Monday, September 18, 2017

Let's Talk Swag by Jannine Gallant


Well, I did it. I signed up for my very first romance writers convention. I'll be attending the 2018 RT Booklovers Convention in Reno next May. Sure, I could have started out with a smaller venue...but none of them were only an hour from home. LOL So, my new motto is go BIG! This one sounds huge. I'm getting nervous just thinking about trying to stand out in the crowd.

Since this convention is not just for writers, but for readers, too, I know I'll have the opportunity to meet lots of readers who love romance books. I secured a spot at the Giant Book Fair, and I'll also be signing BURIED TRUTH at the Kensington party. That seems like more than enough official promo opportunities. I'm pretty sure putting myself out there twice will be all my introverted heart can handle!

The next question is how do you make people remember you? For those readers who don't walk away from the event with one of my books, how can I still leave an impression? This is where swag comes in. I'm looking for advice now so I can start planning ahead. What is the best swag to give away that people won't toss straight into the trash? I assume business cards and bookmarks won't make a lasting impression. My only thought is magnetic business cards. I have a bunch of those babies holding things up on my refrigerator. Good or bad idea? Am I the only one who sticks photos and miscellaneous crap on the fridge? How about something more creative that doesn't cost a fortune? My budget is limited. Tote bags seem like a great item, but you have to buy hundreds of them, and they aren't cheap! I was also considering creating a custom label that I could stick on something like little notebooks. As an author, I want to know what you've used that was a hit at past conventions and book signings. As a reader, I want to know what you brought home and actually used.

And finally, where is the best place to get customized swag at a reasonable price? I've never bought swag before...I know, pathetic. Is it easy to personalize these things, or do you need a degree in artistic design to produce something fun and professional looking? I need all the help I can get, and I figured there are other authors who will benefit from any advice we share in comments.

And while we're on the subject of the RT Convention, who else is going? Seeing a familiar face or two would be nice.



Visit my WEBSITE for more information on all my books, or pre-order a paperback copy of BURIED TRUTH for only $4.99! Happy reading!

15 comments:

Leah St. James said...

Wow, congratulations on making such a big first step, Jannine! I've never been to that one, but I hear it's fantastic. As far as swag, I'm a magnet lover myself. I say as long as you have them, bring them! I haven't been to a big reader event in a while, but in general I've seen a lot of chapter books, bookmarks, postcards, things like that. I have a feeling though that readers get so many, they end up either at the bottom of a junk drawer or tossed into the trash! (I could be wrong!) I always tried to tie my swag into the theme of a book or my brand--like something adventure/outdoorsy themed for you. But I don't know what might be cheap enough to order in bulk! I'll keep thinking...

Jannine Gallant said...

Leah, tying swag to my books/brand is a great idea. Hmm...I'll think on that, too. There are giant rocks out in Siren Cove, the setting for my book. Rocks are free. LOL

Brenda Whiteside said...

I WANT to go to that convention, but by the time I decide it may be too late. I'll let you know.

I'm not big on any kind of swag. Would you really buy a book because you have a pen that has an author name on it? Maybe I'm wrong but all the swag I've gotten over the years is much appreciated and used, but I pay no attention to who gave it to me. I've gotten a stylus, magnets, pens, and totes. For me, it was a waste of money for that author. I have gone through the book marks and postcards after a conference and set aside the ones who I think I'll read some day. Kind of like a TBR list. Not sure others do this or not. I used to do swag, but all I do now are bookmarks and postcards. I have a bookmark for each stand alone book and one for my series. I do a postcard that has a picture of all of my books on one side and on the flip side is an invite to become a member of my Quarterly Newsletter Group and explanation that someone from the group wins a prize every month. I know these things might get tossed, but it's a lot cheaper gamble. I use Vista Prints, Overnight Prints, and Earthly Charms. They give you a good selection of paper products and swag if you choose to go that way. Good luck!!

Diane Burton said...

Congrats on entering the conference arena in a big way! I've always wanted to go to RT. Haven't made it yet. Reno is too far. Maybe another year.

Swag. I don't use magnets. My new refrigerator door isn't steel so they don't stick. I do use pens. I had a bunch made that has my name, brand, and website. I think people will use the pen and get curious enough to check me out. I don't keep bookmarks or any other paper products. Such a waste. An author gave out letter openers with her brand & website. That is useful but expensive. I use VistaPrint for postcards that have the cover of my books. On the back is a brief description, buy links, plus a 50% off coupon code for my ebook at Smashwords, and my blogsite & website. Do I get sales? Who knows? I figure they might not throw them away if there's something for them. Good luck!

Rolynn Anderson said...

What Brenda said. I've done it all and seen it all...waste of money except for postcards (easy to slip a postcard into each book as a bookmark)...you can get lots more info on a postcard...bookmarks are throwaways these days with all the e-readers.) I have spent sooooo much money on swag, mostly wasted except for my postcards (and of course, good chocolate to entice readers to your table). If you HAVE to spend money, try notepads, nail files and/or eyeglass/computer screen cleaners (I've done this swag). I've done bags (daypack bags), too-still have some...if a person buys 3 books, I give one to the customer. Most success I have had connected to a book I wrote set in Alaska...waterproof mini notebooks...waterproof paper. If you're bound and determined to get swag, think of something that 'fits' with the outdoor settings of your books (packaged handiwhipes? packaged hand warmer?....off the top of my head). What this provides is a conversation starter...as well as something useful. Like Brenda said, swag does not sell books.

Jannine Gallant said...

Brenda, I've used Vista Prints for business cards before, but I'll check out the other sites, too. I know what you mean about feeling like it's a waste of money. Probably why I've never ordered swag in the past, even bookmarks! I like the prompt to sign up for your newsletter. I need to get that going!

Jannine Gallant said...

Diane and Rolynn,

I agree Swag doesn't sell books, but with all the people roaming through these party venues, I feel like you have to have something to hand them. I like the idea of a conversation starter. Something different and creative is what I was hoping to come up with. But I don't want to waste a lot of money, either!

Alison Henderson said...

I've been to many conventions and come home with lots of swag. The things I kept and used include pens with your name and tagline, small notebooks with your cover, and packages of Post-its. My favorite was individual Hershey's miniatures with the book cover taking the place of the paper wrapper around the foil. I have no idea how she did that or what it cost. Anything paper just gets tossed. Good luck!!!

Jannine Gallant said...

Thanks for the info, Alison. It's good to know what you kept. Notebooks and pens seem to be a good choice. The chocolate idea is adorable but would no doubt be gobbled up immediately!

Margo Hoornstra said...

What the others have said regarding swag. Bookmarks and such aren't, well, worth the paper they are printed on these days. As you said, pens and paper seem to be the winners. I know those are the items I've been known to keep. What do you know, my refrigerator is loaded with magnets too. I love them, but I'm not sure having one with a book cover on it would get me to buy and read the book. Just keep in mind less is more. Don't try to get too flashy or creative. Keep it simple. That's also a convention I would LOVE to attend. Reno is a hike for me. Maybe next year. Oh, and, don't be nervous, just be yourself and you'll do fine.

Jannine Gallant said...

Margo, I'm not sure swag motivates you to buy books, but maybe it works as name recognition when readers see a new release or sale promotion. That magnet or notepad they've seen on the fridge or by the phone with your name on it might make them give your new book a second look. The bookmark in the trash won't. Or not. It's a nice theory.

Maureen said...

As a reader I love post it notes. I keep them and use them but I'm not sure it makes me remember the author. As an author, I've wondered the same thing. I usually only get bookmarks and postcards but have done labels for chapstick and Halloween/witch related stuff. Good luck- sounds like fun!

Leah St. James said...

I've done postcards too, and love the idea of adding an invitation to the newsletter (or street team...whatever). I've added a QR code to the back that links to the Amazon buy page (or wherever you want it to link). That way when people stop by who only read ebooks, they can take a card with the link to buy. The chances of them actually buying might be slim, but it's better than nothing. You just have to make sure the QR image is large enough and clear enough for the phone's app to pick it up accurately, but you can test before printing. You also might find out if your publisher could provide you with something like that -- a "ticket" of sorts to buy the ebook.

I also agree that a single piece of swag isn't likely to convert to a sale. But marketing is about building awareness of the brand, not necessarily making a sale on the spot. So you have to keep that in mind when you're deciding what to spend those precious dollars on--what will keep your brand in readers' minds.

You'll have to let us know what you decide--with pics of course!

Alicia Dean said...

This is a great post and great discussion. Sorry I'm late, as usual. I've had this discussion many times with authors, and opinions vary. Of course, no one is going to buy your book because they have a pen with your name on it. However, there are many reasons to invest in swag, especially if you're attending a conference or book signing. It is nice to have something to hand out to attendees/passersby. When I was at the Miami book signing where they weren't expecting me, I had pens and a few ladies were strolling by and I said, "Would you like a pen?" And each of them bought a book. I think pens and sticky notes are the very best. But yes, something that ties to your brand is great, too. Especially if it's something useful as well. I do not pay attention to postcards or book marks. I use magnets, but I don't pay attention to what they say. :)

One other advantage of something like pens or notepads is that, when you are just out and about and you get into a discussion about your books with someone, rather than handing them a business card they may not pay attention to, you can hand them your pen. They will be like, "Wow, I met this author Maybe I'll check into her books" (they can do this with business cards too, which are cheaper, but a pen will stay in their sites longer).

Jannine, since you are considering 'rocks' you might think about doing some kind of worry stone. It might be difficult to personalize them. And, while you can get the fairly reasonably, you might want to save them for those who buy a book.

As for pens, I recently had some made for our writing retreat through PensXpress.com and their customer service is fabulous. They are reasonable and one reason I chose them is because you can get qtys as low as 50. Some places make you buy 100 or more.

Good for you signing up for your first event. You will love it!! Please let us know what you decide about your swag. :)

Jannine Gallant said...

I know a lot of people use the QR codes. It's a great idea for ebooks, Leah.

I like the idea of handing out pens to people you meet outside of conferences and signings, Ally. That would definitely make more of an impression than a business card. Thanks for the tip on the site!