Using Book Swag to Sell More Books
Swag items can help promote brand awareness, or reward readers for their support and loyalty.
Giving out author swag / merchandise (often shortened to merch) is a tried-and-true technique to attract potential readers as well as engage current fans of your writing. Book swag is an easy and often inexpensive way to market your books. The notebooks, stickers, and bookmarks shown in the header image above are all actual examples of book swag, which can come in many forms, as we’ll discuss below.
Thanks to the rise of BookTok and Bookstagram, book swag has exploded in popularity in the past few years. Everywhere you look on TikTok and Instagram, bookish creators are making book mail and book unboxing videos, gushing to fellow book nerds over not only the books themselves, but the trinkets and goodies that authors have included in their package.
What is Book Swag?
Essentially, book swag is promotional items that act as reminders to readers and fans of your work, given away or included as a bonus with sales for the purpose of book marketing. Swag comes in a range of shapes and sizes, from inexpensive to luxury, and extends the reading experience beyond the written word. They can also be leveraged in a contest as a prize package. Typically, these items are branded or related to your books and become quite collectable to your fans.
Benefits of Book Swag
On average, consumers have to see a product 3-5 times before they will decide whether or not to purchase it. The point of book swag is staying power, putting your book or you as an author in their peripheral long after they received the items.
- Augments your book experience for readers by expanding their world beyond the book itself.
- Extends your brand beyond your book and digital footprint. It’s a chance to be creative and bring your brand to life.
- Sets your book apart from others in your genre.
- Creates FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) as other people want to collect your limited edition items.
- Free advertising as readers use your book swag in the real world. Potential readers might see a bookmark, key chain or sticker at a coffee shop and be curious enough to look your book up.
- Offers an easy way for fans to recommend your book when they don’t have the physical book on them.
- Provides content for social media.
How to use Book Swag
Ok, so we’ve discussed the benefits it can provide, but before you spend money on having something produced, it’s important to think about where and how you’d be giving it out, or where it might fit in your marketing strategy. Here are some ideas to consider:
Giveaways: Hold a contest on social media or in your newsletter to win a prize pack collection of all your goodies
Promotional material: Include swag for your next book in book boxes, etc.
Conferences, Trade Shows, Book Signings: Decorate your table with these items to give to potential readers or as conversation starters
Book Clubs, Libraries etc.: Leave your book swag bundles as loot bags
Independent Bookstores: Ask them if you can donate some swag for their customers
Friends & Family: Give them stacks of your book swag to brag about you and your books
Book Reviewers: Send a swag box along with your advanced reading copy to entice reviewers to push your book to the top of the TBR list.
Launch party souvenirs: You’re a published author now! Swag could be a way to say thank you to those who supported you along the way, and take the time to support you during your book launch.
Direct-sales incentives: Give readers extra incentive to purchase directly from you, where you’ll make the best royalty per sale, rather than shop on Amazon. Anyone who buys from you may be eligible to receive bonus stickers in they mail they can’t get anywhere else, for example. They reward customer loyalty.
Preorder incentives: Consider giving fans who preorder bonus swag when the book ships.
Swag products: Give your super-fans ways to show you even more support by giving them the option to buy great swag based on your books whenever they want! Sites like Redbubble help make this possible.
Book Swag Ideas
These items come in all shapes and sizes.
Paper Swag: While this tends to be the least expensive, unless you come up with something unique that matches your book and readership like character trading cards, it might also be the least exciting. If your swag is not useful, there is the risk that it will be easily discarded. Some people dislike paper clutter, where others collect bookmarks and postcards.
Paper Swag ideas include:
Non-Paper Swag: This swag tends to be more expensive, but it also tends to be kept for longer. Again, unique swag is more effective, so are useful items. Consider the long-term effects of the swag you choose to spend money on. For example, gourmet cupcakes might be unique (and delicious), but they don’t have much of a shelf life and once they’ve been consumed, there is no memory of what book or author the reader got them from. Also, be careful of giving away anything that a person puts on or in their body to be sensitive to people with allergies. The last thing you want is a potential reader remembering you because they broke out in hives.
Non-Paper Swag ideas include:
Coffee Mugs, Tumblers, Water Bottles, and other drinkware
Gum and Candy (wrapped)
Digital Swag: Of course, the most inexpensive swag is digital swag, which may also be the longest lived, as there’s no shelf life, and nothing physical to get broken or thrown away. Imagine every time one of your fans opens their laptop they are greeted by artwork that relates to your book.
Digital Swag ideas include
Downloadable bookmarks and stickers
Computer and smartphone backgrounds
Social media posts
Exclusive short stories
The key factor here is to link the book swag to your book so that the recipient remembers your writing and you. In marketing terms, the best swag helps maintain brand awareness in your reader’s minds. Think outside the box and up your game by including custom swag that represent themes in your books. For example, Tessa Bailey recently released Secretly Yours, a romance story based on a winery. Her book swag contained wine related items, including a novelty purse in the shape of a wine bottle.
For the biggest impact, give out items that people will actually use. Otherwise, your carefully made chachka will be tossed away. By giving away book swag that can be used again and again, potential readers are frequently seeing you and your book, thus reminding them of your writing.
Creating Book Swag
Book swag doesn’t have to be fancy. But it does have to look professional. If you’re a new author starting out, you might want to consider what swag you give away carefully to ensure it’s high quality and projects the image you want prospective readers to walk away with. Budget carefully. Swag can be an easier expense to justify when you have multiple books to sell to potential readers, making it easier to recover the costs.
Hire Someone: There are a number of resources out there that can help you create book swag that will compliment you and your books. Some options include:
Etsy: Find pre-designed items or work with a designer to create something unique
Fivver: Hire a designer to create artwork you can then use in multiple formats
Redbubble: Upload a design that can then be used across multiple types of swag.
Bookbrush: A staple in some author’s toolbox, this design site offers pre-designed options you can quickly and easily customize to your book’s details.
PrintRunner: With free shipping, helpful customer support and upscale printing options, this site can help you up your book swag game.
Creating your own: With a little effort, you can produce your own book swag using creative elements you already have on hand like your book cover, book quotes, and your website. Try one of the following to create your own designs.
Canva: This online design site has a plethora of free options to help you start designing. The paid version is affordable and can be used for a wide range of needs, including creating social media posts, book swag and even designing your own covers.
Vista Print: Fast, convenient,and often inexpensive if you buy in bulk. A wide variety of book swag options are available here. With the option to preview your designs before they go to print, this site makes DIY simple and easy.
Stickers and more: The name says it all. Get items from stickers to apparel to banners all in this one stop shop. The site also offers the option to work with designers to get your swag just right.
Michaels: Walk around this popular craft store or browse their online site and let your creativity run wild. Think outside of the box to create T-shirts with your own designs.
Dollar Stores: Never underestimate the fun and inexpensive items found in your local dollar store. But remember, if you find something you like, snag them all up as stock is constantly rotating, and it’s not guaranteed you’ll be able to find the same items next time you drop by.
Book Swag Tips & Tricks
Some things to keep in mind as you start collecting your book swag items:
Don’t forget to add your author name to the book swag
- Keep fonts easy to read
- Use quotes from your books to showcase your writing
- Implement your log line to entice readers
- Include your URL or a QR Code to make it easy for people to find you
- Add a call to action to sign up for your newsletter
- Buy blank notebooks from the dollar store, print out a photo and glue to the cover to instantly create a customized notebook
- Attach your business card or a book plate on the inside of a notebook so readers can easily find you
- Go beyond your book cover and use character art to decorate your book swag
- Make your book swag collectable by creating a series of bookmarks, posters or cards, one for each book or character
- Stamp paper bags with your logo and put your books in them at conferences etc. so readers walk around advertising you
- Quality counts. Your book swag is an extension of your book and your brand.
- Donate your bookmarks to a library or local bookstore to give to customers
- Order in bulk to keep costs down
Stand out with Book Swag
With more than a million books published every year, there is a lot of competition to get on the radar of readers, especially if you’re an indie author without the resources and backing of a publisher. Well-designed and innovative book swag can not only attract readers, it can remind them of who you are, what your books are about and how to find you when they are looking for their next great read.