Bookmarks, Postcards, and Tote Bags, OH MY – What Swag is the Best Swag?By: Julianne Daly
As the YA market explodes, the fight to get attention to specific books gets harder. More and more authors and publishers turn towards book swag to help draw readers in. Sometimes special book swag helps drum up pre-orders and turn out at events. Swag can also be used to remind readers of books that aren’t available at the moment as well as be used to draw in new readers.
As a result, book swag has quickly grown from bookmarks to a huge variety of options – posters, pens, buttons, temp tattoos, postcards, art or quote prints, maps, character cards, nail polish or decals, stickers, tote bags, jewelry, bookplates, dice, socks, shirts, keychains, enamel pins, pouches, notebooks or notepads, magnets. The list goes on and on with the fun things that can be
done to help promote a book.
The question is what works?
One author, Chelsea Cameron, told me some of her thoughts based on working with her books, saying, “I’ve had success with magnets with fun sayings on them like ‘I’m sorry, I can’t go out, I have a date with my book crush’ and lip balms. Also, I ALWAYS have chocolates at my table at signings and people lose their minds. If you can afford to make swag packs, I’ve seen those be very successful as well. Like water bottle/pens/keychain all together. You can also get a bunch of stickers with your info on them and then put them on various things. Bags of tea/lollipops/etc.”
I asked on Twitter for reader’s thoughts and many people said they loved very specific things that tied into the book – the Six of Crows dice game was mentioned several times. Art and quote prints – on high quality paper – were also mentioned as favorites by a lot of people. Nail polish, enamel pins, artwork, postcards, jewelry, keychains, posters, and maps were also considered favorites by a lot of people. Tote bags as well, but only if they’re well made; I know I’ve definitely got some tote bags for books that I love, but seem too delicate to carry much, so they largely sit in my closet. Personally, I also love notebooks and special notepads, but that’s probably the stationery lover in me.
Stickers were iffy, since a lot of people don’t know what to do with them. Buttons – as opposed to enamel pins – were also very divided – some people loved them, but others didn’t know what to do with them. In personal experience, I’ve found I sometimes get too afraid to put buttons on my bags out of fear they’ll fall off and be lost and I even keep multiple pin sets for some of my favorite books so I have ones I can use, but also some saved up. Pens and pencils were largely well liked, though if pencils are too nice, it’s hard to convince readers to actually use them. There were also a lot of divided thoughts on magnets; some people loved them, but others had no use of them since not everybody gets to control how their fridges are decorated.
Surprisingly, bookmarks were another iffy items. Once a staple of swag, now a lot of people are unsure. Some love them – small sized, all the info you need about a book, has an actual day-to-day use – but others point out that they don’t often use bookmarks, just using anything they have handy to save their spots in books. Most bookmarks also bend or rip easily and the past couple of years has seen a huge boom in magnetic bookmarks from online stores based on favorite characters and things. You have to pay for these bookmarks, but they’re sturdier and have more display options, plus they stick in your book easier.
While nail polish is loved, nail decals were largely considered useless. Temporary tattoos were almost universally disliked – few adults and teens wear them and you can’t keep them. The only person who told me they did like temp tattoos said that her toddler loved them, which probably isn’t the audience most YA authors are looking for. Candy and food can work nicely for in-person events, but when mailed, they easily fall apart, and they can be a bit suspicious. Clothes like scarves and headbands were largely loved, but shirts or sweaters on the other hand were disliked. Readers have a lot of different bodies, so getting shirts/sweaters that cover all the sizes of readers and fits that are comfortable for every reader is incredibly challenging and can ultimately lead to readers being hurt.
Overall, in a world where every book has bookmarks available, readers want something truly unique and book-specific in their swag and they want things that are made to last a long time. Readers being afraid to use items because they can’t keep them or could easily lose or ruin them doesn’t, ultimately, help authors the way sturdier, hard to lose items are.
On the other hand, the way different book swag is viewed varies greatly. So, tell us what you think! What’s your favorite swag? Least favorite? Tell us @piquebeyond.