|Have Fun Creating your Swag|
Get Started: Check Out What Fellow Authors Do
Let’s face it, we writers are voyeurs. We study people, events, situations, many times without even realizing it. So, attending book signings is a golden opportunity to study how authors conduct them and also, who their readers are. The two most recent book launches I attended, prior to covid-19 of course, took place in book stores, by successful, traditionally-published children’s authors. One had no hoopla. No poster, no candy, no business cards, no slides or polished presentation, and not enough books (much to her chagrin). But, being well-known in our community and also across the U.S., she attracted a good crowd; she told us the history behind her latest book, her fifth, with vast knowledge and terrific wit. At the end, while attendees stood in line waiting for her to sign our books, I was impressed with how personable she was with each person. We left having had a fun, satisfying experience. I decided that most likely she had enough experience to know that much of what a new author might think you need at a book signing is just fluff, and what counts is that readers get to meet the author and obtain her signature in their books.
The other book signing was when YA author Ransom Riggs blew into town to promote his latest book, The Conference of the Birds (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children). No one could miss his visit--his van with art for this book displayed all over it, was parked in front of Barnes & Noble. The crowd was large, full of excited young adults, and only one not-so-young woman dressed in costume, I presumed, as Miss Peregrine, which I enjoyed seeing immensely. There was the Ransom Riggs Tour Sweepstakes that many participated in and got to go to a private room, which stirred up excitement in the crowd. There were tattoos you could have pressed on your cheek, your arm; there was a giant cardboard façade decorated with “peculiar” Riggs' lore that you could stand behind for photos. Ransom Riggs presented himself with little fanfare and spent time telling us about himself, his family, and answering questions. I enjoyed myself and learned a lot about the presentation of a book signing.
But What Do Book Signings have to do with Author Swag?
After studying articles about swag and giving some thought about how to present my platform, I came up with some ideas, buoyed by what I had learned from the book signings, and observing other authors. As I researched the feasibility of each type of swag, I decided against bookmarks and stickers almost immediately. I have bookmarks and stickers from other authors. They live in a place I pass by every day on my bulletin board, and which I haven’t noticed since I first got them. That gave me the idea that I wanted my swag to have more meaning. To be noticed. To be useful. And most important, for children to have fun with at my personal appearances. Children can stamp stamps, stick stickers, and wear tattoos. Here is what I came up with:
- Business cards: I ordered 500 to begin, at Staples, and used the logo, “Linda Wilson: Children’s Mystery Writer,” and symbol of a dragonfly from Secret in the Stars, created by Danika Corrall, designer of my website and illustrator for my second book, Secret in the Mist.
- Post cards: I had two types of post cards, twenty-five each, made at Staples; one of the book cover, and the other titled, “Bee’s Needs: 7 Ways You Can Help;” which is related to honey and beehives, which are part of the Secret in the Stars story.
- Stickers: Stickers displaying the logo turned out to be expensive, especially custom cutout stickers. Instead, I purchased Mrs. Grossman’s stickers, mainly of animals that appear in my stories: dog paws, galloping horses, hummingbirds, dragonflies, crafty cats and bees, to name a few. Purchased from https://mrsgdemo.myshopify.com.
- Stamps: Stamps for my use in my promo materials and also for children to have fun with at my book signings. I purchased one 3”x3” stamp, which is the image for this post, a large stamp pad, and two smaller stamps and stamp pads for the fridge pads, which I put together myself. RubberStamps.net
- Fridge pads: On my fridge are two fridge pads from two different companies, that consist of the companies’ business cards and “To Do” pads, stuck on the fridge with a magnetic. Purchasing these pads ready-made was out of the question—too cost prohibitive. So, I purchased a 50-pack of self-adhesive magnetic business cards from Amazon, and a pack of 3x3” post-its. I glue a business card to the magnetic card (using the self-adhesive side), split the post-it block in half, and attach the half post-it block to the magnetic business card with cross-weave or any kind of strong tape. I stamped the first post-it page with my special stamp, shown above.
Please note: As another reflection of Abi, the main character in my story, I had the words, “You are part of my world . . . forever,” the last words in the book, written below Abi’s image on the large stamp, to send the message to each of my readers that they are now part of Abi's world and she'll never forget them.
- Tattoos: I plan to buy play tattoos so my readers can have fun putting them on.
Last and Most Fun of all: Giving Away Your Swag
I’ve had a lot of fun with my swag. When my book first came out, I knew everyone who bought it: my friends and family! I had an assembly line going. Each person who purchased my book received a fridge pad, a postage-stamped postcard, a thank you note, and the envelope decorated with a sticker or two. I’m looking forward to the day when I can have in-person book signings and make school visits, so my readers can have fun with my swag.
My main resource for learning about author swag: https://www.janefriedman.com/book-swag/
Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 150 articles for adults and children, and several short stories for children. She has recently become editor of the New Mexico SCBWI chapter newsletter, and is working on several projects for children. Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery, Linda's first book, is available on Amazon, https://www.amazon.com/author/lindawilsonchildrensauthor. The next book in the Abi Wunder series, Secret in the Mist, will be available soon. Follow Linda on https://www.lindawilsonauthor.com