It’s all about the goodie-bags when it comes to marketing books


When most of us say the word, we say it with a certain amount of contempt. Why should I have to self-market, people should just know good writing when they see it. They should come seek me out.

Me market to the masses? Fooey.

Well here’s the real deal. If you are a writer and if you want any chance of having your name heard among the many millions being screamed out there, you need to start doing some shouting yourself (Lord knows, your publisher won’t have the time or money to do it.)

Times have changed. Book stores are fewer, and the internet is now how people find out information (just look at the viral success of the book 50 Shades of Grey!) It means you’re going to have to create Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin accounts and you’re going to have to use them not just create them and then wipe your hands and say you are done. (check out some of our earlier posts on using Social Media.)

It also means you need to think about swag, especially if you are published or are going to be published. Swag is those little items intended to be given away either at independent book stores, book signings, or sent to bloggers who can use them in blog contests (you know, those events where you leave a comment and a randomly picked person gets the prize?) If you can get in with the all-powerful bloggers, you have a foot in that oh-so-important internet door.

You have a chance of being heard. More importantly you have a chance at creating some BUZZ!

A friend of mine, Gina Rosati, who has a book coming out on August 7th (Auracle) tells me that between getting a website built, buying a new computer, buying books from those in her support group, and buying swag, she has spent most of her book’s advance. She sees it, however, as money well spent. If her name gets out there, she’s got a chance at getting another book deal. And more books deals are what it’s all about.

For the swag, she has bookmarks (on which she ties charms and crystals – quartz crystal and rainbow moonstone for positive energy), stickers, postcards, magnets, and silicone wristbands. Most of the items incorporate her book’s cover (that lovely dark blue waterfall with the ethereal girl) That image is becoming her brand image for this book. She wants people to see that picture and think of Auracle.

Gina Rosati Auracle Swag

Her plan is to, as her release date gets closer,  send the swag out to bloggers to be used in contests.

It’s a smart plan. Nothing draws attention like getting something for free (hey I won my Kindle Fire at an online book release party and because of it, I’ll forever buy Jonathan Fields’ books.) It’s a way to generate excitement and get people talking about your product.

And if you can create a product related to your publication that you can sell (t-shirts, coffee mugs, bags – see – that will bring  in money, keeps the devoted fan base going, and (best of all) serve as free advertising (just take a look at the Twilight brand – someone is getting rich off of all those promotional items.)

When my book gets published, you can bet I’ll be having chicken-related products to both sell and give-away. I’d be a fool not to.

For now, even if you aren’t published, imagine you are or will be soon. What is it about your book that can be marketed? Is it a food book? Could you create measuring spoons with your book’s image? Is it about a trip to London? Could you use a crown in your promotions?

Take some time to think about what the image is you want people to see in their mind when they think about your book.

And then think of ways you can get that image out on the internet and into people’s hands and minds.


Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens).

I got your swag right here. Gina has given me some swag to hand out (yeah, I know, whose da  blogger?) I have 4 sets of bracelets (one pink, one blue), 4 signed bookmarks, 4 signed postcards, 4 signed stickers, and 4 magnets. Leave a comment on this post and Friday afternoon, 20 random commenters (pretty good odds here) will be chosen to receive some of this great Auracle stuff. Ready? Go. 

28 thoughts on “It’s all about the goodie-bags when it comes to marketing books

  1. Good Lord, I know you are right but it is SOOOOO overwhelming! We already don’t get paid enough and I wonder, when the time comes, and it’s MY turn to publish, whether I’ll be ready enough, RICH enough, to pull it off.
    Of all the things that make me doubt myself, this is Number One – the whole “marketing” package.
    Honestly….I’m trying hard not to panic…

  2. One day at a time, I tell myself. Build the platform in increments, I tell myself. Get outside help if you need to, I tell myself. BREATHE, I tell myself.

    Where the hell is the money or the time needed to do this, I ask, and feel the anxiety levels rising like flood waters!

  3. Laura,

    I’ve already got you covered. I’m planning a post (maybe next week?) on “Marketing on a shoestring” it can be done, you just have to put the work into it.


    (and fyi – none of my comments count toward the swag)

    • I’ll be paying careful attention Wendy! Thanks for all your tips and advice – in the past and the future!
      Chicken swag? I’m on it! lol

  4. I’ve had lots of different cottage businesses in my life: maple syrup, beautiful soaps, refinished and painted furniture, gingerbread houses, etc. Years ago my sister and mother wondered aloud why I put so much of myself into endeavors that brought back so little monetary reward. Now that I’m focused on writing, I see I am at least consistent.

  5. Wendy,

    I have been following your blog for a few weeks and enjoying it immensly.

    I am preparing to write a book about women and weight. I was in the fitness and weight loss business for over 40 years. I have helped thousands of women lose weight and change their lives.
    Your blogs are helping me to prepare.Thank you.

    At this time I am selling promotional products. I will be setting up my facebook, twitter, next week. I also will be setting up a website and a blog post.

    Your article today would be a great re-post for me in my blog post soon after I get started. Would you give me permission to repost it to my blog? It might get you in front of people that you might not otherwise touch and help me to emphasize the need for “swag.” I intend to target writers so as to help them to market successfully.

    Thanks again for all your knowledge and info in your great blogs. Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Kat Sillick

  6. Yep, I learned this from Gina when she appeared at the Merrimack Library during NaNoWriMo back in November…and I believe where I met you, too, Wendy! It was a real eye opener for me. I have a bag of her swag that we will be giving out when her book comes out. (Personally, I’ve been wearing her Auracle bracelet since she gave it to me and had vowed not to take it off until I get my own book deal.) — Another thing that comes to mind…the Library won a free Skype visit with Caroline Starr Rose, author of May B., which is scheduled for this Monday the 19th. So that’s another way to promote your book and generate web traffic. We’re paying for an Avi Skype in July, so I’d estimate Caroline’s Skype at $100 plus she sent over enough books for the kids to share (about 10).

  7. Swag could be the area where you get to PLAY with what you are putting out into the world . . . find a way to bring the fun, joy and excitement into it ~ sometimes it all seems a bit overwhelming though . . . swag doesn’t scare me as much as figuring out what to do with twitter!

  8. Writers need to promote because unless you’ve been paid a sizeable advance, publishers aren’t going to spend much on marketing.

    But if every writer is creating blogs and tweeting and facebooking and producing goodies doesn’t it really defeat the object? – Isn’t it just back to so many books and all being promoted in the same way? And i totally agree with musidoras – What do you do with twitter?

    I don’t know what the answer is and look forward to further posts on Marketing, because it’s a real problem. Even established writers complain about the promotional circuit – being unpaid to turn up at festivals where they maybe sell a handful of books.

    I do think this blog is good though, operating as a “collective” with regular output and different styles and creating its own network.

    Look forward to further posts – Well done.

  9. Wendy –
    All great advice! I didn’t go quite so far with INTO THE WILDERNESS, but I did have postcards of the cover with blurbs from reviews on the back (plus ISBN number and a link to my website). I passed them out like confetti – and people loved them. Next time, I’ll do bookmarks, too.
    Thanks for a great post.

    • I like that idea Deborah! Keeping that one on my list of “to-do’s” when the time comes. Postcards are inexpensive and it gives people the visual they need. Plus, they can keep it on hand so even if they don’t buy your book right away, they can tack it someplace for easy access when they make the next trip to the bookstore.

  10. I use that same thinking in my business cards. On them I have two really striking photos that my husband took. One is of a chicken and one is of a heart made from grain.

    People tell me that my cards are too beautiful to throw away and they keep them on boards and on top of desks just to see the pictures.

    I personally hang up beautiful post cards on my wall.


  11. Wow! Really great ideas. My book Love Always, But Not Forever is being published right now. This concept of ‘something for free’ will really help get my book and name out there. Thank you!

  12. Looks like everyone up to Debi gets some swag! Please contact me with your email address and I’ll arrange to have the items sent out (we’ll go in order of how we get the emails)

    Thanks all,


  13. Have just discovered this blog site – Thank Goodness! This is a great post & I’m totally with you on the self-marketing groan, but unfortunately it’s part of the game. Time consuming is my biggest issue with it, but if you want to be part of the game that’s what it takes. But what a brilliant idea to give things away – I had not thought of that, but it is SO true that people love getting things for free, and gives them a good sense of the giver. I shall follow your example if & when my first novel comes out.

  14. Wendy, when MY book gets published, I plan to have lots of tiny stuffed critterly dolls and sort of padded bookmarks as “swag”. There will also be miniature prints of some of the illustrations

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