To Swag or Not to Swag, Marketing Materials Are the Question


by Olivia M. Croom, Cover and Graphic Designer

Tough Girl postcard 1How many times have you met someone and wished you had a way to give them your contact information? How many times have you met someone and thought, I bet they would really like my book? Business cards are standard for the former, but if you’re like many authors, you keep a day job, so a business card that has nothing to do with your writing career—potentially picked up along with many others at a literary conference or event—might not give a potential reader the memory jog that a book-specific piece of swag can.

In today’s publishing world, discoverability is key. Giving people a way to remember and find you and your book after an in-person encounter can increase sales and build your fan base. Postcards and book-themed business cards can be handed out at readings, conferences, or your family reunion—any place a potential reader might be. And just as a well-designed book gives readers confidence in their purchase, having visually consistent swag—that is, marketing materials that use the same colors, typefaces, and images as your book cover—can give readers confidence in you as an author worth investigating. If you’ve written many books, you can take this further and have the same design concept for swag across all your titles. (Plus branded totes! Custom rubber chickens!)

Posters, custom buttons, postcards, and the like allow you to spread the word about your book without the expense of sending out finished copies. With targeted sending to potential reviewers or booksellers, for example, you can begin to generate demand for your book before it’s available—all you need to get started for basic items are a finished front cover and a book description. Blurbs are great too.

Tough Girl postcard 2 More marketing materials that are oriented to sales reps and publicists include one sheets and tip sheets. One sheets are provided to booksellers and librarians. They give a basic sense of what the book is about (genre, brief description, blurbs) while also providing the information someone would need to order the book. Typically, along with your one sheet, you’d want to send a sales kit that includes other marketing materials, an ARC, and a galley letter, which is basically a pitch for the book that’s personally addressed and signed by you or your publicist.

Tip sheets are much more detailed and are typically provided to people out selling the book on your behalf, such as a publicist or sales team member. They might not have time to read the book as a whole, but the tip sheet provides them enough information to be able to answer the major questions that librarians, booksellers, reviewers, and journalists might ask, like “Who is the audience?” and “Where would we shelve it?” Even if a tip sheet or one sheet isn’t practical for your book, it’s still a good—even fun—exercise to gather all the required information.

Whether you’re hiring a publicist or pounding the pavement yourself, using professionally designed marketing materials to promote your book can make a significant difference in sales. And like with most things, it doesn’t have to be complicated, just well thought out. (Though I really think you should consider custom rubber chickens.)



OliviaOlivia M. Croom is a graphic designer living in New York City. In addition to being a book designer, she has produced high-quality marketing materials for a number of literary organizations, including Literary Arts, Hawthorne Books, Ooligan Press, and SRG Partnership, Inc. She holds a master's in writing and book publishing from Portland State University. You can find her on Twitter at @OliviaCroom and Instagram at @reddish.ampersand. You can see examples of her design work here.