Everybody loves stuff. Include personalized covers, signatures, and a little creativity, and you've got swag. Now, I must admit, when I started designing swag for my books, it was all about passing out signed cards and sharing pretty covers. I've learned quite a bit since then, so here's some general info and I'll follow up with a few tips to help you make the most of this art.
Before we get into the details, let's talk a minute about the purpose of swag and how it fits into your overall marketing plan. Basically, there are three arms or branches to any marketing plan, from macro to micro: Marketing/publicity, advertising, and sales.
Marketing/publicity is the big picture - your platform and image. For me and most authors, it's who we are as people. One of the main reasons I enjoy parties and events that allow me to chat with people is that not only is it fun, but I get to know some really great people, they get to know me, helps keep me attuned to what my readers like and don't like, and that's the gist of marketing/publicity. I'll talk more about parties and events in a later post.
Advertising is more direct. These are the "look what I just wrote" posts, "buy it here." Obviously, those don't go over very well unless heralded by a good marketing/publicity plan. That is, unless you're already famous and your name has become a trademark for greatness. At that point, most people don't expect to get to chat with you or get to know you. They just want to get their hands on your next book. It's funny that way. Although they're both on Facebook (or their publicity teams are, anyway), you won't see Nalini Singh or J.R. Ward doing Facebook parties.
Now for the third and most difficult part, sales, research tells us that people have to come in contact with your name/logo/platform an average of seven (yes, seven) times before they seriously consider buying, unless it's an impulse purchase. Everyone is busy, and a name is easily forgotten. It's up to us to remain visible. Those seven times include any and every contact made during the marketing/publicity and advertising stages.
All that said, where does swag fit? According to how you use it, swag runs the gamut from marketing/publicity to advertising and even sales. It can act as a contact staple, help get the word out about you and your books, and it also tells people something about who you are as an individual if you take the time to be creative with it.
I've read several articles confirming that most paper swag ends up in the trash, so although it's nice to have, I wouldn't concentrate much energy or money producing it. Maybe a cover flat for each book, logo postcards, and calling cards, but that's plenty. From there, be as creative and unique as possible. What is it about you and your books that stands out from the crowd? What's unique or special?
- Swag should be specifically related to your brand (logo or avatar), sub-genre, or books (characters or particular stories). Cover flats, bracelets, keychains, etc. should be unique to your books.
- Swag should be useful. The best swag is something readers can use - keychains with lights, mugs, cups, coasters, totes, gift baskets with bookmarks, logo pens, and other goodies. The wonderful Ravannah Rayne does a nice job with the baskets and other creative swag.
- As for genres and sub-genres, sex toys and scented bath items, basically anything sensual is always a nice touch for romance authors.
- Personally, I like coolers for summer (with my book covers or logo, of course).
- T-shirts and caps are always cool, but remember, they are higher ticket items, so maybe just for special events like release parties.
- One of my latest ventures is character-inspired jewelry. For "Dai's Dark Valentine," the heroine, Dai, wants jewels to replace the ones she left behind, so my very creative friend, Tammy Ann Dove created a jewelry set just for her. Dai is a lioness shifter (notice the lion charms), and she has green eyes.
In a sense, it does double-duty, and the possibilities are endless. I've dedicated an entire page to swag on my website. You can also find out how to get in touch with Tammy there. For more unique swag ideas, take a look at some Pinterest boards.