If you want SWAG for Nationals, NOW is the Time!– Rachael Davila

If you’re heading to San Antonio this July, now is the time to consider what promotional giveaway you want to hand out. If any. What is a promotional giveaway you ask? Simply put SWAG is an item with your name on it. Like a pen or mug, or the hundreds of thousands of other items that can be imprinted with your information.

Since this blog is geared to writers, Romance Writers, I’ll gear this post to you. In the business we have a few tiers: new unpublished authors, new published authors, and established authors. It doesn’t matter if you’re self-pubbed or traditionally pubbed, you still need to do your own marketing and you need a plan. Promotional products are a good addition to any marketing plan, if you have a specific goal in mind. Each tier will have different goals for their products.

The Number One question I get all the time about SWAG is what should I get? The answer always depends on what your ultimate marketing goal is. Are you just starting out and looking to network during the big convention? Are you recently published and want to promote your debut release? Do you want to build name recognition among readers? Are you an established author, hoping to break into a new genre?

With so many options the choices can be overwhelming. Which is where I come in. You wouldn’t buy a house without a realtor, would you? Like a realtor, a Promotional Products Distributor can guide you from idea to product in hand.

But with only a few weeks to go, time is running out.

You want to consider your budget. Across the tiers, some people have money to spend, while others are pinching every penny. Don’t worry! There are products for every price point.

Be realistic in your budgets. It’s not just the cost of the product. Factor in extra dollars for set up costs, shipping and tax. If you have more than one color for your artwork (or want full color), some extra costs come into play. Have a number in mind that is close to your max.

Time is important. Six weeks is the standard timeline. It takes longer than you’d think to pick a product, place the order, review and approve the artwork, produce the item and ship it. With the date of Nationals closing in on that six week timeline, there is little room to wiggle.

So, really, WHAT should I order? Good question and I’m going to give you some examples.

Meet Laura, she’s a new author without a published book going to Nationals for the first time. We discussed ordering Author business cards. They are perfect for networking with other authors, editors and agents. They give you an air of professionalism and they fit in almost every budget.

My favorite, if you have extra dollars, consider getting laminated cards and imprinted sharpie pens. Regular pens won’t easily write on the laminate, but a sharpie will write on everything. It’s a useful product that the person will use the rest of the conference. Each time, seeing your name.

Now Janet is a new author with a newly released self-pubbed book. Janet had two goals, one to get the word about her book out to the masses. She needed a large quantity, low cost item and went with full color postcards. Her other goal is for Nationals, she wanted to narrow her market and decided to do a lower quantity, higher cost item. Something people would pick up and hold on to, thus remembering her book for longer. She picked flashlight key chains that play on the title of her book.

I worked with an agent who wanted to have a fun, low cost giveaway that would encourage more connections on social media. She picked badge ribbons with the saying, “Follow me on Twitter @.” Something like this works well for name recognition, especially if you add a line at the bottom with your name and website. People will see it everywhere and ask where the person got it.

In addition to the examples mentioned, there are hundreds of thousands of products to choose. The most popular items for authors are: pens, sticky notepads, chip clips, author cards, postcards, bookmarks. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to promotional items. There are some fun, not so typical items that you might not consider but work well in Romance, like condoms, hand sanitizer, microfiber cloths, laptop/Kindle skins for autographs, web key cards to take readers to your website. Then there are the really unique items that only work in specific genres.

I have an author who writes Erotica. She ordered wooden rulers with her logo and tagline on one side and catchy references to a guy’s package on the numbered size. We’re also looking into a product that looks like a riding crop, but is actually a useful item that reaches between the seats of your car for things that fall in the cracks. Not it’s intended use, but it’s a fun fit for the genre.

I almost forgot the second most common question, How much should I get?

Since, we’re discussing items for Nationals, you need to consider how your goal translates into the options Nationals presents. Are you keeping your items with you for personal networking purposes, laying them out at your table during book signings, or dropping them off into the Goody Room for the masses?

Almost two thousand people attend Nationals. Does that mean you need to order enough SWAG for all those people? No! Not every attendee will be your target market or read what you write. If given the chance, however, they will collect your stuff, because that’s what people do, they collect stuff.

Some products have order minimums and that might be the quantity that works best for you. Or you might consider ordering enough of an item to parcel out for the goody room or to hand out to person-to-person connections during the course of your day. Another consideration is to order something that you can take to Nationals but can also be used for other promotional opportunities like book signings, contests or street team prizes. The quantity will depend on your need and your budget.

A promotional product’s job is to keep you at the top of your reader’s mind, not necessarily to sell your book. Figure out your goals and determine your budget. Get your artwork ready. Then call me or start shopping.

If you want items to hand out at RWA Nationals, the time to order is NOW. July is not so very far away in the promotional products industry. Don’t wait! Time is running out!


Rachael Davila has been in the Promotional Products industry since birth and a Romance writer for almost two years. She is combining her love of both to help her fellow authors brave the world of imprinted items! From business cards to convention giveaways, Rachael can help!

If you have any questions now or later. You can reach me at Rachael@ExtraSpecialPromotions.com or through my website: http://www.ExtraSpecialPromotions.com.

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About RWA San Diego

The Romance Writers of America's San Diego chapter promotes excellence in romantic fiction, helps writers become published and establish careers in their writing field, and provides continuing support for writers within the romance publishing industry. Contact us for more information about RWASD.

2 thoughts on “If you want SWAG for Nationals, NOW is the Time!– Rachael Davila

  1. I want to say something about the advantage of a live body wrangling your swag as opposed to something like Vista Print. I bought some awesome business cards online a few years back- lots of stars on them. Tiny, little stars, that looked great in the online version but when printed one of the white stars landed in the middle of my white email address….changed it from “rocketmail” to what looks like “pocketmail”. Vista Print wouldn’t catch something like that, the proof looks fine, it was only when everything came together. A live swag handler would notice something like that- just sayin!

    Marie Andreas

    • You’re correct on that Marie. At least most of the time. Sometimes though, the proof is totally correct, but the printed piece isn’t. A live wrangler can get it re-done or returned and your money back. Most of the time they are dealing with other live people, instead of an email only customer service.

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