Got Swag?

-1-3Many thanks to today’s guest blogger, Virna DePaul.  Virna is a former criminal prosecutor and national bestselling author of paranormal romance, contemporary romance, and romantic suspense. She writes for Harlequin Romantic Suspense, HQN, and Random House. In her off hours, she loves broadway musicals, spending time with her family and friends, and connecting with other romance readers. 






Swag (noun, verb)

Swag from a Lori Foster event

1. Slang

a. plunder or booty, as in promotional merchandise

b. The way a person carries herself; confidence, appearance, or style

Romance readers love swag. Which is good, because every year, romance authors go to great lengths to fill hundreds of conference registration bags with little goodies. Why? Because we’re hoping to introduce ourselves to new readers and to remind readers who are already our fans how awesome our books are.

-6The problem is, however, it is very possible—no, probable—that our swag will get lost among the sea of other swag in those bags. That can be a disheartening thought—just like imagining our books lost among a sea of other books would be. But romance writers are a hearty (and creative) bunch, otherwise we wouldn’t be putting our hearts and souls on paper for public consumption to begin with.


Swag is just another extension of our professional brand, one to be taken seriously. It’s a greeting and a handshake to readers when we can’t be physically present. As such, the swag should truly be a representation of ourselves and our stories.

These tips on how to stand out in the overcrowded job market apply beautifully to author swag!

-41. Show your face as often as possible. The best swag puts your brand and name in front of readers. Whether it’s a bookmark, magnet, mug or t-shirt, someone should be able to look at it and immediately think of an author and her books.

2. Prove you fulfill a need. It’s best to give swag someone can actually use. Readers love pens, bookmarks, buttons, book plates, key chains, magnets, stickers, cups, t-shirts, etc.

3. Stop sitting in the victim’s seat. If you dread putting yourself out there, even on swag, it’ll show. Think of swag as an opportunity to put a smile on a reader’s face. They’ll remember you for putting it there.

4. Don’t be afraid to stand out. Readers love swag but they do get a lot of it. Take on the challenge to be creative. My most popular swag to date came from using the tagline “Books so hot you’ll need SHADES.”

What swag did I give away? Sunglasses! Creative. Fun. Useful. Bold.

An author’s swag can represent her poorly or well. Make it count. Get it and your books in front of some awesome readers!

So readers, what do you think?  What’s your favorite swag?

Bottom Line:  As a reader, one of my favorite swag items is rubber jar openers…love ’em!

6 thoughts on “Got Swag?

  1. Here’s my take on swag. I’m a reader and an electonic reader at that. When I attend a get together where I get flooded with swag, I keep what I can use — nail file, soap, t-shirts, mugs, jar openers. I hate to say it but the rest go in the round bin file if I cannot find anyone who wants it — usually the bookmarks and promotional book cards, unless it’s real real pretty. I travel to these events, don’t check luggage and space is a premium. The same go for free books. If I’m not going to read it, I’ll be leaving it for the next person. Oh, I’ve learned that if you think that housekeeping will take the books and read it themselves…NOT. Housekeeping is not permitted to keep anything they find left in a room. It either goes to lost and found or the garbage. So, if you are not going to read the books, it is best to leave them in the hotel’s lobby or if they have reading nook for guests. It could be a great opportunity for the hotel to create a guest library if they don’t have one.

  2. I love the bookmark, pens, key chains and T-shirts :) and notebooks[I love using these at uni, makes my day better].

  3. I’ve only been to one reader convention (RT12) and the standout swag there for me were 1) minty gum that said “don’t have dragon breath” or similar by an author with a dragon shifter series debuting and 2) a beefcake calendar with gorgeous book cover art for each month.

    I confess, i do like the bookmarks and postcards and trading card type stuff, but there *is* an awful lot of it.

  4. I love swag! And yep, my most used swag is indeed the rubber jar openers. I also use the cups, mugs, and so forth. Pens and pencils, I have tons of them and they’re so useful. AND if I am at a location where someone needs a pen I will often give them one of these swag pens. GIVE them the pen. Why? Because I already have seen that authors name but this person might not have and the purpose of swag is to help the author get their name out there. If I share the love then I feel like the swag is continuing to work. Same goes with note pads and so forth. Bookmarks I have intentions of doing this with but often fail. Key chains I don’t use. I have 6 keys that I need on my key chain. It’s enough to worry about. Key chains, to me, just mean more bulk. My fridge is magnet free. Nothing wrong with magnets but once they go up so does the clutter factor and I’m a person who lives in clutter. I am fixing that clutter issue and one step was to decide no magnets on the fridge. T-shirts are rarely in my size and they’re often white. I usually give these away. But my weakness and I have a ton but always, always, want more is tote bags! I love them. The swag I always find least enjoyable are the stress reliever squeeze things. I’ve got so many of them and frankly I just don’t get them. Best marketing I’ve ever seen done with swag is Jade Lee’s current #squidge campaign! Squidge is a yellow phone holder. He has been having adventures. I admit I totally want one now and before I probably would’ve been eh about it. Yep I’m that girl.  I also take it all home whether or not I will use it. (Remember afore mentioned clutter issue?) I am now giving swag to others who enjoy swag if it is not something I will use. (See I can change.) So there you go. That is my take on swag.

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