Earlier today The Book Designer published a post where I argue that authors should invest in swag to give away or sell to their fans. This is still be a rather controversial idea in the indie author community, but it is widely accepted in the larger business community, and it's high time that indie authors followed suit.
I'm sure everyone knows about the immense number of product tie-ins for successful movie and TV adaptations. Rowling's Harry Potter series has everything from collectibles to theme parks, while Tolkien's The Hobbit George RR Martin's Game of Thrones have swords, armor, figurines, and what have you. (The letter opener pictured above is The Hobbit merchandise.)
Indie authors don't have access to the resources of HBO or Warner Brothers, but they can still take advantage of this booming market. For those who are looking for inspiration, here are a few examples of authors who offer swag of one kind or another.
In addition to the official HBO merchandise, George RR Martin also has 1" figurines modeled after Game of Thrones characters (the books, not the tv series).
Larry Niven has get well cards you can download and print out.
Cassie Clare has scarfs, temporary tattoos, collectible card sets, and even a $15 pint glass that references a bar in her fantasy novels.
Stephen King has shops on both Zazzle and CafePress where you can buy bugs, t-shirts, etc.
James Lee Burke has hats, t-shirts, and a $49 vintage Indian head belt buckle that was copied from the one the author wears.
Lee Child has partnered with the Baltimore Coffee & Tea Company to develop the Jack Reacher Custom Roasted Coffee blend. This is particularly apt for Child because he famously drinks 30 cups of coffee a day.
Anne Rice has t-shirts, coffee mugs, and a $40 "Prince Lestat Journal Bundle" consisting of a pen, notebook, and bookmark.
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While swag might seem like a distraction from the important stuff - writing the next book - the simple truth is fans love buying merchandise connected to their favorite books, shows, and movies. (If I told you the stuff I owned, you would think me daft.) So even if you weren't going to make money from the sales, selling swag to your fans is a great way to build your author career.