Today I’m going to tackle one of the cornerstones of self promotion. The Author T-shirt.
If you have the means you can print up a bunch and make them prizes or giveaways. If you are short on cash just make one for yourself. You can even attempt to sell them to your fans, I will show you how here.
Skill level: from beginner to photoshop master.
First a quick don’t.
I remember ages ago I went to a writers conference where they had one of those agent meet and greets. I remember one of the people in line was wearing a t-shirt with a photo of her book and a tagline like: buy this book it’s the best sci-fi fantasy dragon epic ever! Now to me it reeked of desperation, and I don’t think the agents would be impressed. It reminds me of the time I wanted to try out for cheerleading and my friend and I made homemade puffy paint t-shirts with the confidence that my artistic skills would show the coach that I had so much spirit I would make the team without having to show off my actual cheering skills. Of course I ended up dropping out of tryouts when it became abundantly clear that being able to do a cartwheel was a requirement.
So if you are going to put your book cover on a shirt all that’s needed if a picture of the cover and the title and author name. Nothing more. You can do this at a local printer, or a vistaprint or custom ink style of online company. Keep in mind that the jpg or png file you use needs to be fairly large. Don’t submit a thumbnail. You should have been provided with a decent size version by your artist, or depending on your relationship, you can have your artist help you with getting the shirt created.
I Know Where Ricky Is Shirts by Locker17
Look at Rock and roll T-Shirts online at Zazzle.com
If you don’t want to hassle with the cover art at all you simply go all text. Again don’t be desperate. A simple: Parlor Tricked by Shannon Brown, I love Parlor Tricked by Shannon Brown, or Read Parlor Tricked by Shannon Brown will get the job done. (By the way real Parlor Tricked is coming someday, it’s in the draft stage right now.)
So now you know how to make a shirt with the name of your book, but what if you want to get people to start a conversation? When you are at a book festival where everyone else is wearing a shirt with the name of picture of their own book on it how do you make them care about yours? You need to be creative.
If you have no design knowledge and want to go text only, there are many things you can do. Put an even shorter version of your elevator pitch onto the shirt. Add your favorite quote from the book, or try asking a question related to the plot. Like have you seen Ricky?, or Have you seen this wizard?, or who is Keyser Sose? (Seriously who is he? I don’t think I ever saw that movie.) Or you can take sides with a team so and so shirt. Make it Antagonist vs. Protagonist, or make it for a secondary character that steals the book. Got a love triangle? Team whoever shirts are perfect. Just think of the book Twilight. On sites like Cafepress there are thousands upon thousands of team Jacob and Team Edward designs clogging up the marketplace.
If you have design skills you can make t-shirts for things you only find in the world you created. Does your character have a favorite hangout? Make a t-shirt for it. It should be a place you made up, if your character hangs out at Starbucks don’t make a shirt for Starbucks. You will be violating their trademarks and advertising them more than your book anyway.
<div style=”text-align:center;line-height:150%”> <a href=”httphttp://www.zazzle.com/tiki_trader_faded_style_tee_shirts-235669274151197053?rf=238044060588152607″>
The Tiki Trader was Ricky’s Stevenson’s favorite hotspot circa 1964.
The possibilities are endless. You may like the result so much you want to sell them to your fans. So how do you do that?
The easiest way to do this is not to print up a bunch and try to peddle them out of your trunk next to box of unsold books (Or is that just me?), Instead you should set up an account with a print on demand company like Zazzle. There you can have an entire store featuring designs related to your books. You can add the designs to way more than just t-shirts depending on which company you choose. The products are print on demand so they don’t get made until one is ordered. When a purchase is made you get a small cut. Not a ton but better than nothing.
A few caveats: Print on Demand products can be crazy expensive and there is nothing you can do about it but lower your own cut which won’t make much of a dent, so don’t expect to make a lot of sales of the 200 dollar cornhole set that features your book cover. Most beanbag game enthusiasts would rather take a jigsaw to some plywood than part with 200 bucks. Most sales will come from shirts, hats and postcards.
When you make a store for something as niche oriented as a book don’t expect a ton of sales, unless you have a huge fanbase already. I haven’t really made many sales from my book’s merch store but whenever I want a new t-shirt for promotion all I have to do is order one of the ones I already have up for sale. Easy peasy. Plus if my book ever becomes a Fifty shades of Twilight phenomenon I will have an edge by having your own store of official merchandise up and ready to go.
<div style=”text-align:center;line-height:150%”> <a href=”http://www.zazzle.com/cool_secrets_shirts-235450713475723315?rf=238044060588152607″>
Finally a few more don’ts on author t-shirts
Don’t randomly take photos of the internet and sell them on t-shirts. Unless they specifically say public domain they are owned by someone. Even if they do say they are OK to use they are often not. So just don’t do it.
Don’t use [pictures you created with an app since they probably don’t allow you to resell the pictures you create in their terms and conditions.
If your main character is a huge fan of Metallica or somebody don’t add the Metallica logo or mention them on the shirt. Don’t add song lyrics, or other copyrighted material. Stick to stuff you created only.
Don’t pick comic sans or papyrus as your font. I personally think it’s annoying when design snobs become the font police and judge people for their choice of font, but why give them ammo. You want everyone to have a favorable impression of your book. Don’t choose an overly detailed font if you are doing mostly text because you want something readable. Just make it simple.
Finally if you are still out of ideas go check out the Harry Potter store on Zazzle or look up Twilight on Cafepress.
Like the post? Want to see more? Check out my book, Rock’n’Roll in Locker Seventeen and tell your friends.