To Swag Or Not To Swag


Promoting yourself is a must in any industry; that is, if you want to get yourself seen, heard and more well-known. There are various ways to promote yourself, whether by advertisements, presentations, interviews, reviews or networking. Choose what works best for YOU, not just what others are doing, as everyone has different priorities, budgets and status.

Whether you have plenty of free time, very little free time, lots of flexibility in your schedule and are able to travel, or can’t travel much at all due to family or other obligations, if you have plenty of money to spend, or a limited income and a tight budget, you need to select what is best for you and your situation, while still getting yourself out there and noticed in some way or another.

There are many free means of marketing, promoting and networking you are able to do.  Facebook, online interviews, review websites, blogs, posting on online groups and forums, creating as many profiles on various romance novel related websites as you can - these can all be done from the comfort of your home or even on your smart phone from almost anywhere.

Then there are the ‘in-person’ marketing, promoting and networking opportunities such as romance novel conventions, conference, events and book signings. Of course, these require you to leave your home and take up some of your time, but it is time well spent if you are able to take it. Some of these are local venues within driving distance, but most will require plane flights. This is where you need to weigh out your options of which work best for you with your schedule and budget.

When going to romance novel events, there are various costs involved.  These will include travel to and from the events, entrance fees into them, hotel stay during them, possible parking expenses, meals while away, and possible entrance fees to additional special events and/or parties at those events. This is just to get yourself in the door to then be able to be seen and heard, which is now on you. Once you're in, you need to leave your mark.  This is where “swag” comes in. What is swag? Well, swag can be an acronym, for example, “Stuff We All Get”. However, for purposes here "swag"  is used as a noun, meaning promotional items given away at trade fairs and events.

Since there are so many forms of swag you could make yourself or have made for you, what form it is best for you? The purpose of swag is to advertise and promote yourself. The industry you are in will help you determine what swag would be most beneficial for you and to best advertise you, your brand, your company and/or your business to your direct audience the most.

Although the purpose of swag is to promote yourself, you want to spend your money wisely and not use swag that will just be thrown away or not even picked up at all.  There is one very common form of swag used most by your target audience.  That audience is romance novel readers, and that swag is bookmarks. This swag can be used and seen often by readers, and, if you do your research, you can find inexpensive, high quality bookmarks in large quantities.

Since most authors use bookmarks designed with their books and website address on them for swag, you are in a large pool of many other author bookmarks when given out at conventions, so the look of your bookmark is important to grab the attention of those collecting swag bookmarks, which are those that appeal to them most. Of course there are many other forms of small, quick-to-pick-up swag used in the romance novel industry: post cards, business cards, door-hangers, pens, pencils, mini-flashlights, key-chains, bottle openers, buttons, mini-calendars, magnets, flash-drives, etc.

Then there are larger forms of swag, such as tote bags, plastic water bottles, posters, t-shirts, etc. However, you need to focus on what form of swag will be seen the most, the most often, will make the biggest impact or impression on those who see it or that will cause people to see it, and not items that you just find cute or neat. Cute or neat doesn’t mean those items will continually be seen or used, which is your goal of having swag, and the cute or neat items themselves tend to take the attention far over the promo ad on them.

If you want to go beyond the inexpensive swag of bookmarks and business cards, focus on daily items that you use yourself and that most people use and see all the time, like car air fresheners, drink coasters, refrigerator magnets, lids to cat and dog food cans, mini-book lights, etc. These are items that will be seen every day by those who took them. To gain the most attention at a convention or event, especially venues of large attendances, large banner displays are great and seen all day, every day during the event. They are also viewed as advertisement that is expensive, so that gives them more attention and respect.  It insinuates that someone successful enough to afford expensive advertisement is behind it. They may not be expensive at all, especially if they are reusable at all the conventions, conferences and romance novel events you attend.

So focus on swag items that will continually advertise you, that will be seen by the most people and the most often. The more expensive swag items should be items that won’t be tossed aside, forgotten, or barely seen or used, while inexpensive swag items should be those that you can get more quantity of and utilize in many locations.

As for the question: “To Swag or Not to Swag?” - Always swag! 
“It’s not how many people you know, it’s how many people know you.”

Having worked most of his adult life as an architect, personal trainer, model and multi-business owner, Jimmy Thomas has found his niche in the romance novel industry. Gracing the pages of over 4000 novel covers (and rising), Jimmy developed, owns and operates the hugely successful stock image website, He's the founder and owner/operator of the innovative networking, social media website specific to the romance novel industry, He has even put together the first All-Inclusive, 5-day/4-night, traditionally and indie published, print and eBook Reader/Writer event,, and is currently developing his 4th & 5th RNC businesses.  He is also a speaker and presenter at various events and conventions on branding, marketing, networking and cover art.


As always I found this article very informative and helpful. We as indie authors need to know our limits and if it's going small at first it's imprtant to figure out what is going to grab the attention of the people who will be recieving bags of swag. Getting my name out is very important BUT it's also developing a good relationship with the readers and the public. I try not to be so busy not to answer questions and I hope that women who find my book marks, bingo cards or whatever I decide to bring will check me out and find not only a great author who they will want to come back to again and again but a real person. I am learning a lot from the short time I have been in contact with Jimmy Thomas and truly appreciate all the work he puts into this confernece!

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