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 MarcyKate Connolly, an author and arts administrator living in New England with her husband and pugs. She's also a coffee addict and voracious reader. Her debut novel MONSTROUS is available now from HarperCollins Children's Books, and the companion, RAVENOUS, will be out on 2/9/2016!
Finding something that represents your book and hasn’t been played out by a million authors before is difficult. What’s your swag?
I made a few different pieces. Some were pretty basic, such as bookmarks, postcards, and sellsheets. Others were a little more unique such as monster cards (a set of 4 with info about the monsters in the book) and frankenplushies (stuffed animals made to look like the creatures in the book).
How much money per piece did your swag cost out of pocket?
This varied WIDELY, anywhere from fifty cents to $20. The paper swag like bookmarks were pretty cheap, but items like the frankenplushies were more expensive.
Do you find that swag helps you stand out at an event?
I think it can, especially if you have something a little different. When I bring out Monster cards at an event, they tend to go quickly. That said, everyone seems to love bookmarks, so I don’t think you can go wrong there either.
What do you think of big item swag pieces versus cheaper, yet more easily discarded swag like bookmarks?
Bookmarks may be more easily discarded, but they also do come in handy when you’re talking about book people, so I feel like they’re a good investment. The bigger stuff can make you stand out, but I’m not sure the cost is worth it. I would probably never buy a big standup poster for a launch party again, but I might be willing to invest in a standup banner that’s more portable for a complete series of books. I’d recommend thinking about what sort of mileage you can realistically get out of the bigger pieces. If it’s a big expense and one-time use, it may not be worth it.
I do however thing items that are unique and specific to your book are a great way to get people to remember you. When I decided to get my Dr. Frankenstein on and make frankenplushies, it was one of those things where either people were going to love them or think I was seriously disturbed (so far the former is winning out, thankfully!).
MONSTROUS has creatures called hybrids such as the main character, goat-chickens, and a sperrier (puppy with wings, basically). I bought a bunch of chicken, goat, bird, and puppy stuffed animals, then took them apart and sewed the pieces I needed back together to make the hybrids. I raffled some off for my launch party and I’ve used a few others for random giveaways on my blog or at other events. They’ve been a hit!
My next book, RAVENOUS, has a new hybrid, a raccowl (a raccoon with an owl’s head) so I’m already planning to make more frankenplushies for that launch. They’re time-consuming and occasionally frustrating if I can’t find the right parts in stock at local stores, but I’d say they’ve definitely been worth it.
What’s the most clever / best swag by another author?
This is a tough one, but the best one I’ve seen recently has to be Julie Murphy’s Dumplin pins. They have the iconic pose from the cover and they are fabulous!
And the biggest question – do you think swag helps sell books?
Honestly? Beats me! Unfortunately, getting a real ROI on swag is tricky at best. However, regardless of whether they sell books I do think swag is important because it helps build your brand. Even if they don’t buy your book this time around, maybe they’ll remember your name and will buy the next one.