Monday, October 19, 2015


Swag! Everyone wants some! The time for physical bookmarks seems to be well over. A lot of books that are sold these days are sold digitally. I don't think I remember keeping the various and sundry bookmarks I was given even back when I was reading physical books. I've never just kept my book on the nightstand where a bookmark would stay in its assigned place. I've always taken the books I was reading with me more or less everywhere and bookmarks just wouldn't stay put in transit. They're even less useless to me these days, now that almost all of my books are in digital form. But swag is an integral part of putting your best foot forward in conventions and such. It's a way of getting your work remembered even when it's not on a billboard.

If not bookmarks, then what kind of swag should you get to promote you and your book? Here are a few examples of the swag given to me during this year's Worldcon.


Pins for Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear, Schlock Mercenary by Howard
Tayler and All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Pins seem to be the new go-to these days. The round ones are fairly cheap to either make for yourself or to have made. The shaped ones are more difficult (I may have to bug Howard about where he got them made the next time I see him) but they perform the same basic function. Although I have to admit that the Schlock pin is a lot cooler than the book pins. It's all exposure during the con, when everyone is paying loads of attention to your badge and everything that's hanging on it. And if even a fraction of the people getting the pin at a con wear it in their normal lives that's still quite a lot more exposure than without. Personally I tend to favor fan enthusiasm such as carrying around pins about books you loved over paid billboards. And from what I can tell, the same applies to most people.

Something people use

Squishies to promote The University of Iowa libraries and Montreal in 2017
Giving readers something they'll use all the time that's still somehow related to the thing you're marketing. The stress toys pictured to the left were both given out to promote generally science fictional causes. University of Iowa Libraries have a science fiction department that is busily gathering science fiction history. Montreal was trying to get the 2017 Worldcon, which, as you probably know, is the World Science Fiction Convention.

Objects from the book

Memorial pins from characters in Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Mercy
This is very possibly the best swag there is. There are objects in any book that the characters notice or use, things that may or may not be important to the plot. The first example of these that I've come across was James A Owen's Here, There Be Dragons. In the books there are Caretakers, each of whom is identified by a pocket watch they carry. Owen later formed a study program for middle schools where the students and teachers participating were given one of these pocket watches. At last year's Worldcon, Mary Robinette Kowal gave out sandalwood fans, which were mentioned in her book Valour and Vanity. This year I never did get to meet Ann Leckie but she was handing out the pictured pins, which were both featured in her two books, Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Mercy. These are things to be treasured.

Have you come across any particularly good swag?

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