Lessons From a Year of Swag

Photo credit: me
Over the weekend I had my last author event of 2016—so it was kind of fitting that I ran out of bookmarks that day too. It was a little surreal to run out; when I'd ordered my swag in mid 2015, I'd gotten 500 bookmarks and 500 postcards, mostly because GotPrint was running a weird deal that made the upgrade from 250 each just a few dollars more, so I figured eh, why not? It turns out that was a good decision because bookmarks, apparently, are very popular.

You see, aside from giveaways, bookmarks are kind of gold at author events. Generally, non-panel author events go like this: you have a table at a bookstore, set up whatever swag you have and pile up your books, then smile as people walk past you and try to avoid eye contact and while you get people to talk to you so you can tell them about your book.

That actually sounds way more terrifying than it is, but I quickly learned a way to get people to engage: offer free bookmarks.

"Hi, would you like a bookmark?" I'd say, holding out a bookmark. Some people say no, but more times than not people say sure and take your bookmark. Then one of two things happen: either they eye your books and you have an in to talk about it, or they walk away with your bookmark.

My bookmarks have a pretty clip of my cover on one side, then on the other have a teaser and information about my book. This has worked well because I've had people come back after they walked away with my bookmark to ask about my book. Victory! As a bonus, I know even if people just take them home, they have a reminder of my book there.

So lesson learned: bookmarks are author gold. Now that I'm out, I'll definitely be ordering more.

Now postcards. So I kind of took a risk with my postcards in that I put information on both sides. This turned out not to work so well, because it made mailing them harder since I had to put them in envelopes which sort of defeats the purpose of the postcard. Because one side is just my cover, however, I use them more often than not to also give away at author events, but I've found they're not nearly as popular as bookmarks. I'll continue to bring them to author events until I'm out, but next time around I'm definitely keeping one side blank—or at least enough of one side blank so I can stamp/address without covering information—so I can mail them more easily.

Lesson learned: leave space on postcards for stamp and address.

Finally, I didn't have bookplates this year, but I found they were actually requested with relative frequency, so I'll definitely have to look into getting some before Into the Black's release. They're handy especially since my ability to get signed copies out is pretty limited, and shipping for a book is (understandably) a lot more than just mailing a bookplate out.

So those are some of the lessons I've learned from having and giving out swag over the last year and a half. Hope you guys find it useful when the time comes to get some swag for your books. :)

Twitter-sized bite: 
Thinking about getting swag for your book? @Ava_Jae shares lessons she learned from a year of using swag. (Click to tweet)

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