Alex Lidell On Using Swag To Build Rapport

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.


My guest today for the SWAG is Alex Lidell, an Amazon bestselling author of AIR AND ASH (Danger Bearing Press, 2017) and an Amazon Breakout Novel Awards finalist author of THE CADET OF TILDOR (Penguin, 2013). She is an avid horseback rider, a (bad) hockey player, and an ice-cream addict. Born in Russia, Alex learned English in elementary school, where a thoughtful librarian placed a copy of Tamora Pierce’s ALANNA in Alex’s hands. In addition to becoming the first English book Alex read for fun, ALANNA started Alex’s life long love for YA fantasy books. Alex is represented by Leigh Feldman of Leigh Feldman Literary. She lives in Washington, DC.  Learn more at

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

I have two very different freebies and they each have a purposeful role in my marketing strategy.  

Silicone bracelets. They are colorful, they stay on the wrist for others to see and ask about, and they have a reminder of my books on them along with a “Challenge The Odds” slogan. The greatest impact of these comes not from the freebie itself, however, but in the way I deliver it.  I shoot them like rubber bands at kids and teens who answer/ask a question, make a comment, or do something else I can find a reason to reward them for.  There is always laughter and people ducking to not get hit, and a general demolition of the barrier to interact. Also, ducking away from a rubber band creates an emotional engagement, that helps people remember who I am and wear the bracelet longer.

E-novella. FIRST COMMAND is a prequel novella to my TIDES series and for a while I used it as a freebie magnet to entice people to join my mailing list, interact, and get familiar with my writing. I still sometimes gift it to readers for things like answering a riddle in my newsletter correctly.

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

The bracelets were maybe $0.30-40 each?  I got them in such massive quantity that I don’t remember.  The novella is an ebook.

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

The bracelets seem to be fairly high value swag as far as in-person freebies go - however putting things out on a table has never worked as well for me as “shooting” bracelets at readers. I have learned to be careful - the bracelets really don’t fly far or hard but some people think they will.  So if I see a little fear, I aim at the floor or throw high up in the air.

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

I think it’s about utility, and people USE bookmarks more than other things. I had some expensive swag like dog-tags, which cost me $2 a piece, and I found that the low quantity made them less than helpful. I now stick to bookmarks, bracelets and e-books.

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

Bracelets. I stole that idea from another author :) 

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

Bracelets do not help me sell books directly, they build rapport, my brand, and people’s memory of me. Bracelets are one of seven touch points of advertizing the customer goes through before deciding to buy.

The novella absolutely helps sell books by getting readers to try the series.