Kathleen Burkinshaw On Making Swag That Works

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 Kathleen Burkinshaw, author of THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM. Kathleen enjoyed a decade long career in HealthCare Management unfortunately cut short by the onset of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). Writing gives her an outlet for her daily struggle with chronic pain. She has carried her mother’s story her whole life and feels privileged to now share it with the world. Writing historical fiction also satisfies her obsessive love of researching anything and everything.

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

Bookmarks are not a novel idea (sorry for the pun), but the stunning cover art for The Last Cherry Blossom (Thank you Katy Betz), looks fantastic on my bookmarks. I sent them to my publisher to have at their tables at conferences since they wouldn’t have my ARCs there prior to my pub date. I also printed postcards with the cover, a blurb, info to order book, and my social media info. For my book launch I ordered cherry blossom fans that had the book title on it, also lip gloss with the title on the top-I found these on discounted wedding supplies websites.  In addition to that I bought blossom candy molds that my friend and I used to make pink blossom chocolates. Discounted party supply stores made this affordable.

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

The fans were the most expensive($4 each), so I only used it during my NC launch and my New England launch for raffle, or special thank you gifts. The lip gloss was $1 each. The cherry blossom candies were inexpensive (plastic molds were $4 each and the candy melts were $2 a bag which makes a lot), and also a big hit. I also want to share that Shutterfly does freebies every so often and through that I have ordered magnets of my book cover, a notebook, and a tote bag-all for just the price of shipping. It’s been a great way for me to purchase extra SWAG without breaking my budget.

TLCB fan.jpg

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

It depended on the event. My bookmarks and postcards sometimes draws them in at conferences. When I’m presenting at a school, I’ve signed them for students and that has gone over well.

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

I think that the larger swag items are great for a giveaway or may attract them to your table for your book, but it’s not something that I can afford to do all the time. However, the postcards can go a long way. When I’m presenting at a conference, I put the time and room of my presentation on the back of my postcard and hand them out. So that way, they may decide to come to my presentation and they have info to order the book. So even if they can’t attend the session, they know about my book. I have increased traffic to my presentations and sold books that way. It also is one of the least expensive items because I designed it myself.

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

Pins for a back pack or bag seem to be popular. One YA author had pins related to her book and I loved that.

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

Yes, especially when marketing to schools. The postcard for TLCB can be used to send invites to signings, as a thank you, or as an introduction to my book at schools and libraries.