The Dos of Swag ~ Outside the Margins with William Cooper

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William Cooper OtM

Con Season is almost upon us. GRL is only a few months away The UK Meet is even closer. That means attending authors are planning their swag for these events. Since most authors don’t have a clue what to do when it comes to swag, here’s a handy guide to help you choose what to use and what to avoid.


Do Avoid Paper Swag

Books marks, post cards, trading cards, etc. are the most commonly thrown away swag items. They seem small and easily packable when you’ve got a single one, but when you’re tight on space (or weight) when it’s time to fly home, they’re the first things to get tossed. Most readers have no use for a collection of paperswag that just sits there collecting dust.


Do Use “Useful” Swag

When picking out your swag, looking for items people will use and reuse, something they’ll want to keep for a while. First aid kits, hand sanitizer, mouse pads, etc. are all things people will use in their day to day lives. So instead of them whipping out a bottle of Purrell at the park, they can whip out their Poppy Dennison hand sanitizer instead. It keeps your name and brand fresh in their minds and other people might see it, earning you new, curious eyes.


Do Avoid Copyrighted Material

This should go without saying, but I’ve seen it multiple times. Use only branding, logos, and images you own the rights to. Cover art, commissioned images, etc. are all fair game, usually. Fan art of My Little Pony is not. Bit Strips are not. Fan art is a legal grey area so long as you’re not using it to profit. Once you start slapping Ponys on your branding, you’re profiting off it and can be taken to court. So avoid doing that and come up with your own ideas or hire an artist to come up with some for you.

Do Use Custom Designed Art

Slapping your cover art on a mug or a t-shirt is just lazy. It looks horrible and isn’t going to win you any fans. Having a logo designed or something else unique that fits for the item in question makes your swag much more attractive to readers and fans.


Do Make Your Swag Readable

If I can’t read your name on the swag, it’s not going to help your branding. If I look at a button, I should be able to tell at a glance who it’s from. If I’ve got your notebook on my desk, I should know who it’s from. If I need a magnifying glass to figure out who the item is from, I’m more likely to toss it and forget about it.


Do Make Your Swag Branded

This goes along with the previous one. I should know at a glance where swag came from. If I look at an item and see no branding, then I’m going to toss it. Buttons or keychains with random art on them are meaningless. When I receive a swag bag at GRL or another conference, I’m not going to have any idea who those are from. They’re going in the trash. A random rainbow flag or football? Trash. They’re meaningless trinkets without having any branding. Worse, they’re a waste of money for the author who bought 250 or 500 of them.


So while you’re browsing Vistaprint or 4Imprint or where ever you prefer to buy your swag, keep all this in mind. Swag isn’t cheap, and you need to make sure you’re seeing a return on your investment.


~William Cooper

About William Cooper

William Cooper has been writing and reading since he was little. In 2010 he took the first step toward publishing a book and hasn’t looked back since. Whether it’s two men who met in college or brothers who have been in love their entire life, William loves to tell their story for everyone to read.

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One thought on “The Dos of Swag ~ Outside the Margins with William Cooper

  1. This is all 100% true. I’m a huge fan of useable swag especially eye glass cloths, notebooks, and the like. I also love me some key chains and buttons, they currently decorate my craft space. I skip the paper goods and will only take pens if they seem different. I took way too much swag my first year and have learned to self edit what I take home since then.

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