How to promote your writing with author “merch”

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8 merch ideas for writers

It’s common practice for musicians to sell non-music-related merchandise at shows or on their websites.

It’s not so common for authors, and I’ve never really understood why.

Why would you, as a writer, want to offer “merch” to your readers?

* you give your diehard fans another chance to financially support your work and demonstrate their “brand loyalty”

* you create a new connection point between you and your audience

* you turn avid readers into a marketing team who’ll help spread your name (often without saying a word) when they sport your “merch” out there in the world

* you have something more than just your book to attract people to your table after a reading, helping you earn more money per engagement and build your email list

* you’ll have plenty of extra content to share via your blog, newsletter, and social media accounts, because your readers will want to hear about the brainstorming, design, production, and launch of any new merch items

So, what kind of merchandise can YOU offer at readings, book fairs, and online?

1. T-shirts and sweatshirts — Yep, clothing! Just because we’ve grown more accustomed to the idea of concert t-shirts doesn’t mean that they intrinsically make more sense than a Stephen King t-shirt or a Jane Austen hoodie. If your threads are comfy, high-quality fabric, and strikingly designed, your readers will love wearing shirts printed with your author name, or maybe a quote from your book.

2. Broadsides — Take one of your favorite bits of writing (a poem, a bit of witty dialog in your novel, etc.) and turn it into a beautiful broadside with an eye-catching design. Your readers can hang them at home or in their workspace.

3. Hats, bags, drinkware — Mugs. Pint Glasses. Growlers. Oh my. Ball caps. Fedoras. Beat poet berets. Oh my. Travel bags. Purses. Backpacks. oh my. Put your name and logo on an item that matches the needs of your readership and you’re sure to boost your merch sales.

4. Notepads, to-do lists, etc. — Whether your readers want fine Moleskine journals, simple notebooks, or a magnetized pad that’ll get hung on the fridge, you can customize almost anything these days. And readers love to write, so there’s always a use for those blank pages!

5. eReader/smartphone cases — Imagine one of your fans sitting in a park reading your eBook on their iPad, which is nestled snuggled in an iPad case embroidered with your name and logo! Nice image, right? Make it so!

6. Posters — Print a limited edition poster for each new book and book tour. You can sell them to readers AND use them to promote your appearances.

7. Special edition books — For the collectors, you should offer — in limited supply — a very high-end version of your book. You might even consider adding special material (a foreward, a compendium, etc.) in addition to having a fancy cover, printing, binding, etc.

8. Buttons — You don’t have to always be broadcasting your author name or book title. Sometimes a catchy quote is more effective. “Yossarian lives!”

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Can you think of any other merch ideas for authors? Let me know in the comments below.

And if you’re looking to print custom t-shirts, hoodies, hats, or bags to sell to your readers, check out Merch.ly.

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Chris Robley
is an award-winning poet, songwriter, performer, and music producer who now lives in Portland, Maine after more than a decade in Portland, Oregon. His music has been praised by NPR, the LA Times, the Boston Globe, and others. Skyscraper Magazine said he is “one of the best short-story musicians to come along in quite some time.” Robley’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in POETRY, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Beloit Poetry Journal, RHINO, Magma Poetry, and more. He is the 2013 winner of Boulevard's Poetry Prize for Emerging Writers and the 2014 recipient of a Maine Literary Award in the category of "Short Works Poetry."

7 COMMENTS

  1. Badge ribbons!
    I sell books at conventions and people love badge ribbons.
    Badge ribbons are cheap to print and you can customize the colors, font, and content.
    Use the tagline or a quote from your book. The more intriguing and mysterious, the better.

  2. You asked for any new ideas on author merch and I’d like to add one, if you don’t mind. I recently released a book and the readers I am in touch with mentioned wanting a few things with the funnier sayings from my book. I decided to design different sets of sleep wear and yoga sets. Since my book is a reverse-harem romance novel, I figured more of my readers would feel more comfortable wearing items of clothing like this while still in the home. So far, they have gone over quite well. Have a wonderful day and thank you for the informative post. 🙂

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