The thriller and mystery writer community’s biggest annual bash starts tomorrow in New Orleans. In the midst of packing for my 7a.m. flight today I made a big decision: NO SWAG. At last year’s Bouchercon, I brought a suitcase full of free giveaways to promote my first novel, Dark Turns. Bookmarks. Stress balls with my blue-hued book cover on them. Folders with a sticker advertising my personal Web site. Three boxes of business cards. I was cheap by comparison to some of the swag-laden authors that I encountered. Some writers splurged on custom printed pens. I saw t-shirts with pithy quotes from novels. A few scribes that I knew splurged on custom canvas bags with their book covers emblazoned on the front. Aside from the bags and perhaps pens, I’m pretty sure most of the giveaway items ended up in the garbage. People fly to these conferences with carry-ons to avoid checked bag fees. The last thing most authors want after shelling out a bunch of cash for airfare and hotels–not to mention drinks at the bar–is to pay more to bring home additional luggage. It’s enough that authors tend to end conferences with a bunch of books that must be shoved into their bags or shipped home. This year, I am bringing myself, one box of business cards and two copies of my book, which I’ll likely gift to friends. That’s it. The Widower’s Wife took a year of my life to go from first draft to finished product. In my opinion, it’s pretty valuable and so is everyone else’s book who will attend the conference. Authors and fans know better than to expect a writer to giveaway a year’s worth of their time for free. And I highly doubt that a stress ball will sell my book any better than a business card with some of my reviews featured on the front, the book cover and my photo–so whomever I passed my card to can remember who I am among the many, many people he or she is sure to meet. Am I making the right decision? I don’t know. What is your opinion on swag? Wonderful or wasteful?