Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Guest Post - Book Merchandise: Advice for Authors

Melissa Chan stops by today with a note about book merchandising. Take it away, Melissa:

Have you ever considered creating merchandise for your books? Now is a great time to get started. With a wealth of new internet businesses catered towards helping you create, print, and deliver custom merchandise with just a few clicks, there has never been a better time to start creating merchandise for your books. It is now possible for every author to test the waters with little to no investment involved.
Here are a few pieces of advice for authors considering creating custom merchandise for their books. I hope it will motivate you to consider giving it a try.

Authors can and should be skeptical about diverting any time or energy away from the daily activity of writing and publishing their work. Marketing and blogging about one's books is not too dissimilar from selling shirts, pens, or other gizmos. The benefits of being even moderately successful at merchandise has rewards that few can deny. Improved outreach to fans can help authors sell more books. A few sales of branded shirts or backpacks can improve one's financial situation so that an author can spend more time writing.

Consider getting started with freebies

Who doesn't like a free item? I know I do. Even if it is something of low value that I don't have an immediate use for, I'm still likely to accept a freebie if offered to me. When the term merchandise is thrown around it can often be assumed that it is a re-monetization of the current brand or brand assets. For example, t-shirts one can buy at the end of a concert to commemorate the experience or keychains one picks up after a long day at a theme park are not free. These types of merchandise are purchased in a sale transaction. Without the time and place, ie. concert or theme park, and without the brand printed on them, the sale would never have happened. Imagine going to your favorite band's website and selecting a blank or random shirt and paying money for that. It's a scenario that just doesn't make any sense.

My first piece of advice would be for authors to consider starting with giving away free items before trying to make money selling products. In the end, merchandise is meant to promote one's book. If the point is also to make money, free items are also a great way of upselling one's writing, a win-win situation for everyone. Free items don't have to be expensive. Bookmarks, pins, and even pens can be bought cheaply and are useful items for prospective fans to hang onto. The great thing about paper items such as bookmarks, gift tags, and postcards is the ability to print high quality items at low cost and at scale. Business cards and brochures don't have the same value when given away as the previously mentioned paper goods. However they are all printed on the same machinery. This means that you find great deals when getting them printed. When someone is considering purchasing a hard copy of your book, consider offering a bookmark to go with it, perhaps a bundle deal will push a few more conversions.

Slow and steady wins the race

Merchandise can be as cheap as a two cent bookmark or as expensive as a cell phone case, jacket, or backpack. When beginning your quest in manufacturing goods, a quick search online will bring you to some fantastic looking products to get your book titles and name on. It's easy to see t-shirts and bags and think that they required some type of large costly effort to get started. With all the advanced imaging software, product mockups can look extremely realistic. For example, none of the t-shirts or tote bags available for purchase in my online store actually exist until someone buys them. After you upload your graphics, it's as if the product is real, even before it has been made. I know I have spent hours browsing the wide range of embroidered hats, duffle bags, and notebooks and imaging what type of logos and designs I could bring to life on them and how great they would all look. But don't break out your credit card just yet. Selling merchandise, even to your existing followers is by no means a get-rich-quickly-overnight scheme. It's simply another avenue to help generate revenue or promote your work and thus it must be approached with caution.

If you want to make a few freebies for your upcoming book event, try printing bookmarks on your home printer. Stop by your local craft store for a do-it-yourself set of buttons or pens. For pens to be custom, they don't need to be printed using expensive machinery so the print is applied directly onto the plastic. I've seen DIY pens where you simply slip a piece of paper inside and the graphics will show through the clear plastic. A similar effect could be achieved through putting stickers on the exterior of a pen. Remember, if you are giving away things for free they don't have to be perfect. A pack of 10 or 20 units of any free item will do just fine to begin with. Even if the cost per item seems expensive at first you will be gaining valuable information about what works and what doesn't. If the pens help upsell your book, you won't see them as nearly the same cost. The next time around you will be able to make use of bulk deals and different manufacturing options. Trying out a new means of customer acquisition and sales techniques are best done slowly and over a long period of time.

Get started quickly

This point might seem counterintuitive to what I mentioned previously about taking your time, but equipped with a long term and low budget mindset you should be looking to start as soon as possible. In just a few minutes you can try out different types of merchandise and see how your audience responds. With just a few tweets or as an addition to your email newsletter, you can see how your audience responds. No author should put off trying it out just because it seems like the process requires an excessive amount of time or money to get started.

Whatever you may have in mind, be it a t-shirt, framed picture, or keychain, don't hesitate to just dive right in and begin. It can be useful to see the types of businesses and services available on the Internet these days even if you don't decide to move forward with using any of them.

I hope these tips have impressed upon you just how simple it can be to create merchandise for your books or author brand. If you have any questions or would like any other information on the subject please feel free to reach out to me at anytime! I love hearing from authors and writers.

Melissa Chan, is the founder of Literary Book Gifts, an online shop of bookish t-shirts and tote bags. She loves designing book merchandise for classic titles and authors. If any authors are interested on going on a blog tour and are seeking a giveaway prize please get in touch with me, I would love to offer the prize to help promote your book!

Have you tried out creating merchandise for your books? Has it worked for you? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, December 17, 2018

Nick Wilford Cover Reveal!

Today is the cover reveal for Nick Wilford's Corruption, book two of the Black & White trilogy. Note that the first book in the series is free; more information can be found below!

Corruption (Black & White #2)

Release Date: 11th February 2019

Cover design: germancreative

Wellesbury Noon and Ezmerelda Dontible have found themselves in a position where they can make their native land somewhere that lives up to its name: Harmonia. However, they’re setting their sights further afield for their number one task: eradicating the disease that has plagued the neighbouring country of Loretania for generations and allowed the privileged Harmonians to live in a sterile environment.

After dispatching a team of scientists to Loretania, armed with cratefuls of an antidote and vaccine and headed up by their friend, Dr George Tindleson, Welles, Ez, and Welles’s brother Mal – who grew up in that benighted nation – start to worry when they hear nothing back, despite what they had agreed. Commandeering a fishing boat to follow the science team over the sea, they soon find that, while the disease may be on the way out, a new kind of infection has set in – the corruption they thought they had stamped out in Harmonia.

Can they get to the root of the problem and eradicate it before even more damage is done to an innocent people?

*** Warning – this book contains themes that some sensitive readers may find upsetting. ***

Pre-order links: Amazon US / Amazon UK / Smashwords / Barnes & Noble / Kobo  

Add it on Goodreads

Black & White (Black & White #1)

Cover design: germancreative

What is the price paid for the creation of a perfect society?

In Whitopolis, a gleamingly white city of the future where illness has been eradicated, shock waves run through the populace when a bedraggled, dirt-stricken boy materialises in the main street. Led by government propaganda, most citizens shun him as a demon, except for Wellesbury Noon – a high school student the same age as the boy.

Upon befriending the boy, Wellesbury feels a connection that he can’t explain – as well as discovering that his new friend comes from a land that is stricken by disease and only has two weeks to live. Why do he and a girl named Ezmerelda Dontible appear to be the only ones who want to help?

As they dig deeper, everything they know is turned on its head – and a race to save one boy becomes a struggle to redeem humanity.

Buy links: Amazon US / Amazon UK / Smashwords / Barnes & Noble / Kobo / iBooks

Add it on Goodreads

Congratulations on your upcoming release, Nick!

Friday, December 14, 2018

Horror List Book Review: The Dark Descent

I'm reading through three lists of best horror with two friends (DeAnna Knippling and M.B. Partlow), posting reviews as we go. (For more information, including a list of the books, see this post.)

This week I'm reviewing The Dark Descent, edited by David G. Hartwell.

This sucker ran 1011 pages, with the final story going right up to the last page, so it took me awhile to get through it. Although that's also partially due to the fact that many of the stories are older, with slower pacing and more elaborate language, which slowed me down, too.

In this anthology, Hartwell traces the history of horror, with stories going back to the likes of William Faulkner, Walter de la Mare, and Algernon Blackwood. The stories went through the mid-eighties, with stories by Stephen King, Clive Barker, and Dennis Etchison, with many more in between. Instead of going in date order, he split the book into three parts: The Color of Evil, The Medusa in the Shield, and A Fabulous Formless Darkness.

The middle slumped for me, with many of them being older, more literary horror stories. I found that I enjoyed the classic ghost and haunted house stories, but others in that era left me unsatisfied. The other two sections were livelier, and the closing story was a strong finish.

As big as this book was, it would take me forever to do a full, real review of this, so what I'd like to convey, in general, is that this is a magnificent collection of stories to read if you're fond of the horror genre or work within it. I may not have loved every story, but I learned a lot about the history of horror and how it's been shaped and changed through the years. There was a lot more cleverness in some of the older stories compared to the harder twist ending we employ now (though the twist was strong back then, too). I got to read classics I wouldn't have read elsewhere. It was a strong set of stories, and they all deserved a place in the history of horror.

Some of my favorites:

"A Little Something for us Tempunauts," by Philip K. Dick
"The Beckoning Fair One," by Oliver Onions
"What Was It?" by Fitz-James O'Brien
"The Beautiful Stranger," by Shirley Jackson
"The Willows," by Algernon Blackwood
Mackintosh Willy," by Ramsey Campbell
"The Signal Man," by Charles Dickens
"Crouch End," by Stephen King
"Seaton's Aunt," by Walter de la Mare
 "The Repairer of Reputations," by Robert W. Chambers
"The Yellow Wallpaper," by Charlotte Perkins
"Born of Man and Woman," by Richard Matheson
"Good Country People," by Flannery O'Connor
"Dread," by Clive Barker
"Josh Charrington's Wedding," by E. Nesbit
"If Damon Comes," by Charles L. Grant
"The Bright Segment," by Theodore Sturgeon
"There's a Long, Long Trail A-Winding," by Russell Kirk
"The Whimper of Whipped Dogs," by Harlan Ellison
"The Summer People," by Shirley Jackson
"The Reach," by Stephen King

I think it would have been nice to have them in date order to really suss out the changes and trends, but with this many stories, it probably made sense to split them out differently. It had to have been quite a job curating all of these stories. Some no longer had copyright, but most did. And I discovered authors I'd heard of, but never really read, who I'd like to read more of.

My Top Ten stands:

1. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
2. The Girl Next Door (Jack Ketchum)
3. The Bottoms (Joe R. Lansdale)
4. The Collector (John Fowles)
5. Coraline (Neil Gaiman)
6. The Bridge (John Skipp and Craig Spector)
7. A Choir of Ill Children (Tom Piccirilli)
8. Needful Things (Stephen King)
9. 1Q84 (Haruki Murakami)
10. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)

I'm not sure which book I'll be reviewing next.

Have you read this collection? Are any of these stories familiar to you? Would you read a 1000+ page book of short stories?

May you find your Muse.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Bookstores Bouncing Back?

Book stores are dying! That's been the word online for ages. Yet I recently saw an article stating small bookstores are making a comeback. Colorado has quite a few, with the most well known being Tattered Cover in Denver.

My children's school did a fundraiser recently via Barnes & Noble. They got a percentage of sales from everyone who mentioned the fundraiser at the sales desk. The store was full, with long lines for purchase, which is often true when I go there. Given, I'm going there far less recently, out of frustration for the long missing horror section. A few years ago they had one. Now there are some horror authors mixed into other sections, such as literature, mystery, and fantasy, but there are many major horror authors whose books are nowhere to be found. I can no longer get the "Best of" anthologies I seek out each year, which has driven me to Amazon for those purchases. It also makes it a lot harder for me to browse and find new horror authors I may not be familiar with, which also means I'm missing out on seeing new horror.

In other words, the biggest brick and mortar store around has lost my business, for the most part. In a time when horror is selling like gangbusters, they aren't selling it. I don't understand the business decision, but at least they have plenty of room for non-book items now...

But back to the smaller bookstores. I'm loving the news that they're coming back. Is it frustration with Amazon? I know a lot of authors are trying to spend their money elsewhere due to issues with the company, but what about readers? Are the bookstores making a comeback ones that have cafes or other extras to pull people in, or are they just good old-fashioned bookstores? I'm curious to hear if small bookstores have opened in your area, and what they're like.

The ones I know of in Colorado Springs sell a combination of used and new books. One of those is really good about hosting authors for book signings. And when I go to Estes Park, they've got a small bookstore that sells all new books, and doesn't focus on non-book items at all. 

Or could it be the same mentality that's driving people to move mom and pop restaurants. Big chain restaurants are giving way to smaller, more diverse restaurants. Perhaps it's an overall desire to return to simpler things instead of giant monopolies.

Now for some links. Bear in mind I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting. (It's a short one today).

Accepting Submissions:

Helios Quarterly Magazine is seeking fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. Up to 1500 words. Pays $.02/word. Deadline January 15.

18th Wall Productions is seeking stories expanding upon Wells' The War of the Worlds for their anthology War of the Worlds: Absolute War. 4000 to 20,000 words. Pays in quarterly royalties. Deadline January 20.

Nonbinary Review is seeking poetry, fiction, and essays inspired by Clive Barker's Books of Blood. Up to 5000 words. Pays $.01/word. Deadline January 23. 

What do you think? Have you visited a bookstore in person recently? Where do you buy most of your books? What's behind the changes? Any of these links of interest?

May you find your Muse.

*Buchladen Buecher, Wikimedia Commons, Kintaiyo, 11 April 2006
*Eslite Bookstore in Taichung Chung-yo Department Store, Wikimedia Commons, Essolo, 11 December 2006

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

IWSG - Writing Spaces & Links

It's the first Wednesday of December, which means it's time for another edition of the Insecure Writer's Support Group, created by Alex J. Cavanaugh.

The purpose of this group is to out your writing woes, gain support from fellow writers, and give support to those who need it. All are welcome to participate. Just sign up HERE. Post on the first Wednesday each month and hop around to visit others. We recommend trying to visit twelve new blogs and meet some new people!

This month's optional question is: What are 5 objects we'd find in your writing space?

How about some photos?

You'd see my Funko Pops (each one represents a short story sold).

Movie posters and artwork (the xenomorph was created by my friend Jade as a 40th birthday present last year).

Pictures of loved ones.

(I've got pictures of my parents awaiting frames.)

Badges/nametags from events where I've presented.

My library lamp.

And a bonus of my super sloppy shelves, which include craft books, contributor copies, and lots of horror stuff and personal objects (plus photo albums and my X-Files collectors cards from the 90s).

Last month I titled my blog post The Little Things then completely forgot why I'd titled it that way. What I'd intended to post was a little story about exciting small things that happen in writers' lives. So I'll tell you this month instead. As writers we deal with a lot of rejection, so we have to celebrate the little things when they come along. 

One of my neighbors, who I didn't know very well, but we were friendly, asked my husband if I was a writer. She'd done a search on Amazon for horror short stories and found my anthology. Having no idea it was me, she'd ordered it on Kindle and read it. When she got to the end, she recognized my headshot. Ultimately, she ended up ordering a stack of signed books to send out to friends and family, which is probably the coolest experience I've had as an author, so far.

I know the holidays are hard on a lot of people, so I did a post last week about depression and some coping methods for those who might need it. At the very least, know you're not alone.

Okay, it's time for submission stats. Each month, I run through the stats for the previous month to keep myself accountable.

In November:

6 rejections
1 withdrawal (they had zero activity on Duotrope for the last year, and I wanted to submit the story elsewhere)
0 acceptances
6 submissions

Right now, I have 10 short stories out on submission.

Don't forget that this is a WEP month! WEP and IWSG have joined forces. 

Next month is IWSGPit! Get ready to pitch to editors and agents!

Now for some links! Bear in mind I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

Bad Dream Entertainment is seeking humorous horror stories for an anthology. 1500 to 8000 words. Pays $.06/word. Deadline December 31.

Unlit Press is seeking stories on the theme of Darkness for the anthology Curse the Darkness. 3000 to 10,000 words. Will pay about $100 (payment is in pounds). Deadline December 31.

Zombies Need Brains is seeking fantasy and sci-fi stories for three different anthologies: Portals, Temporally Deactivated, and Alternate Peace. Will pay a minimum of $.06/word with further royalties once earned out. Deadline December 31.

Cantabrigian is seeking literary fiction. Up to 8000 words. Pays between $20 and $50. Deadline December 31.

Chicken Soup for the Soul is seeking stories about angels. Up to 1200 words. Pays $200. Deadline December 31.

Spring Song Press is seeking steampunk stories for the anthology Steam and Lace. 1000 to 10,000 words. Pays $.01/word. Deadline January 1.

What are your insecurities? What is something cool that has happened to you as a writer? What are your submission stats for the month? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

*Artwork by OCAL,
*Photos by me