Before I launched my debut YA novel, I asked my author buddies what swag worked for them. Some swore by bookmarks and buttons, others had wild success with posters and tee shirts. I tried them all, but the swag that’s worked best for me isn’t any of these.
We hand out swag is to get readers excited and get them talking about our books. We want kids to hang up the poster, take selfies wearing our tee shirt, bug a parent to buy our book, or beg a librarian to get it for the library.
But when I began doing school visits and appearing at book fests, I realized how many kids in the audience couldn’t afford to buy my book, and I wanted to give those kids a way to enter the world of my stories.
Before the second book came out, I put a novella on wattpad.com about a secondary character from the duology. Sparrow’s Story: A Girl Defiant was written so teens could read it as a standalone or as a companion to the series. Because it was free to anyone who read on wattpad.com, now I had a giveaway for kids who weren’t able to buy my books.
On the other side, I put the title of the novella, my author name, a call to action—Read it now for free on wattpad.com! and the the titles of the 2 books in the series.
Now when I bring out the mini-cards, kids are instantly intrigued. I ask if they read on wattpad.com and usually at least one person in a group gets very excited, and tells the others about wattpad.com. Then I pass out cards to everyone who wants one.
And when someone asks me to sign their book, I tuck a mini-card in it, and tell them they’re going to have questions about the book that the novella can answer.
The best moment though is when a kid walking through a book fest empty-handed realizes that the mini-card I’ve given them is a real book. Sometimes they squeal or jump up and down, or gush profuse thanks. Maybe this swag won’t turn up on Instagram, but I love giving it away.
Catherine Linka is the author of the two book series, A Girl Called Fearless and A Girl Undone. Connect with her on FB or twitter @cblinka.