Authors increase revenue by selling merchandise

Many motion pictures and musicians actually earn more from merchandising than they do from tickets or CDs sold. As an author, you can do the same with your books.

For those readers who love your writing, purchasing products is a way to express their fondness. For those who love your book’s topic or the genre you write about, offering interesting, related merchandise is a good way to introduce them to your titles.

The first step in merchandising is to decide what you want to sell. It might be T-shirts or coffee mugs with witty sayings from your book or poster prints of your book cover art. It could be mouse pads or tote bags. Remember that the products only need to be related to your books and not necessarily directly promote the book; for example, if you write children’s books about animals, you can simply sell children’s T-shirts of the mammals featured in your latest title.

Next, find an online retailer of stock and user-customized on demand products where you can set up a shop. CafePress and Zazzle are a couple of popular options, but there are quite a few other companies, including those that specialize in specific products. These websites actually allow you to create your own online shop where you can select what products to sell and how they appear. Initially the websites may seem confusing, but you’ll quickly get the hang of them.

Once you’ve set up a store front, the next step is to create products. This involves designing them, which can scare authors who don’t think they are artistic. In most cases, all you need is a photo or illustration and some words that you select the font for. Play around with the online design tool for a while, and you’ll quickly pick it up. In addition, create new products regularly, maybe one a week. The more products you have to sell, the better.

After you’ve got a few products for sale at your storefront, start promoting your merchandise via social media posts, a widget on your blog and website, and a page at the back of your books. When using social media, be wary of spamming your followers with promotions. Instead, sneak in a promo every once in a while, ensuring that posts offering valuable content (like links to your blog) dominate what followers see.

Be willing to change your merchandise and to adjust your prices. For example, with my hiking guidebooks-related merchandise I found T-shirts of the national and state parks featured in my books just didn’t sell; the market probably is saturated. Coffee mugs and magnets purchases, though, were a daily occurrence. I began adding more coffee mug and magnets designs, and my sales soared even higher. Then I dropped the price on my T-shirts and sales of them rose, albeit not by much.

Always monitor your competition. Look at what they’re selling – you may want to sell the same products. Look at what they’re not offering – you may want to give it a try. And look at how they’re pricing their services or products – you may want to slightly undercut them.

Lastly, order some of the merchandise to sell your events, such as book readings/signings, guest speaking appearances, and at fair booths. The more items you have at your table, the more traffic you’ll attract to it.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.