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5 Cool Conference Swag Ideas For Authors

By Leslie Sartor

Writing a post on conference swag (those things you give away with your name on them) seems to be a perfect follow up to last month’s blog by Tawdra Kandle’s on Conferences.

Generally speaking, a conference swag room is for conference attendees. However, if the conference you’re attending has public book signings, you’ll also need some swag at your table.

First thing to remember is that carting or shipping swag can be heavy and/or expensive. Usually, hotels have a storage or acceptance of packages fee, so take that into account.

1.  Be a part of the conference

If you can afford this and the conference planners allow it (check on this far in advance), see if you can add something of value to every tote the conference gives away to its attendees.

The best ever swag items I got just for being an attendee was a water bottle at one conference and a mini note book with a good pen at another.

Right off, you’ll need a great logo, and Book Brush can help you create it. I suggest one color, or even black and white, to keep costs down.


Click to enlarge image.

This was quite easy to make.

  • You can see I used 4 text boxes.
  • I imported the font I own, Trajan Pro.
  • I created the L and bolded it, making the size 100. Another text box for the A, same, bolding and size of 100. The moved the A where I wanted it by clicking and dragging the text box.
  • Then I opened the # on the right side of the workspace and brought in Grid Lines so I could make sure they would be centered when I did my 3rd text box for SARTOR.
Gridlines on workspace

Click to enlarge image.

  • To make SARTOR look better, I used the letter spacing to bring them closer together.
  • Tip: I used absolute black which is denoted by 000000 (six zeros) and pure white is ffffff (six F’s). Always good to know some of these shortcuts.

Now for the box around it.

How to space letters

Click to enlarge image

  • I used the 4th Text box, took out the text, and added a border in black. The stretched it to be the size I wanted.

By the way, I have a list of suppliers at the end of my swag blog. But there are a ton of them out there. 

2.  In the conference swag room

I’ve attended dozens of writer conferences all over the country, and the first thing I do after I’ve settled in my hotel room is hit the swag room (I bet you thought I was going to say bar or exercise room). Wow, the trouble and expense some writers go to for their swag is mind boggling. And I’m always impressed.

BUT, and you knew there was going to be a “but”, right? The cost in materials and time alone is staggering. And here’s the worst part of it. We then need to cart all our snagged goodies home.

And worse, once home we have to put all that stuff somewhere. Or at least that is my problem. So while I love the organza bags filled with chocolates and pens and whatever, here is another idea that really resonated with me and something I actually used during the conference.

It was a simple zip lock bag with a beautiful label on it which is what caught my eye. You can design this in Book Brush. Inside that bag was a Purell wipe packet, a couple of mints (I think they were lifesavers),  a couple of small safety pins and her business card.

What if you used that idea, and on the back of the business card put your free book download link on it? Or add a small sewing kit, or whatever you think someone might use there. A mini highlighter?

Then they’ll have the card to remind them of how thoughtful you were and will download your book. You’ll stay in their mind. The objects don’t have to have your name on them, but the business card  and the label will.

3.  Reader swag for author signings

Unless you’re a superstar, us mortal authors share a table with another author, so room is limited. I usually see chocolate (sans nuts these days) or some sort of treat. But one of the things I enjoy snagging is a really good pen. After all writers are readers. So a pen helps us at the conference and reminds us at home who that author was every time we pick up that pen.

Again you’ll need a logo, so check out what sizes the pen company wants and design it in Book Brush. A lot of the swag companies will send you samples at a reduced price. Don’t settle for cheap. Look for classy and one that writes well.

  • Tip: The issue with creating a logo is that on some items they can be really small like a pen.
logo with more

click on image to enlarge

While I added “NOVELS” to this one, that might work better on a water bottle

On a pen, you may be able to add text beside your logo separately…then add books, novels, whatever.

4.  Reader swag

Think of what you use most in your office or around the house. Then give it to your reader.

Me, I use post-it notes ALL. THE. TIME. So, while it’s an expensive upfront cost, you’ll have them for everything you give swag away for. Use them at your author signing table, then once home, mail them as a giveaway to a newsletter question. Give them to your street team.

Sticky Note

Click on image to enlarge

This is a 3″x3″ post it note which I made using the custom size in Book Brush’s Custom Creator.

  • 3” is 288 pixels and you can Google the conversions easily.
  • The printer may do color, or you may want this to look like a watermark, so it’s faded quite a bit.

The red tag line was a stamp which I brought into stamps to use on whatever I created in Book Brush.

5.  Captive audience

Don’t forget that conferences goers are captive audiences and if the conference has a public component to it, like author signings, all the better.

Create a drawing that exchanges an entry for an email address. Make the drawing item something people want. A super great tote bag, a box of books and jelly/tea/candy from the location of the book. A piece of jewelry or a charm. Would I exchange my email for something like that? You bet.

signing poster

Created in Book Brush

Be very careful about making sure the person who fills out the entry knows they are signing up for your newsletter. Or give them an opt out check box. Always be very transparent in this! ALWAYS.

Additionally have either book marks or business cards available on the table and “tell” them why your conference goer wants them. List a free book on the back, fun newsletters, whatever you think will help make the conference goer or fan want to keep yours vs somebody else’s swag.

ENGAGE with them. Be your happy, excited self and they’ll want a part of that.

All of your swag, table and you should look professional, no folded, spur of the moment tent cards.

  • Sometimes the signage is created by the conference, ask for guidance if you’re unsure.

But remember, make whatever you give them portable and desirable. For you and for the recipient.

Fun Fact: I used to cart around postcards in my purse that had my book covers on them and a freebie link or QR code on the back. Then when I’d hand them out, I realized they had to fold them to put them away. Not so with a business card. And you can create one card and put labels on the back for your books.

Design the label in Book Brush and either print yourself or have printed.

  • Tip: Then make sure you put them on straight…again, look professional.

Make your dollars count. Be creative, be generous, be smart about what you give and hope people will keep.

Leslie Sartor photoArticle by L.A. Sartor

I started writing as a child, really. A few things happened on the way to becoming a published author … specifically, a junior high school teacher who told me I couldn’t write because I didn’t want to study … urk … grammar… That English teacher stopped my writing for years.

But the muse couldn’t be denied, and eventually I wrote, a lot. I learned a litany of new things and published my first novel. My second book became a bestseller, and I’m absolutely on the right course in my life.

Please come visit me at, see my books, find my social media links, and sign up for my mailing list. I have a gift I’ve specifically created for my new email subscribers.


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