Not Quite Inspirational

Often on EMU’s Debuts, we bring you uplifting stories of our journeys and struggles and whatever scraps of collected wisdom we’ve acquired.

Not today.  Today we’re gonna talk about something crass and materialistic.

We’re gonna talk about swag.*

Just a small sampling of awesome swag I've collected lately

Most of us noob authors have three questions when it comes to swag:

~ What should I buy?
~ How much should I spend?
~ Who do I give it to?

I’m one of those unbalanced individuals with an office-supply fetish, so I’m not shy about admitting that one of the things I’ve most looked forward to about the debut process is the ability – nay, the necessity – to procure swag associated with my book.

There is a universe of swag out there.  I’ll be honest.  I wanted it all.

I waited patiently until my cover was finalized.  Until it appeared in the catalog with its very own ISBN number.  But then I started counting my pennies and things got hard.  What swag items would be a good investment?  Which would help me connect with readers?  What would people actually keep and use?

Some of my writer colleagues have been rather clever with their swag.  Megan Bostic gives out mini-notebooks since journaling features prominently in her debut, NEVER EIGHTEEN.  (If you ever meet her IRL, ask to see her swag caddy.)  E.M. Kokie, author of PERSONAL EFFECTS, had some specialized dog tags made; one of her characters is a veteran.  Lots of other writers I know do silicone bracelets, tote bags and T-shirts.

Like I said, a universe.

Sadly, the thirteenth century does not lend itself well to rampant materialism.  I could probably fish some rags and chicken bones out of my trash and give them out as authentic holy relics (hey, it worked for medieval people), but something tells me I’ll do better with the lovely replica pilgrim badges I bought from a pewterer in the UK, and of course there are the drunken monkey magnets of which I am so proud.  I’ve also got the more traditional bookmarks, stickers and postcards neatly arranged in boxes in my closet.

Who to give swag to?  I’m still working that one out.  Part of me is still dealing with the awkwardness factor: How do you hand someone something with your cover on it without it seeming pushy and forward?  So far I’ve had good luck just giving it to people who’ve asked.

What about you guys?  What swag do you like getting?  How does swag come to you?  What do you keep?  Have you ever gotten a particularly memorable swag item?

* If you’re not familiar with the term, “swag” refers to the physical artifacts authors use as promotional items, usually stuff with your book cover and ISBN on it: bookmarks, buttons, stickers, temporary tattoos, real tattoos, vanity license plates, billboards…



Filed under Book Promotion, Happiness, Satisfaction

30 responses to “Not Quite Inspirational

  1. This is a hilarious line: Sadly, the thirteenth century does not lend itself well to rampant materialism. Next time give more thought when picking your century. It’s all about the swag, right?

    Oh my goodness, I love swag so much. And there was this very unhealthy thing happening–one of the big online swag producers kept sending me coupons. What’s a girl to do when she has two books coming out in the next five weeks and someone keeps offering free mugs, tote bags, postcards, etc? I can no longer fit in my office. It’s swagged up. While it’s likely true that my target audience is not a tea-sipping bunch, I love my mugs dearly.

    The best use I’ve come up with for my swag (especially the tote bags) is the person on the school end who coordinates my visits. It’s a thankless, many-detailed, many emails-back-and-forth job, and I’m going to start giving them a big old bag full of swag. Of course, now that I’ve had this brainstorm, the coupons are no longer showing up. You’d almost think they planned it like this….


    • J. Anderson Coats

      Wait…there’s such a thing as too much swag?


      I like the tote bag idea. If I’m ever awesome enough to do school visits, I’ll be the Santa of swag.


  2. Assign me a pilgrimage so that I may earn one of your pewter badges from England. Please! I’ll crawl on my knees to your house like a true pilgrim.

    But maybe I’ll drive most of the way there if you live really really far away.

    (Oh, and I’d like a bookmark too. I mean, if I’m gonna crawl…)



    • J. Anderson Coats

      Hee hee hee! There will be giveaways in which the badges will be given out. I’ll definitely keep you posted.

      In the meantime, if you email me a mailing address, I’ll send you some bookmarks and stickers: j at jandersoncoats dot com

      That goes for the rest of you guys, too!


  3. I am also an office supply junkie and am in the process of thinking about swag right now and am SO EXCITED! I love yours – those badges are amazing! Bookmarks are a for sure, but I’m also thinking silicone bracelets and stickers, too. And maybe personalized wrapped chocolates for the goodie bowl at signings. I want it all.


  4. And to answer your question about what swag I like – I love bookmarks. They’re strewn all over my messy office and tucked into books on my shelves, but I’ll never turn one down.


  5. Your swag is most awesome, J!! I’ve got some of your bookmarks and stickers, but those pewter badges – oh my!! We shall have to convo about those …


  6. Sarah Evans

    Your swag is beautiful !!! Bookmarks are wonderful but I use all kinds of swag as rewards for my junior high students and giveaways on my blog. I love getting a student to try a book because of a cool bookmark, sticker, pen, or some other fun swaggish item. I have to agree with the group so far, those pewter badges are amazingly original.


  7. Natalie Dias Lorenzi

    I’m swooning over your swag, J.! The timing of this post is perfect, because I just ordered a set of business cards today with my book’s cover, ISBN, etc. I went to visit my parents this weekend, and one of the booksellers near their house knows all about my book (thanks to my mom and dad). So we went by the bookstore to give the woman an ARC. She was lovely and very kind, and asked if I had a card. Um, no. I’m a teacher, and teachers don’t have business cards. 😛 That insidious company (likely the same one that sends Audrey all those coupons…) sent me an email today, so it must be fate, right?

    As a librarian, I wil say that bookmarks are a HUGE hit with my students. We give them out all the time, and kids really love them. I do want to order bookmarks down the road, and maybe postcards to sign at book signings for kids whose families maybe can’t afford to buy my book. I plan to have my book launch party at a bookstore near the Title I school where I work, and I know not every kid there will be able to buy the book. I once heard an author say that she likes to have something to sign for kids who aren’t buying anything, because it makes them feel like they can approach her and still have something to take away from the visit. I thought that was nice.

    Thanks for the fun post!


    • J. Anderson Coats

      I definitely like the idea of being able to sign and hand something to every kid. The postcards are also good for doing mailings to libraries and schools.


  8. Melanie Crowder

    Great post!

    I plan to do bookmarks and postcards and flyers. And I do have an idea for signings–my character carries around a small white stone in her pocket, so I am thinking I’ll spend the next year leading up to my release collecting small white stones to hand out at school visits and such…


    • J. Anderson Coats

      Flyers are a cool idea. The Class of 2k12 made a pretty one to send to bookstores and libraries with the hope that it was pretty enough to display.

      And the stones sound perfect – something unique and memorable that ties closely to your book.


  9. J, your post is uncannily timely. Lynda Mullaly Hunt just supplied me with a pen, a postcard, a bookmark, and three (count them: 3) bright red rubbery bracelets with “Be Someone’s Hero” on one side and the name of her fabulous book, ONE FOR THE MURPHYS, on the other. (At least, I assume it’s a fabulous book. Since she gave the ARC of her book to Someone Else, I wouldn’t exactly know, would I?! But, I’ll have to be happy with the swag until I can buy a copy on May 10.) Now, of course, I’m feeling that my bookplates and badges, which Jeannie displayed two weeks ago, are kind of puny. But, Lynda offered to help design postcards for my book, which is the least she can do, right?! Maybe the 13th century and civil rights have something in common–a lack of hoopla, which makes swag a little tricky. Great post!


    • J. Anderson Coats

      Pens are very tempting. I mean, c’mon. I have three of them in my purse right now. They’re definitely something people keep and use.

      Maybe I should try to find a drop spindle as a swag item. My character uses one all the time.


  10. Mary P.

    I LOVE your swag–and the answer to “how do I hand someone something with my cover on it” is a) have a gorgeous cover, like yours, and b) give it to your friends to hand out! I’ve been talking about your book to my crit groups and writer friends for at least a year now–I’d love to put bookmarks (or whatever) in their hands! I also know the children’s dept. specialist at my local independent bookstore, and she always has stuff out for the kids and gives it out at her teen book clubs–I’m sure she’d be thrilled to have swag for historical fiction, which is her favorite.

    As for what makes for good medieval swag–I dunno. I was thinking about y-pestis plushies if I ever get that MS sold (which are a real thing!, though they might be a bit expensive. 🙂


    • J. Anderson Coats

      I’m happy to send you and your indie bookseller some swag! Email me a mailing address and I’ll totally hook you up.

      I think the microbe plushies would be good for giveaway prizes. That’s what I did with the pewter badges; I bought a dozen and now I’m doling them out one at a time for giveaways. I sure wish I could be profligate with them, but it’s not in the budget. I decided to get a few really awesome things as setpieces and more traditional swag to spread around.


  11. I love bookmarks too! Seems like you can never have too many. I remember talking to you about maybe getting little skull and crossbone stickers that readers could adhere to the bookmarks to keep track of the body count as they read, but the drunken monkeys magnets are much cooler. 🙂


  12. Pingback: Swagtacular! :

  13. “Not Quite Inspirational” for a title? I disagree!!!

    I, too, love swag–and really love those pewter badges. Now, I’m trying to think of how I can work pewter into my next contemporary book. Do you think a character named, “Swaggy Pewter” is heavy-handed?

    I, too, have an unhealthy attachment to office supplies (Unhealthy to the wallet–not that I staple my own fingers.) Swag is the epitome of that! So much fun! Full of promise and optimism, too, as an author rarely imagines themselves sitting alone with their swag.

    I did research swag for a while and settled on the things Cynthia listed above. (Yes, Cynthia. I officially feel guilty) I did opt for nicer pens, figuring I might give them out less often, as I have not heard of any cheap pens that actually write smoothly. I do think people love pens, but if they don’t write well, people won’t keep them.

    I have bookmarks but I have a lot of text on them—wondering if that’s good? (small cover, pub info, blurb on front, web info and synopsis on back) I noticed in Austin that people tend to focus more on images. Then I got to thinking—maybe I need different bookmarks for kids and librarians. Kids would like the pics while adults may prefer the text. You know…I can overthink things sometimes…

    Darn! I have work to do–but my mind is working on more swag now. Because you really can’t have too much. Right ? RIGHT?


  14. I still like the signed bookmarks. It’s really the only swag I’ve actually used; I guess I’m über-practical.


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