Who doesn’t love a good t-shirt? They’re fun, they’re cute, and people look at them… that is if you can actually get anyone to wear them. And the best part? They cost you little to no money to design and sell, as long as you use free services.
Of what services do I speak? Why, print-on-demand t-shirt services of course. Here are the ones I’ve found:
I’m sure there are others, but these should get you started. You design the image for the shirt, slap it on a product, and stick it up in a free store. (Example: Here’s the Promo-Ho.com store.) Easy as pie.
But what do you put on the t-shirts?
Well, there’s always your book cover. Your publisher probably has a clause in the contract about not using your cover image to make money, so you won’t be allowed to take in profit from the sales of your t-shirt with your cover, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make the t-shirt. It’s a promotional tool if you’re not making a profit, and most publishers are a-ok with that. Still, check the fine print in your contract. The problem with book-cover t-shirts? Well, frankly, they’re boring. Pretty much only your biggest fans (like, maybe your mom and your critique parter) will wear a shirt with your cover on it in public, and then they might only do it when you’re watching. Ha. The other problem is that covers (unless you’re in print and distributed to Big & Nice bookstores) won’t give people enough information to find your book easily.
So here’s my recommendation for must-haves on promotional t-shirts:
1. A catchy slogan that applies widely, not just to your book. For example, if you have a cowboy romance, maybe your shirt says, “Save a horse, ride a cowboy.” Haaa. See how that gains you a wider audience? Lots of people think that’s funny, not just your mom and your critique partner.
2. Your website address. I’m saying that this is WAY important. Way more important than your name or even your book title because this is where people will go to find out more. Now, of course, it goes without saying that you have to have an easy and memorable web address. www.freesites.biz/~!/authors/novels/romance/ western/chick-lit/secret-baby/asmith.html is not an easy and memorable web address. It should be yourname.com and nothing else. Cough up the dough for the domain name, people. I don’t ask you to spend money on anything else, but you have to spend it for that. Ahem. You should also place your website address where it’s easy to see, maybe underneath your slogan in slightly smaller print or, better yet, across the back of the shirt in big print.
3. Your name, the title of the book, and the publisher. This is the third and least important piece. Remember, you want people to be able to find your book, but first they have to look at your shirt. If you don’t have a website (shame on you), you could put something like your book title and then, “Available at YourPublisher.com” if you have to. If you do have a website, I think the title of the book would suffice, as long as it’s easy to find from the very front page of your website.
Other stuff you might consider for use on a t-shirt:
1. Your cover. I know you think I totally dissed using covers on t-shirts already, but I didn’t. I just dissed using your cover and nothing else. So in combination with a cute slogan and your website address, you cover could be an awesome addition.
2. Fun graphic artist-y things like pictures and designs. Check sites like iStockPhoto for free/cheap stock images that you can use. Don’t steal stuff from random websites though. Chances are it’s copyrighted and you’ll be in big trouble if you use it on your t-shirt.
3. Inventive colors and styles. A lot of t-shirt places give you way more options than just a plain white t-shirt. Consider going for a baseball jersey or a black long-sleeved t-shirt instead of the standard.
4. Don’t limit yourself to t-shirts! A lot of these websites let you slap your design on anything you can think of: bags, hats, magnets, thong underwear (I kid you not). Go wild. Sometimes the best sellers are the ones you did as an afterthought. My Promo-Ho.com license plate frames are really popular. Whoda thunk?
Have fun! T-shirts are a cool way to get your name out there, and they’re fun to make besides.