Book Signings and Author Swag

Hi, SEers! Mae here today. It’s been a while since I’ve done a book signing, but I’ve been thinking about ordering new swag and that got me thinking about my last signing. I’m not an expert—I’ve only done a handful—but I discovered something I thought might be helpful.

I used to create rack cards for my books, but at my first signing, I saw an author who used postcards. She put the cover on the front and blurb on the back. She had them all lined up on her table in neat little stacks. I thought the cards were a great idea but noticed very few people took any.  Still, I liked the idea and switched to postcards.

For my next signing, I made goodie bags  composed of postcards for my novels and a few pieces of chocolate. A private organization had invited me to speak, so it was easy ensure each member received a bag.

Fast forward several months. It was time for me to take part in a signing at my local library, along with thirty-plus other authors. I remembered the previous event was well attended, but most visitors had been reluctant to take author swag.

What to do?

I decided people don’t like to pick things up, but will rarely refuse something when it’s handed to them. Simple, right?

With that in mind, I found inexpensive bags on Amazon, stuffed them with postcard swag for all my books, added two business cards, a bookmark, and a pencil branded with my name and web address (photos below).

Whenever someone neared my table, I handed them a goodie bag. True, a lot of content may have ended up in the trash, but I found a way to get my books into their hands for consideration. Something that wouldn’t have happened if the swag stayed on the table. Several authors at the event told me what a great idea it was. I was pleased with the results and plan on doing it for every signing going forward.

If you do author signings, perhaps you’d like to give the same trick/tip a try. It’s a struggle to get our work to be seen, especially when competing with top authors on huge sites like Amazon. When you pare an event down to the local level, it shouldn’t be so difficult. I hope some of you find this helpful, and would love to hear your own ideas for author swag and book signings.

The comments are open—ready, set, go!

Bio banner for author Mae Clair

60 thoughts on “Book Signings and Author Swag

  1. Handing the gift bags out, instead of leaving them on the table is good advice. I am an author and my debut novel – The Lies That Got Us Here is being launched on September 8th. I am planning on signing purchased copies on the day and giving people who purchase the book a bookmark and small gift bag with camo coloured lollies in it, little army men, etc (to match the book’s theme). I feel that this is probably okay for the launch. As for after the launch…??? Are there other events where I will need to sign my book/give out gifts etc? What would you recommend? Speaking at book clubs etc?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello, Kate! Congratulations on your debut release. Exciting times, indeed.

      It sounds like you have a good plan with the gift bags and the content to match your book’s theme. As for after the launch, I’d suggest checking into any venues or organizations locally that would be interested in hosting you as a guest speaker. Books clubs are good choices, libraries, schools, even civic organizations. Don’t forget your online promo, too. You’ll reach a different and larger audience that way. Congratulations again, and I wish you much success with The Lies That Got Us Here!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this information. I just put out my first two books after years of being afraid to step out of my comfort zone. Thank you for sharing this because I am going to be getting into some book signings soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi! Sorry I’m so late in replying. I was on vacation but am delighted you took the time to drop by and comment. Congratulations on stepping out of your comfort zone with your first two books. I hope many more will follow. I think every author has butterflies with each release, whether the first, fifteenth or fiftieth, but it does get easier. Or maybe we just get used to the insecurities of wondering if someone will enjoy our work, LOL!

      Book signings are a great way to connect with readers and other writers. I wish you much success, and am delighted you found my post useful! Thank you for visiting and commenting 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yet another example of the comparative health of the book trade in US compared with UK! The few book signings I’ve attended (for other authors, not myself) in UK have featured a writer who sits at a table looking as if they would rather be almost anywhere else, After a token stay of, say, thirty minutes without looking up or engaging with a purchaser once, they take the first opportune moment to fulfill their wish and do, in fact, go somewhere else. As for swag…
    There’s a guy I know who, for as long as I can remember, has always carried a stock of personal cards with him. Whoever he meets and without exception, he shakes hands with a card in his palm, transferring ownership in a masterstroke – I wish I was not so savagely introverted, sometimes…

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s an interesting summary of book signings in the UK, Frederick. I’m not as bold as the man with the business card, but–introvert that I am–I do force myself to interact at book signings. I always joke that I have an “on” button for situations like that (when I have to be extroverted), but then it takes me a good day or two to recover!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. As you know, Mae, I do a couple of local signings/presentations a month, and I’ve had pretty good luck with swag of various sorts. The dynamics are somewhat different when you are the “only act in town,” though. I have bookmarks, postcards, and little tin samples of custom blended teas named for my characters. (Sarah’s Favorite Earl Grey, Rabbit’s Hazelnut Cocoa, etc). These have gone over pretty well for me. I also have brochures with a bit about me and my books, contact info for social media, and something that says I’d love to come visit the readers book club or retirement community, etc. I’ve discovered that laying a brochure, a couple of bookmarks, and maybe a postcard or two on each seat before the audience arrives ensures that at least some of my swag goes home with folks.

    I’m thinking to add some pens and notepads to the mix, too, as I’ve seen some nice ones lately, and think folks will use them. So with that much stuff, I’d bag them as you do, and sit a bag on each chair, so those who have to leave early, or don’t want to get in line at the signing table will still have something to take away.

    I’ve recently had some mugs made on Vistaprint (my go to place for most of this stuff), and they look great. Too costly to give away to everyone, though, so I’m planning to use them singly in a door prize type of giveaway. Perhaps a larger bag with the mug and all the other goodies, and maybe even a signed copy of my latest book. Something that people might buy a $1 ticket for.

    I think swag is a great way to keep your name and books in front of folks. Great post! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • You have fantastic ideas for swag, Marcia. It’s wonderful that you’re able to do book signings so often. I’d love to find an organization or two up here that would be game for something. Of course, the day job could be a problem LOL.

      I’d love to do pens but couldn’t find any that were affordable. I’ll have to look on Vista Print and see what they have. I use them for most of my stuff too. Swag is definitely a must for any signing, whether solo or in a group, plus its fun to create. I’m waiting on the cover for my next book End of Day to start putting something together on that one!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I forgot to say that the idea of putting the book blurb on the back of the postcards is brilliant. I never thought of that, and you can bet my next order will include them, along with the Buy Link underneath. It’s so great to brainstorm with other writers, isn’t it?

        I’m off to do a wildlife presentation tomorrow, and I’m lucky that this is something my experience with Audubon and my years of birding and canoeing allows me to do, beyond just a basic reading, or the like. And because my Florida series includes a lot the local natural background, these wildlife programs are a natural tie-in. So that broadens my audience and my list of venues, too, which I’ve been incredibly lucky with.

        I found a hook, and so far, it’s working for me. Perhaps your love of history, especially of the spookier kind, could work in the same way for you? It could be a big draw. Just a thought. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yep, I just have to find the right organization and fit. And I’m glad you like the idea of the blurb on the back. I list my website as the link (which has all my books with buy links) but I also list on the front that the book is available from all online book sellers.

        Wishing you the best on your presentation tomorrow, although I’m sure you don’t need the extra luck. No doubt you will nail it as always! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Author Inspiration and This Week’s Writing Links – Staci Troilo

  6. Hi Mae,
    I’ve only done one book signing and that was when a local organization asked me to speak about my writing and then they allowed me to set up a table to sell and sign books. Recently, I had a bookstore that also does a newsletter contact me. I went to it to make contact. They told me they had two options when working with authors. 1. Consignment where you pay a shelving fee plus share revenue 40/60. 2. An event where you pay a fee to reimburse for them to host it, but you are responsible for local advertising (they put it in their newsletter). Again you share the revenue made for any books sold that night. Is this typical for bookstores that hold book signing events?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Chuck, I’ve only done one book signing at a brick and mortar store. They offered a 40/60 and a 70/30 split and I was able to choose per book (I based my decision on cover cost). If I went with the higher split, they wouldn’t stock extra books in the store. They did pay for all advertising and promotion. I think it probably depends on the book store. This was a small independent store that sold new and used books, but I had a good day there and was invited to return. They even gave a free store credit of $50 for each author holding the signing there. It was myself and two others that day.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m just now getting up the nerve to try one of these book signings, but I am clueless of the process. Do you bring your own books to the location to sell them, or does the location usually buy a certain amount of your books to put on their shelves? What has been your experience? In my head, it seems like a huge financial risk to buy copies of my own books and possibly not sell them (or the opposite, only take a few and not have enough to sell). :-/

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi, Yvette. In most all cases, you’ll be bringing your own books to sell. It’s rare for a venue to buy them upfront, unless you’re working with a book store that uses Ingram. That’s usually only the case with a traditional publisher and no print on demand.

        I buy my own books and then sell them. I’ve heard it said that if you sell 5-10 at a signing, consider it a good day, so that should give you an idea of the amount of copies you want to buy in advance. I have a number of people who always want autographed copies when I have a new release, so I always purchase enough to cover them and then a few extra to keep on hand. If I know I’m going to do a book signing, I order more. I have never “sold out” at a signing, but those extra copies have come in handy when other people I come in contact with want to purchase them.

        Congratulations on moving ahead in doing a signing, and by all means, make sure you have swag to hand out!


  7. Thanks for sharing! Our library does a local author fair, too, and I’ve had luck with postcards. I’ve never tried a swag bag, though. Now I want to! Your postcards look great. I posted this on my author Facebook page. Great advice!

    Liked by 2 people

    • If you’re going to put candy out, you definitely have to go with the good stuff 😉
      Yep, I will use the bags going forward. It gave me a great opening to talk to people by handing them something!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I haven’t done a book signing yet, but having the goody bag ready is a great idea. People tend to like free stuff and even as you say some may have ended up in the trash, it’s a good way to help get your name out to those who will become true fans. Great post as usual, Mae!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Joan. I’ve noticed people are sometimes reluctant to pick up material from a table, but I’ve never had anyone refuse when I hand them something personally. It’s also a great way to introduce yourself and make an opening for further discussion (i.e, what brought you here today, what type of books do you like, who are some of your favorite authors, etc.)

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I did a book stall at a couple of school fairs just to get my name out there locally. I know it wasn’t the right environment, but people would run a mile rather than come over to take a look. You might be able to tell I’m still bitter about the experience, but it did teach me a few things. One being don’t bother with school fairs! The second is that I should have had a swag bag ready to hand out, rather than a few business cards people were reluctant to take. Your suggestion about physically handing it to people as they pass by is a good one.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’m sorry you had a bad experience, Suzanne. I’m surprised that there wasn’t some interest given I associate reading and schools, but apparently it wasn’t the right venue. It’s definitely necessary to have swag available for a signing. I like using postcard (as above for each book) because they are very colorful, while providing a one or two line tease, the cover with some other graphics and the full blurb. I do mine very inexpensively on Vista Print. The same with the bookmarks.
      Physically handing someone the bag also gives you and opportunity to introduce yourself, explain a little about your writing and also open the door for conversation (i.e, what brought you here today, what type of books do you like, who are some of your favorite authors, etc.). Even then, I’ve attended a few local signings where I made zero sales. Other times, enough to make it worthwhile. I’ll continue to do signings and hope for the best.
      Thanks for visiting and sharing today. Great to see you at Story Empire!

      Liked by 1 person

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