how effective it really is.

Kara: I would be terrible at oral story telling. I mean, I can often tell a good story, but I trip over words, sometimes stuttering, and often forget words. The nice thing about writing on a computer is, if you KNOW the word you want to use but can't remember it, you can use or to refresh your memory.

Yay Julie for getting your passport! As Erma Bombeck said in the title of one of her most successful books: "When you look like your passport photo, it's time to go home."

As for meeting agents: you'll have a great time. You will charm all agents and dragons with your stories, better than any silver harp could do. Good luck!

LynnRodz said...

Janet, no need to hang your head, quite the opposite, those typos of yours is one of the reasons why we love you! You're the QOTKU and that little opps yesterday takes you out of the scary sharky waters and brings you closer to us woodland creatures.

Oh, yeah, I love, love, love bookmarks! That would be my swag.

S.P. Bowers said...

What about pens as swag? I'm interested in knowing what people think. I'm a little bit of a pen snob and generally throw away free pens because they're not as nice as the pens I like to use. But if they have a special meaning to me I keep them. If the pen is a nice pen (one writers, who I think are probably all pen snobs, would use) would you keep or chuck?

Julie said...

How do people AFFORD all this stuff?

^ Making certain shearks feel beter.

Julie said...

And, BTW, is it knormal to just... be writing a new MS, and just suddenly have a gut-wrenching, watery-intestine, sudden-onset panic attack of the "Who-the-heck-am-I-kidding-I-can't-do-this-pack-up-and-go-home" type?

Which, by the way, is why I'm here and not on MS Word write now.



BJ Muntain said...

SP: I keep pens. For some reason, I can never find a pen by my phone or my computer. Not sure where they go - they probably travel from one to the other, then get lost finding their way home? Anyway, I keep them as long as they're findable. And if they're very good quality, I use them more.

I actually prefer automatic pencils, but I know I'm strange that way. And I agree with QOTKU (of course) that unsharpened pencils are pretty useless. Very few people have pencil sharpeners anymore. Even sharpened pencils become useless after awhile. But automatic pencils are good until they run out of lead.

Julie said...

I like the bookmark idea because you can write on the back of it.
What about small pads of paper with the book info at the top?
Everyone writes on stuff.

Janice Grinyer said...

Congrats Julie on receiving your Passport! I can now stop praying for the person who prayed for you ;)

I am now looking at Bouchercon 2016 in New Orleans. And after this post of yours, Janet, I am now going to make sure I can pack light but with a big bag, or make sure I can mail things home. The book room alone got me excited...

And as for marketing? When I get to that fence I will jump it :D but in the meanwhile, oh the fun to plan!

Julie said...

@Lance - OO! A swagbag!

Julie said...

@Cynthia - it's snowing here. In VT. Today. Right now. Well, actually, not right now. About an hour ago. But it was. Really.

Julie said...

@Cynthia - Scratch that. It's snowing. Hard.

Sal said...

Same thing here. I was sorting through the swag (most of it from speed dating) and making similar decisions. It occurred to me HOW MUCH some authors invested in their swag just to have me toss it in the trash as I was packing. What a waste.

BJ Muntain said...

I'm sorry I missed your comments, Julia!

It's perfectly normal to feel out of one's depth when writing. I'm sure most - if not all - writers get that feeling from time to time.

Janet's blog is a good remedy.

Just remember: The feeling is normal. You are a good writer. Your stories are worth reading - and there are many of us just waiting for them to be published.


BJ Muntain said...

And snow in October? *looks outside - cool, but sunny* Wow. Are you sure we haven't switched up weather? Snow is fairly normal in October around here...

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Kara: My oral storytelling is nowhere near what my "writing" storytelling is. I do feel like the words are generated in slightly different, if neighborly, parts of my brain.

This comes to me most sharply in role playing game situations. If I'm writing a story or vignette of my character, or having a conversation in Hangouts or whatever, the voice is loud and clear to me. In person, around the table? Far less so. Maybe because I can't do much in the way of accents, other than a melting pot pastiche Southern due to my time answering phones at the Cat Fancier's Association in the early aughts.

But. It's also why I don't "run games", as the parlance goes. We have other friends who do, and also my fiancé, who is a silver tongued devil who weaves a wicked story for our adventures of derring-do (and for our less morally obvious adventures as well) and I just don't match up in that venue.

Kae Ridwyn said...

Thanks, QOTKU, for not taking offense - I'm not entirely sure what Carkoon is but anything other than my own little piece of woodland seems a little scary...

@Julie - that's fantastic news on the passport front! I was worrying along with you. Have a brilliant time!

@BJ - back when I was marketing, I used QR codes regularly - was the best site I found for generating them. But back then, they were new enough that people were curious enough to get out their phones and scan; now they're so prevalent, I'm not sure they would.

@SP - yes, I keep all pens given to me; that's how I find my favourites! And I prefer pens to pencils; but I'll use whatever's at hand, really. I was thinking that I'd probably use pens as swag over pencils... if bookmarks aren't an option because everything's gone digital, and also assuming I ever get to that point, that is!

@Julia - I definitely feel this way! Not just when I'm starting a new MS (which is what I should be doing this morning lol) but also in the middle of the MS, at the climax, and of course at the end as well. I can't speak for others, but I think that we all have crises in confidence at times. Hang in there!

and @Carolynn with two N's - I loved that 'typos like BO' comparison!!! Thanks for the chortle this morning!

and now, off to a new MS...

Colin Smith said...

My oldest just made hot fudge pudding cake. I was thinking of sending some to Janet, but I'm afraid it would be thrown away, so I guess I'll just have to eat it myself. Oh, the sacrifices we make... :D

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Years ago, and I mean years ago, I got a free jar opener from a bank. You know the kind of thing, made of plastic or silicone, round flat, with the bank's name on it. I bet I've used that thing a few times a week for years. What perfect swag for cookbooks or for any subject or story related to food. Am I brilliant or what? Okay, I know, I'm "or what".

CynthiaMc said...

@Julia - snow already - holy cow! I put on a sweater if it gets below 70.

@Julie - congrats on the passport! May it take you wonderful places.

I'm a pen snob. I got a silver Cross pen and pencil set for high school graduation and a gold one for college graduation and there's been on going back. Makes me easy to shop for. For everyday writing I use my piano pen my daughter gave me (it's supposed to last 7 years before needing a refill ) and a Pilot V7 (blue).

@Colin - send me a piece of that cake - it sounds divine!

I need to get to a conference. It's been way too long. (Actually not that long - went to Writing From Your Soul with Wayne Dyer a year or so ago. Just feels a lot longer).

CynthiaMc said...

Apparently I'm dyslexic today. No going back, not on.

Joyce Tremel said...

Ooh, goodie. I just invested in 500 bookmarks!

Craig F said...

Key chain flashlights are still good. With how fast mobile devices eat batteries they are still relevant and you can get imprinted ones for half a buck.

I'm with Cynthia. Fall in Florida. Two hundred and some odd days after the predawn humidity slapped you upside the head and announced the start of summer you can enjoy an early coffee instead of just being addicted. Those forty dollar wicking tee shirts can work because the air is dry enough that water can evaporate. And lastly the ninety degree temperatures only last two to three hours a day versus the twelve hours they last in summer.

Anonymous said...


"be writing a new MS, and just suddenly have a gut-wrenching, watery-intestine, sudden-onset panic attack of the "Who-the-heck-am-I-kidding-I-can't-do-this-pack-up-and-go-home" type?"

Yes. I'm feeling that way on both the Civil War novel and the western. Many of the characters are historical and larger than life. I have a gut wrenching fear I won't do them or the story justice.

Spesh, I would keep pens if they were ones I could get refills for. I never have enough pens.

Criminy, what is it with you people and no pencil sharpeners? BTW You can buy refill lead for automatic pencils also. I never throw them away until they break. I have a Cross pencil that is about 25 years old. It's seen a lot of lead.

Janice, thank you. I did a test pack tonight. *sigh* That never goes well. The CEO of the game company I write for goes to conventions for two weeks and packs one small carry on, with enough room left over to bring back a treat for the kiddos. I would love to go to 2016 Boucheron.

Kae, thank you. I'm looking forward to it I think, but now nerves are setting in.

Cynthia thank you. I don't know if it will take me to wonderful places, but I will be with wonderful people.

AJ Blythe said...

Sorry, behind in my blog reading so I have only skimmed the long list of comments.

My favourite swag from conferences are:

- sticky post-it notes (with author web page and book name or similar on top). I use these all the time and am constant reminded of the author.

- pens (with author name and website). I use these all the time.

- emery boards (printed with book cover image, author name and website). Clever because I hate my nails clacking on the keyboard so handy to have.

- glass cleaning cloths (again printed with book image, author and web page). As I wear glasses these also get used all the time. And I keep them in my glasses case so I often get comments when I am out and about. Probably one of the few swags that gets used in public.

Bookmarks.. I'm a bit of a bookmark snob. Probably because I get *so* many from conference. I think this is the problem with bookmarks - market saturation. If I'm interested in the author/book I'll take the bookmark and when I get home look up the book and toss the bookmark. But for me to keep a bookmark I've really got to *like* how it looks. I probably have about 30 sitting in my draw at the moment and need to go through and whittle them down again.

So I've always been unsure about the value of bookmarks, but if the QOTKU thinks they have value then I will reconsider.

Allison Newchurch said...

So I guess a bottle of my home-made Damson Gin is out, then. :(

Donnaeve said...

Ho wait a sec - Colin?

*taps foot and squints eyes in that TSHAMES way*

Cake? Didn't you promise me cake to celebrate (speaking of typos, celebrate was just celerabrate - till I fixed it)


>< (me squinching my eyes at you)

Julia - YES, I feel like that with almost every word I put down.

Julie - Good luck on your trip! You'll do great, and we know it and you know it! (Ignore the passport pic unless they try to put you in the pokey b/c they think it's someone else)

Colin Smith said...

Allison: I think I'm appointing myself Janet's official taster. Send it to me, and if I think it's good enough for Janet, I'll send it on. Maybe. ;)

Colin Smith said...

Donna: Sorry, but it seems lava cake doesn't travel too well. I'll be glad to eat it on your behalf though. I'll tell you whether or not you enjoyed it. ;)

Dena Pawling said...

I love the idea of refrigerator magnets and emery boards. Those would be awesome here. I think I'm too used to library check out receipts for bookmarks.

Anonymous said...


I corresponded with Kathy Chung. She said they have a little flexibility. If you think you're coming email the coordinator at registration at siwc dot ca. You can still register on site if you want.

Hope to see you.


Theresa said...

Swag! Great ideas here for book and author promotions.

I love interesting book marks and always like receiving them. I would also use notepads, both sticky and none. Pens, too. I would welcome un-sharpened pencils because I have a few sharpeners around the house and still like to write with pencils.

Emery boards and glass cleaning cloths sound very useful as well as a bit unique for promoting a book. I would certainly remember an author who gave me chocolate or a bottle opener.

Oh, but to receive a mug or a tote bag! That would be very impressive.

BJ Muntain said...

Kae: Exactly. I was working in marketing, too, when they were first a 'thing'. We put them on posters. We put them on brochures. We put them on signs and swaggy stuff all over the place. I had a manager who thought QR codes were the best thing since the barcode. But, like I said, they're pretty much ignored, the way a barcode would be. There are many people out there who don't know what a QR code is for, and what they can do with one. QRs just never became as popular as many marketers and others thought they would.

Julie: Thank you so much for e-mailing Kathy on my behalf! That was so kind of you. I'm hoping to find out on Monday (Tuesday at latest) if I'll be able to go. I appreciate that so much.

Susan said...

Julie/Julia: That's how I feel about The Damn Novel (the WWII-based book) and why it's 8 years in the writing. I'm so in love with this story--the idea, the setting, the characters--but sometimes I'll sit down to write and think I don't have the maturity for it yet, that I won't be able to do it justice. So in a corner of my heart it stays until it's ready. It's grown and evolved and gotten better over the years, and I credit that to time; sometimes ideas have to marinate and confidence has to grow.

In the meantime, now that the book I needed to write is finished and out in queryland and I'm back to writing what I want to write, some of the self-doubt has abated. There's a joy in writing again, and with that joy comes the flow. Try to find that space of just wanting to tell a good story, of escaping to a world with characters that only you know, so that you're the one to share it. Maybe that can ease some of the pressure where that panic usually stems from.

Kara/Jennifer: I'm terrible at talking. It's why I can't use dictation software for writing. Jennifer, I think you're onto something that we use different parts of the brain for different methods of communicating. It certainly feels different. Then again, my brain takes a long time to buffer anyway.

Colin: Sharing is caring!

John Frain said...

2NNs, I'm wondering about the bank logo on your jar opener that's so old. How many banks ago was that? Around here, banks change names about every two years. I figured it was an FCC rule or something.

One swag item I'm surprised hasn't been mentioned so far is a mouse pad. I still use one for my laptop. Don't most people.

I'm definitely in the camp to keep bookmarks, Post-Its and pens.

What about microwave popcorn? Too expensive? Maybe the minimums are too high. I'll check ... after a little more editing.

John Frain said...

I don't know if curiosity got the better of me or I'm just finding new ways to put off editing, but ...

Microwave popcorn - 300 bag minimum with a 4/c 1/s custom imprint comes in at a buck a bag.

I'm thinking for an extra dime a bag you can perforate it so the popper can convert it into a bookmark when the popcorn is gone.

And it's chocolate covered.

This post has been brought to you by the game, Two Lies & A Truth.

Anonymous said...


The thing is too keep working and do the best you can. Recognize the first draft for many people is less than stellar, but at least you have the bones of the story.


The problem with consumables, even the beloved chocolate, is how many people keep the wrappers? Yes, people love getting it and it would be a nice addition to something, but I think you want something more permanent.

John Frain said...

Aye, but Julie I'm lining my microwave popcorn bag with a silver metallic strip. That, combined with a typo misplacing the colon and instructing consumers to place in microwave for 23:00 will lead to permanence.

One in ten will ignite a microwave into A Million Little Pieces. No lie. (Works in the microwave only, no freying.) Once the negative publicity tapers off, Oprah will be calling.

This post is brought to you by an unreliable narrator. Who is still editing, mind you, which means the ninth draft might've been in worse shape than the eighth. I'm learning when the Law of Diminishing Returns sets in on a manuscript.

John Frain said...

I guess I'm gonna have to become a morning person to hang out with you guys. Either that or you're giving me a hint, but I've never been quick to pick up on those.

That's okay, I can play solitaire and hold up both ends of the conversation.

True story: Ed Sullivan, the guy who introduced the bee-uhls to America, used to write both ends of his interviews. He'd give his guests his questions -- and their answers.

So yeah, I can do that if nobody is gonna come out to play.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Ah John, how astute. My jar opener is three banks ago. Now when I use it I think of simpler times, as in how little money I had then as compared to now.

Donnaeve said...

What a coinky dink. I recently reverted back to calling my old bank Wachovia. (it's Wells Fargo) My son works there. We were talking and I said, "How's it going at Wachovia?"


Then, "You mean Wells Fargo."

It would be okay but I've done it like three times now. And the name change happened years ago. Strange how the brain will do that.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Donna, maybe it's a refection on a time which holds the weight of our memories closer, or maybe it's our discomfort regarding change, or maybe it's age, or maybe it's because our synapses almost always take the shorter road to what was, instead of what is, or maybe Wachovia is easier to say than Wells Fargo. Ah...forget the last one.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Not that anyone cares, or will notice, but I would like to amend my comment at 5:45 AM.

Ah John, how astute. My jar opener is three banks ago. Now when I use it I think of simpler times, as in how little money I had then as compared to how little money I have now.

Thank you. Back to your regularly scheduled comments.

Donnaeve said...

2N's - that's way too deep for what my brain is doing.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I know this is OT and way to one on one for Janet, God bless her, but Donna, your comment begs me to ask, what is your brain doing?

Steph said...

Pens, paper, postcards (what a great way to recommend books), mugs all sound good to me! Recently I've read several books that incorporated recipes (brilliant for when the books make you super hungry, I could see recipe-cards going really well with them.

Cynthia, don't take this personally: I may hate you a little, we had snow in the air on Wednesday :(

Donnaeve, (Ignore the passport pic unless they try to put you in the pokey b/c they think it's someone else)
It's only funny till it actually happens! This summer I was flying home out of Tel Aviv. I handed the security agent my passport, smiled, and waited, expecting to get it back in about 10 seconds. Then I kept waiting. And waiting. Finally I asked if everything was okay. She said it was hard to tell if it was me because I was smiling now, but not in the picture. I stopped smiling, feeling distinctly discomfited. One minute later, she asks if I have another picture id. After another two minutes with both my passport and my driver's license she let me go.

Donnaeve said...

2N's - at the moment, it's flat lining. :)

Steph - oh, don't I know the feeling. True story here too - I was traveling to Canada - yes, our friendly northern neighbor!!! - when I made the apparent faux pas of stating I was in the country for a Business Law class. My boss was waiting patiently past the secured area, when I was motioned to follow one of the agents. They whisked me off by my lonesome to some tiny room where I sat for the better part of an hour, clueless as to what the problem was, or why I was there.

They finally let me go, and when they did, I told my boss, and he said, "Yeah, never mention anything to do with the law."

CynthiaMc said...

Steph - this is the time of year we see people we haven't seen since last winter :)

Off to the theatre. Happy Sundy, y'all!

Anonymous said...


I kind of hate you. After your microwave popcorn comment, I spent an hour or more on an advertising merchandise site thinking about what would be good swag items. I would go broke. There are too many fun things out there. I better stick to bookmarks.

After that foray into fantasy land, I figured I better decide what I was taking to blue pencil. I have an appointment with Chris Humphreys, who I adore. That's probably supposed to be whom, but I'm a hick. Then I thought, hmmm, you might get a chance at some more blue pencils if people cancel. Better pick out two more pieces.

So, I missed the joke about microwave popcorn, but I would have guffawed at 2:00 as I did later.

Unknown said...

Thanks so much for this post! I love it so much! My favorite swag ever from an author was a nail file. Sounds strange, but I LOVE it. I carry it in my purse and use it all the time. 2nd favorite was a bookmark. Never been lucky enough to get a book :-)

BJ Muntain said...

Donna: Your story reminds me of a time when the organization I worked for was bringing a couple trainers up from the states.

The trainers said they were there on business. The customs folks decided that meant they were here to work, and so the trainers spent hours while they cleared up the fact that no, they didn't need a work visa. They were only here for a couple weeks.

There used to be someone in the US with a name similar to mine, who seemed to have a bit of a legal problem there. I tried to open an account to send a friend some money once, and I had to go through all sorts of extra loops to prove I wasn't that person. I'm very careful to use my full name in any legal documents now, just in case.

Julie: I had a blue pencil with Chris Humphreys once. Wonderful, nice guy. He deserves to be adored. I showed him an action scene from the novel I'm shopping around, and he loved it. I've felt so much better about my action scenes since then. I figure I'm doing something right. :)

Stephsco said...

I also never understood character trading cards. Why would I want a trading card about a character I don't know from a book I haven't read? I don't know that I want trading cards for books I HAVE read. I think I came into the book publishing world after that trend had waned, but I did receive one at an RWA conference in 2013. The art on it is SO BAD (think poorly rendered 1980s fantasy art) I kept it for a gag gift.

The swag I take from authors are bookmarks and post it notes. Maybe a pen.

Alan Gratz said...

Thanks for picking up CODE OF HONOR! Hope you enjoy it -

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tips, and as a new author starting out it will be a good way to get the word out about my books.