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.

34397006.jpg

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 www.alexlidell.com

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. 

Melanie Crowder On Writing For Yourself

Welcome to the SNOB - Second Novel Ominipresent Blues. Whether you’re under contract or trying to snag another deal, you’re a professional now, with the pressures of a published novelist compounded with the still-present nagging self-doubt of the noobie. How to deal?

32126347.jpg

Today's guest for the SNOB is Melanie Crowder, author of many books for young readers including PARCHED, A NEARER MOON, and her newest, AN UNINTERRUPTED VIEW OF THE SKY

Is it hard to leave behind the first YA and focus on the second?

The hardest thing was getting out of the form and voice of my first YA. In Audacity, my protagonist was such a force, and by the time I had finished revisions, the verse novel form was like second nature to me. But I had no interest in writing the same book, only with different characters in a different situation, so I really had to yank myself out of that first book so I could give An Uninterrupted View of the Sky the space to be its own story.

At what point do you start diverting your energies from promoting your debut and writing / polishing / editing your second?

Really early on. There are two philosophies here—one where you devote months and sometimes years to promoting one book, banking on the first’s success to propel the second into even greater success, and another where you launch the one (of course doing every last thing your publicist asks of you) and then let go, freeing up the creative space for something new.

I chose the second. I’m happiest when I’m working on that next book, so that’s where I put my energy.

Your first book landed an agent and an editor, and hopefully some fans. Who are you writing the second one for? Them, or yourself?

My stories are for my readers, but I write for me. It’s become a huge part of who I am. When I have a productive writing day, I feel good about myself and my place in the world. When I don’t I’m a little like a runner who takes a day off and then feels sluggish as a result. There is nothing else that fills me up like writing does. So yes, I write for me.

Is there a new balance of time management to address once you’re a professional author?

Absolutely. Correspondence with editors, publicists, and the school and library team. Social media. Bookkeeping and taxes. School visits. Award acceptance speeches to write and banquets to attend. Conferences keynotes to deliver and book festivals to gear up for.

All of this takes energy, and it takes time. (Of course, some of it is much more fun than other parts. Yes, taxes, I’m looking at you.)

I have found that scheduling myself to prioritize writing time is essential. I try to stay off email and social media until the late morning, after I’ve had time to work on my story. If I’m traveling, I try to plan for a day of reading when I get home to replenish my energy and inspiration.

I don’t have the luxury of writing a book and setting it aside for months to simmer anymore like I did before I was published. My deadlines won’t allow for it. So that means I need to be disciplined with my time and I also need to take care of my creative energy. If I let myself become too depleted, my stories will suffer. And no amount of writing “business” is worth that.

What did you do differently the second time around, with the perspective of a published author?

I think the biggest difference was that my editor and I were familiar with one another this time around. Audacity’s success set a really high bar for An Uninterrupted View of the Sky, but it also gave us a great foundation to build upon.

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.

36440673.jpg

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.

nelaunch7.jpg
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.