Five Tips for Better SWAG

Five Tips for Better SWAG

I love conferences, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE THEM. Any kind of conference is my thing but motivational, for writers/readers and for growing one’s business are my three favorites. At each and every conference, guess what I do, go by all the tables and take THE SWAG! What I do when I get home? Review the interesting materials and bios of the speakers? Okay that’s important too, but as a visual person, I like to sit down and REVIEW THE SWAGGGGGG! It’s the goodies, the cards, pens, treats and all that stuff that people put their hard-earned money into, hoping you’ll remember them when you get home and consume their product.

I’m home for Romance Slam Jam – that is the largest and best gathering of African-American Writers. I had an absolute ball but as I started looking at THE SWAG a little more closely, there’s a couple of things I think I’ve come to realize and especially being an author for over ten years now. Wow that’s along time but I digress. It’s important to ensure your SWAG works for you to promote your book, your business, what have you. I realize I’m making some judgments about people’s original idea they thought was a good one, BUT take it with a grain of salt, AND I also want those that have no idea what KIND of SWAG to invest their hard-earned dollars in, to make the best decision based on my experiences and my observations. That’s my ONLY goal. I would have liked to read something like this years ago when I was first starting out. So here goes:

  1. MAKE USE OF ALL REAL ESTATE – Blank card backs – what? You have two sides for information, make the most of it. The benefits outweigh the costs and it’s usually only a few pennies more.
  2.  INVEST IN STUFF PEOPLE USE – pill boxes, small bags, even if they are plastic, and other useable items are where its at! These are things people need and want and more than not they will be used again and again. Poor little chalky mints in the wrapper with your website on it? Uh, no.
  3. NOT LABLED, SMELLY JELLY MUST GO – I received a couple of things that smelled up my bag. People are very sensitive about smells and what you think smells great doesn’t smell great to others. Think about it, you only buy perfume for people you know well or that asked for it outright and told you the brand they wanted. If you’re going to buy a candle or cream or what have you, there really isn’t anything wrong with this but ensure the wrapper can contain the smell and the ingredients are listed. ALSO, tell people what it is. People are weary and just plain cautious about using things on their body that they can’t identify. Soap, shampoo, hand cream….something I received till this day I don’t know what it is and if I knew, I might have tried using it on that particular body part you intended it for. L If you must put things out that you feel smell fabulous, then put it on the goody table in a small but pretty bucket and label the bucket, this allows people to take one, decide if they like the smell and if they don’t, decide to leave it.
  4.  SMALL EQUALS LOST and OFTEN UNREADABLE – I saw some painfully small business cards and postcards that the text was so super small and thus was very hard to read. If you’re going to take the time to pay for it and make it, then ensure it’s not so small that it can’t be read.
  1. AVOID TOO MUCH PACKAGING – Not sure how much more explaining that needs but every now and again I’ll come across things in boxes, with lots of tissue paper, bubble wrap and that shredded paper/filler that gets’ everywhere on your hotel floor. You know who you are. While I appreciate the time and energy you took, the extra padding just isn’t necessary.

Tips for Authors and their SWAG development

  • Go back by the tables (goody room, etc.) at the end of the event and get yo stuff! If you can afford to throw pennies away good for you. That stuff is not going home with anyone. The hotel staff or the conference coordinators will likely toss it and that’s wasteful.
  • Put out a little at time. I know you want to put out ALL 250 postcards or pill boxes with your name/website on it but why not just a put a little. You can replenish it when it’s time. This is especially important for the more expensive swag. By nature, we just like stuff. If we see a lot out at one time, we’re libel to take more than one and that is just GREEDY but people do it. Don’t let tell you about those Senior Conferences I go to for work.
  • MASH UP – Here’s an idea, if your book and your fellow author’s book is coming out around the same time (and are similar in genre), share the costs. Your release on one side and your friend’s book on the other. This is not just for printed items but for anything, really events, signings, etc. Sharing is caring (and saving $$).
  • If your older books are still available, let people know. It’s important for cards to do double duty. You will have those that have never heard of you, see your backlist and (if available) want to go get those too.
  • BUDGET SWAG – There is NOTHING wrong with homemade SWAG – the big print companies are expensive but SWAG is just like clothes, you can look like a million bucks and have purchased your duds at the local Goodwill (feel free to ask.) Just because your items are made on a desk jet printer, no one has to know. You can do it and there are numerous templates already in your MS Word documents, etc. available for you to just put in your information. You can also “Ask a teenager” (that’s my motto) they are super savvy at this stuff and it’s not hard for them at all.
  • SWAG just can’t be afforded for some and that is okay. At the end of the day the story will speak for itself. You must use all your other ways of promoting (social media, newsletters, blurbs, etc.) if you are not going to hop on the SWAG bandwagon and we just have so much stuff, people do often leave the SWAG behind as they go to more and more events and don’t necessarily want the bulk and the weight of yet another tchotchke. Don’t sweat it.


Easy, peasy and really it’s not hard at all. The ever-changing SWAG should have a little more thought to it. Good Luck and see you at the conference, don’t forget the SWAG!

3 thoughts on “Five Tips for Better SWAG

  1. Sound advice. As a librarian, I’d attend so many book conferences. Publishers were handing out copies of books like mad at the tail end of the conference just so they didn’t have to pack & ship them home. My favorite SWAG items are pens because they are useful every day. At one conference a vendor gave away these pens that lit up in four different colors. The ink was black. Very useful, fun & everyone wanted one. Do not get me started on conference bags they hand out at registration. Dozens and dozens of those.

  2. Excellent advice Tracee. I will be sharing. Don’t knock the mints. They come in handy when you are stuck at the airport and refuse to pay 2 for candy bar. LOL

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