Swag and other needful things

As an avid reader and supporter of my favorite scribes, I collect memories with or of them! Sounds crazy but we readers love those remembrances of their time spent with you, your characters, your book. Readers love SWAG! Not just a basic bookmark {but it could be} or postcard, something tangible. Something that the readers perceive as something valuable, coming from you. Of course, authors can’t send everyone a little something, but done right they can.


SWAG means Stuff We All Get, my definition means Sales With A Goal. The goal is Sales and to give the readers a memory of their experience with you. These give-away items are promotional tools that should create a thought of you every time they use it or see it.  A treasure, a reward, a gift.

SWAG could mean almost anything related to you, your story, your characters or just a personal thank you treat that only lucky few get. It can also be part of your table displays when doing events to be an icebreaker, an incentive to ask “what’s this” or a perk with purchase. Readers love bragging rights too. They can’t wait to post something they got from you on their social media platforms. What makes it extra special is these swag items are limited in number pieces. By book or for the first 50 people or however you choose to create demand. Making these things limited, increases their perceived value. They can be limited or not, or until you run out of them.

Let me give you a few examples of GREAT SWAG that is very budget-friendly, travels light and well and also mails out well. When deciding on what items to use, these factors need to be factored into your expenses. Also if you are sending with a book, you can send by Media Mail which saves you money.


I simply adore them!

Bookmarks are the most amazing little promotional items in the universe. They come in 100’s of shapes, sizes, forms and types. Of course, this is the first go to items as authors, but those standard basic bookmarks, unless vintage, have no perceived long term value. They serve an immediate purpose but after they get used a few times they start looking tattered and the corners get bent and look raggedy.

Readers may use it until the next basic bookmark comes along and yours gets replaced and tossed. How are they holding on to you if they tossed your information? Where’s the memory of being with you? Where’s the gift? There is none.

With all that said yes you can use basic, but use a higher quality paper, one that stands up. Or have some laminated special editions created. Also, create a saying, a quote, a photo of a character to make them really want to hold onto that bookmark. Create a series-set of character descriptions bookmarks that they can get when they order a series.

That adds value. It also gives images of what the people look like while reading. If you have some Super Fans, give them something special that will last forever.

Metal bookmarks can be engraved with your initials and placed inside a beautiful note card. That becomes not just a bookmark, but a gift I promise you they will cherish. As a collector, creator of book swag myself, and reader, I want the most!

Beautiful jewelry (Book Thongs) type bookmarks are another keeper. They last and women love that it looks like their books are wearing jewelry! Also keep in mind the size of your book. I’m always asking questions of my customers and most prefer the bookmark to fit inside the book with only the ribbon or tassel or jewelry hanging from the top and or bottom. They also hate when things mar the pages and too bulky to break the spine. Yes, we readers are very quirky about our books!

There are so many simple and clever bookmark ideas that are creative and cost-effective. I could discuss bookmark marketing for hours, but that’s for another day!

#2 Masks

As and we all know we are in the middle of a pandemic and masks are a necessity right now and for months to come. Right now there are 1000’s of people making and selling them and I bet if you go through your friends or fan pages you’ll find a few of them making them. Why not team up with them to make you some custom ones. A great line from your story, perhaps the title or half of a character’s face, placed onto the mask will draw some conversation and some sales! Sending one to a reader with a note, shows you care. Whatever is trending, use it.

#3 Hand Sanitizers

These have always been great swag items. Adding a label with your website and a cute quote like “this lasts longer than my boyfriend” or “Rub this for 20 seconds” is cute and a sharable post. Make sure your information is on there and if you can find refillables they can refill and use.

#4 Stickers

I’ve never seen so many people using stickers in my years of life! The Planner Babes LOVE THEM! Readers are using them. They are not all planners but are using them on stationery, inside notecards, everywhere! Why not have a caricature made of yourself, have your own stickers done. They could be bookplates or on your stationery when mailing out packages or note cards. You would be surprised at what you could do this a printer and some sticker paper or labels. Sending to fans too and let them show you how they used them, sounds like a contest to me! You could also team up with someone who has or purchase a Cricut, it can do amazing things and it cuts costs.

#5 Coasters

Everybody drinks something whether it be coffee to wine. Coasters can be customized and ordered in bulk, and used. They can be made in different materials from paper to tile and as a writer add a quirky line like “Wine with me” would be really cute and a keepsake.

#6 Sunglasses

The Dollar Tree can be a budgetnistas best friend. It’s summer, do a Beach Read theme. These sunglasses may vary from store to store so hop in your car and make a day of store hoping to collect a few dozen sunglasses. Hash Tags could be #SaltyBeach #BeachRead #BeachBitch. Whatever your audience would like. Have the readers who purchased your books wear them and do a selfie of themselves, another contest idea, you are welcome!

#7 Coloring Sheets or bookmarks

There are many free printable downloads of printable coloring sheets. They are relaxing and yes while under quarantine, we are finding things to do. Print these sheets or bookmarks on a good cardstock or design you own. Since it’s almost back to school, a box of 24 Crayola Crayons is as little as .25 to .50 per box.

#8 Your Signature

I spoke earlier in this article about perceived value. Your signature is GOLD. Signed books and memorabilia is valuable. Sign everything! Years ago I created a basic bookmark that said “Autographed by Author” because readers were no longer able to travel with books they wanted signed at events they were attending or authors who only had EBooks. Readers bought these to take to events and yes, authors signed them. Your signature in books as well as on any correspondence is valuable. Here and after you are gone to glory. A lot of readers only want books signed with your name, not signed to “Jane”. Signed to jane, decreases the value. Morbid but true.

#9 Music

Music can create a mood or an era or theme for your story. I love soundtracks because it really sets the scene and a lot of readers listen to music while reading. Creating a soundtrack helps tell the story. I have done these for many authors. These were not sold but given away with purchase. Some authors even did a reading on the recording prior to the music. Digital downloads are the new thing, I’m old school, give me a CD! You can create a Digital channel and they can sign up for access. This is a great way to collect email addresses and names for your mailing list. Music is the one thing that locks into your brain that even people with dementia remember.

#10 Thank You Notes

There is nothing better than getting something in the mail besides a bill! The art of letter writing and sending a card has diminished over the years. Imagine receiving a sweet little notecard, thanking you for your support written by hand. Even better with a treat inside. That my dear is going to blow your readers away!

Over the years I’ve gotten cards and letters by mail, from authors and I cherish every last one. I actually have a box that looks like a book that I keep them in. That personal touch is everything, especially because we are in a no-touch world right now. This has all the right elements, to make it memorable and a keepsake.

Being thoughtful of your SWAG can mean the world to a fan. They will always remember how you made them feel.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  Maya Angelou

“I saw that, Thank you!”, “OMG you’re amazing!”, “Thank you for your support!”, “You’re Appreciated!”, Just may be words they never hear in their daily lives. You have the ability to create smiles and some Super Fans.

You’re a writer find the right words for your audience, and get your SWAG on.

You’re welcome, Debra!

Debra Owsley Bio:

Since December 2005, Debra Owsley has taken her love of reading along with her hobby and created the reading accessory and consulting business, Simply Said Reading Accessories


Initially, it was to support her ravenous book habit! Debra never dreamed her two loves would turn into a marketing and promotional business that has allowed her to meet and work with authors she has read and admired for years.  She also offers her work at book events and book festivals where she meets other avid readers and book club members. 


Recently, she’s added a new project to her collection, and would like to introduce it to you. Debra has created a Book Conversation Game, named LitVersations .

 “I got tired of the same questions and interactions. I created LitVersations, The Book Conversation Game to have everyone, feel like the really comprehended the book and the authors’ intention in telling the story. Also to have more fun!”


Debra works with several major bestselling authors, bookstores, event planners, and industry professionals. Her “book candy” includes unique gift-marks, book thongs and many other special treasures for book lovers. She also creates whimsical displays for authors and other tools to promote literacy. Debra also coaches authors on how to promote and market their books on a budget.


Debra is a hairstylist and has been one for over 30 years. She loves to read, travel, dance, and discuss books with friends over great food. She also has an in-salon book club named, Under The Dryer. She’s always sharing her latest reads with her clients and encouraging them to purchase books and support authors.


If you need help creating your SWAG and promotional materials, I can help.


Fan Debra @ Please Like the page!

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Sheila English
Award-winning author of short stories and comic books. Telly award-winning producer and director of many book trailers.

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