Ohio Novel Merchandise… To be? Or not to be?

Over on my Ko-Fi page, I’ve opened up the idea of early-access Ohio Novel merchandise (link opens in new tab) — stuff like T-shirts or coffee cups or other things that would help fund my weekly fiction writing hours, while at the same time giving potential urban fantasy readers some tiny peeks into the world I’m writing.

The merch will be sold exclusively through my Ko-Fi page, and will help with the funding of my fiction-writing time. So if you came here first, head over to my Ko-Fi page to get the details. 

But THIS is the place to ask questions, brainstorm ideas, and let me know what you’d love to see (or wear, or drink out of) in the replies below.

I think this could be fun. Weird. But fun.

So here are the two questions I’m asking:

  • What do you think of the merch idea?
  • What would make cool merch?


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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and indie-publish my new ones.


27 comments… add one
  • Vilora Ravely Feb 24, 2021 @ 9:37

    As a writer, I would lovw journals, p3ns, and coffee mugs. As a reader, tshirts, sweatshirts, coffee mugs, and throw blankets.

  • Sharon Markatcheff Feb 24, 2021 @ 6:17

    Hi,
    Speaking as a reader I feel the problem that you would have is that the series is not established yet so the readers haven’t really been given the urge to purchase related merch. Unless they know you from previous books and that gives it a push.

    It might work for really beautiful things that people want to buy because of the thing itself rather than the association with the books – at least in the beginning.

    So a beautiful print – signed or unsigned – for example. I feel tempted to buy when I see a lovely/interesting print regardless of how it fits in with a book – that’s just an extra bonus. Or a set of postcards with scenes from the books. A really lovely mug that has an unusual design. As long as the product is attractive in it’s own right it would engage people.

    I’m not sure it would work being just on Ko-fi though? Is there enough reader traffic coming to Ko-fi for this?

    Cheers
    Sharon

    • Holly Feb 25, 2021 @ 10:42

      Yep. I think you’re absolutely right on this.

  • Zoe Cannon Feb 24, 2021 @ 1:44

    Not my kind of thing, but I don’t really get into fandoms. If I like a thing, I read/watch the thing, and reread/rewatch the thing, and spend a lot of time thinking about the thing, but don’t buy products or read fanfiction or join online communities. People who have more of a fandom mindset might appreciate having merch available.

  • Bev Feb 24, 2021 @ 0:32

    I’ll always like pens, notebooks, tote bags.

  • Phoenix Feb 23, 2021 @ 23:47

    I’m not someone who buys merch (or much of anything that isn’t yarn, food, or books), so I’m probably not terribly helpful to the conversation. But I agree with April’s assessment.

    Most of the merch sellers I know/follow are webcomic artists, and they didn’t start selling merch until their fanbase was well established. I’m talking years, and in the thousands, in most cases. And web artists have a *massive* advantage over writers in that their characters etc are already visual.

    Given the series is, by necessity, a complete unknown at this point – it’s probably not going to be worth the time to come up with merch ideas, when a fan base tends to want to buy things they already know and love.

  • Matt Edwards Feb 23, 2021 @ 23:20

    I don’t buy a lot of merch, but what I do buy I don’t want to be blatant. A prime example of my kind of merch is the Deathly Hallows diagram of a vertical line within a circle within a triangle. You can put that on anything, mug, tee, sticker, what have you. Also, I like the way Amazon has merchandized The Expanse series.

  • Joanne Feb 23, 2021 @ 22:25

    I will usually buy something–a tee shirt, a mug (not that I need any more but if it’s cool enough I will), even a hoodie. I still have the “Holly’s Writing Class” hoodie you sold some years ago and still wear it. I always buy Nanowrimo merch, especially tee shirts, because I know it supports good programs, and there are new designs every year. I’d feel the same about buying from you. The forum has been the greatest help to me and it’s free, so this seems like the least I could do. And I can just see me thinking up all sorts about any mysterious hints you might give in the merchandise.

    I don’t have a problem if some theme or words or whatever might be used on the merchandise doesn’t end up in the books. That would just be a neat quirky thing and we could all sagely nod our heads and say that yes, it–and all of us–helped you write such great books!

    The only thing I do wonder is how much you might reasonably sell in, say a month, and how much time you’d need to put into creating and selling the merchandise, and how often the designs might change.

  • Rebecca Glaessner Feb 23, 2021 @ 21:03

    Hi Holly!

    I’d love to buy merch with your favourite writing slogans on it! I was just looking at getting some B5 hardcover notebooks as I had write my first drafts, so something with your writing classes logo or your slogan on it would be AMAZING!

  • Andy Feb 23, 2021 @ 17:31

    I’m all for merchandise. I love seeing people with t-shirts or coffee cups with characters or quotes I’m familiar with.

    It’s good advertising and can make your readers feel like part of a community. Plus, people love supporting their favorite authors so I think it’s a win-win.

  • Phil Feb 23, 2021 @ 14:23

    Personally I think merch works once your book or product is out there and has a fan base. I don’t personally like the idea of pressuring customers to buy my book plus merch at the same time. If they want to down the road, as they get into my series, then they can if they wish…after the book is out first.

  • Nina Hobson Feb 23, 2021 @ 13:45

    I would love merchandise that lasts for a long time. Tee shirts, coffee mugs, baseball-type hats, socks, pens, tote bags, etc. I want merch people ask me about. I would not buy pre-launch merch, though. I want to know the characters first…so, after I’ve read a book or two, then will I buy anything. I don’t offer merch – I write mostly quiet horror – but I hope to one day.

    Because I’m very big on sentient monsters existing in a human world. So, I would also hope my readers would enjoy something like a tee shirt with a monster character from my books doing everyday things with a twist…like focusing on a past-due bill in one hand with a snarl while flicking a human’s head off with the other as it spurts blood.

  • Michelle Owings-Christian Feb 23, 2021 @ 13:43

    Merch will stir interest, I think. I know I love something I can hold that has the name of the book and the name of the author (on small items like pens) or a copy of the book’s cover on mugs/cold and hot drink holders (usually insulated). As a writer, I’m always looking for things to put my pens, sticky notes, etc. when I travel or bring my work outside. So — a pouch for such things is something *I* would buy. If you go beyond the lower price point merch, a messenger bag would be cool but that’s a higher price point.
    You might have guessed I’m in favor of the plan. Go for it!!

  • Tracy Koppel Feb 23, 2021 @ 13:10

    I once bought a t-shirt related to a series I loved. My daughter bought a t-shirt related to a different series she loves. I doubt I’d buy anything for a series not yet out. Therefore, my recommendation would be to sell stuff related to your most popular series/world, and see how that goes.

    People buy mugs. Personally, we have too many mugs. We’ve given many away, and have others in storage. We’re completely not in the market for any mugs.

    I might buy a t-shirt, tote bag or pin. Or a card game. Or a figurine of a beloved character.

  • Dee Feb 23, 2021 @ 13:03

    I’m one of those folks who buys way too many mugs. I love mugs, and giving out mugs, and using mugs to hold my pennies/coffee/spider I just caught…

    Anyhow, I like mugs. But like someone else said, if there’s a t-shirt with an inside joke or bit of fandom info imbedded in it, I’ll buy that too.

  • R Coots Feb 23, 2021 @ 12:57

    Hello! Speaking as a reader, I’ve seen bookmarks, stickers (stickermule does a great sale fairly often, one of the authors I follow goes through them frequently), notebooks, pins and charms all be offered. I’ve personally gotten a couple stickers, a postcard sized piece of art, and a few pins

  • April Feb 23, 2021 @ 12:51

    Merch for a series that has not yet been released sounds like a waste of time to me. Even moreso when three of the books haven’t been written yet, and will be released under a pseud you won’t be able to claim for who knows how long. As a reader/watcher/listener, I’m not looking for merch for a property I haven’t read/watched/listened to yet. I’m looking for merch for stories I *know* I *adore*. So this idea, this far out, seems like putting the cart before the horse.

    (On the other hand, if you put out World Gate mugs, that’s cool, I’d buy one. I’m not that interested in T-shirts, since I wear T-shirts in order to spark conversations along the line of “You like the Thor movies? *I* like the Thor movies! Who’s your favorite character?” and stick with more well-known properties so I don’t have to spend all day explaining what my shirt is from. But for much-beloved stories, I like having something small and useful that I can see/use when I’m going about my day, and think to myself, “Awww, yeah, that’s such a good book/whatever.”)

  • Samantha M. Feb 23, 2021 @ 12:50

    I’m mostly familiar with merch from a fandom pov, which is not usually in advance of the release of the book… but sometimes (especially for a sequel or later series installment).

    Of the ones I’ve seen, I like something that is in-universe — e.g. the logo of the magic school in the book, or a relevant story item plus an arresting quote? — or high quality art of the characters, maybe.

    Let me also suggest: tote bags, pins, or possibly the cover of a notebook, if that’s an option. And most of all — STICKERS. I am a big fan of stickers (esp vinyl-ish), because they can be displayed many places, but also don’t take up a lot of space in my home. Sadly, I have way too many mugs to buy another unless I am already a huge fan of whatever is on the mug. A sticker though, is easy for me to justify, use, and maybe share with others, if it’s an “independently” cool design or quote.

  • Holly (the west coast one) Feb 23, 2021 @ 12:31

    If I buy anything at all – it is likely to be something small like a pin/fridge magnet. Pins can become needleminders/stitch markers. I have t-shirts from the dozens of Cons that I have worked that sit in a box. I won’t admit to the number of mugs that have been “gifted” to various charity shops over the years.
    I would rather put my money into books/audiobooks with the potential for hours of enjoyment. Even bookmarks have limited use as I ran out of shelf space several thousand books ago.
    I am thinking going the merchandise route might be more effort than it is worth unless you are personally staffing a table at a CON in the huckster’s hall.

  • Murrday Feb 23, 2021 @ 12:24

    I would be most likely to buy a tote bag or a bandana, if they are made in USA, Canada or other well regulated source.

    Chinese people are OK by me. But Chinese government production standards allow toxic chemicals to be used in manufacturing. And they also permit the toxic metal cadmium to be used in jewelry, slogan buttons, and other metal products, because it is strong, shiny, and cheap. They do not warn customers that it is also poisonous. I send this warning to everyone considering so-called “bargain” pricing. Don’t use Chinese made jewelry or other low cost metal products. Other problem Chinese products include rawhide chew toys soaked in toxins that killed pets.

    And most recently, this also includes Chinese masks marketed as KN95, which do not meet American actual N95 standards, but only Chinese government standards. Those are less than half, only giving about 40% protection, rather than the 95% inplied by the KN95 marketing. All the KN95 masks given out at the Superbowl, and sold on Amazon? They only gave partial protection. I have resource links to document this. CBS recently posted the article about N95 vs KN95 masks, for example.

    So I’m saying, if you do market merch, please check that the base product is made from nontoxic materials in a reputable source. Thanks.

  • Neil Feb 23, 2021 @ 12:22

    Hi Holly,

    Just got this in via your newsletter list for Writers. As a writer Merchandise could be a prompt to increase word-of-mouth sales as a talking point about your books? As a reader I love Merchandise as a way to stay in the story world and have ‘more’ of it after finishing the book.

    The best merchandise is sometimes where the object has a special (and very cool) meaning in the story. I think the most successful examples I can think of are kids buying the wands from Harry Potter, or in my day it was replica Light Sabres from Star Wars, the banana Phones from The Matrix, or replicas of the Central Perk Coffee Cups they drank from in Friends. Even just a mug can be really desirable for fans if it has the catchphrase of a character on it that’s cool even away from the story (e.g. a picture of Buzz Lightyear from ToyStory with his “To Inifinity And Beyond!” catchphrase on it).

    I never buy clothing Merchandise as it’s so hard to know if it’ll fit when buying online!

    Good luck 🙂

  • Margaret Fieland Feb 23, 2021 @ 11:29

    I favor mugs, ones with some kind of cool picture and maybe some phrase that harks back to the book. T-shirts don’t interest me.

  • Marie Feb 23, 2021 @ 11:26

    I rarely get merch of any kind. I prefer saving my limited budget for content, logos on mugs or things don’t evoke being in that world. At some point I look at the bag or signed poster and think I could have bought another book by X, Y, or Z instead of this grungy or cheap baseball cap. A prop item like a communicator is far more likely than the logo merchandise to get my money. I don’t have anything against people enjoying mugs, but I’m not tempted by logo merchandising.

  • Mike C. Baker Feb 23, 2021 @ 10:53

    I like promo merch (somewhere along the way I still had my Buckaroo Banzai headband thirty years on…).

    COOL merch usually involves at least a HINT of inside information. Specific to the Ohio Novels, there was mention of a basement early on (IIRC — could be confusing something out of Rebecca’s Fulton Hills…), so something related to basement stairs or a cobwebby corner that shouldn’t BE cobwebby so soon after a cleaning? “It’s not what’s under the stairs — what’s in plain sight is MUCH more dangerous”?

    Or if a character has an interesting nickname / title that can make for some intrigue-building: “Left field, right field, who cares. *I* am The Shortstop”

  • Connie Cockrell Feb 23, 2021 @ 10:42

    Hi,
    I’ve been selling merch on my site for more than 8 years. I sell mugs and have tried to sell calendars. I’ve yet to make a single sale. You’re a bigger author than I am so it may go better for you than I’ve seen. However, I would have bought a Mockingjay pin back in the day when the Hunger Games movies were big. So even for a notoriously frugal person like me, there’s a market for merch. So buttons, jewelry (pins, necklaces, etc.), t-shirts, mugs are all a possibility. Good luck!

    • Holly Feb 23, 2021 @ 10:44

      Thanks, Connie. That’s the kind of writer info I need to know.

      I’m hoping to get a feel for whether creating merch will be a time sink that won’t help me, or something that might fund a bit more of the writing while giving future readers something interesting and tangible that will still be mysterious… until they read the books.

  • Cathy Feb 23, 2021 @ 10:42

    I would be most likely to buy a T shirt

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