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Amanda Kimberley
Posted: Thursday, February 25, 2016 11:02 PM
Joined: 11/30/2011
Posts: 69

I just recently in the past few years got into promoting my books with swag for signings and giveaways. I've done about four rounds of free giveaways for signings and promos that come with my book. Some were hits-- others were not. I wanted to open up this as a topic because I know how expensive this type of thing can be and I'd like to offer ideas on the cheap that you can mass produce on your own or with a little help. I'd also like your thoughts on the subject. Have you done swag? Do you think it's silly? OR do you think it's a good idea?

My first attempt at swag was purchasing small bags so I could place some herbs in it. These herbs were partly from my own garden so they were "free" and the rest I purchased in bulk for about $15. These herbs were ones I had mentioned a sorcerer and a witch used in my book. I tied the bag (which was a mass produced small candy bag @ 2 bucks for 50 bags) with a ribbon (the kind you can get at a craft store for 50 cents a roll) and attached a teaser card of an upcoming book on one side and my author page on the other (7 bucks for 50). I printed these cards on my own using Avery stock. These worked okay but some people weren't impressed with just the herbs so I added incense to the mix. I stuck those in a plastic bag that I got from Amazon for $5.00. The incense? It was $5 for 40 of them! I bought 2 boxes. They worked out well for most but there were some people that didn't want them because of their animals. All of this cost me a total of $150 and I am including the price of the ink to print everything.

The next thing I did was add some homemade soaps that had a dragonfly on them. They matched the book theme and I got a good deal on about 100 of them because my friend did them for me. Those turned out good. Many people liked the soap a lot. Those were about $100 for the soap, ribbon, and bags.

My next test is earrings. I'm not terribly crafty. I like easy things so I found small charms that could be easily added to drop earring posts so I didn't need to crimp anything with needle nose plyers. These gifts will also have a short teaser. Specifically there will be a quote from one of the characters followed by author/book info on the back. These were the MOST expensive because I will spend maybe $10-$20 more than I have been for other swag.

I don't believe SWAG should cost you more than $50-$100 per gift because your expenses are already high for a table at the event, plus-- if you need it-- hotel, flight, and car rental. And even if you just use these for book giveaways-- they should be inexpensive too. $300 or more for pens is excessive when there are other alternatives. There are a lot of cheap alternatives you can do-- even for the not-so-crafty. And when you think swag-- plan on 100 gifts for any one event. That may be overkill but you will have enough left over for your giveaways-- etc.

If you like bookmarks you can print your own through Avery OR go through Groupon and find a coupon for places like Vistaprint. Use your book cover for the front and add your author info on the front too. Keep the back free so you can sign it. First-- it's cheaper to have it one sided and two-- you have room to autograph it!

Printing teasers for each of your books is another good idea for swag. It gives someone a tease after the event and acts as your business card if they didn't get one during your meeting with them at the event. Again-- print your own or go through a company via Groupon. My only suggestion with this is to do two-sided but use a QR code so your second side has enough room where you can autograph. 

None of my stuff is completely bought. It's a mix of both purchased and handmade when it comes to swag. I may not look totally "professional" to everyone out there and that's OKAY! I look at it this way... Every TV show I liked started with a small budget and I LOVED the rawness of those shows. Obviously so did a lot of others when it became popular. Once the show got big they were able to do more things. That's good-- but I always missed that rawness-- maybe that's me. LOL! Still, my point is START small. You can always work your way up afterwards!

Mimi Speike
Posted: Friday, February 26, 2016 2:45 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1014

Well, this is annoying. I just wrote a long reply, hit post, and it disappeared into cyber space. I don't have the energy to recreate it now. I'll try again later. Next time I'll write in Word, and copy and paste. When will I learn?


Mimi Speike
Posted: Saturday, February 27, 2016 4:36 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1014

No kind of soap, herb bags, etc. will get my attention for your book. You, set up with a table of freebies, I’d likely run in the other direction. (Uh oh, she needs cookies to lure looks? Not good.) Here’s what would entice me (note – I have edited it down), an admiring blurb (I’m ready to hit ‘Pre-Order’ already.) by Hilary Mantel: 


I've just finished reading The North Water. I think it's brilliant. I recognize with immense respect research well conducted and well deployed. You never feel Ian McGuire is offering material just because he happens to possess it. You feel he knows everything, in depth, but is offering the reader just what will serve the story and thicken the atmospheric brew.


At times I did ask myself: is he heaping on too many layers? But then I thought, no, it is the reality of this extraordinary world. The North Water is a tour de force of narrative tension and a masterful reconstruction of a lost world that seems to exist at the limits of the human imagination.


It’s not Hilary’s name that sells it to me, it’s the tone of her tout. An oversized poster, a great graphic and a few good lines of copy would get me over to your table pronto, not bags of herbs. Let it be a line that indicates something of an atmospheric brew. That's what will hook me immediately.


--edited by Mimi Speike on 2/28/2016, 9:39 PM--