T It Up

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:

Cafe Press

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.

Smart Bitches Web Design

Smart Bitch Sarah, of Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Books, has written a really helpful article on web design, with some ideas, tips, and examples I hadn’t seen before:

If the site is to promote an author, product product product front and center.

Read the article!

Book Trailers with Power Point

My friend and fellow author Leigh Barbour has written a great article on how she made her book trailer using Power Point:

Now, when you’re satisfied with the way your trailer looks and sounds in PowerPoint slide show, most of the work is done. At this point you need to convert the .ppt format (PowerPoint) to video format.

I use a tool called PowerVideoMaker…. It has a free version that you can use or you can purchase it.

Read the article!

Book Trailers for the Faint of Heart

I must admit that I’ve been putting off doing a book trailer. Why? Looking at all those darn instructions makes my head spin. So here are a few samples I’ve made from web-based software programs (all free, of course, because I’m totally cheap) and my comments on their usability:

One True Media
The website sure is pretty, but the quality of the final product kind of sucks. Check it out:

If you’ve never used a clip editing program before, there’s a bit of a learning curve. The help files are a little cryptic too, but the end product is worth the hassle:

Make a Free Flash Slideshow

More to come as I play around with slideshow editors…

If you’re completely at a loss, don’t forget to check out paid book trailer makers. Here’s a partial list:

Allie Boniface – $75 for the complete book trailer package, email Allie for details
Preview The Book

And here are some places where you can show your book trailer:

Preview The Book
Watch The Book

As always, please leave suggestions for other book trailer stuff in the comments.

Pro Web Design

My friend and fellow author Leigh Barbour has written a great article on website design:

Being a web designer and webeditor by trade, I am amazed at how many writers have websites that are so hard to read and navigate.

Read the articles!

Web Resources For Authors

Author Alexandra Sokoloff has put up a great article on web resources for authors. She includes links for writing communities, professional organizations, email loops, blogs, and links on how to set up your own website and blog.

Read the article!

Promoting At Conferences

Erica Ridley has put together an article on self-promotion at conferences. With RWA National Conference coming up in a few short days, this is timely and helpful!

Read the article!

Trailers With XP

Kevin Lucia has written up a detailed article on how to do a book trailer using free software you already have if you’re running Windows XP.

He’s managed to simplify, even for those of us who don’t really “do” multimedia. Check out the article.

More On Online Book Tours

Author Sandy Lender has some great tips on getting your online book tour set up:

I put together a professional-looking group page on Yahoo where potential hosts of the Online Book Tour could download images, my bio, a short and long synopsis of the book, some FAQs (read: an already-prepared interview), two guest blog articles, a press release announcing what we were doing that they could send to their local newspapers if they wanted to get themselves local publicity (read: pump up their own promotion), and a blog announcement to post on their site to get folks aware that they were having an author stop by.

Read the article!

6 Free Marketing Techniques

Author Regina Paul shares 6 free marketing techniques that work. We like free stuff that works. My favorite tip from her article is to offer free reads on your website or your Yahoo group.

Read the article!