Oops, threads got crossed! Sorry ’bout that.
If you go to an event, should you bring author swag? If so, what should you bring? This year, the questions are a bit moot, since Cons and signings are being cancelled and postponed all over the place, and virtual swag . . . I guess you could send a file with a bookmark people could print out, fold, and use.
First – does the place allow swag, especially if you are not a featured author? Some places have a “small items from non-official guests” table or corner where you can leave business cards, postcards, and things like that. [You DO have a business card, yes? No? Why not? Get a file of one of your book covers, take it to Ye Copy Shop, and have them make two-sided business cards with the cover on one side and your info on the other. Around here, 400 runs $70 or so.] If the Con or meeting doesn’t allow that, then don’t do it. I’d still have some cards, so that if it comes up in conversation and the other person asks, you have a card on hand.
If you are the author, what sort of things should you have to give away? What about pens, coffee mugs, tote bags, tee-shirts, and other “business convention goodies?” I don’t know. My first thought on those is a tie between “Yipes! The cost! and transporting them,” and “Who doesn’t have a dozen too many coffee mugs already?” This is especially true of being at a convention that has people who travel in from a distance. Luggage weight is a consideration. Paperweights, coffee mugs . . . possibly not. A fan-on-a-stick ( also called “funeral parlor fans” in the South) could be very popular at a Con or any crowded, warm venue.
Will it sell your books and stories? Will it be remembered? Will it sell your books? Will it catch interest and hold it? Will it sell books? Will it reward readers? I think you can see the pattern here.
My recommendation would be 1) business cards, 2) cover cards – those are larger post-card sized things with multiple images and teasers on them, 3) bookmarks, 4) something linked to your story world – say, a little toy in the shape of a ring-tailed lemur for the Familiars books, or a little dragon zipper-pull for a high fantasy series with dragons, or a star-chart copy for a sci-fi first-contact , or . . .
And speaking of Familiars . . . Horribly Familiar is out. Leaping lemur, snarky kit fox, the travails of being a goth in summer, illusion casters who may be more than they seem . . .