Convention Swag for Beginners
November 9, 2013 8:47 PM   Subscribe

I need to start thinking about ordering convention swag and I don't know where to start. I'm promoting myself as a copy editor, and my clients are writers.

Here are some things I need to consider:

-- The convention is in New Orleans. Basically everybody is traveling there and home again, so whatever my swag is, it has to be easy for people to take home.

-- My copy editing business is focused on romance, erotica and new adult fiction.

-- 50% of my clients are traditionally-published authors who are now e-publishing as a supplement to their established careers. Call these my "A Clients." The majority of these are NYTimes bestselling authors -- very well established.

-- 50% of my clients are independently self-publishing, many for the first time. Call these my "B Clients."

-- 100% of my clients are female, and it's likely to stay that way. (Hey, it's romance.)

My entire purpose of going to this convention is to meet more A Clients. I'll be accompanied by two of my A Clients - who are biggies in this world and know a lot of other authors. So most of my interactions will be face-to-face introductions at workshops and events. (I won't have a booth or anything like that.) So I guess I'm looking for a little something more than just my business card to hand these people when we talk.

I won't mind meeting B Clients, either - but they're not my main focus.

So, thoughts on swag?
posted by BlahLaLa to Grab Bag (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know what this particular conference is like, but if you're not running a booth and these are social-ish intros, anything traditionally swaggy like t-shirts or USB keys or mugs or whatever would be weird in my conference experience.

I'd instead look for something that can stand in for a business card and is on-message. If your clients are authors and you're an editor, I'd go with custom-printed bookmarks, or a business card printed on an eraser. (Eraser pens are also an option but there's very limited print room, plus meh.)

(PS: I'm going to assume custom-printed condoms are out)
posted by DarlingBri at 9:03 PM on November 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'd offer similar, but different, advice. You don't need "swag'," you need a physical token of your meeting-- go with well-designed letterpress business cards.
posted by hwickline at 9:21 PM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Business cards with an erotica/romance themed word search on the back? Creative, fun and memorable, sort of related to copy editing, and relatively cheap to produce.
posted by blnkfrnk at 9:23 PM on November 9, 2013

I'm going to give this a go from 2 directions, but I'm not in your target demographic, so.... there is that strike against my response.

This first response is as a person who has been offered lots of swag/so much that I can (and have) given it away as gifts, which in the end doesn't help the actual business. But the one object that I have kept and used is a flash drive that has the company name on it. I can't imagine who would not find it useful in today's day and age. However, to modify it to your use, I would put a file with tips about "how to lwhatever is needed to be successful for target A' with examples and a link to your website."

The other possibility (I have thought about this myself, but too lazy) is to create a cutesy business card that can fold into something but have your website and/or a QR code.

Finally, as a person who has attended conferences and just wants info about a company (as in to look it up later), to be honest, I don't want anything, even a piece of paper. What I have loved are vendors who just have a QR code taht you can then I have their website and I can read about it later. But no need to carry or pick up anything. Depends on how likely your clients are to do any of this.
posted by Wolfster at 9:29 PM on November 9, 2013

Print some custom labels for Louisiana hot sauce. Hot erotica? Hot sauce. People will remember that.
posted by oceanjesse at 9:33 PM on November 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

I don't know what this particular conference is like, but if you're not running a booth and these are social-ish intros, anything traditionally swaggy like t-shirts or USB keys or mugs or whatever would be weird in my conference experience.

Receiving a gift in an unusual context from a new acquaintance would feel weird to me as well. It would be like having a waiter bring mints in between the salad course and the entrees or something.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:33 PM on November 9, 2013

Wood etched bookmark? - they don't have to be that expensive: $0.50 to $1.50. Attractive and applicable without seeming over the top?
posted by clerestory at 10:02 PM on November 9, 2013

I should mention that I thought of this because someone upthread mentioned bookmarks and I still have one of these (probably not from this supplier, b/c mine doesn't have a tassel or hole for one) from a cute, vintage apartment complex I lived in 5+ years ago. It's just a cardstock-thin sliver of veneer with laser etching, so it's obviously not handcrafted with loving care, but it's still very cool and wood! I can't throw away wood! It's really attractive, too.
posted by clerestory at 10:06 PM on November 9, 2013

Best answer: I find a lot of the swag handed out at RT and RWA off-putting because it's too kitschy / too pink / too graphic / too cutesy, etc. What I would like is some hard-to-lose object that lists published titles on which you've worked, along with contact information for references who would not mind being emailed by me to ask about the experience of working with you. A bookmark could contain that information nicely.
posted by artemisia at 10:30 PM on November 9, 2013

You don't need "swag'," you need a physical token of your meeting-- go with well-designed letterpress business cards.

For the record, this would also have been my advice too if you were open to "just business card" ideas. Alternatively, looking at Artemisia's comment, you could consider a folded business card, and if you want to go all romance, a folded, hole-punched, ribbon-tied business card. The ribbon would help it be more tactile and less easily tossed (as it would on a bookmark), but aside from that flourish I'd recommend really solid, professional looking, high-value design without twee or romanticism. That would probably be distinctive in this market.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:40 PM on November 9, 2013

I'm a writer who goes to many conferences and conventions.

I really don't want your swag. And you don't want me to have your swag. It all goes into the swag bag, and the swag bag goes in the trash before I go to the airport.

The few bits of swag that I have kept have been things that retail for $30 or more and are actually useful. Maybe SD cards or thumb drives? Every writer I know could use those, and you can get them custom printed at many places. But not cheap, low capacity ones. If it's anything less than 16GB I'm never going to use it, I have a bag full of them.

But honestly I would probably just go with a high quality business card. Moo's Luxe business cards are really great, but letterpress cards would make the proper … impresion on a writer.
posted by Ookseer at 11:26 PM on November 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'd love thumb drives but those wee little golf pencils with your business name stamped on it? would be even better if they were red (lead) pencils. You're a copy editor after all.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 2:12 AM on November 10, 2013

Best answer: Magnetic fridge poetry - erotic edition - but rather than use the off the shelf product - create your own custom one.
posted by rongorongo at 3:26 AM on November 10, 2013

I think business cards are the only appropriate thing for networking like that. Have a short/complimentary quote from one of your A-list clients printed on the back.
posted by headnsouth at 3:35 AM on November 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

As an author who always comes back from various cons with swag that I promptly throw away, I can say that the only reason I'm likely to keep something is if it's useful. So . . . maybe a sticker business card where the rear side has copy editors marks, along with your URL? That's something I might feasibly stick to my laptop and use in the future.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:11 AM on November 10, 2013

Response by poster: I really appreciate the answers so far. And yes, it is RT that I'm going to. I do already have a really nice business card with a good message.
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:02 AM on November 10, 2013

As a convention gooer, the most useful things I have gotten are business cards with full contact info and web address, the same business card but in the form of a magnet, and flash drives with a file with useful info., that can also be reused as a flash drive later. You use the business cards for everyone, A and B (don't discount the B's, as they may someday become A's), and reserve the flash drives for the A's. Make sure the flash drives are nice and small, and have a top loop that can be attached to something like a keychain, to make them more appealing. An alternate option would be to have some USB business cards for the A people.
posted by gudrun at 8:15 AM on November 10, 2013

At conferences, I'm usually craving either sugar or protein. Could you give away minis of this extremely delicious love-themed chocolate bar and some small packages of jerky with double entendres about "silky smooth... ready to melt on his/her tongue" and "a well-toned hunk of meat?"

I was thinking you'd have a booth while I was writing this, so it might not fit with your distribution method and isn't likely to be something your A clients hang on to permanently, so it might not be quite what you're looking for. Maybe you could package it as a snack kit for the plane ride home, aiming to have them read your collateral while they snack.
posted by salvia at 11:38 AM on November 10, 2013

I'll also echo that flash drives (and not mentioned, reusable grocery bags) are good but getting overdone, and that the very best swag is a cardstock flier of information so useful (and ideally, hard enough to find elsewhere) that it's worth posting on one's bulletin board or filing nearby for easy reference.

Are there common usage and spelling mistakes that are somewhat specific to the romance and erotica fields? ("10. 'Caress' must have a direct object. 'They caressed'...what? Instead try 'embraced.'" Dunno if that's true, but you see what I mean.)
posted by salvia at 12:05 PM on November 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Single page promotional material describing what you do and how well you do it - sincere, and respectful of the intelligence of your customers. perhaps not pink, so it will stand out. And with many mentions of your informative website at Anyone who signs up for your mailing list gets entered into a drawing for a ... nice thing. Android tablet, portable hard drive, whatever. And arrange to ship it to the winner if it's heavy. If you want a memorable handout that's useful and sexy, make nice-looking round stickers to put on glow-n-the-dark, flavored, or other condoms. Memorable, probably not unique, and maybe useful at a convention in NOLA.
posted by theora55 at 1:41 PM on November 10, 2013

I would be hesitant to use a flash drive from someone I didn't know.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:09 PM on November 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: If your entire purpose is to have more A Clients, you will not be winning them over with swag. A Clients don't want swag. They want to know who your other clients are and that's about it. Swag is far too gimmicky for the type of client you're hoping to attract.
posted by heyjude at 4:11 PM on November 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I saw these business cards today and thought they were neat.
posted by Biblio at 7:45 PM on November 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Magnetic business cards stick around (ha) a little longer in my world. Post-conference stuff piles up, but maybe some sheet of paper needs attention and hey, where's that magnet I can use to stick it to the fridge? If you already have a card you like, perhaps get clever with your deets at the bottom of a 3x5 magnetic reference card. These go on fridges, filing cabinets, etc., and take up zero space like other schwag.

And yeah, if you don't have a booth it might be pretty weird to hand things out while you walk around. A flat magnetic biz or reference card would be far less weird.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 1:13 AM on November 11, 2013

Best answer: Candy.

But if it's not in a bowl at a booth, I wouldn't bother. If you are at a table, then some miniature chocolates in a bowl would be a nice touch.

But really, no, swag is just garbage with someone's name on it.

I have a swag bag from a conference I attended, I use it when I go shopping because it is huge, cloth and very strong. I was folding it and found a pen and a small pen-sized container of dried up hand sanitizer. Whoever spent money on those lost out, it's been 3 years.

If you're meeting with people though, work on making an impression on them with your wit, charm and intelligence. Leave the swag to booth people.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:54 AM on November 11, 2013

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