A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments and often have guest bloggers. All our authors can be contacted separately, too, using their own social media links.

We find our genre delightfully, dangerously, and deliciously exciting - join us here, if you do too!

NOTE: the blog is currently dormant but please enjoy the posts we're keeping online.

Julie Moffet . Cathy Perkins . Jean Harrington . Daryl Anderson . Nico Rosso . Maureen A Miller . Sandy Parks . Lisa Q Mathews . Sharon Calvin . Lynne Connolly . Janis Patterson . Vanessa Keir . Tonya Kappes . Julie Rowe . Joni M Fisher . Leslie Langtry

Monday, September 30, 2013


Join the authors and friends of Not Your Usual Suspects for an occasional series of posts about their world of reading, writing and publishing.

Short and sweet, hopefully both informative and entertaining - join us at I-Spy to find out the how's and why's of what we do.

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.

FUTURE POSTS will cover:
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!


Shelley Munro said...

Great idea for swag. I have a card that calculates tips, which as a NZer visiting the US always comes in handy.
I have a keyboard brush that I use all the time too.

I understand that a lot of conferences have gone to no paper swag these days.

Jean Harrington said...

Interesting posting on swag which has always been a mystery subject to me. I like the appropriateness and the tie-in with your book in your computer wipes. Just last Saturday, my local RWA chapter had publicist speak to the members. She mentioned swag and passed out many postcards and bookmarks (!). Also a rubber bottle opener shaped like the map of Texas--for the books's setting. Also a friend of mine, Jaime Rush, said her publisher surveyed swag and found that the most effective sales tool is the book's tag line. Something to think about!

CathyP said...

Also a good topic, Julie. I love your screen-cleaners!

Swag I've brought home? Lip balm, beverage cozies; very selective bookmarks (usually a friend or favorite author).

My most popular giveaway item? My husband has a reloading press, so he made fake bullets for me. (All of my books seem to include a detective.) A keychain fit through the hole in the cartridge body.

At the Lori Foster Reader/Writer Get Together, these were snatched up the minute I put a new batch out in our boardroom. No clue if it did anything for name recognition or sales, but people really seemed to like them.

Toni Anderson said...

I am using the purple pen shown right now! I always pick up pens :)
I also leapt at a screen cleaner, although I'm not sure where it is right now. I loved that idea though!!

Great post, Julie.

Anne Marie Becker said...

Oh, I love your "Nerds" candy idea! :) I'm starting a new series (in addition to my Mindhunters one) and am already thinking how I can find swag to fit it. In the meantime, for the past few years, I've had a lot of success handing out jar openers (rubber squares with a message about "success" and my website) as well as keychain flashlights, since someone said I write books you "have to read with the lights on." Unfortunately, there wasn't enough room on there to write more than my tag line and my website.

I, too, like to pick up pens (usually the thicker, better ones) and chip clips. Those are my favorite. Every now and then, I'll pick up a lip balm or something else that's unusual. And chocolate is ALWAYS good. LOL

Marcelle Dubé said...

Cool post, Julie. I like swag, but it has to be practical. I like the screen cleaner idea, and pens (love pens), but I tend to bypass bookmarks unless they're special.

Rita said...

Thanks for this Julie. SWAG is a complicated subject.

J Wachowski said...

Swag is such a funny thing, isn't it? I remember being like a kid at christmas my first conference, grabbing everything. Now the only thing I take home is--books!

Ana Barrons said...

I think I have your screen cleaner! I like pens and I've been known to pick up bookmarks, but they end up at the bottom of my book bag and stay there. Thanks for sharing your research -- one of these days I may get some swag of my own!

Julie Moffett said...

Thanks, all, for some great ideas. A keyboard brush sounds excellent (and right up my alley), a bottle opener would be awesome, lip balm is clever, and the fake bullets are waaaay cool. Swag can be fun and a good conversation starter with fans. Even if people don't buy your book, they leave happy and with a freebie, so it's hard to go wrong! :)

Pamela said...

The screensaver and Nerds are the best.

Julie Moffett said...

Pamela: Can you send me a message at juliemoffett @ yahoo . com and let me know your address so I can mail you some swag? Thanks for stopping by! It's appreciated. :)


Clare London said...

This is such a good post, Julie, you look great! Very professional and inviting, too.

It's topical for me, as I'm going to a convention in 2 weeks' time, plus I'm on the organising committee for another one just finished.

For the UK one, we made an announcement that we didn't want a lot of paper swag. We've seen so much thrown away! So people can be a little creative, it doesn't have to be expensive, and it's more likely to be useful. That said, the favourite last year was a cuddly little handmade sheep keyring! LOL. And this year there were bracelets, small pots of preserve, nail files, notebooks, pens, cell phone charms, tissue packs etc.

For the US convention I'm going to, I've tried to find something different. I'm taking some handbag-sized notebooks with the "Keep Calm" logo on the cover with a cluster of beads attached as a bookmark. And my (hopefully) piece de resistance is a batch of "wish" bottles - tiny glass bottles filled with small glittery beads, with my business card attached to the neck. I'll provide small tickets people can write their wish on, then stopper it up in the bottle, in the hope it comes true LOL. Kitsch? Daft? I can but see how it goes. I'm restricted in weight and size for swag when I go abroad, so it's always a struggle to decide what to take.

My RWA chapter is also organising a scrapbook event, which could be done if you were at an event with other friends. They provide a hard cover and stickers etc for decoration, then the authors each contribute a page with their logo/promo on, with space for the attendees to get autographs and/or decorate to their own style. Takes organising, though!

I'm exhausted, just writing this down :)

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