Until recently, I had never been to a book signing nor had I ever even followed an author on social media. I’ve been a book lover my entire life, but I never paid much attention to the world of publication behind the
curtain book in my hands. However, with my own book launch coming soon, I have begun exploring the mysterious realm of signings, meet and greets, book festivals, and most recently: book swag—perhaps the most fun of them all.
Savvy authors promote their books with more than just sales and marketing materials. These go beyond the typical bookmarks or postcards featuring the book’s cover and a brief description. Book swag is more like bonus material: fun stuff that can be enjoyed in addition to the book, or entirely on their own. Some authors host giveaways with book swag. Some send items as thank-you gifts with their books when they send out advanced copies for early reviews. And others use book swag at book signings as a way to thank readers.
For any fellow newbies out there looking for ideas for author book swag and promos, I came up with several for my book that were all affordable and easy to put together! Honestly, brainstorming these was the most fun thing I’ve done on the advertising/marketing side of publishing. And while many of these items can be customized to match other book themes, it’s best to start with thinking about your own book.
Brainstorming Book Swag
Take inspiration from your characters, their hobbies or occupations, the story’s location, and any recurring or meaningful symbols. If coffee shops make a regular appearance, perhaps a small coffee chocolate bar would be perfect. If your lead character is an EMT, a small first aid kit would be a handy, related item.
Be sure to consider your readers, too. Curate book-related items they would enjoy and use. If you’ve got a bug collector in your story, a cute butterfly sticker might be nice, a dead beetle not so much.
Book Swag Ideas
Here are the book swag items I’m using. Hopefully they spark some ideas for you and your own unique story!
Not just promotional postcards with the book’s cover and information, but a postcard that looks like it really came from the story’s location. If you’re using a real location, this might be easier. If you’re using a fictional location, it’s still completely possible! Outside of Grace is partly set in a fictional town in Texas, based on a real coastal area. I used a stock photo from that area (free on Unsplash) and added the town’s name using Canva. Now I have a set of postcards that will be perfect for sending with advanced reader copies. I’ll write personalized notes thanking the reader on these.
You’re dealing with readers—a bookmark just makes sense! I opted for a style I personally enjoy, which is a book tracking bookmark, rather than something directly related to my book. I purchased a digital download on Etsy so that I can print as many as I need. Then I filled in the first book with my own title. Readers can add more book titles as they read. There are so many options for bookmarks though, you could easily customize a bookmark to your book, using photos, editing on Canva, or commissioning a design through Etsy or Fiverr.
Last printable, I promise. I must have been quite hungry when I wrote Outside of Grace, because there are a lot of mentions of food. Or maybe I just did a great job at getting into the head of a college male. Either way, I thought recipe cards would be a fun way to bring the book to life. Obviously, this would go perfectly with any book that features food: chefs, restaurant owners, big family dinners, characters with a sweet tooth, etc.
While I don’t have a particularly avid tea drinker in my story, I thought it was something my readers would likely enjoy and the Edinburgh branded Scottish breakfast tea helped tie in the secondary location in Outside of Grace. Plus, the scent will make a nice touch in a book box. A box of tea bags is so affordable, I think they would also make a nice signing table addition as well.
Here’s a bonus of living in the same state as my book’s location: every local grocery store has an aisle of Texas-themed items. A stack of sticky notes was only $1 at my grocery store. I grabbed a dozen to send out in giveaways or as thank-you gifts. You can print sticky notes with logos as well, which makes a handy and frequent reminder for your reader.
You can find stickers to match almost any theme! I came across these while searching for highland cow gifts. I needed a bit more Scotland in my Outside of Grace swag, plus highland cows make a couple of appearances in the story. One is on a tea towel, but ordering enough tea towels was cost prohibitive. I needed an option that could be produced en masse more easily. Amazon came through for me with a set of 50 highland cow stickers for less than $6! Again, this one is great in bulk and I plan to use it at signings.
This was another idea born out of necessity. I loved the idea of a “grace” bracelet or necklace—something anyone could enjoy that would be a positive reminder of the book’s overall message. Plus, I hope it might be something they wear or use out and about, potentially sparking conversations about the book. However, the cheapest options I could find for jewelry started at nearly $10. Again, not something I could buy in bulk. Etsy supplier BabbleCharms saved me. They sell tiny charms by the dozen, most for less than $4. Because they’re so tiny, I added an order of flower charms as well, to add some pop, and because my lead character has an affinity for floral decorations and flower arrangements. I haven’t exactly decided how to use these, but I have them on keychains for now. They could easily be added to jewelry or bookmark tassels though.
Once I got started, I couldn’t turn the ideas off. There were several others I didn’t end up using. Here’s a few more that could be customized or might spark ideas for you:
- Photo keychains (easy to insert the book cover, a location photo, or more).
- Notecards (empty for the reader to use)
- Textiles: tea towels, socks, face masks, small knitted items—anything related to your book or characters. Many of these can be ordered with customized prints, or you could even add iron-on transfers yourself. Some items might need no customization if they fit your story. Got a mountain park ranger or an avid hiker in your book? A pair of hiking socks could be a cute touch.
- Magnets: again, so many customizable options out there.
- Larger items: these get a bit harder to mail, but if you’re willing to go the extra mile, you could include small candles, seashells for a beach read, an inexpensive watercolor set for your artistic protagonist, the options are endless.
- More expensive items: these might be for sale, or only for special giveaways. You could create custom tote bags, t-shirts, or art prints of your cover if you have a particularly beautiful design. I think tote bags would be great for book festivals—built-in advertising as your readers browse!
Ways to use book swag:
I plan to include everything pictured to send with advance reader copies, as well as to host a couple of giveaways with the book launch. Some of the more affordable and fun ones, like the Scottish tea or the highland cow stickers, would be perfect for adding to an author signing or festival booth—free for anyone who stops by or perhaps only with a book purchase? We’ll have to see.
Most importantly, remember that this is the fun part. If the brainstorming or the cost starts to stress you out, don’t worry about it. You do not need book swag. Your story is valuable all on its own. Book swag just helps bring your story to life, and get readers as excited about it as you are.