I’ve seen studies where they say that SWAG or giveaways other than actual books do very little for the most part to get readers to pick up your book. However, I have bought and given out SWAG at most of the conventions I’ve attended. Have I really seen a Return on Investment?
To be honest, I don’t know.
But what I do know is what I’ve heard from others and what I do with SWAG when I get home.
When I come home from a conference or retreat I’m usually exhausted. So the first thing I do is kick off my shoes, say hello to my guys and my kitties and then sleep!
I know, you want to know about the SWAG! Well, to be honest – again – it really depends on how quickly I get around to unpacking my suitcase – or the box that I shipped home with all the “stuff” in it.
Sometimes that is a few days and sometimes it’s actually weeks. Hey – I did tell you I’d be honest, right?
No matter when I finally get to it, things from there pretty much follow the same pattern. If there is anything edible in the bag or stash of SWAG I sort through it and either eat it (if I didn’t already at the convention) or toss it. Just don’t forget that if I ate it at the convention, the wrapper with your author sticker, website and name on it went into the trash as soon as I swallowed the food, and it will with most others too. Usually those little butter mints are the first to go – I eat those almost as soon as I pick them up at the convention 🙂 Chocolate, believe it or not, if it doesn’t get eaten at convention, I usually toss it because it’s going to melt by the time I get home and I don’t want it all over everything. Other types of mints, munchies, cookies, water bottles etc usually don’t even make it home – so they get tossed. Now that also means if the SWAG is on a “take it yourself” table, I just don’t take those. But lots of convention goers take some of everything so a lot of those will end up in the trash.
Then I sort through for the “cool” stuff. Mirrors, letter openers, alarm clocks, cool buttons, cool pens (I usually don’t take the boring ones or the ones I know I won’t use, but again – lots of people take some of everything offered, so you have to factor that in.
I know lots of people get those squishy things shaped like people or globes or whatever, and unless I think I’ll ever look at it again or it really makes me smile I’ll give it away at the conference or take it home for my son, sister, friends etc. I don’t really have a desk anymore now that writing is my day job, so I don’t keep that stuff I have no place for. If it just takes up space and doesn’t do me any good, I just don’t need it.
Then I look at what’s left – usually the paper products and magnets. I have a ton of my own bookmarks, so unless I think they look really cool or they are for an author I really want to read – AND it looks cool – I don’t even bother to take them. But several conferences make up the bags beforehand so I end up with a stack of paper to go through. I usually use bookmarks for my own books when I read anything, but if there’s a cool looking bookmark and something I think my sister or one of my friends would like then I keep it, but if it doesn’t pass that test, it gets tossed. As for magnets, if it has a fun saying or picture on it that I like and might smile at every time I see it, I’ll take it home and put it on the fridge. Or if I think my sister, son, friends etc might like it, it might make it home. But the rest get tossed. Sorry…
But what about those little homemade books with excerpts in them? Again – if I think my sister or one of my friends might like it, it might make the trip home, but usually those don’t make the cut either. I just simply don’t have time to go through and read all those. I know several authors swear by those, and maybe for them they work. But in my experience as someone who looks through the stuff at the end, unless it’s from an author who I really want to get a “taste” of their work or a new book in a series I’ve read and loved, or something along those lines – it gets tossed.
But what about the little temporary tattoo sheets that also have a sticker with your author name and website on them? Once I’ve used the tattoos – that backing sheet with your info is in my trash can.
But what about nail files with author names, websites and book names on them? I usually toss those in the bottom of my purse and fish them out when I need a nail file, but I don’t ever look at what’s printed on it beyond when I first pick it up.
Are you seeing a pattern here? Most people, unless they are hoarders just don’t hold onto “stuff” unless it serves a purpose for them. If it’s something that people are going to actually use AND read over and over then that might stick in their subconscious and make them connect that with your book when they see it on the shelf, but unless it really is something that they love and see and use daily, it probably won’t make them go LOOK for your book.
Does that mean I’ll never again bring SWAG to a convention? Honestly – as money allows I’ll probably still bring stuff. But I’ll chose carefully. I’ve brought buttons to several of the last conventions that seemed very popular, but I’m not sure what happened to a lot of them once people got home. Every now and then someone will mention that they still have my button on their cork board at home or on their “normal” conference lanyard, but no one has ever told me it made them run out and buy my book, so who knows. I had “Got Gargoyles?” buttons for my Maiden series which were very popular. BTW – I stole the idea from Brit Blaise who had a “Got Cowboy?” button to promote her Cave Creek Cowboy series, and told me I was welcome to “borrow” the idea. 🙂 Then when I had my first series out as Cassie Ryan I took bright pink “Got Seduction?” buttons which were EXTREMELY popular, but again – not sure how often they made people pick up my books even though all of those had my name and website on them as well as the saying. I do still have a letter opener from Judi McCoy but I usually picked up her books because I knew her and really liked her AND her books. I also have a few really cool bookmarks from Cheyenne McCray, but again – she’s a friend and I love her AND her books. I’d buy a Cheyenne McCray book with or without the SWAG, same for Jennifer Ashley. I do still have some cool pens and nail files in the bottom of my purse, but I couldn’t tell you which author they were from unless they are my own or one of my critique partner’s… I also still have a small mirror that folds out that I keep in my purse. It was displayed on an author’s signing table at RT one year and said “Vampire Self Test” – Cute and useful so I took one. I don’t remember if I bought her book or not and I don’t remember her name – there’s no sticker etc on the back of the mirror for me to remember it, but I do still have and use the mirror.
As for free books I usually bring all those home unless one of my conference roomies want some of them. My sister and friends get to pick from what I don’t want and the ones I keep go into my TBR pile….until I get to them…unless it really catches my interest or it’s by an author I love. For me, historical or Regency romances get read first, then paranormal romances and then erotic romances – usually the paranormals first 🙂 Then everything else as I get time and as it catches my interest. Anything in my TBR pile after a year gets offered to my friends and family or gets traded in at the used bookstore or donated.
I do have a FEW conference bags with people’s author names/conference names on them. Most of them I give to my sister who is a huge reader and collects SWAG for authors she loves. I’ll get new bags at most every conference so there’s no need for me to build up 20 different bags at home when I’ll never use them. I do still have one that has Jennifer Ashley’s name on it because she’s a good friend AND one of my favorite authors. I also have a few different lanyards – two from Cheyenne McCray, one from my critique group – The Butterscotch Martini Girls — and one from my Cassie Ryan pen name. My main conference one is one of those black ones with the zipper and the pockets in back. The front has a velcro flap that allows you to store business cards and such inside it and then below is the clear plastic thing to hold your “name tag” they give you at most conferences – this one is also from Cheyenne McCray. When I use this one at pretty much every conference I go to I pack it full of my business cards, a few pens and that’s usually where my hotel key card goes so I don’t lose it or bend it from being in my back pocket. I don’t carry my purse around conventions!
That’s about it. So choose carefully when you decide what money to spend on SWAG and what to invest IN. Something that won’t make it farther than the hotel trash can isn’t really going to give you any return on investment for your hard earned dollars spent. And as you can see, a lot of the other stuff may not make it much farther than that.
So does SWAG really work? I really don’t know. The verdict is still out, but I have a feeling many authors will keep using it as a marketing vehicle regardless of it’s ROI. (That’s Return on Investment for those of you not into my Corporate America acronyms…lol)