First off, I am sorry I have not been posting as much as I have in past here. Real life can slow you down.
I would like to talk about something that some indie authors might not have thought of. But in the last few weeks has been thrust into my face. MERCHANDISING! For the rest of this post, I am assuming you are in the same position I am; not ready to outsource to some factory to make millions of do-dads. And this is also a post at the beginning of my journey. Some parts of this will be easy, others will not. So stick with me as I try it.
Back up over a year ago. I am going through the last touches of Fledgling. And one day, for fun, I mocked up some shirts. Making images to promote the fictional bar in the novel. I put it on Zazzle to see what it would look like, but left it private, and forgot about it.
Back up to last month. Some fans start to ask me questions. “Is there anyway you can find someone to make me that set of jewelry?” “Do you have a t-shirt with Vincent on it?” “How about water bottles with the Rathskeller logo?” Multiple requests from many fans for MORE!
Now I am ready, but I should have been doing this from the beginning. Why didn’t I? Because I was looking at merchandising wrong. A year ago, it was a way to expand on an already popular book. Now I realize, it is another marketing tool. And a way to give something back.
Some of you are saying “Well, duh.” But others are like me. The thought is, so they liked the book, that’s all I need. Well some fans, and I should have known this from being the former Star Trek geek I was, need more than just the source material. As I started to see fandom from the other side. I realized I had to give them what they wanted.
So how do you go about it? On the Internet you can find multiple sites that can make posters, t-shirts, and other printed items reasonably. Some like Zazzle and Cafe Press will even let you set up your own shop to sell. So you could easily upload an image of your book cover and have it grace a book bag. You get a small portion of the sale back. It’s a win/win for everyone.
Be open to what type of merchandise you will offer. Maybe the t-shirts and book bags are all you need. Maybe you have fans that keep telling you “that story would make a cool game.” But don’t go nuts and offer everything under the sun. Even with the million dollar bestseller, that can back fire. I am sure you can think of one or two titles that you are sick of seeing on merchandise that is not sold in bookstores.
What if your fans want something different? Like with the jewelry from my books. And this is new for me, so bare with me. In the case of the jewelry, I am lucky to personally know and know people who know other artisans of jewelry, glass blowing and the like. But what if you are not in the same boat as me? What if I didn’t know anyone that could even draw?
First: I would ask around the people I know. I might get some leads.
Second: I would go to craft fairs and look at the wares. I would talk to the artists and see if any would want to do commissioned work.
Third: find a local shop, where local artist sell their work. I would talk to the people there, for leads.
Fourth: or maybe first, I would check out Etsy. There are a lot of hand crafted items on there. Some shops even are looking for outside work. I would send them an email and see if they would be willing to do custom, but repeated work.
For my sanity and pocketbook; I will order no more than one to five pieces to start with. To see how it goes. I may have to purchase the work outright and mark it up to sell on my site. But I might be able to work out a deal, because you will be giving them repeated work, plus free advertising for them. Remember to make a contract with them. Technically, this is called licensing, which is something I am researching, more on it later.
None of us have the money to sit down with a marketing group and saturate the market. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a few little extras available for our fans. Yes, you can make a little extra off the items, and you can use them to promote your books. So why not?
Over the next few months I will walk you through some of this. Such as how to set up a shop on Zazzle, my adventures with the jewelry, and how to protect your creations from getting stolen (I have seen it done first hand, not pretty)