Swag – the good and the sadly recycled

Moving along to my rather extensive discussion of GRL, let’s talk swag today.

Swag is defined as promotional items given away at conventions or trade shows. This is pretty accurate for the stuff we were given but unfortunately most of it was recycled. I say that with the full knowledge and sadness that authors and publishers spent a ton of money on these items. I brought home about 20% (or less maybe) of everything I was given. Even then I feel I brought home too much but most of what I did keep was signed so hopefully I can tuck those into print books and call it a day.

Let’s talk about what we were given though, because it was an awe inspiring amount. For starters when we registered we were given a reusable bag with the GRL logo and a quote about erotic romance on the side. The bag was decent quality and FILLED with items. I think it took us almost 45 minutes to go through it.

Here’s a picture:

In it was bookmarks, promotional postcards for books, candy, handheld calendars, magnets, pens, junky trinkets, trading cards, flashlights, a plastic cup, a beer/soda cozy, beads, buttons, various cheap toys, promotional cds, lip balm. The problem with these items are that they sound like a good idea but in reality no one needs 105 bookmarks or 312 promotional post cards (which you can’t send to someone because there’s too much writing). The trading cards are a decent idea for collectors but not everyone wants them. Unfortunately most of the stuff comes down to simply junk that you don’t need and can’t really use. While some readers are overjoyed with these items, I am pretty firm on anti-junk so I refuse to keep a box full of promotional book cards and bookmarks. I can use maybe 2-3 bookmarks so I kept the ones I liked and recycled the rest.

Additionally authors were handing out t-shirts, mugs, and various reusable bags. Since the GRL bag has a quote about erotic romance I recycled this bag as well. This unfortunately was a theme for bags. Now perhaps other readers are more forward but I don’t particularly announce my erotic reading tastes while shopping for groceries or other errands. So sadly all the nice reusable bags we were given (which again are a GREAT idea) ended up being unusable. I like the idea of the bags quite a bit and I wish they had been less about the naked men and more about the author’s name or publisher. Adding a clean logo would have been good but I just can’t use bags, t-shirts, mugs, magnets, and so on decorated in naked men. If others can, more power to them! But I know I’m not the only one that feels that way. So you have an author spending good money on items that aren’t really enhancing either the promotional purposes or the reader’s enjoyment.Β I will say I got an I love St. Nacho’s t-shirt but it’s an XL so that’s a sleep shirt, like all the other t-shirts I got.

I wish each author would have offered a simple business card with a code for a free book on it. Total E Bound was offering this super cute USB that was a heart that opened (I missed out on the good swag) but I hear it was a real hit. That kind of thing is great. It’s useful and apparently had books on it. As a reader and convention attendee, I only want things that are useful and interesting, such as a book, or a clever bit of swag. Coffee mugs are ok but most had naked men splashed all over them. I love naked men as much (if not more) than the next person but I’m not going to use many of the gifts with that on it outside the house.

In the end this is what I kept:

There are a couple of things I kept not included in the picture like the Devon Rhodes travel coffee mug , the 3 shirts, and some other odds and ends. I personally loved Isabella Rowan’s gift bag the most. I even begged for a few extras to bring back to the girls. Now this is because I thought her items were gorgeous and kept just about the whole bag. I tossed the Mardi Gras beads but I didn’t mind they were there. For first time New Orleans goers, they were probably a lot of fun. Here are the highlights for Rowan fans.

I also liked the Rainbow eBooks gifts and of course kept any code for a free book. The small stack of promotional cards are all signed or simply gorgeous. Missy Welsh’s cards were great. But really as much as I like the pretty PL Nunn covers, these will eventually get recycled. A free book can’t be any more expensive than these various things and would go much further in getting me to try an author I haven’t. Especially if it’s a download of our choice. That way new and return readers alike get something new.

So that’s what I think. What about you?

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21 thoughts on “Swag – the good and the sadly recycled

  1. Tam says:

    I probably kept a bit more than you, I did keep my ceramic mugs (heavy though they were) and most of it I brought home to show my kid. It now sits spread out on my coffee table. Hmmm. I like pens, you can’t have too many pens. Even I am careful. I’m not going to give my daughter a tape measure that says “pecker checker” on it, cute though the concept is for adults.

    I also prefer bags that don’t have anything too explicit on the side. Off the top of my head I think the Loose Id one just had the green lizard which is good. I don’t mind if it’s a book cover with a non-naked man because most people wouldnt notice. I LOVE the Blind Eye Books bag I got last year at YaoiCon. It’s got a little demon scrunched down and says something like “Be Weird” and then has their logo. It doesn’t say “look, men having sex”. I use it almost daily to work.

    I like the idea of either a download coupon which Amber Allure did, or a USB with a story or exerpts on it. Small, easy to carry. I don’t mind chocolate either, because you can’t have too much chocolate. πŸ™‚

    • I didn’t get any mugs and I know Leontine, Chris, and Janna got way more stuff than I did. So they all probably kept more too. I think Kris got and kept the least. I agree about the pens, I kept most of those. I’m giving the pecker checker to my best friend, along with the Devon Rhodes black bag.

      I wish there had been more useable bags. I missed out on the Loose Id bag (drat) but I heard about the BEB books. I love reusable bags because I use them constantly. I keep a stack of insulated grocery ones with a stack of cloth in my car for all my shopping and errands. But again I don’t want them to have random naked people on them.

      USB/free code or even discount I think is the way to go. IMO. Oh and no chocolate for me but I’m positive I can recycle that to others.

  2. Can you believe I’ve still got to dig in my bag of swag to see what i truly want to keep 0.o I’m one of those persons who will flaunt it in the form of a collage. I’ve done so with another convention and it flashes not only pictures but also trading cards, bookmarks, postcards etc.

    On the topic of what is good swag; I personally love the trading cards, especially if it has character info on the back with perhaps a teaser of a quote. However, the candy, lipbalm, flashlights, magnets etc are a waste of money IMO. They take up way too much space, easily break or add another pound to my a$$ cheeks. The #1 piece of swag I received 3-4 years ago and still use to date is a pc cloth with the cover and blurb on it of Brenda Joyce. I use it daily with my iPad/glasses.

    I think in this digital age a coupon code for an ebook or a USB with book/info/cover art are very powerful promotional tools. I know it isn’t exactly under the term swag but I loved the beads we had to collect as well. If it was done differently; like a thing where they’d drop groups of us in the middle of New Orleans. Where we’d follow clues to find authors, have a bit of a chat with them and they would give us a bead with the next clou – gawd, that would’ve been awesome. Plus I would remember the authors and there books b/c of it!!

    • The collage is a great idea. I wish I’d thought of it before I recycled everything. I’d have loved to do that with some previous conventions too. At least I know now..

      See I’m not one to normally collect trading cards though I did keep a few that I got. I love flashlights personally so those are a hit with me but that’s ok because we can trade some of the bits. I don’t like candy or chocolate or gum or toys. I like useful bits like the cleaning cloths, reusable bags (without naked men) and things like that.

      Thats a really good idea for the beads! You should tell the organizers some of this. I think they could make some nice improvements.

  3. I love the mugs and t-shirts cuz I can always use those. I think the usb would be an awesome thing to giveaway. Definitely useful. I kept a lot of pens and bookmarks that weren’t too explicit (I have little eyes in the house that don’t need to see too much too soon).

    I kept more than you but definitely recycled quite a bit as well.

    The bags are great but yeah, the explicitness of those are bad for me as well – just can’t keep, bummer.

    • I’m very anti-junk or stuff that doesn’t have a purpose so I was pretty harsh in my cutting. I wish I’d gotten a mug, that would have been used (I only have disney mugs for some reason). I am pretty surprised authors/publishers didn’t take into account that a lot of people have kids and the explicit naked men thing won’t work. I was surprised to see the naked men route from married with kids authors TBH.

  4. I wish I’d gone on the vampire tour now so I’d gotten Isabelle Rowan swag! I have to go through the stuff I dragged home – there will be several categories: stuff I’ll keep, stuff I’ll send to Jase, stuff I’ll give away in a contest on my blog, and stuff that will get tossed.

    Things I liked best: special gift bag just for me from Stephani, cemetery tour gift bag from Devon, signed books, promo codes (altho f’ing hell, one of them is so soaked in scent that it’s sitting in the middle of the living room carpet, far from me, until it airs out and I can touch it), B&N gift card, heart-shaped usb drive, purple pens, little flashlight…

    • I could only get a few of those bags and they rocked. Thanks for your ticket :D. I was thinking I should have skipped the cemetary tour but the Devon Rhodes’ bag was pretty cool too and we got the halloween socks.

      Why not just put the card in a baggie so you can’t smell it?

      • I think I scavenged nearly everything but that cd from the discarded swag bags, so I shouldn’t whine. πŸ™‚

        Yeah, good idea re: the baggie – just long enough to copy the code info off it, then I can toss it.

  5. Marie Sexton says:

    For myself, a free book really would be more expensive. Yes, I could copy the files I have and distribute them freely, but it would be a blatant violation of my publishing contract(s). To do it legally, I’d have to buy the ebooks myself for each copy I gave away. Even with my discount, it would be several dollars per person, which is far more than I actually spent on swag.

    And man, where was all this naked man swag!?! I clearly wasn’t paying enough attention because the only ones I saw were the four CoP mugs Heidi and I brought! LOL.

    I kept every single pen, plus PD and ZAM’s flashlights. All of the candy and some of the odds and ends (like mardis gras beads) I brought home to my 7-year old, who actually thought I’d gone out and bought it all just for her. (Score one for mom!) Otherwise, yeah, it mostly went in the trash. 😦

    • Hmm good point. Did not know that or think of that. Ha, the ease of being a reader and just popping off ideas. As an alternative, what if you offered a free short story? You could have the link listed on one of your bookmarks/postcards but don’t debut the story until the conference?

      I also really liked the promo of preview chapters. It doesn’t have to be a free book necessarily but the preview chapters of say an upcoming book are just as exciting.

      Damn, I miss out on all the good swag. Porn coffee cups, great. And honestly there were naked men everywhere! On almost all the reusable bags, 90% of all the other items. I think most were simply book covers but still.. they’re mostly naked men with strategic creasing.

      • Marie Sexton says:

        Short stories are probably a great idea for those who can write them. It’s a talent I don’t seem to have. Sample chapters aren’t a bad idea, though. Maybe I’ll try something like that for RT. πŸ™‚

  6. All your observations have really been enlightening.

    For years, I’ve seen authors banter about what promo items they should have and where they should get them made and how they should distribute them, etc. It’s an obsession that’s always befuddled me. Invariably, I’ve been tempted to ask, “What kind of return do you realistically expect to get on this investment? Come on, think about it.”

    So . . . no swag from me. I figure people are either going to hear about me or they’re not, will either like my books or they won’t. Ain’t no freebie in the world that’s going to change that fact — except, maybe, a book giveaway. Maybe.

    • Well when attending a convention/conference/retreat, not giving swag is not really an option. You can choose what you want (high end, low end, etc) but I’m almost positive that most cons and I know GRL required the authors to bring extensive amount of free items. The authors were expected and told to give out goodie bags at all events. So I don’t think they had the option to opt-out. Also it IS a very nice thing to offer goers who’ve paid $100 or more to attend the convention. Every con I’ve gone to has given away a bag at registration with something from all vendors.

      So it’s a double edged sword. I think the key is getting something that will get the readers to remember the author/publisher and think twice about them.

  7. Fascinating! The only swag I have had made so far is a load of Barging In cover postcards with the blurb on the back. Like you, I don’t like accumulating junk and I can’t have stuff with naked men all over my house, am too sensitive skinned for most smellies, not keen on most sweets, and only ever wear t-shirts in bed.

    There was a lot of swag out on tables at our UK Meet, but all I picked up were a few postcards, bookmarks and business cards.

    I agree with Marie about free books probably being more expensive, although I bet most publishers would be willing to give them for free or a hefty discount if you negotiated in advance. Or like you say, a preview of a freebie or a few chapters of published work could be a nice gift. New short stories for those who can write them…

    I think we’re going to have to go down the USB route for the next UK Meet. If we get it organised centrally, all authors would need to do is send in the stories/samples, and we could buy the USB sticks out of central funds. Yay – cheap, useful and compact – the perfect swag item!

    I’m going to the Festival of Romance tomorrow, near London, and it’s going to be interesting to see how much swag is on offer from the het authors. And there will be me, giving my talk on m/m and handing out postcards with naked men on them… πŸ™‚

  8. Funny,but true story. First off, I want to point out that this happened at another convention and was a couple of years ago. My daughter and husband attended RT with me and I dumped some swag on the bed. (I know, big mistake on my part) My daughter says, “Oh, look! Doggy bone candy! Can I have it!” Just as I was saying yes, I took a closer look only to realize it was candy shaped penises. You should have seen me fumbling around to explain that one away.

  9. PD Singer says:

    I actually looked into USB sticks for swag; I love them! But I couldn’t find any that I could afford in quantity with any decent capacity. A few hundred of anything at $3-4 each adds up fast. Glad you liked the flashlights. Including the tagline was a bit of a dilemma, because I didn’t want to offer anything too explicit to have around the house.

    I got some gummy werewolves–that was the best laugh!

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