Up until now the Gleam Upon the Waves swag set has been missing a key piece. Remember, a few weeks ago, when I mentioned I was working on a top secret bookmark? Well, I am please to say it has arrived in all its horrific wriggly glory. Avert thine eyes from the madness-inducing tentacled terror of The Bookmark of the Deep!
As many of you know, with the launch of each novel in The Bell Forging Cycle, I’ve released three custom bookmarks—Gleam Upon the Waves will be no different. Today, I’m excited to share two of them! I think you’ll dig ’em. The third—to be revealed later—it’s still in production and will deviate a little from the standard 2″x6″ square format if everything works out (or it’ll be fairly normal if they don’t.)
You can see detailed version below. There’s the standard title-style bookmark which matches the other series’ sets, and one modeled after a ticket from The Gamble. (Which you’ll get to visit real soon.) Both feature spot gloss on the front and back. (It really makes that bloodstain pa-pop!) I’ll share the top-secret third bookmark when it’s available and ready!
Last weekend, I finished reading Aldous Huxley famous dystopian novel, Brave New World. It was as good as I remembered and was a pleasure to re-read it during in my “Year of Classics.” But, this isn’t a post about classic dystopian novels; this is a post about storytelling and swag. Say whhhaaaat?
Allow me to explain how I got here. Within the novel, Huxley references “feelies” a sort-of hybrid source of entertainment where all senses are stimulated. While musing over this, I decided to do a little research. So I quickly googled the term and was surprised to learn that “feelie” was not only a Huxley invention (or a college-rock band from the eighties) it was also a slang term used in video games, particularly for a type of swag.
A feelie was the name given to the bonus content included with the boxed versions of video games in the late eighties and early nineties. Props, booklets, coins, runes, histories, cloth maps, and much more. These started with Infocom titles such asZork, Planetfall, and the game version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Now, I realize that tchotchkes or swag is common across a lot of industries, and it’s something that crops up in the book industry as well. Go to any convention and you’ll come away with a haul, bookmarks, pens, bottle openers, tote bags, stickers, rubber bracelets, flyers. It’s popular and plentiful. I always have loads of swag at my table; I know many other authors do as well. Swag in its most rudimentary form is effectively an advertisement; feelies go a step further. They add a little something extra.
For example, Brandon Sanderson sells vials of allomantic metals similar to the ones allomancers imbibe in his Mistborn series. Hugh Howey once gave away Fallout Shelter passes (that doubled as USB drives) from his Wool series. In my own work, you can picture the dust-covered roaders of Bell Caravans wearing patches while on the trail. You get extra information from Wal’s notes scrawled on the Map of the Known Territories. There are hints at the history of the city in the illustrations on the Syringa postcard. These details are what separates a feelie from typical swag, a good feelie helps to expand its world as well as enhance it, they assist in making a fictional world feel real, they establish it as a place you can touch.
I’ve been a big fan of this approach for a long time. To me, it’s another aspect of worldbuilding. Only instead of with writing you’re doing it with objects. The feelie reminds me of an alternate reality game, going beyond the page to establish a real-world presence for our fictional creations and increasing immersiveness. My books have always been seeded with a little something extra so why not carry that over to other outlets as well? I’ve scattered extra stuff throughout websites, in bookmarks, in posts on this blog, and on Tumblr. The Bell Caravan patches come with Caravan Employee Registration documentation, stamped by the Lovaine Caravan Authority, of course, and signed by Wal. (It’s also full of subtle little references.) I find this attention to details adds little extra for the reader who is willing to put in the time. There’s something very engaging when you introduce someone something tangible to connect them to a piece of fiction. To me, that is much more interesting than a tote bag or tee shirt with a book cover on it.
I’m cooking up a few new ideas as well, so there’s always more to come. I’ve been dreaming up feelies for my secret fantasy project, and I have some great ideas for the Coal Belly series, and The Bell Forging Cycle (as I mentioned, some of the latter is already out there, providing one is willing to put in the legwork to discover it.) I love making stuff associated with my world, and I love sharing those creations with readers. (I even give away swag packs for free.)
Now, how about you? What do you think of feelies? Do you prefer them to regular swag or do you find them silly? What has been your favorite feelie you’ve purchased or received? Are you a creator who has made something extra for your world? I’d love to see your creations, and I’m sure others would as well. Feel free to post a link in the comments and share them with all of us.
A while back, I mentioned that the some of the free tchotchkes I make up for my book launches and conventions was starting to arrive. Well, on Thursday the last of it showed up in the post. That means Red Litten World swag packs are now available! Swag packs can be acquired at conventions, by purchasing signed copies of my books from my store, or ordered individually. They’re technically free, the dollar I charge at my store is to cover the cost of shipping. Or, you can send me a SASE I’ll happily send ’em to you. (Details on the Free Stuff page.) Let’s take a look at Red Litten World‘s swag…
The Red Litten World Bookmarks:
Each pack includes three bookmarks unique to Red Litten World. There’s the title bookmark featuring the lettering of Jon Contino and the Gustave Doré etching. The gargoyle bookmark features a quote from Wal taken from the book. Finally, there’s the Cedric’s sign a new location that will be revealed in the book. (There’s a fun animated version of this over on Tumblr.)
The Red Litten World Stickers:
Behold! The first colored swag for The Bell Forging Cycle! It’s not that I am averse to color, a lot of the black and white tone I set here and over on Instagram is really just a branding decision. (Also, black and white just looks sharp.) The Red Litten World title sticker is straight forward. I thought the “i got fed at Ced’s” was too fun not to do. (I’ll go into its design in a moment.) The story behind the elephant sticker is a secret. To find out more you’ll just have to read the book. Finally, there is the seal of Lovat which is a symbol that get’s stamped on Caravan Employee Registration Packets and other official city documentation.
The Red Litten World Button:
I love buttons, and the “i got fed at Ced’s” message works so perfectly in this format. I wanted it to have 70s vibe to it, mimicking the buttons and slogans that were popular during that era. The font is Caslon Black, which was designed by David Farey in the 90s and is influenced by a Caslon similar to the one used on this Carole King album. Design-nerd explanations aside, it’ll look groovy on your jean jacket.
I’m really happy with this whole set, the stickers might be my most favorite sticker set of the whole series. I like expanding the universe of The Bell Forging Cyclein weird and interesting ways and I think these little items go a long ways towards that goal.
What do you think? What’s your favorite? What’s your least favorite? Are there any other cool little giveaways I should try? Leave a comment and let me know!
I give away con swag for free, and I want to give it to you. For a while now many of you patient readers have been sending me little folded envelopes with a stamp in the mail. I’m happy to get them, but the process has bothered me. It seems a little slow and antiquated. Surely there is a better way to harness the power of the wondrous internet to get this stuff to you!
So, today I launched a swag section in my store. I’m currently charging a $1.00 to ship swag packs anywhere in the US. That should cover everything and expedite the process significantly. For now, only The Stars Were Right swag packs are live, but on the 14th when Old Broken Road launches, I’ll have Old Broken Road swag packs available. (I’m really excited about that one, new button, three new bookmarks, and new stickers. It’s very cool.)
Keep in mind, any time you buy my books direct from me, not only do I sign it, I also include a full swag pack. I might not be as cheap as Amazon, but I do include a lot of fun stuff.
So, yeah, I think the swag section is a pretty solid improvement. If you don’t have a credit card, I’m still happy to accept SASEs (address is on the Free Stuff page.) Just trying to get as much free stuff into your hands as quick I can!
Did you know I am happy to send you swag for free? Well I am! As of last night I am now offering new swag packs with goodies based on The Stars Were Right and my upcoming sequel Old Broken Road. This is the stuff I give away at my booth at cons, things like: bookmarks, stickers, and buttons. Each swag pack comes with:
TWO 1″ buttons
A set of FOUR stickers
I’ll send all this to you for free. All you have to do is send a self-addressed stamped envelope to:
K. M. Alexander c/o FreeSwag P.O. Box 28805 Seattle, WA 98118
For now, let’s keep this U.S. only, unless you’re willing to pay for international postage both ways, I have no problem dropping it in the mail. I just know it can be expensive.
I check my P.O. Box once a week, so it won’t be long before I get your goodies in the post. You can find out more on my Free Stuff page, and check out the free downloadable Old Broken Road backgrounds as well. Who doesn’t like free stuff?
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