Wednesday, August 14, 2019

All About Book SWAG + a Superlative SWAG Offer! by Eileen Meyer and Julie Phend

SWAG for The Superlative A. Lincoln Picture Book

Loot, promotional items, samples, trial products, cool items – SWAG is an acronym for “Stuff We All Get.” Authors and illustrators strive to offer attractive SWAG to boost the buzz for their latest book title.

In this blog post, we’ll:
  • Demystify SWAG,
  • Offer great examples of how fellow authors have used SWAG to creatively promote new books,
  • Share breaking news of Eileen’s superlative SWAG offer,
  • Illustrate why SWAG is an important tool to utilize for your book promotions
  • Provide the names of vendors our authors use for promotional needs.

What kinds of SWAG do most authors use to promote their books? 

Are there some more creative approaches that you might consider for your next book promotion?

Most authors like to learn about what others do to promote their books. Clever ideas can spark new thoughts for your own promotional campaigns. Besides the traditional bookmarks and postcards, what other SWAG can authors and illustrators use to spark interest in a book? 

Let’s take a closer look at what these children’s book authors have done:

Patricia Toht's Dress Like a Girl SWAG

Fashion and interesting careers are key themes in Patricia Toht’s Dress Like a Girl picture book, so why not sport a fashionable button/pin to accessorize and promote the new title? Patty reports her customized pins were a huge hit at bookstore and school events!  She spent less than $100 for more than 500 pins (20 cents per pin). Think about the advertising power of a single pin that is worn on a jacket over and over again for all to see . . . 

Leanne Pankuch's parchment map
A parchment paper map made from an illustration in her novel, Dragon’s Truth, provided author Leanne Pankuch with a unique bit of SWAG for a literary festival. The parchment maps garnered a lot of attention and provided the perfect ice breaker for conversations about her new book. How did she make these? Leanne used some leftover paper and also purchased a packet of 120 8.5x11" sheets of parchment paper on-line ($17) and printed the maps using her  inkjet printer (one ink cartridge $25). She put one map in a frame for display purposes and bought sleeves to cover rolled up maps ($18) to make it easier for festival attendees to transport and protect the map. She gave out 63 maps at the festival and used the rest at library and book signing events. They were a big hit! Supply costs for 130 maps ($60) was 46 cents each!

Sarah Aronson's magic wands

Author Sarah Aronson’s The Wish List series involves fairy godmothers, magic, sparkles and more … so attaching her bookmarks to magic wands was the perfect promo! What did Sarah learn while promoting her books? That “everyone wants a magic wand!”  Yes - we all want our wishes to come true!

Linda Budzinski's bookmarks
Linda Budzinski makes creative bookmarks for her YA novels, complete with charms and fancy stitching. She says online retailer Ali Baba has lots of options for charms to dress up your SWAG. 
Sometimes inspiration is found within the covers of your book! Authors Maritza Mejia and Danna York have had great success using coloring pages of main characters and book scenes. For a very young audience, the best approach can be to keep it simple.

Jan Godown Annino uses professionally printed and  homemade
Jan Godown Annino's bookmarks
bookmarks (created when she was running low on her regular stock.)  She found that her homemade creations attracted more attention. Stamped with the words, "Protected by a trained alligator" (author/book info on the flip side) her homemade bookmarks made for a great conversation starter with readers stopping by her table. 

Elaine Kiely Kearns temporary tattoos
Want to sport some ink? 
Author Elaine Kiely Kearns ordered
temporary tattoos for her Noah Noasaurus picture book launch. The response was incredible – everyone wanted one! Since they were a bit pricey, Elaine saves them for special events. Writer  Anne Marie Pace has also used tattoos and reports that they’re a big draw with kids. FUN - what a unique form of promotion! 

Jen Swanson & SWAG
Children's author Patricia Murphy notes that "the best SWAG specifically ties into your story for greater meaning." Science writer Jen Swanson did just that! She launched her Brain Games book with brain-shaped hand squeezies sporting her website information and the tagline “Activate your Brain!”  Jen gave them out by the hundreds and they were in demand. Her college-aged son even kept some in a bowl at his fraternity house—and his “brothers” loved them! 

Patricia Hruby Powell's book business cards

Writer Patricia Hruby Powell likes using business cards featuring her book cover as a quick and easy handout for potential buyers and readers. They’re easy to carry around, fit in her pocket for quick access, and are a colorful ad for her latest title and contact information. Author Lori Degman likes to use customized pencils (along with bookmarks and postcards) to help promote her new titles. 

Tracey Metlzer Kyle's alpaca pens

Tracey Meltzer Kyle loves SWAG and has used many promotional items over the years. She gave away alpaca pens (pictured), cards from Vistaprint, and key chains to promote Alpaca Pati’s Fancy Fleece. Most young readers LOVE to print using a fancy writing instrument, so her alpaca pens were an effective magnet to draw young readers over to her booth to hear more about Tracey's books!

Robin Newman being interviewed at a festival
Eileen noticed author Robin Newman’s creative approaches with SWAG at a recent book festival. Robin’s mystery, The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake, inspired her to go with a detective theme for her book promotions. Robin offered fake mustaches as giveaways to draw families to her book festival booth. Once there, kids could add a cool-looking detective hat and have their picture taken with the author. What a fun way to create some book buzz!

Eileen wants to mention a superlative SWAG offer for her new picture book, The Superlative A. Lincoln:

Preorder your copy of The Superlative A. Lincoln today and you'll be eligible to receive this Most Exciting SWAG package (see details below); package includes:

Eileen Meyer's SWAG offer
-A “Be Superlative—Be Like Abe!” youth silicone wristband
-A one-of-a-kind Lincoln cork coaster for a cup or coffee mug
-A “Be Superlative” Lincoln pencil
-An author-signed bookplate to place inside your book
-Two bookmarks featuring Dave Szalay’s awesome art
-Activity sheets only available with this offer
-A lucky Lincoln penny

HOW to get your free SWAG bag?
1) Preorder a copy of The Superlative A. Lincoln through your favorite online provider.
2) Forward your preorder confirmation showing proof of purchase and your shipping address to and you’ll receive a SWAG bag in the mail within a few weeks.
LIMITED to first 150 preorders w/ continental US addresses. Limit one per person while supplies last. (When supplies run out, it will be posted on

    So, what are the BENEFITS of using SWAG? 
WHY should I consider investing in marketing items?

Clever promotional items achieve varied objectives: 

Visual ads - Items such as business cards sporting your book cover, or a brightly colored pencil with your name on it remind the reader about YOU and your book. And when your SWAG continues to be seen on items such as pins, tattoos, bookmarks, and stickers, it helps to get the word out to a larger community. When one of Patty Toht's readers sports her Dress Like a Girl book pins, she shares the good news about Patty's book with everyone who sees her that day.

Conversation Starters - Your SWAG serves as a great ice-breaker and a way to tell someone about your book. Handing a person a colorful bookmark, a silly fake mustache, or a magic wand helps YOU start an interesting conversation with a reader of any age.

Continued advertising and gifts for key supporters - Bookmarks and postcards are relatively inexpensive to order in large quantities and are great items to leave with bookstore staff, librarians, and school media directors. Why? You're asking them to be part of your team and also thanking them for getting the word out about your book.

Creates a buzz - As we've seen, SWAG timing can vary. You can effectively use giveaways both before and after launching your book! Eileen is offering a unique and limited time "thank you" gift to buyers who place their book orders now, ahead of her launch date.

Contributes to your author brand and presence in the marketplace - When you use creative promotions, people are more likely to remember you, which helps establish your "brand." Science author Jen Swanson's "Activate your Brain!" squeezie giveaway is the perfect promo for a STEM writer!


Where should I order my SWAG?

The children’s book authors in this blog post had success using the vendors listed here, BUT be sure to thoroughly scrutinize all vendors you select to work with and inquire about customer service policies before ordering goods. (We cannot guarantee your satisfaction.) Authors in this post used:
Gotprint (bookmarks and postcards), Vista Print, Sticker Mule and Avery (stickers), Pure Buttons (pins/buttons), Alibaba (charms), Moo (stickers and postcards), StandOut Stickers, USFastprint (brain squeezies), Overnight Prints, Tattoofun, and UPrinting.

Other tips:
Wait for sales - Robin Newman used Oriental Trading, Amazon, Etsy, and Zazzle (for very small orders like tote bags and mugs). She suggests buying off-season and waiting for sales and promo days. Ordering in bulk will also cut back on shipping expenses. Websites such as Oriental Trading often have free shipping days and be sure to use their promo codes. If you don’t see a promo code, try giving the vendor a call. Customer service will often have a code available for your order.

Create an account with the vendor you want to use - You’ll receive email updates about special promotions and sales, so you get the best possible deal when you order your SWAG.

Start small - If you have the time and you are using a new vendor, it can help to order a small quantity first – then check your satisfaction with the product’s quality before making your second order for a larger quantity. (And you might get a nice discount coupon via email to use on the second order, too!)

Carry SWAG with you wherever you go - Bookmarks, buttons or stickers easily fit in your purse, backpack, or book bag and come in handy when you strike up a conversation with a reader at the grocery store, a sports event, or any place you frequent, and you want to gift them with an item to remember YOU and YOUR BOOK.  

Most of all -- enjoy your book publishing journey and have FUN creating memorable SWAG. Good luck!


  1. This truly is the 411 on SWAG plus lovely features on so many great authors including our own Patty and you, Eileen. Ty.

    1. THanks, Kathy! SWAG can be whatever each author wants to make it -such a creative marketing option! I love the wands, alligator bookmarks, parchment maps, and more!

  2. Great post about all the unique swag. And I didn't know that swag stood for "stuff we all get."

    1. Isn't that great, Tina! You've got the total download on all-things-swag on our very own blog!

  3. Loved reading about all of the SWAG possibilities and the creative marketing ideas of fellow authors.

    1. Thanks for stopping in! Glad you are here.

    2. This was a fun post to research--children's authors are SO CREATIVE--so many great ideas!

  4. This article is so helpful--really appreciate the specifics about prices and vendors. Thank you!

    1. We aim to please, Pat! Julie and I tried to think of everything we would want to know.

  5. Great post, Eileen & Julie! I love to pick up SWAG... and sport it as well. Author Dee Romito made some luggage tags to accompany her books about a traveling middle-schooler. It's a fun way for me to share her books and nicer than the paper airlines tags.

    1. What fun, Sue! I love the luggage tag idea ... isn't SWAG the best? Definitely a fun ice-breaker to talk about your book to a potential reader.

    2. Another great idea! Let's all see what fun SWAG we can spot as we go to book fairs this fall.

  6. Wow, great post! Thanks for all the ideas! We are a creative bunch!

    1. THanks for stopping in Angie! Fun to get inspired by creative ideas!

  7. Thank you for featuring amazing authors and fantastic promotional tips and ideas, Eileen and Julie. Book swag is always cool and appealing.

    Do you know the word swag has numerous meanings?

    Swag \’swag\ origin uncertain; similar to Norwegian svagga to sway, rock; also like Middle Low German swacken to rock. One meaning is connected to the term "loot" that thieves used to describe stolen goods.

    Of course, this informative blog post refers to free promotional items shared with attendees to promote a book.


    1. Yes, since we are all word-lovers, we know the other meanings, too. Just using the SWAG / "stuff we all get" dictionary meaning for marketing and promotional materials here. :) Words are fun!

    2. Exactly. That's part of the appeal of SWAG. Everyone loves to get free stuff.

  8. Thanks for sharing all these great ideas! Sharing for sure.

    1. Yay, share away, Keila! I'm always inspired by the great ideas from other folks. SWAG doesn't have to be pricey - you can make your own bookmarks, activity pages, and more!

    2. And we like anything that gets people talking about our books!

  9. Everything I've always wanted to know about SWAG but was afraid to ask! So many great ideas! Thanks for this info. I hope to have a reason to refer to this info again someday!

    1. Jilanne, I think some super SWAG is in your future. Now you can start dreaming of some creative marketing ideas for your book when you ink that contract!

    2. We'll look forward to seeing your super SWAG soon!

  10. Great post.thank you so much.Love this blog.

    1. Thanks for stopping by. We have a great group of bloggers writing about craft, marketing and PR, new book releases and more! We love hearing from our readers. :)