5.9.12

An Appropriate Amount of Swagger

For this month's meeting of the Insecure Writers Support Group (thanks, Alex!), I'd like to ask a question:

Do you think swag---as in bookmarks, character trading cards, coffee mugs, magents, anything you can imagine with the image of a book cover slapped onto it---really helps sell a book?

I have a pretty firm opinion on this but that doesn't mean it's accurate, so I'd like to get yours.  Let's do it this way---I'll tell you my views on the topic and then you tell me where you agree/disagree, okay?

Right, so I think an author should be continuously armed with a set of attractive business cards (possibly in the form of a bookmark) that gives basic info. on the book, web address & contact info. I also think an occasional coffee mug or some such as a prize is fun, but beyond that I don't think all the swag in the world makes a bit of difference.  It might if every other author wasn't also pimping their books in the same way, because you'd come across as unique and memorable, but when your character trading cards end up in a huge pile with a bunch of other unknowns, what good are they?

I just don't see the value added beyond what the book cover & blurb on a simple business card can do. To me, merchandising becomes important after a book has taken off---it's a way to keep it alive out in the big world and maintain excitement---but for an unknown book and author, who really cares about a T-shirt?  I'll be totally honest---my publisher has a page of available merchandise for my book, and even I don't want any of it. I just want people to read my book and enjoy it, not wear it or drink from it.

But I know I can be strange in my thinking, so perhaps I've got this all wrong.  Tell me, has swag ever persuaded you to buy a book you otherwise wouldn't have?  And/or are you an author who has enjoyed increased sales as a direct result of swag?     

Thanks for considering my question, and don't forget to sign up for Alex's upcoming Genre Favorites Blogfest---good times with great ninjas. ;)


18 comments:

Suze said...

Just popped over to check out the Three Daves merch and I have to say,

'Jennifer Whitney was the last American virgin. At least that’s what she felt like in 1986 as she began her sophomore year at Central Illinois University...'

is a genius blurb. Girl digs.

Wish I had something intelligent to comment on your question but I'm sitting here turning it over in my head without anything conclusive popping out on the matter.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

No, it hasn't. When I go to the RWA nationals, I grab bookmarks, because you can never have enough bookmarks. Right? I've never bought any of the books on them (even those from my genre).

A friend I was with this year wondered the same thing you did. I did ask a stranger, who turned out to be a librarian, and she said it does work for her. Sway has led her to buy the book if the blurb interests her.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Wear it or drink it - hilarious!!!
I have bookmarks from my publisher and I know they send them and postcards out to bookstores, libraries, and science fiction cons. Outside of the prize package I offered when my book came out, there is no other swag I know about.
Although a framed poster of my book covers would be cool...

Michael Di Gesu said...

I'd have to agree with you Nicki ....

I think bookmarks are great! That should be enough.

As for other stuff, I think once you are known then merchandising is beneficial.

But I do agree with Alex, a poster on certain books like sci/fi's and fantasies would be cool.

Michael Di Gesu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
L.G.Smith said...

I think the bookmarks are a good marketing item for dropping on a table at a conference, but I don't know about t-shirts or mugs. I see them a lot at bookstores for YA novels, but I've never been tempted to buy one. Maybe because I'm old. :P

Isis Rushdan said...

I have heard that bookmarks are valuable. I think if you use swag in a new way to spread the word about your book it could be good. But as you said, if it is being used in the same way every other author is using it, then it really doesn't make an impact.

Karen Walker said...

I agree with you, Nicki, about swag. Anything beyond bookmarks and business cards doesn't really do much. When I did booksignings, I did give away candy. Not sure that helped either.
Karen

Allison said...

I agree, I don't think swag helps sell a book. I think people will buy it after the book is popular. I don't remember seeing tons of Harry Potter merchandise around until it got super popular, for example, and I'm sure they made a killing off it.

Allison (Geek Banter)

Johanna Garth said...

Nope, not a fan of swag, other than sometimes it looks kind of cool. But as to helping to sell books, I think word of mouth is the most valuable thing and it's not for sale (sadly).

Laura M. Campbell said...

Bookmarks work for me. As an adult, the other stuff, unless it's a book that made a profound impact on my life, doesn't really do it for me. On the other hand, if I was still a teenager, the swag would work for me. It's a great way to start conversation with other people about the things you love during a very awkward phase of life.

Jennifer Lane said...

"I'll be totally honest---my publisher has a page of available merchandise for my book, and even I don't want any of it."

Ha ha ha! I wonder how those are selling...I haven't bought any of mine either.

The trading cards seem popular with the YA crowd but I don't really get them either.

Heather Murphy said...

I can only speak from the experience of a reader and not a write, but swag has not persuaded me one way or another in buying a book. A bookmark/business card with a synopsis is a good idea but I can't see buying a coffee mug, etc for a book. It might work if it's integrated into the book somehow (ie. Harry Potter swords are selling well)

Arlee Bird said...

Bookmarks make sense--they're like business cards. I don't think the swag sells any books. If the book can't sell the book why should a shirt or a coffee cup sell it.

Now on the other hand, if a book is doing very well and developing a following, I'd say capitalize on that if you can. The souvenirs should be an after the fact sort of thing and only if that fact is extreme popularity. That would be nice.


Lee
Tossing It Out

Janie Junebug said...

Swag would not convince me to buy anything. The bookmark as a business card with info is great, but it wouldn't necessarily convince me to buy the book. However, give me the book for free and I'll review it. Or, just be Nicki Elson and I'll think that everything you do is great! I finished "Three Daves." Sorry it took me so long.

Love,
Janie

Tara Tyler said...

the swag is supposed to create buzz.
at the conference i went to there was a ton of it! but the stuff doesnt mean the book is good. i agree, you want someone who read & likes your book to be an ad for you w/swag. before that, a writer is just creating a presence, look at this, my book is interesting.

it's gotta be hard to market a book! hows it going?

Cathy said...

I come back from conferences with bags of swag, and then promptly trash it all. It's clutter. But that's speaking as a writer. I honestly don't know how readers feel about it. Then, as a librarian, it was rare that someone ever sent me a postcard, but if the postcard was well done, I found it interesting to look at for a while. Then, as a librarian, if it was a self-published book, I was unable to purchase it due to our Collection Development policy. So in all, I'd say swag is pretty worthless.

CarolOates said...

I agree, aside from bookmarks, I don't see the point.