Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Does Swag Sway You?

I recently attended the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Conference in San Antonia, TX. How awesome is that? Pretty great in my opinion because there a beginner such as myself can easily blend and mingle with the greats. I rubbed shoulders with Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Heather Graham, Catherine Coulter, and even Nora Roberts! Yikes, I so fan girled on a lot of women that inspired me to write in the first place. Although I have yet to publish my book, I’m still counted as one of the group.

RWA sets aside a room at the conference for authors to leave swag/goodies. Items such as bookmarks, candy, calling cards, and things that attract someone to notice their publications. The most memorable swag I picked up was cozies, stress balls, and condoms. Yes, you read that right. Of all those thousands of items I picked up (including the ones mentioned), I can’t tell you who any of those authors are past the items that caught my attention. So, “Who gave out the condoms?” you ask… I couldn’t tell you who they were or what they wrote because I don’t remember. How sad is that? It’s probably only sad on my part for taking the item offered.

This brings me to my point. In looking around that room full of items that authors spent a lot of money and time to purchase, I started to question the real benefit. Does swag sell books? None of the greats that I mentioned in the first paragraph had anything in that room. Only other authors were “shopping” in that room. So how does swag get out to the general public where the bulk of the readers are? What’s the purpose if only other authors see the swag?

Alright, let me say this again, “I’m unpublished.” BUT, I’m an avid reader and the swag did not sway me to want to purchase any of those books.  What sways me to read someone’s book is reviews. Would it be more beneficial for authors to give gift cards to purchase their book with a requested honest review as the only return? Or would it be more beneficial to spend the money and hire a freelance editor to help ensure the story is the best it can be? Maybe hire a publicist to place adds in magazines or build and promote a website? In my humble opinion (which you know what they say about opinions) any of those suggested would be more beneficial than spending money on swag.

What do you think? Have you been swayed by swag? 

Respond to this post with your opinions, leave me a way to contact you (email preferred), and one lucky person will receive a free box of books loaded with swag. The books are: Avenge Me by Maisey Yates; Scandalize Me by Caitlin Crews; Expose Me by Kate Hewitt; Atonement by B.J. Daniels; and Rev It Up by Julie Ann Walker.

Philisha Byrd Stephens 


Cari Hislop said...

I live overseas so I'll leave the books and cool stuff for someone closer, but you offer an interesting point. To swag or not to swag? As you say, if it doesn't make the author's name or work memorable it does seem pointless, but personalising stuff for thousands of people could get seriously expensive. It's a bit of a Catch 22. I'm glad you had a great time!

Tawnya Peltonen said...

Swag doesn't necessarily sway me to buy an author's books, but I do feel like it's an effective way for authors, especially those that are lesser known, to get their name out there to readers. As a blogger, I know that when I give away swag from authors and readers who aren't aware of certain authors receive that swag, they're likely to check out said authors to see if their books are for them.

Aidee Ladnier said...

I totally agree. Swag doesn't really sway me--a good blurb does and a friend putting a book in my hands.

But honestly, I think it helps with name recognition. When I'm looking at a blurb and it looks intriguing and then I flip the book over and recognized the name "from somewhere", I'll probably buy that book.

Carla Swafford said...

You're right, Philisha. Swag rarely sells books. Like Aidee said, it helps with name recognition. Have you ever picked up a book and think, that name sounds so familiar. Where have I seen/heard it? That's how it works.

But I will say I've heard the same thing about bookmarks. Authors say they are gone like the dinosaur. No, no, mon cheri. Hardcore readers (those wonderful creatures who do not want to write, they want to read, read, read) LOVE book marks and DO buy from them. Not saying all book marks generate a sale, but more than most people think.

Another beloved way to get the right attention is the small (but pricey) booklets with a excerpt inside.

Back to swag (the useful and creative types), most of my swag gets stuffed into envelopes and mailed. If you win a paperback book from me, you will most likely get a pen, car cupholder coasters and a book bag. This is done with the hope they will think kindly of me and purchase the other books. I also hand out the swag at book signings even if the person doesn't purchase the book. Giving away candy is a good way to get people to stop.

Back to bookmarks. Bookmarks are wonderful to carry in your purse and hand out to people. Ask them (cashier, waiter/ess, stranger standing the middle of a book store) if they read romance (I especially ask if they love HOT romance and James Bond). Hand them a bookmark. I also give out postcard sized bookmarks that show all three of my books.

My favorite to mail to conferences and luncheons (where they ask for promo and don't mind the paper type) are the postcard sized ones where each of my books are represented separately. One side shows the beautiful sexy cover and the back has the blurb along with quotes like from Amazon, RT Bookreviews and Time magazine. Oh, yes, people read those.

Louisa Cornell said...

Unique swag wins the day at conferences like RWA. What we often don't realize is that readers don't go to RWA. When you are at a book signing or send something to a reader who has won a contest you'd better believe they remember who sent them the condoms. LOL I love magnets. My fridge is covered with romance novel cover magnets. If it is hanging on a reader's fridge and they run out of something to read - that eye catching cover might just inspire them to hop online and check out your book. Name recognition IS the point of swag. Marketing experts say it takes seeing a name seven times for someone to consider turning loose of their money. Does it all work? Is it all worthwhile? We probably need more research. But with the publishing industry spiraling off in all sorts of directions - name recognition is more important than ever.

Debra Glass said...

Great post, Philisha! In my experience as a reader, swag has never swayed me to buy a book or even to look at an author's website. The glut of it at conferences makes it impossible for me to remember anyone's name. I have a few pens and bookmarks I keep from my author friends, but that's as far as my swag collection goes. I have a jar opener which I use on a daily basis and can't tell you the author's name that's on it. Based on my experience, I don't invest much in swag.

Philisha Stephens said...

Cari, Tawnya, Aidee, Carla, & Lousia,
I can see how that name recognition would be a key part in encouraging readers to try your book. I believe I've heard the same thing that it takes seeing a name 7-times before it sticks. One of the things I would like to see is statistics of Amazon advertisements that float across the kindle open page, or Facebook advertisements that show up in feed. Compared to the cost of that vast advertisement reaching far and wide, I wonder how effective it is in name recognition. So many methods to explore with so little time. Thanks for all your thought inspiring post.

robertsonreads said...

Hi Philisha,

As a reader I think swag is a wonderful idea. I have been very fortunate to have won swag on various contests. And, I send the author a thank you card. I enjoy going to author signings, I attended one 2 years ago and met Carla, Debra and s couple of other authors via another author that I had met before who was at that signing. I picked up some swag from those ladies. I write with a pen that I received from Sarah O'Rourke. So as a reader I do pick up swag and I appreciate my authors who are generous with their time and money.

Ginger Robertson aka robertsonreads

Ann Towry said...

No swag is not necessary. Just like swag given at some conferences. Rarely do you remember where you got it. It's just "stuff" to give the kids (if appropriate).

Pamela Mason said...

Great post Philisha! I was the Promo Chair for GRW's Moonlight & Magnolias Conference the past 2 years, and one year we requested NO paper items: postcards, bookmarks, etc. The backlash was t e r r i b l e! I relented on bookmarks - hey, I like bookmarks - but I have to say, sooo much of that stuff goes out in the trash after the con, and it's disheartening to think of the money being thrown away that could have been put to better use by those authors.
That said, I've suggested what you suggest: a card with a link for a free download. Authors have sniffed at that - not enough to show for their bookbaby. But I think it's the best idea there is. That, or a loaded USB, but that's more $$$ and brings other problems.

Philisha Stephens said...

Thanks so much to everyone who participated in this conversation! Both Tawnya and Ginger have won the books. Seeing that the books were brought home from RWA, I had numerous copies and decided to send it to both the people who provided their email. Enjoy and I look forward to future blog post and your participation!!!

robertsonreads said...

Hi Philisha,

Thank you very much for the books and I look forward to some great reading.

Ginger aka robertsonreads

Cari Hislop said...

Ah bookmarks! I love that idea of the post card with the link to a free story (and it can be used as a bookmark). That's a brilliant idea (and it would probably be cheaper than getting bookmarks made up).

As a reader I know bookmarks can make an impact. Nearly twenty years ago I read one of Karen Harbaugh's early romances and having really enjoyed it when I saw there was an e-mail address at the back of the book (in the day when that was cutting edge) I e-mailed her and she thanked me and ended up sending me (in the post) two bookmarks. I still have them and I've never forgotten her name. That was swag well spent! ;)

I think when the author makes it personal the swag is going to make a positive impact.