May 3, 2013

Casual Friday: Let's Talk About SWAG.

Good morning, Misfiteers!!!

Since my debut novel, ONE, comes out in a little less than five weeks (!!!) I've just moved into marketing high-gear. My brain is whirring with ways to spread the word to more and more people. Naturally, I've been thinking quite a lot about the most fun part of marketing - SWAG.

Back in the day, "SWAG" stood for "Stuff We All Get." In other words, swag is a physical representation of your association with a product, team, or universe. Swag can be a bumper sticker, a t-shirt, or a pen.

So, when you have a gorgeous cover like I do, it's kind of a knee-jerk reaction to slap that thing on anything you can possibly think of and then use it for giveaways because DUH EVERYONE WANTS IT.

Yeah, okay. Mugs are cool. cuddle with?
Well, I don't really know if that's....
Okay, seriously now. Stop.

Then I calm down, remember my book is not the center of the universe and that most people don't want its cover on ALL THEIR THINGS, and think about what I as a reader like to see in swag.

I think we can all agree that one of the most awesome things about books is that they let you live in a different world for just a bit, yes? If the world is really awesome, you want to live in it, too.

So: I think the best swag is the kind that lets you believe you live in the world of the book (when you're being dreamy) and shows that you are in the book's in-crowd (when you're not.)


This is one of my favorite pieces of THE HUNGER GAMES swag. Yeah, I'm a career tribute. I'm buff and ruthless. And probably hot. And I would definitely have one of these shirts.

(and for the same reason, I didn't really want a t-shirt that said "District 12." The District 12 kids only wear, like, sackcloth. They're way too poor - and terrified - for a custom t-shirt.)

Other, less self-absorbed people love this simple, beautiful piece of THE HUNGER GAMES swag - a mockingjay pin. They love what it represents, and, brilliantly, the pin itself is featured on the book's cover. Awesome marketing without being annoying.
Back in the day, I was a HUGE fan of "The Office." I asked for the Dunder Mifflin Fun Run t-shirt for my birthday, partly because it's hilarious, and partly because a little part of my brain could imagine that I had been on the fun run too.

I've never seen a more fangirl-geeky-yet-also-coveted-and-awesome piece of swag than the Harry Potter magic wand. Jo Rowling painted such a gorgeous picture of a wand's meaning to each individual witch and wizard that it's fun to imagine what kind of wand we would have, were we not pathetic sad Muggles.

For that reason, it's even fun to engage in the same process of getting the swag, like letting a one-of-a-kind wand from a trusted American wandmakers like Colevanders choose you (yes, even if it is online. Unfortunately we are just Muggles.)
My kids with their Colevanders training wands. 

So that's why, as much as *I* love my cover, I really think my readers would rather have something like this Biotech Hub coffee mug. Don't you?
Yes, it says "since 2039." I'm in love.

Tangentially related swag is less effective from a book marketer's perspective, but still insanely cool.  The best example I can think of is the Hunger Games nail polish.
My favorite is "Cinna."

What it all boils down to is this: If I really love a book, I'm far less interested in promoting the book than I am becoming part of the book's world. 

So if you're an author, I challenge you to think about how you can create awesome swag for your book WHILE STILL working in vital information about the book, so that you can still help spread the word. Your street team members will appreciate not looking like completely geeky fanboys and girls, too.

I could sit here all day thinking of a bajillion more examples of great swag and daydreaming about creating my own. But I want to hear from you - what's the coolest swag ever? If you could create swag for your favorite book, or your own, what would it be?


Francesca Zappia said...

Oh geez, Leigh Ann. I think you may have turned me to the Dark Side.

Dahlia Adler said...

OK, my longer thoughts now that I've seen the post!

I love that stuff that puts you in the book's world far more than the stuff that just advertises it - exactly like you said, the cover of ONE is gorgeous but a biotech mug is just more of the experience. I remember when I was an intern and I got an "Initech" mug and I thought that was a way more clever idea than a mug that simply said "Office Space."

The best really is when you have some sort of symbol for your book, a la the mockingjay - so many more options that can be done small and cheap, aka actually doable for the author. Or, if, say, a character was never without her friendship bracelet made by her BFF in 3rd grade, I think friendship bracelets would make awesome swag - that sort of really book-specific thing.

In general, the swag I see the most, at least at events, are bookmarks and postcards. While postcards are pretty, especially if you've got a great cover, they just end up cluttering my apartment. The bookmarks, however, I totally use. Ditto notepads, pens/pencils (OK, I don't really end up using pencils, but I *think* I will, so I keep them around), and tote bags.


Jamie Grey said...

Fantastic post! I could spend hours dreaming cool swag for my books. Hmmmm...guess I know what I'm doing today :)

Veronica Bartles said...

I love bookmarks (especially if they're signed!), because I always need a pretty bookmark when I'm reading - and they're fun & easy to pass out to friends. (I actually prefer bookmarks to postcards, etc... but if I get a postcard, I'll use it as if it's a bookmark.)

Even more than a bookmark, I LOVE custom pens! It makes me feel like I'm part of the "in crowd" every time I jot something down. (I actually prefer pencils to pens, when I'm being creative, but I haven't seen anyone with pencils as swag yet.)

The best swag I've ever received was a beautiful tote bag featuring the cover of one of my favorite books.

And I love jewelry inspired by the books too. (I actually own a Mockingjay pin)

Sarah Wedgbrow said...

Jennifer McGowan made buttons (badges) for MAID OF SECRETS and I totally scored one. I love it. She had a bunch with different messages and I got Maid of Smiles. I also have a FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH badge. Both are on my laptop bag. I also really like t-shirts, but those are expensive.

Also, Victoria Schwab had tote bags at her signing, which I coveted. Bookmarks I tend to stick in library books when I'm there. I don't use them very much at all.

Joshua David Bellin said...

Great post--now I'm busy trying to think up what kinds of items would draw readers into the world of my forthcoming book. Only problem is, that world is inhabited by monsters that eat your body and steal your memories. Hmmm....

Jennette Mbewe said...

Great thoughts! I've received pencils and I love them. I've also seen playing cards, love that idea. I think the idea of helping us feel part of the world is a great idea. This post has me thinking, brainstorming. ;-) thanks!

Rachel OLaughlin said...

I love the biotech mug. Just sayin'.

As boring as it is, I'm all bookmarks and bumper stickers. Since they're really useful, I always have them around. And I put bumper stickers on EVERYTHING. (Probably a carry over from my musician days, ha.) My car, my laptop, my fiddle, my guitar, my mandolin... yup, stickers.

I also like the bracelet idea, but I'm trying to think of how to work in something especially ONE-esque...

*brainstorm coming*

Carla Luna Cullen said...

Whenever I go to RWA conferences with swag, I usually grab the pens first. Bookmarks are OK, but I have a lot of them. I also love the idea of an inside reference type item, like the BioTech Hub mug. Maybe see what kind of swag pharmaceutical companies give to doctors (my roommate in grad school was a med student and she got pens, post-it notes, notepads, dry-erase boards, pen-holders etc from various drug reps).

Marieke said...

Ooooh, I LOVE special swag like that!! :D I'm also all for magnets and pens! I have so many bookmarks, I just keep misplacing them, but I love to see my friends' books on my fridge *g* And I'd totally wear t-shirts with quotes or something like that ;)

Leslie S. Rose said...

I'm a swag-a-holic from my District 12 earrings to my House of Stark, Game of Thrones earbuds.

Laura Hughes, MittensMorgul said...

It seems to me the best swag is something eye catching that also gives the feeling of being part of the book's "in crowd." The mockingjay pin is an excellent example.

Part of the purpose of swag is to advertise the book to new readers, not just the readers who are lucky enough to get the swag in the first place. Something they will wear/use/flaunt to others. Even more than a book's cover art, a bit of awesomeness that would fit right into the story's world can inspire the best advertising a book can ever get: An excited word-of-mouth recommendation.

Example: I put the Maureen Johnson STARE sticker on the back of my cell phone case. Within an hour, I'd had no fewer than six awesome conversations full of book love, all because people asked me why the hell I had a sticker of a freaky lady staring at them on my phone. :D

I have several ideas for swag for my own stories, based on things that only exist in the world my characters live in, like the Biotechnology Hub in ONE. I've had a lot of fun trying to come up with ideas for swag that is both inexpensive, and wearable, like the mockingjay pin, because that's the most honest, exciting form of PR your book could ever get. The excited review directly from someone who loved your book!

Jessica L. Brooks (coffeelvnmom) said...

I love swag! (Bring the words "book swag" up to non-readers, however, and they look at you like you're crazy.) When Pity Isn't An Option was released a while back, I checked out a lot of swag ideas on the internet (even pinned a couple). I love stuff that 1) inspires conversation 2) has something to do with the book and/or character/s and 3) makes the reader love the book/swag even more (and feel like they're in on some sort of secret) once they've actually read it and understand the swag's connection. =)

Maggie Hall said...

Such cool ideas! I love the mug. I agree about magnets, too--I have magnets on my fridge I would have definitely thrown away already if they were bookmarks, but since they're useful, they stay! I think the swag I use the most is tote bags, but those are a little pricey to hand out everywhere...

Anonymous said...

I've thought about this for my current MS. My two main characters share a set of barrettes so I dream of making them should I ever get it published. And the one carries a messenger bag around so I would do that one too. I have seen some cool jewelry done based on a character or using the cover of the book. Uh oh, now I'm dreaming of swag again. There is a circus theme and that bloody monkey...

Yael said...

I never really understood the purpose of swag. Yeah bookmarks are nice, but they never actually convinced me to buy a book. But you have a good point about the "piece of that world" swag. It's kind of like an in-joke among fans of that work. (I get really geeky-happy when I see someone wearing a NERV T-shirt, for example.)

Also, I kind of want that mug, just because I want to see the confused look on my friends' faces when they see the "since 2039" part.

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