The latest issue of the Romance Writers' Report was all about the statistics of romance sales: who's buying, what they're buying, and in which format. The feature article also discussed why readers buy books, and the top reasons included familiarity with the author's other works, recommendations from friends, & excerpts from the book they could read online or at the end of other authors' books. To a lesser extent, reviews and covers encouraged readers to buy a book. What landed at the bottom of the list? Swag, or free "stuff" that authors give away, such as bookmarks, magnets, goodie bags, etc.
I mention this for a couple of reasons: my local RWA meeting is this weekend, and a few members want to discuss swag and what works/what doesn't (for the record, I've found it's very hard to tell what promotional items or efforts are directly tied to sales. Marketing experts will tell you pretty much the same). I'm also interested in knowing YOUR opinion: what makes you buy a book? Have you ever bought a book because of swag you got from an author? Should we authors be putting money into promotional items - bookmarks, pens, posters, flyers, etc...? Or not?