#5onFri: Five Merchandising Tips for Writers

by Indiana Lee
published in Community

It may seem counterintuitive, but as a writer, you have to tackle many job descriptions that go far beyond putting pen to paper. When you’ve finished writing a book, the real work begins. With so much competition out there in the self-publishing world, you need to boost your visibility and revenue—from there you can keep focusing on what you love to do for a lifetime.

However, it can take a lot of time, effort, and even some of your own income to effectively market yourself. That being said, merchandising is a great marketing method. It can build your brand, generate revenue, and help you get noticed across the globe.

1. Optimize Your Book Covers

Talk to a successful chef, and they’ll tell you that people eat with their eyes first. While you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can certainly decide whether it catches your eye or not. 

Your book cover can be the central component of your marketing endeavors once it’s published. It can be used to create marketing merchandise like posters, shirts, buttons, and so much more. 

Luckily, you don’t have to be a graphic designer or artist to optimize your cover. However, you may want to outsource someone with that same gift. Some of the essential elements of an effective book cover design include:

  • An intriguing title
  • Unique typography
  • A coherent design
  • Captivating colors
  • A well-placed biography

Don’t forget about the spine! If your book is on the shelf somewhere, the average reader will likely only see the spine first. Make sure it stands out and clearly states your name and the title of your book.

2. Create Accompanying Merchandise

While you likely didn’t get into writing to sell anything but your books, other merchandise can help you in that endeavor. It gives readers more avenues to connect with your book, and ultimately with you. 

When books become popular, fans often create their own merchandise and cosplay equipment. While this can be flattering, it also represents lost revenue and promotion and even a lack of control over your artistic image.

A couple of ideas for book merchandise might include:

  • Mugs
  • Glasses and shot glasses
  • Keychains
  • T-shirts & apparel
  • Clothing and Cosplay accessories
  • Posters, maps, and wall hangings

If you do end up creating extra merchandise to increase visibility, you can utilize these other steps in tandem to maximize your reach, such as utilizing social media.

3. Utilize Social Media

If you know you need to market your book (and yourself) but you’re on a tight budget, use social media to your advantage. You can not only use it to boost your book and its associated merchandise, but you can build more of a connection with your reader base.

If you use social platforms to boost your sales and visibility, post high-quality photographs and videos that make sense for your brand. Thanks to today’s technology, it’s easier than you might think to take high-quality photos. Use a clean background, understand the importance of composition, and make sure your photos look consistent so people will associate them with your brand.

You can take your creativity a step further by orchestrating a book trailer—yes, like a movie trailer for your book. It’s a unique way to capture more attention and further engage with your followers. Think of your book as an award-winning film, and make sure your trailer has a hook, an overall theme and feel, and a call to action for people to purchase and read it.

4. Manage Your Inventory

One of the hats you have to wear as an author is keeping track of your merchandise, including books and any marketing materials you choose to sell. On top of everything else you’re trying to take care of, this can sometimes feel a little overwhelming!

Thankfully, technology comes to the rescue once again. Nowadays, you can set up an online shop easily, and some platforms will effectively take care of inventory management for you. If you plan to sell your books in person or at different shops, however, it’s helpful to have a barcode system in place. Setting up your own barcode system and bringing a handheld scanner makes inventory management easier to track.

There are also barcode systems that connect with cloud-based software—you’ll be able to look at your sales and inventory at any given point. This will also make your inventory all the more accurate, and you’ll be able to determine how much you’ve sold and how much profit you’ve made each month.

5. Get Involved With Events

It can be tempting to be a “behind the screen” author. Today, anyone can write a book, self-publish it online, and build a digital following. While that can be an effective marketing strategy, nothing will ever beat connecting with people in person and holding a signing event. Some of the advantages of holding an in-person event include:

  • Added value for your fans
  • Signed books can’t be returned
  • Better engagement and stronger relationships
  • More opportunities to pull in new readers
  • Shared publicity with signing locations

When you host or go to in-person events, bring more than just your books with you. Invest in marketing materials like flyers, banners, and even business cards you can hand out to fans with contact and social media information. 

When people see you in-person and get to know you on a more personal level, you’ll create more lifelong fans. You can also build network connections with word-of-mouth advertisers who will tell friends and family about your books.

Being an independent writer takes consistent work that goes well beyond telling great stories. Keep these tips in mind to boost your visibility and revenue, and to build a fanbase that will stick with you from book to book.


Indiana Lee is a writer and journalist from the Pacific Northwest with a passion for covering workplace issues, social justice, environmental protection, and more. In her off time, she enjoys hiking with her two dogs. You can follow her on Twitter @indianalee3, or reach her at indianaleewrites@gmail.com.

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