Saturday, 7 November 2015

Author Swag and Freebies...

I’ve been thinking a great deal about promotional items for authors as I’ve recently signed up to appear at two multi-author signings. This raises two questions: ‘What do readers expect in the way of ‘author swag/freebies’ when attending such events?’ and ‘Which items will hit home with them?’

Whenever I’ve given a talk to a group, presented a workshop, or attended a local literary festival, I have always provided bookmarks, postcards and ‘signed by the author’ stickers to grace the cover of any book sold. 

But are these the best promotional items and do they garner any sales? And how many of them end up in the bin.

Unless you have a proven sales record and are a multi-publisher author earning big money like James Patterson or J K Rowling, most publishers no longer provide a budget for such items; in fact, all promotion is often down to the author.

Paper promotional items are relatively inexpensive form of swag. So how do you go about providing the perfect bookmark or postcard?

Anyone with access to a computer and printer can produce a bookmark; but bookmarks that say everything about you as an author and your novel. These need to look professional if they are to connect with the reader and seduce them into buying your book. So don’t use a stock image, use the cover of your book, tagline and website address.

Most likely you will wish to hire a designer, but don’t panic, you’re not going to have to pay huge agency fees. A quick search of the Internet reveals many sites and graphic artists offering such services, but before you sign up or part with your hard earned cash, ask to see samples of their work.

 I recall the first writer’s conference I attended in America some years ago. The conference bag was crammed full of bookmarks and postcards. Did any of them fly home with me? Only those for novels I was interested in reading. The rest ended up in the bin. 

Paper is cheap and ‘everybody’ uses it. So if I can consign fellow author’s bookmarks and postcards to the dustbin, what chance do my own paper promotional items have of making it home with a reader?

These days however, it seems that anything goes when it comes to author swag/freebies, especially at conferences and large events such as the Romance Writers of America annual conference.

  • ·      Pens
  • ·      Mugs
  • ·      Key Rings
  • ·      T-Shirts
  • ·      Tote bags
  • ·      Coasters
  • ·      Fridge Magnets
  • ·      Notepads
  • ·      Computer Mouse Mats
  • ·      Chocolate
  • ·      Lip Balm
  • ·      Small bottles of hand cream/sanitizer
  • ·      Badges

The list is almost endless.  While there is no doubt some of the items on the above list are useful, (especially tote bags for all those books your reader buys) but do they really say anything about YOUR book?

All these items cost money, and when the average author earns around £11,000 annually, finding something that readers will think is clever, and which entices them dig into their wallet to purchase your book, are difficult.  Setting a budget for such items is essential, as no author would wish to spend more than they are likely to earn in sales at such an event.

So, not only does my promotional item have to be unique and say something about my book, it has to be relatively inexpensive and useful. Before you empty your savings account and splash out on 250 T-shirts, pens and mugs etc, (remember, the more you buy the cheaper the individual cost per item), work out who your audience will be and where you are going to use your promotional items.

Rather than just handing out postcards at my next signing event, I am going to place a sticker on the back of some with the message ‘Email me and request a free copy.’ It will be interesting to see how many requests I receive. 

In the meantime, I would love to know what other authors provide by the way of swag/freebies. What do you use as give-aways? How have they supported your sales?

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