Merchandising: Choosing items and setting up a store with help.

For this post, I will reference Zazzle, it is the website that I use.

You want to make extra items for your fans and give you a little extra money in the pocket.

Now, you have to choose how you are going to sell your merchandise. You could have the items made, store them, and mail them from your home. That could work for you. Or. You could use sites like Cafepress or Zazzle. Or. You can do a combination.

The pro of those sites, is that they do not make your merchandise until it is ordered.

The con of those sites, limitations on what you can make.

(I use Zazzle because when I set up my site, Cafepress did not do direct deposit. I don’t think this has changed.)

The first thing you have to do at Zazzle is register. When you do, you can choose the name of the store. I chose my publisher name; Animated Liar Media. You can use your own name, or get creative. Choose one of the basic templates to begin with, you can always change it later.

When you use Zazzle. What you are doing is providing an image that they will print on the items. The first thing you have to do, is prepare the image. There are many things to consider.

1. How the image will look on dark or a light background.
2. If you have any transparencies are you going to use them, or fill the space with color.
3. Will the same design look good on a t-shirt and a cup?
4. If you are not using any design that has your name, or the books title on them. How are you going to link this image to you?

I will not go into how to make the images, if you have made your own book covers, the process should be familiar to you. And there are more graphic savvy people than me on this list.

But point 4: How are you going to link this design with your books? This is part of the branding that most authors don’t think about. For mine, I made a small graphic that says Coiree Series and includes a QRcode*. Maybe you have a logo of your name that you can use. The point is not only to catch people eyes with the design, but make them wonder where it comes from, and give them the answer right away.

What type of images? The easiest is your book cover. That should be eye catching already and gives all the information that you need to help promote your books. If you are doing a series, perhaps an image that will be central to all the books. I have used illustrations that were in my book. Coming up with a graphic that represents you is a great idea. Nora Roberts has her initials on a seal, for example.

But don’t limit yourself. Recently, a fan of mine started to design tattoo flash like images that represent the characters. We have already talked about how I could pay her for use of them. They are not what I would have thought of, and I really like the look of them.

When you have settled on a design, keep these things in mind:

1.These sites have templates that you can use to make sure your design will fit on the product. Download and use them. They are a big help. This is a good time to learn how to use layers in your graphic program. Once you do, the design process will become easier.

2.Make sure your image is set at 300 dpi. Some images will work at a lower resolution, but 300 seems to take care of any issues.

3. Match the template in size, or make the image larger than you need. It is easier to shrink an image than it is to make it larger.

4.Make two image files. One for dark backgrounds and one for lights, if you are going to use transparency. A good way to see how they will look, before you upload them, is to set the background on your layers to either white or black. Adjust the image until it looks good.

5. Most will allow you to use a .jpg file. DON’T. A .jpg can lose resolution and might not look good after you upload it. Stick with .png or .tiff

How do you choose what will make good items to sell?

Good choices: T-shirts, bags, coffee cups.

Those three are the safest to start with. And with the online shops, they are common. The nice thing about those choices is that you can pick one graphic file and they can fit on all the pieces. Zazzle lets you do a quick creation, they put the image on 25 of their top sellers. you can delete the ones you don’t want. And tweak the ones you like. Then hit create and you have a full store.

Zazzle does allow you to print on tennis shoes too, but I don’t know how those would fit with any of my stories. Surprisingly, book marks are not a choice for printing. For those you may have to find a local printer or an online shop like

If you decide to get your products made from someplace that does not do print on demand products or if your product is not available at one of those sites, be prepared to find storage space. A hundred book marks might not take up a lot of room. But if you had someone make figurines, a hundred of them might take over your kitchen.

Having the products made, so you have to ship them out, brings with it a load of other issues. How to set up an online store (if anyone else wants to do the tutorial to that, I will be taking notes), storage, shipping, and what to do with the product that does not sell? But a nice plus side, if you are doing book signings you can bring the product with you. Instant store.

Next month I will talk about how to protect your images. A hint, copyright it’s still your friend.

*QRcodes are great. If you are not familiar with them, they are the square bar codes you are seeing around. My editor actually introduced me to them. A person with a smart phone scans the code, and it can load up a website, an email, or other things that the code is linked to. Mine are linked to my main site. Google QRcode creator, there are many out there. Save the code it generates and stick it on your items. My next set of business cards are going to have one on them.

2 thoughts on “Merchandising: Choosing items and setting up a store with help.

  1. Alannah Murphy April 13, 2011 / 1:36 pm

    Great post about something I had no idea about, I’ve heard of Zazzle but didn’t quite understood how it worked. Something to keep in mind so thank for you taking the time to explain it 🙂

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