Thinking of Merch

When I wrote about my con prep and display, the focus of my display was books I’ve published. While they are still what I want to focus on books, I do want to branch out. Partly because it’s always good to have a variety of income sources. Also, books are heavy and they take time to draw. There is a limit to how much I can do in a year.

This is something I’ve struggled with over the years. It’s because I make comics by thinking, would I buy this story. That doesn’t work for me when it comes to merch, because I’m not really a person who buys a lot stuff. I buy books but not much in way of accessories or figures or prints. So to be honestly I have a hard time telling what other people will buy.

I knew I didn’t want to try to make t-shirts. I did that briefly in the earlier years of Sorcery 101. The thing people don’t warn you about when it comes to shirts is you think you are making and have to keep track of product. But really you are making 5-7 products because of all the sizes. I found the shirts to be a pain to keep track off.

So with my new push for merch, I started with making a totebag. This is because I can not only sell it but also use it as a bonus for people who buy a lot of books at my table. Sorcery 101 is a book that weighs 3 pounds. If someone is buying both volumes, they usually ask if I have a bag. So it’s both working as an upsell tool and a piece of merch.  

I wanted a design that someone would buy even if they don’t know what it is connected too. Sorcery 101 was ending but I knew I was gonna make more books for The City Between. Since it was a newer series, I doubt someone would want something that was too direct a reference. I sketched out something that got the general theme of the futuristic meeting the mystical. Here’s a look:

I still wasn’t completely happy with it. After getting stuck on how to improve it, I contacted Amber at Unicorn Empire. Unicorn Empire’s designs are always amazing. I hired them to design and print totebags for me. I sent over my original design and asked if that could do something like that but better. I also sent them Fame and Misfortune and The Better to Find You With, so they knew the general theme/tone/look for the series. After some back and forth I got these:

Next I started working on an enamel pin. They are very popular right now and fairly cheap to make. Again I wanted something that stands on its own. I came up with the werewolf expert idea because werewolf are both connected to my comics but are general enough that a nonreader could pick it up. I made a few designs that were the line art which you can see here:

Then I did some color variations after picking the one I liked best.

They are selling well, so I might do a few more enamel pin designs. A few people asked for a vampire expert one in particular. Like I said, they are cheapish to get made. However, since they are popular right now, there is a lot of competition. So I want to make the designs as strong as possible.

I’ve also been thinking of designing some mugs. But I’m not sure how to reliably ship them places. I’ll probably do some more digging into how to handle something that could break during shipping.

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