Show and Tell Wednesday: Conference Swag

With RT just around the corner and the Barbara Vey luncheon coming up this weekend, conference season is officially upon us. (Well, it’s officially upon me, at least.) So it’s time for a Show and Tell about conference swag.

S.W.A.G. = “Stuff we all get”

I’ve scoured the internets to catch a few interesting items. Wanna see?

Authors have been teasing readers online, like historical author Elizabeth Boyle with her secret RT swag.


Take a look at the array offered by Donna June Cooper, author of contemporary romances with a touch of magic. Firefly necklaces! Wildflower seed packets!


This is the sort of exuberance and excitement and branding commitment that makes this former swag queen’s heart go pitter patter.

Buttons with funny sayings are still popular, like these from New Adult and Contemporary author Stina Lindenblatt:


Sometimes SWAG can carry a very poignant message, like contemporary author K.M. Jackson’s We Need Diverse Romance T-shirts. Available for order now in BLACK or WHITE in time for RT.

swag_diverse tee ad c

And then the Rubies are no strangers to swag. Take a look at historical author Anne Barton’s sewing kits.


Elizabeth Essex’s luggage tags feature a different color every year along with a quote from one of her historical romances:

swag_Luggage tags

Temporary tattoos are popular among younger readers, I hear. YA author Elizabeth Langston had a designer create a tattoo using the typography from her book, I Wish:


Paranormal romance author Heather McCollum will be offering readers iced-strawberry lip gloss, in case of emergencies. πŸ™‚

Strawberry lipgloss

Are you a swag queen and proud of it? Need a SWAG intervention? What’s your favorite swag to give or receive?

Feel free to post links here! Show off a little. That’s what swag is for, after all. *winks*


25 responses to “Show and Tell Wednesday: Conference Swag”

  1. ki pha says:

    Hi Jeannie! I’m shocked you didn’t throw in some of your fabulous swags in here. You’re a creative swag queen producer yourself. πŸ˜‰

    And yes I love swag! I have a bunch of them from the many bookmarks to pens to glasses clothes and buttons. I super love the note pads, post-it notes and, band aide pouches. But one of my favorite swag gift was a glass jar filled with “crystal” rocks from historical romance suspense author Tracey Devlyn from last year’s Barbara Vey Luncheon.

    • Jeannie Lin says:

      LOL! My reputation precedes me…

      This year, I’m hanging up my swag queen hat…with the exception of Barbara Vey’s Luncheon which cannot even be qualified as swag. I went all out because it’s a smaller group of people.

      There is a personal blog post…or posts coming up on that. πŸ™‚

  2. Oooo – I love all the creative ideas! I’m a swag junkie and have to stop myself from spending my royalty checks on cool promo trinkets.

    When I’m writing a book, sometimes I write in a detail, knowing it could be cool swag later on (like my heroine’s favorite gum – teaberry from the 1950’s. I made sure I could find some online before publication).

    I love to walk through the goody room at conferences. My kids love it too when I bring home trinkets. So keep the creative swag coming : )

    • Jeannie Lin says:

      I was confessing to an author buddy that I know swag doesn’t necessarily get my name out, but I love it because it’s one of the few fun, stress-free parts of the writing gig. She agreed. There’s so much that’s out of our hands, but swag is just something you get to make and give out to your readers. It’s almost celebratory.

  3. jbrayweber says:

    I’m with Ki Pha. Where’s pics of your swag, Jeannie? You have had some pretty cool stuff.

    I never know what works best. This conference season, I’m doing the same as I did last. I have hand fans with my book cover printed on it and first chapter booklets.

    Curious to see what others will do.

    • Jenn,

      I LOVE the hand fan ideaβ€”I think at least a couple of historical authors have done them in a Regency style to go with their books.

      But I think the best swag is the first chapter excerpt book. I did one a few years ago with a group of Historical authors and it remains the single best thing I’ve ever done to get new readers. πŸ™‚ Great Idea!

      Cheers, EE

    • Jeannie Lin says:

      I do love fans — and have used them in the past. I have a lovely one of Victoria Alexander’s that I still use. Her name is tastefully on the side and it’s a pretty paper folding fan.

  4. Laurie Kellogg says:

    About the only SWAG I’ve ever given away is promotional cards with CHOCOLATE attached. It goes fast because everyone loves chocolate.

    It all comes down to bang for my buck. I don’t collect a lot of SWAG, myself, and I’ve never bought an author’s book because of it, so I question how much it helps sales compared to what it costs.

    If you’ve had a measurable result, I’d love to hear about that.

    • Jeannie Lin says:

      I doubt swag has any measurable result in terms of sales and probably only a negligible impact on name recognition. Event marketing falls into the larger category of presence marketing, which pretty much just says…hey, I’m here. All the cups and bags and all that at conferences goes toward that–hey, I’m here. And I think it can be a very costly venture, with little ROI.

      I think the more effective use of swag is when you actually interact with someone, like at a signing. Then there’s a tangible thing to remember you by — even if the tangible thing is thrown away shortly after. It’s like a handshake. Which is why I typically don’t care if I create something that’s usable with my name on, but is something everyone else can brand too. But that’s just me and my branding strategy. The initial interaction or notice is what I’m looking for.

      I was just thinking on something…In the corporate world, you measure the effectiveness of a conference by lead generation, not by sales — hmm…this would be a great blog post if I could carve out the time….

  5. Elisa Beatty says:

    I love all this fabulous stuff!!!

    Sherry Thomas has done some amazing things, like tins of shea butter with the cover of her book on the lid. I coveted those so hard…from a distance, since I wasn’t actually attending the conference.

    • Jeannie Lin says:

      I remember those! I think she makes her own soap and lotion so it’s kind of nice to get something personal from someone you’re a fan girl of. πŸ™‚

  6. Thanks so much for showing the #WeNeedDiverseRomance Tee! I just relaunched the campaign to take orders for RWA. I can’t wait to see all the cool swag at the conference this year.

    • Jeannie Lin says:

      I must buy one for RWA! Must decide between getting a large for a sleep shirt or a fitted one to actually wear when people are about. Not that I have an issue running around in my t-shirt and glasses in the early morning hours while my roomies sleep.

    • Elizabeth Langston says:

      I love the idea of the #WeNeedDiverseRomance T-shirts. I hope that future RWA Nationals will include workshops on diversity (like how to market it, pretty please!)–and T-shirts would be a great door prize.

      In my first series, the heroine was an indentured cook. I made recipe cards for her signature dish. Not many teens wanted the cards–but their moms did.

      • Jeannie Lin says:

        Heather also had recipe cards that I was considering including, but didn’t end up using.

        I LOVE recipe cards. I pick them up at the Penzey’s spices. Usually I forget about them, but the fact that I even took the time to look at the card and CONSIDERED making the recipe at one point keeps the idea in my head for a little longer. Like right now, the idea of a root beer glazed ham or ribs is keeping my wheels turning.

  7. These are fabulous examples, Jeannie. And I had no clue about:

    “S.W.A.G. = ‘Stuff we all get'”

    Is that where it came from? I thought it had something to do with swagger and attitude. LOL

    While I won’t be attending conferences this year, I hope to do a bunch next year, when my new series comes out. I’ve given away rubber jar openers and keychain flashlights in the past, both of which were big hits. With my upcoming series, which is set around a hotel/casino/bar in Vegas, I’m hoping to do those printable cardboard coasters with the logo of the bar and the recipe for a cocktail used in my series (the cocktail’s a “Redemption” and my series is Redemption Club). I’m excited (especially since I get to try all the variations until we get that cocktail just right, LOL).

    I also hear that excerpt booklets are great bang for your buck, so I’m going to be looking into those for next conference season.

    • Jeannie Lin says:

      I remember noticing the coasters at RT in the bar one year…but I think they sell that placement. Darn it!! Still, can they stop you from leaving a couple of coasters around?

      (RT is in Vegas in 2016…I think you should leave your coasters at bars everywhere. Just for kicks!!)

      And a word to the wise on excerpt booklets: as tempted as you may be to do them yourself and save a dime, just save yourself the aggravation and have someone print them! I have two specialty staplers, the long reach and the booklet stapler, all bought because I thought I’d save a little by doing it myself. The trauma!

  8. Rita Henuber says:

    I would love to do excerpt booklets but have not found a reasonable place to get them. There are several vacation condos and B&Bs here on the beach. I could spread them around. I’ve left my books at a few that keep books for visitors to read on the beach.
    BTW the manager of one B&B called and said my book ‘disappeared’. Probably taken by a guest. Said she was reading it and asked if I would replace it so she could finish. Eh….

  9. Thanks for noticing my swag, Jeannie! Since the RT Booklovers convention is my first convention ever, I was really worried about offering the kind of swag that would be in sync with my books and brand AND actually get taken home and used by the folks at the convention.

    I wanted cool items I could send to my giveaway winners and faithful newsletter subscribers as well. On a limited budget, it’s not easy! But there is a lot of good advice out there, including from you, Jeannie.

    I hope my swag warrants a second look by the fans who pick it up. Why a rubber jar opener shaped like a mason jar full of fireflies? Why a pack of wildflower seeds to save the bees? What on earth are this woman’s books about? *grin*

    Thanks again!

  10. Addison Fox says:

    I love this!!! And I am so excited to know what SWAG means! πŸ™‚

  11. Marie says:

    This great! I’m getting lots of Swag ideas now! πŸ˜€


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