AftenBrook Szymanski On Finding New Ways to Stand Out With Your Swag

Most authors will agree that the creative part of the job is where we excel, the business and marketing side, slightly less. It’s lovely when the two can meet in the form of SWAG – Shit We All Generate. I’ve invited some published authors to share with us their secret to swag… little freebies that can sell a book longer after the author is no longer standing in front of a prospective reader. In order to create great swag, you have to be crafty – in more ways than one.


Today's guest for the SWAG is AftenBrooke Szymanski, author of KILLER POTENTIAL, a young adult psychological thriller with a psych ward, a murder trial and revenge.

Finding something that represents your book and hasn’t been played out by a million authors before is difficult. What’s your swag?

I attempt to find novel ways to engage readers/writers, but honestly, the best I do is twist things to fit my personality. I’m crap at hard sale methods. Salesmanship is not my strength. I do connect with people conversationally and hate pissing people off with spammy stuff. So, I post gif games and try to have fun. I have no evidence any of my interactions lead to sales. 

But, I feel like less of a desperate loser begging readers to pay for my creative powers and more like a the everyday-loveable quirky-nerd I am, interacting with a wide range of readers (not all readers who like gif games and quizzes are going to be interested in my writing, but we can still connect with shit I generate) 😉

I bring colored gel pens to signings, attendees pick their favorite pen for me to sign with and get to keep the pen.

I also carry mini Pokémon figures in case younger kids stop by—they have to pick a Pokémon without looking because the Pokémon picks them. It’s fun for everyone and I get adults wanting to pick Pokémon all the time.


I have a book filled with pictures of things I’ve done since choosing to pursue writing full boar, very fun things, like being haunted in a hotel for three days, flying a Cessna, running in a 200ish marathon with Mercedes Yardley, and other nuts stuff I’d never have done if I wasn’t a writer. I have the book available to flip through at events. So aspiring writers can go, ‘daaaang, I want to be a writer too!’—hahaha). I didn’t have any pictures saved on my phone. Also, plug for chatbooks. I totally use them 😉

For online swag, I’ve created a free quiz connected to my book Killer Potential. It can be accessed at anytime, not just for those who’ve read the book. And it goes through personality strength to determine an area where the persons potential can shine through in their real life. I’ve been amazed at the accuracy and responses so far.

I also created a contest for photo uploads as part of a release I have coming out next year. That contest hasn’t launched yet, but it’s going to be awesome. Based around the tag line “forget covering your butt, cover your code. Cheat Code is coming.” The early feedback I’ve seen for the contest is awesome. I will have a $100 gift card for Amazon as a prize, as well as possibly featuring winning entries during promotional run.

How much money per piece did your swag cost out of pocket?

For signing event swag, it’s less than $.50 per item. I am happy to give the gifts to passers by without feeling like I’m blowing money. And I don’t offer candy unless it’s gluten/peanut/allergy free. That’s why I try to have useful swag such as pens.

Contest items are generally gift cards, because if I’m winning something, I want to spend however the blast I want and I might not want a necklace. I don’t wear jewelry other than my wedding ring and prescription glasses (my glasses count as both makeup and jewelry). For prizes requiring big actions I offer 50-100$ gift cards.

Do you find that swag helps you stand out at an event? 

I see other authors with bigger swag and bigger names. I honestly don’t see my swag as having an impact other than I appear prepared and ready to interact/aware of my audience. Even if I don’t compete with bigger names, I feel it matters that I come to events showing I care about my fans and want to demonstrate appreciation for their time. Maybe that’s quantifiable, maybe it’s not.

What do you think of big item swag pieces versus cheaper, yet more easily discarded swag like bookmarks?

I think of gift cards and electronics as big items. I’ve seen people give away skateboards, tickets to events, and baskets of book specific items. These are more engaging than bookmarks to me. I intend to have hourly giveaways at my next launch signing, where  I’ll gift a store card at the bookstore I’m signing in, every hour. It’s fun and keeps patrons in the store, which benefits the bookstore as well

What’s the most clever / best swag by another author?

Things that have driven me to enter things include illustrated Harry Potter Books, big money gift cards, and tickets to events I won’t pay for myself but would attend if I won tickets (such as a comic con or concert) I also admire when authors offer to put someone’s name in their next story. So fun.

And the biggest question – do you think swag helps sell books?

No. At least not directly. I think swag helps generate name recognition, author/book awareness and a connection to author/book. I don’t think it directly affects sales other than getting people talking about an author/book, which might lead to future or later sales. 

I keep all my online swag links available at my website If anyone has particular shit they’d like me to offer, they’re welcome to contact me through the website contact form. If it’s feasible, I’ll make it happen. 😊