Swag: the one thing authors dream about and can't wait to have in their arsenal of goodies...but it's the Achilles heel that no one ever talks about.
I've mentioned this twitter thread many, many times but the talented Dahlia Adler did an incredible thread on Twitter about two years ago regarding the things that authors stress over but really in the long run it don't really matter. You can read the whole thread here.
She talked about swag and hit the nail right on the head...
Read that tweet again.
Swag does not sell books. It's just fun.
When you think about it that way, the idea of buying swag for readers shouldn't be as taxing as it feels. After all, you've probably been thinking about swag since before you got your book deal or had a self publishing date in your head. It is fun and that should be something to look forward to--almost like a reward for when edits are done, ARCs are sent and you're moving into the marketing/PR portion of your journey.
Most authors order what people will use: pens, post its, bookmarks, magnets. But that doesn't mean you can't do something fun, too. My word of caution: think about where you'll store that bulk order of lip balm....or that massive quantity of pens that will likely dry out before you give it all away...not saying you shouldn't order that stuff, but sometimes a good deal on a bulk order may not be so great if you're holding onto it for two years.
I did buy swag for my book release and because I'd been planning that release for over a year, I was able to spread out my purchases so I didn't break the bank.
The items below and links to these vendors are my recommendations only. I am not paid by these vendors, I just really like their products.
Big White Yeti Candle Company
Candles seem to be the one cool item that authors love, but man...can they be expensive. They can also be hit or miss for some folks. They're a higher priced swag item and it really is rolling the dice because what you like may not be what a reader likes--meaning you could be stuck with a lot of candles.
My candle purchase was for (a) a small group of friends, family and writing professions (editors, etc) that helped me get here and (b) for a few exclusive giveaways during my launch week. That's it.
Finding the right scent--something that smelled like being outdoors with a campfire--was like trying to find the Fountain of Youth. I tried candles from Bath and Body Works, to home decor stores, Target, etc. Nothing fit the bill. I tried Etsy and with one order to Big White Yeti, I was hooked. Their candles are soy based and made with high quality oils and fragrances. I tried a number of different candles and they all were incredible and so hard to narrow down! In the end it was a tie between Night Swimming and Camp Kinnickinnic. Camp Kinickkinnic won in the end because it really did smell like being at the cabin and lighting a campfire. Katie was amazing to work with and because of the quantity I needed, bulk pricing was available.
You can check out Big White Yeti, here.
To Color--Custom Coloring Pages
While the candle was an exclusive thank you for those who helped me on my journey, I wanted other, unique swag items that I could give out when readers ordered books through me. That's when I decided on custom coloring pages. Kate was great to work with and we went through a few rounds of designs before we settled on the ones I liked. Adult coloring pages are hit or miss--either you love the intricate, detailed designs--or it stresses you out. So I went with an "easy" design with very little detail, and one that was very intricate. I got several compliments on my coloring pages and would do it again in a heartbeat.
You can check out Kate's shop, here.
Stickers and Magnets by Sticker Mule.
Let me preface this by saying--there are cheaper options out there for magnets and stickers. I recognize that. But I ended up scoring an internet deal for custom, vinyl stickers and let's just say: I was hooked on the quality.
These are nice stickers, like the kind you see on computers, water bottles and even on a car's bumper or back window. Their magnets come in the usual sizes (squares, circles, rectangles), but they'll also do cut out magnets, too--just like the stickers. My pictures below are of the stickers I ordered (first photo) and the magnets I ordered (photos 2 and 3). If you sign up for their mailing list, you'll get deals and the more items you order, the bigger the discounts.
Again. I know there are cheaper places out there--but I'm a fan of the 'mule. You can check out their website, here.
Bookmarks by Vista Print
I have a love hate relationship with these things. Not only for the fact that most of my books were sold as e-books, but because trying to get a photo to fit the damn bookmark is like being in Dante's Fourth Circle of Hell. Thankfully the PR company I hired made a banner photo for me that worked. But if you're not up to speed on photo sizing, pixels per inch and photoshop, you might want to tap into someone with those skills to make it work.
In the end, the price was right and people loved them. They also make great "business cards" for your work. I opted for double sided printing and put reviews from book bloggers on the back, which is especially helpful when you're giving it to someone who has never heard of you or your book.
Here's the link to the bookmark I ordered. Cool thing with Vista Print is that it will save your order in your account history and you can reorder with just a few clicks.
I'll keep adding to this post if I find new swag items that people enjoy!