Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
Theme parks and rock concerts have understood for decades the power of bottling experiences to immortalize memories. How many of us have seen pictures of others sporting Mouse Ears or wearing band T-shirts from concert tours? Perhaps you have a souvenir you bought from a tourist shop while vacationing or a picture of you or a friend wearing a sombrero while celebrating a birthday at a Mexican restaurant.
Merchandising the reader experience with swag has finally trickled down to the book world, courtesy of social media and the indie artisan revival. Swag merchandising is not only important for branding; by virtue of its existence, it forces consumers to relive positive memories.
Why use swag?
Swag is a word that originates from the first initials of the phrase “stuff we all get.” Authors use swag—bookmarks, coloring pages, buttons, and more—to bring the people together. Humans are bonding animals. We are perpetually seeking opportunities to form communities, especially with like-minded individuals. Swag bonds consumers to merchandise and, thus, your business.
Yes. You, the author, are a business. An artist in the business of storytelling. Many authors in the industry know that books sell best through organic marketing approaches like word-of-mouth recommendations. Swag provides that natural buzz authors and publishers need for continual business growth by enticing audiences in ways promotional services and countdown deals are incapable of generating.
Here are five tips for getting started.
Tip 1: Choose swag that appeals to your fans and matches your genre.
Authors, especially in fandom-centric genres like romance, young adult fiction, science fiction, and fantasy, can naturally create excitement by offering swag to readers at events, in giveaways, and through Web storefronts. Many authors have even tapped into fan-generated swag through fanart contests. The readers, in turn, show off their bookish treasures on Bookstagram, Books on Tumblr, book blogs, and other social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Tip 2: Choose popular swag in unique combinations.
There are many types of giveaways to choose from. The more unique the offering, the more demand you’ll see for the merchandise. And additional business opportunities will come your way.
Choose from these popular forms of books swag. Customize them for your titles, and offer them in unique combinations:
- Bookmarks (especially character- or quote-driven bookmarks)
- Bookcards (postcards with the book’s cover on the front and a synopsis on the back)
- Story candles (the latest trend to capture character and worldbuilding appreciation)
- Coloring pages
- Jewelry (charms, pendants, earrings, rings)
- Buttons, badges, or ribbons
- Custom tea blends based on characters or stories
- Beauty products (lotions, soaps, lip balm, all based on beloved characters and story worlds)
- Custom drinks (Jones Soda, wine, beer)
- T-shirts or hats
- Book bags or totes
- Player cards (especially popular among YA and speculative fiction crowds)
- Fanart (posters, pillows, blankets, matted prints, journals)
- Mugs and wine glasses
Tip 3: If you’re an indie author, work with indie artisans.
The rise of indie artisans and small e-businesses has encouraged more readers to shop at website storefronts like Etsy, Redbubble, DeviantArt, and Pinterest. This is great news for authors and publishers. Shop owners need to offer new content to their customers and are looking to partner with other artisans.
Many readers desire “lesser-known books” and “nontrending stories” and “indie books,” thanks in part to book box subscription companies. These subscription services also popularize swag trends and bring large amounts of wholesale business to authors, publishers, and e-merchants.
Tip 4: Offer professional, eye-catching swag.
But do take note: With many opportunities in the world of publishing, business partnerships and reader satisfaction hinge on a professional cover, eye-catching formatting, a well-written and edited story, and positive reviews. The fancier the book, the more appealing the swag. This is especially true in young adult fiction and romance, where aesthetics and emotive storytelling are built into the genre and reader expectation.
Tip 5: Have fun!
Most important, have fun bringing your characters and worlds to life and connecting with businesses and readers who celebrate the art of storytelling. After all, the point of swag is to bring people together over a shared love of a book—your book.