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Point of View: Making Great Swag


OK, I have to admit it. A couple years ago, I had no idea what the hell “swag” was. Then I went to Rainbow Con, and created the first QSF swag – the incredibly tiny buttons – and I finally “got it”.

But I still don’t know what makes for great swag – something that people want, something that will help sell your books and advance your brand.

Oh, I know the formula:

Find something intriguing that people will keep and cherish that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

And I know what doesn’t work. Believe me, I know. I still have most of the 500 business cards I had printed up for my first two stand-alone releases, “Between the Lines” and “The Homecoming”, which came out a year ago this week. Business card covers are a waste of time.

So for my POV column today, I thought it would be fun to look at the swag I actually kept (above).

So… buttons. I apparently like buttons. But not just any buttons… what these have in common is that they’re all from things I was already connected to – Angel or QSF. Not too encouraging for a new author trying to catch my attention.

And a keychain… again, it’s for an author whom I already love – but it is a cool idea.

And a business card.

OK, so sometimes these do work. But only because Kyle is hella cute. Damn you, Alex and Adam!

Beyond that, I have a few t-shirts (a great idea, but too expensive for general giveaways) and some books (ditto).

So I’m still stumped as to what makes great swag.

Does swag really work? Can it work? And what have y’all tried that was successful in either a) selling books or b) building your brand?

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2 thoughts on “Point of View: Making Great Swag”

  1. I’m not an author, but a reader and have seen how the hordes react to swag rooms – it really is a sight to behold, as anyone who was at the Atlanta GRL will tell you! What I’ve seen go over really well is the stress balls – Angel’s cows were gone in no time in Atlanta, in Chicago, same thing for her rockets, the walnuts Freddy MacKay had, the horse squishies for Silvia Violet and the Australian continent for Toni Griffin and Amber Kell’s dragons are always popular! Character cards or book cover cards are popular (I know I keep them in a scrapbook and the larger ones worked with the Romance Readers scrapbooks for the GRL’s I went to). Pens are a good standby and anything rainbow! I’ve seen rainbow bracelets, buttons, rings, pens, magnets, notepads, pins, cups etc. If there is a rainbow on something LGBTQ, it goes! Character or cover artwork magnets have also been popular, notepads and pens are good ones, particularly if you get shaped notepads and if they are stickies and you can put a couple of lines of the story/author or organization (case in point, a notepad with the QSF logo as a watermark, how cool would that be!). I’ve also seen authors be crafty and the results are awesome – Lissa Kasey found someone to make small yarn unicorns for GRL Chicago that you got if you went to her reading, I still love that! She also had buttons made with chibi versions of her characters, those things were gone! I like other stuff as well, but those are the items I’ve seen go the fastest!

  2. I’ve only been to one convention (Bouchercon 2012) so I didn’t get a lot of swag (except books and I gave them to my Sister-In-Law!) I’ll disagree on the promotional business cards, any promotion is good promotion and those books are still available. (That’s me, you always need business cards and any promotion is good!) Oh, and I agree with you about Kyle from The Young Protectors! MMMmmmmmmm! ๐Ÿ™‚

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