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TODAY'S POST: I-Spy something beginning with ... Swag
I promised to do an I-SPY column on swag after the Romance Writer's of America (RWA) conference in July. The reason I volunteered is because this is the first year I actually invested in swag, other than bookmarks, to promote my books. I did as much research as I could before I decided what to purchase, including talking to other authors who had previously given out promo items.
After my research, I decided to purchase swag that was a bit different than most, but fit the theme of my current cyber sleuthing mystery series. I bought 250 quarter-size screen cleaners with the logo design depicted in the picture below. The screen cleaners have the logo on one side and a small microfiber cloth on the other, so you can clean your cell phone, tablet or computer. It also has a little string handle, so you can add it to your keychain or hang it near your desk. It's small enough to fit in a purse or a pocket (my teen son keeps one in his pocket to clean his cell phone). However, because I wasn't certain how well they would perform, I opted out of the yellow color on the target to save money until I was certain how they would be received. My thought process in choosing this swag was that my heroine is a hacker and a geek and since the screen cleaners were tied to technology, it was a good fit. Besides, since just about everyone has a cell phone and computer, I thought it would be something useful, catchy and unique to offer readers and fans.
During the RWA conference, I haunted the "goodie" room where authors laid out swag promoting their books. I watched to see what items went first, and when people ooohed and aaahed. I interviewed other authors and attendees as to what kind of swag they liked best. I had authors tell me what swag they bought or created that generated the most buzz. Finally, I evaluated my own choices of items I scooped up and those I passed over.
One thing was clear in both observation and discussion, chocolate is a draw. Chocolate was attached to pens, bookmarks and calendars. It was presented in the form of chocolate coins for pirate historical romances, chocolate sauce packets for erotica, and chocolate kisses for contemporary romances. There were chocolate bars, chocolate sprinkles and chocolate fans. Chocolate was an overwhelming theme and, not surprisingly, popular. Other types of candy were also popular, mostly a variety of hard candies, but not exclusively. People almost always took some chocolate, but since there were so many choices, it was hard to make one swag involving chocolate stand out from the other. I also witnessed a lot of people taking the chocolate and either throwing away or leaving the items to which the chocolate was attached.
Some of the swag was creative. There was cute swag containing a bookmark that had an old fashioned key attached to it referring to the "Key" in the title. But what could you do with it? Someone had made cute pink fishnet baggies with small pink pearl bracelets inside, tied to a bookmark. Adorable. Calendars with half-clad, able-bodied men in a variety of poses promised to keep you company for the months of 2014. There were toothbrushes, small vials of perfume, necklaces, and tons of bookmarks and postcards of all sizes, shapes and varieties. So, what went the fastest?
It appeared that pens are still a popular draw. There were a variety of pens available. Most people tended to pass over the cheap ones (think basic Bic-style) and chose the fatter more elaborate pens. This tends to be better for the author anyway because your name, title, website (etc.) is more easily read on a fatter, larger pen. Another popular pick were the chip clips, a personal favorite for me because I can never have enough chip clips in my kitchen. The jewelry, bracelets, necklaces and earrings also went quickly. Of course, free books were also popular as well.
Chip clips and pen swag
What didn't budge? Bookmarks, postcards, magnets and buttons. Stacks upon stacks of paper bookmarks were available and most people passed on them. However, the more creative the bookmark, the more likely it was to be scooped up. I took a cute ribbon bookmark flanked with two typewriter keys on either side. The authors name and title is written on the ribbon. It's my favorite bookmark now. I also saw a couple of other cute bookmarks made of cloth or lace, and those were more often chosen over the standard paper ones. Postcards, buttons and magnets were also slow to move.
So, how did my screen cleaners fare? All 250 of the screen savers were quickly scooped up at the literacy book signing. I didn't even have any to put in the goodie room. Obviously, I would consider that a success. The screen savers cost about 74 cents a cleaner. Does the swag correlate to larger sales or more recognition for me? Heck if I know. But if people keep and use the screen saver, I hope it will, at the very least, contribute to name recognition. Will I do it again? Probably. If nothing else, it was a great conversation starter with readers, fans and friends. That is the fun part of this business! Below is a picture with me at the RWA Literacy signing, along with the screen savers and some "Nerds" candy.
For those of you who comment, I'll do a drawing and send out 5 of my Lexi Carmichael "Get Your Geek On!" screen savers for your perusal! So, what are your thoughts on swag? Love it, or leave it? Use it, or discard it? Inquiring minds want to know.
Kindlegraph / the art of research / writing male/male romance / rejection and writer's block / building suspense / writing love scenes / anti-piracy strategies / audio books / interviews with editors and agents / using Calibre.
We welcome everyone's constructive comments and suggestions!