Thursday, September 17, 2020

Advertising Merchandise

I have to admit I am not a hoarder of book advertising merchandise. Every month charities inundate our mailbox with with canvas totes, mailing labels, note pads, pens, calculators, blankets, pins, calendars, greeting cards, even nickles and dimes.

However some readers love them. And they must be somewhat successful or the charities wouldn't keep sending them.

1. Should you include merchandise items as part of your marketing strategy?  

It depends. Do you make personal appearances (pre-quarantine and hopefully again post-quarantine)? Do you go to conventions, writer meetings, book clubs? Do local independent bookstores or libraries allow you to display items along with your book? Do you have a mailing list? Do you hold contests and raffles and giveaways?

Can you afford it? There may or may not be a return on investment. You may want a few instead of hundreds.

The allure of Free Stuff

Christmas is only three months away, so they also make terrific presents.

2. Do you have the appropriate permissions?

If you are published by a traditional publisher, make sure you have the rights to your own words and images for this purpose.
If you are self-published and someone created the artwork for your cover, make sure you have a merchandising license for the images. There are restrictions you can read about here.

If you would like someone to design merchandise for you, consider hiring artists on places like Fiverr or Deviant Art. Even a graphic arts student at a local college or high school can help. See article on stock images and custom designers.

3. What should they contain?

At a minimum, merchandise should feature your cover image which has your name. You can add a tag line. It should offer contact information such as your website, blog, social media account names, and ordering information.

4. Where do you get them?

If you are a savvy Photoshop or photo manipulation program user with a color laser or inkjet printer there are some things you can make for yourself. There are printing fabrics, stickers, photo paper, card stock, etc.

If not, there are quite a few sources. I will only mention a few here.

Your local office supply store and Fed/Ex Kinkos work with suppliers of customized items from T-shirts to totes, to cupholders. They can help design your products too.

Other printing sources are: 4imprint, Smart Press, Got Print, National PensShutterfly, and Discount Mugs.

Lithographs can put book cover designs on many items. I ordered a scarf with part of my first book's texts on it for my daughter.

Depending on the quantity, your local retail store or pharmacy photo department has options for a few merchandising items like mugs, calendars, and greeting cards, even canvas prints. Even Costco has joined the fray.

Vistaprint is another source for customized t-shirts, mugs, pens, usb memory sticks, even candies.

5. What are the options?

The options are endless: 

Coloring Books with your characters and setting scenes

Matted poems or lines from your book for framing

Maps of your story world

Book Marks

Buttons and Magnets

Character Cards or Trading cards

Crafting Book Marks and Cards

Customized fabric and home decor items from SpoonFlower (for masks?)
Customized journals from Shutterfly

Stickers and Vinyl decals

I have even seen car decals

Read more:

How to Promote Your Writing with Author Merch

How to Create Merchandise for Your Books

Tips for Selling Merchandise for Your Books

Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. Always something I think of a good few ideas for, but leave to the last minute and then run out of both time and dollars :-/ Hopefully now that I'm working on a series I can eventually co-ordinate some merchandise that works across a few books.

  2. I've always liked bookmarks best, both to give out and to receive from other authors. If I do an online giveaway of one book, I include a bookmark for one of my other books in the envelope.

  3. Like Pat, I prefer bookmarks. I have created them in the past, along with brochures, and still have the software and printer to repeat the process. Maybe I will. Thanks for the incentive, Diana.

  4. Group marketing is also of benefit. I have seen mystery writers co-market with covers of their books on bookmarks and other advertising. Some have even done boxed sets of different authors, though I don't know how the legalities or bookkeeping works with that.


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