Swag and You – What’s Your Opinion?
Hi guys! Now that the madness of editing has passed (for now), I have time to sit down and address some promotional issues. One thing that keeps popping up is the availability of bookmarks, signed postcards, bookplates (basically, my signature shipped straight to you!), and other paper swag.
Now, I would absolutely love to be able to send out swag willy-nilly. I think it would be great fun. I love getting things in the mail (I love the old-fashioned nature of mail, period) – it comes from being somewhat reclusive, and from spending parts of my childhood in semi-remote areas. I just love the thrill of finding something special in the mailbox. And I love sending people little presents. So what’s the issue? Why am I not doing this as we speak?
The issue is cost. Unless they hit the big time, unless they’re really lucky, writers are not rich people. I am incredibly fortunate that my writing has gotten me to a place where I don’t have to wonder how I’m going to pay my bills each month. I can barely begin to articulate how grateful I am for that. But I’m still not rich. And all of the swag postage, all of the swag production costs – those are mine to shoulder. My publishing company doesn’t reimburse me for such things. Luckily enough, I just did my taxes, so I can tell you that I spent exactly $512.71 on postage last year (shipping out free books, swag, things for contests, etc.) and $550.85 on the production/purchase of the swag itself. That’s all out of my own pocket, and that’s without advertising the availability of swag. I’m sure there are authors out there who pay much less. I’m sure there are authors out there who’d glance at these figures and tell me I’m being miserly and cheap. (I often have that fear, myself – that I’ll be seen as cheap for worrying about costs this way.)
Now, I’m happy to pay for bookmarks and to provide things for contests. I like the chance to make people happy, and it is good marketing. But there also comes a point where I begin to worry about costs, simply because – hey, I’m human. And this is the real world. This is why I haven’t yet made a program available whereby I ship out paper swag, because I’ve been trying to come up with a way to ethically balance the cost of production and shipping. Yes, ethics is a huge part of this. Personally, I never want to accept money for a signature, or money for a piece of promotional swag. That seems wrong to me. There’s also the fact that I have (thankfully!) fans the planet over, and shipping outside of the US is very expensive.
So, it’s been hard trying to come up with options. Which is why I’m turning to you guys. What are your ideas for how we could accomplish a program like this? What do you think is fair? What do you think would be absolutely unfair? Am I just being cheap?
Here are my ideas thus far:
1. A giveaway cap. Either a budget (“I can only do up to $50 a month in shipping/purchasing”) or a quota/waiting list (“I can only accept 5 US names and 2 non-US names a week for paper swag mailings”).
2. A PayPal account where people can pay for US postage per swag mailing, with me eating the cost of non-US mailings. (I don’t like this option; it feels too much like accepting money.)
3. A SASE program where people can mail a self-addressed-stamped-envelope to a PO Box, which I will return full of swag. (I think this is the best option, but it is potentially cost-prohibitive for non-US fans.)
One of the things I’m most proud of as an author is the fact that many people have told me “you are so kind and giving.” I’m always amazed when people act like I’ve gone out of my way for them, because I always feel like I’m only extending common courtesy. I want to continue that trend, and I want to make as many people happy as I can – but some icky “real life” things have to be taken into consideration, too. So I’m really looking forward to your input on this issue!