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More Swag for the Bag 2014

We've talked about the challenge on finding swag ideas that will catch the eye. And, with more and more conferences going toward "paper-less" swag, it's becoming increasingly challenging to continue to come up with new ideas.

Last week I attended the Emerald City Writers' Conference, sponsored by the Greater Seattle Romance Writers of America--my home chapter of RWA. For the past 4-5 years we've had a paperless swag policy for our bags. We still offer a place (typically a table in the writer's lounge, then a table outside the ballroom during the book fair, when we invite the public to come join us for fun), to put out the paper swag items. (By paper I mean book marks, cover flats, business cards, etc.)  The exception to our paperless rule are things like bound book excerpts, a postcard that offers a free book download or pretty much has to be more than just the paper product.

When I arrived home from ECWC I received a box from the wonderful Cora Cade, so sent me some of the swag items she's been collecting at various conferences and reader events over the year. When I set everything out to go through the loot, I knew I had to create another blog post, because this group of items was much different than the last. Very few paper products and a lot of really great ideas!

So, let's dive in.

Again, just like last time, I set everything out on the coffee table and just went through grabbing items that caught my eye. It was obvious, right from the start, that it probably wouldn't be financially feasible to offer some of these things by the hundreds for the swag bags at various conferences. But, as ideas for street teams or some VIP readers (selected however you wish) there are some very very cool items.

After I took this group photo I realized that some of the items on the table are actually a couple of my birthday gifts, so I didn't photograph them up close. If you see something that you want more info on that I didn't highlight, let me know and I'll be happy to share the item with you.

So, there's the loot. Notice anything different about this selection? First off, it's much less cluttered than the last time I did this. Hardly any paper. I love it.

Since there are so few paper items I went to those things first: Two calendars. For full disclosure, only one was in our swag bag, the other I received at the Killion Group workshop -after a mock photo shoot with model Harvey, so I had to have him autograph it for me.

These are really great, fun ideas. They include various covers on each month. You could easily get together with a few author friends (depending on how many months you want to 'own' for the calendar) and put something like this together for cross promotion too and be able to offer it on a wider audience with the shared cost. I fully admit that I haven't checked out the cost of these things, but I also wonder about doing smaller pocket/purse calendars. Similar idea, but smaller size might make it more cost effective or easier to ship.

 RT Magazine sent ECWC enough copies to fill the bag, which is a fun filler and there weren't that many booklets offered this year. It's always hard to know who is doing what, but offering these excerpt booklets are a great way to offer readers a chance to try out a new author. And, like with the calendars, you don't have to do it on your own. You can join forces with a few other authors you know to help with cross promotion. AND, if you are a e-book author (whether indie or small pub, whatever) and want to participate in book fairs or reader event but aren't comfortable sitting at a table without any product, these are GREAT ways to engage and hook new readers.

Always the most popular items in any swag bags are books. Always. Don't be afraid to ask your publisher to send your books for the bags of various conferences you are attending or than you plan to attend but want a presence. They may not send enough to have one in every bag, but chances are they will be more than happy to send some of your books.

Or, if you have left over books from various promotions or author copies, whatever. Check the RWR to see if there are any conferences coming up that you want to send your items to.

Since we're still on the paper-ish items, I'll point out the coupon for a local restaurant near the conference hotel and the notebooks that were in the bags. Nothing too earth shattering, but cute, fun items that will get your name in front of the attendees. But, I'll point out that the only author name I see here is Erin Nicholas. At first glance, I couldn't tell you who offered up the other two notebooks. The black one is now in my purse and the cupcake one has been claimed by my kid, so I doubt I'll find out. Don't be afraid to put your name on things. If you're buying up some generic over the counter items, try to figure out a way to get your name on them, whether by a sticker or some other way. I want to know your name so when I meet you at the conference I can thank you. Seriously.

Some of the goodies at ECWC this year were necklaces that were given to conference volunteers. Nicolette Reed has hers in the bags for everyone. Let me tell you, it was SO FUN to see attendees wearing these items along with their lanyards and name badges all weekend. How much fun would it be to see your book cover on one of these? Or if you have a tagline that your die hard readers identify with?

And, speaking of lanyards...check out what the wonderful Merien Grey made for the committee members of ECWC. As I was looking at them I realized, they probably didn't take a ton of time to make and they really can set a group apart. Is your street team planning on attending RT? How about investing a little time to make them a lanyard so they'll be instantly recognizable?

Or what about giving these out to people who make a purchase of your books at a book fair? I've said it before, but I'll say it again: Readers like to feel special. Heck, everyone likes to feel special. Offering a nice one of a kind type item is a great way to win someone over. If you don't have the skill set to make this yourself, I'd bet money that you know someone who would be willing to help you out for a nominal fee or advanced read or something (depending on their role in your world).

This post is going to be really long, so I'm going to start throwing things out there a little faster without offering quite so much commentary. Or I'm going to try...we'll see how it goes:

Pens and pencils

A great, inexpensive cup with a clear brand. This is awesome and is sitting on my desk holding pens and pencils, so I'll be looking at it every day.

A magnetic clip. Again, clearly marked with the author's name, so I don't have any question who offered it up and I'll be seeing her name regularly as I use this. I don't know about the rest of you, but I can never seem to have enough of these clips on my fridge holding kid's art, notices from the school, reminders, etc.

Chapstick, again clearly marked. I admit that I'm always hesitant to use the chapstick and things that I get in swag bags, but I know there are several people that really love them. The exception I will make is if it is very obviously sealed.

Another example of sharing some of the swag is this cozy. Each author had their information on one side of the cozy. Just by looking at them I can tell both write Westerns, but that's about all I know for sure. The fact that both websites are clearly marked and the style of each side is similar makes this look very professional. 

There were a couple of very cool items in this group of swag that I need to highlight:

This cup & spoon from Crista McHugh is awesome. It has her tagline, which isn't so series or romance specific that my husband wouldn't use the mug, which is a good thing because it's the one item that he zeroed right in on and claimed for himself. 

Another is this little grooming kit. At first, I had no idea what it was and called my ten-year-old over to open it while I continued to photograph the other items waiting for attention. When he got it open he exclaimed how cool it was and I have to agree. It's a keychain, so I can put it on my keys if I want, or just put it in the car or my purse. 

That's the bulk of what I have this time. What do you think? Anything strike inspiration for you? Something you want to get a closer look at?

I need to give a very special shout out to Cora Cade for sending me some swag to highlight...and I'm going to show her items here:
There are a few more days of this sale if you're interested. 

And, I'm so thrilled to recieve this item and will be using it. A lot! This would be another fabulous 
idea for street teams:

And, now I'll show you my swag, which I gave away at my workshop at ECWC. Since my books aren't out yet, I'm not really selling anything but getting my name out there and in front of people. I so appreciated everyone who came out to the workshop and hope you all had as much fun as I did and that you like the goodies. 

If you see anything on the table I didn't highlight, please let me know, I'll be happy to dig it out and give it a shout. But, really, this was so much fun to go through and get more ideas for possible swag items. I hope it sparks a bit of inspiration for all of you! Thanks for stopping by!


Conference game plan

I'm prepping for the Emerald City Writers' Conference, which will be happening this weekend at the Westin in Bellevue Washington. Last year I was the conference chair, so ran around quite a bit putting out fires and managing little details with the hope that none of the attendees would noting any of the snags we encountered.

This year I'll be giving a workshop. Get Out of Your Own Way: An Introverts Guide to Interpersonal Relationships. It's a crazy huge title, but basically I'm going to be breaking down the various interpersonal relationships that you, as a writer, want to develop and assist in making a plan in how to do it. To start, there are professional contacts, fellow writers, bloggers, and readers. And there are all sorts of ways that you can encounter these people. One of the areas I'll be focusing on is conferences. Sort of makes sense since we'll be at one, right?

Last year I had several people approach me to tell me they could 'never' do what I did. That getting up and talking in front of three hundred attendees would send them into vapors. That speaking to their favorite author is terrifying. Forget sitting with an acquiring editor at dinner. We're not supposed to pitch to them, so what would we talk about? eek!

First, take a deep breath. Next, straighten your spine and dive in. I know that's not the hand holding, flowers and rainbows advice that some people want, but it's what you have to do. You can help yourself by preparing. Hone your elevator pitch--you know, that small, thirty second bit you can rattle off any time someone asks you what you write? That. Because the first time someone asked me what I wrote, I froze. Seriously, what did they mean? I'm at a writing conference. A ROMANCE writing conference at that, so that can't possibly be what they mean, right? So, the first thing that came to me? "I write words. On a good day, lots of them."

*forehead smack*

But, the ice was broken. So, my first bit of unsolicited advice is to prepare. Work on your small talk, practice your pitch and prepare your game face. Because when it comes to conference, you have to be social to a degree.

If you'll be at ECWC this year, I'd love to see you. Please be sure to stop by and say hello. And if you'd like more tips, be sure to attend my workshop, Friday afternoon.

Hope to see you all there!


October, my favorite month of the year!

October is my favorite month of the year. It always has been.

It could be because of the amazing fall colors:Chances are, even if you don't live in an area where the foliage turn, at some point, someone dragged you somewhere to go look at the leaves. I considered it insanely dull at the time, but now I love watching the maple trees (in particular) turn to vibrant oranges and reds.

Another reason: It's my birthday month. Those who know me know I'm a birthday fiend, constantly reminding them of my birthday. It's to the point that if I don't, they search me out to find out what's going on and why I'm not bugging them about it. I love that they know me well enough to know it's a big deal to me any why. 

Emerald City Writers' Conference is also held each October. This year I'll be giving a workshop for the first time. (If you're going to be in attendance, I'd love to see you!) Last year I was the conference chair, so I plan on kicking back and catching up with everyone that I was too busy to do more than wave at as I raced past.

And, it wouldn't be fair if I didn't mention Halloween. Now that I have kids, it means something a bit different than it used to, but I always look forward to seeing all the costumes. 

Tell me, what's your favorite month? Are you a die hard for October, like I am?