Do the big book conventions help self-published authors or small presses?

Mogollon: A Tale of Mysticism & Mayhem (Bloodsong 2) It's been a long time and many words since I went to Book Expo America in 2009

A member of the Visionary Fiction Alliance, a group of authors, readers, and aficionados of visionary fiction, asked if the big book conventions or fantasy conventions help indie authors and small presses. I shared the following story on the Visionary Fiction Facebook page.

Or shared most of it. My post must have been too long for FB; the ending got cut off. I’m posting what I said on FB here, so readers can get the whole thing.

This is the complete story of my one time attendance at the BEA–Book Expo America back in 2009. Does it answer the question? As a statistician, I only can say that  a sample of one case does not a valid conclusion make.

In 2009, I attended the Expo, a very green author with two books in print. In 2015, I’ve got ten books out and two more in production, with stack of manuscripts on my hard drive. My books have also won thirty national awards and I’ve been a bestselling author, often for days at a time. (Sales are the trickiest part.) Now, things might be different.

Would I go to BEA or any big fantasy or other convention? Probably not, as will be explained below, but if I did, it would be after great deliberation and analysis. I’d want it to be in LA or some California city: the event has been held in NYC in recent years and will be this year. These conventions are huge. To get an idea of the scale of the exhibit, look at this floorplan of the BEA main hall in 2015.  Purple squares are rented space; turquoise is available. Hover the cursor over the space to see who rented it. Notice the huge Chinese presence: this event’s attendance is worldwide.

One new development might change my conclusions. In 2015, Book Expo America will be combined with the debut of BookCon, a new consumer event featuring the big name authors in popular writing. The new event will be a combined trade show, BEA, followed by the consumer event.  BEA-BookCon 2015 runs from May 27 to 31 for the combined events.  The addition of BookCon to BEA may tip the scales for a smaller author or publishing house. Wholesale orders could be placed at BEA, but books were not sold to  customers. Joining a retail event like ComiCon, which drew 130,000 attendees in 2013, to BEA with retail sales possible could totally upend everything I say.

Or not. Depends upon what they require of people showing at the event. Will indie authors and micro presses be allowed? Participants will have to have stock on hand to sell. Hundreds of print books? Thousands? A way to download eBooks on the spot? With BookCon, the big, big time will become even bigger.

Should I wait until BEA comes back to LA? It used to travel around the country, heading West from time to time. BEA–BookCon 2016 will be in Chicago, I understand. After that?

BookExpo America event director Steven Rosato notes in his blog“BEA Orlando, BEA Dallas, BEA Atlanta—well, I will start looking at prison camps first.” 

He’d rather look at prison camps than Dallas? I’m glad I got to got to BEA in 2009. It’s a world-class event, and getting worldlier.

Here’s my tale of entering the big time:

* * *

Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money (Bloodsong 1) my second book and ticket to the BEA.

I went to the BEA–Book Expo America–when my book Numenon came out in 2009. BEA is the largest book fair/convention in the country, then and now. The year we went, it was in LA at Staples Center. Check out the images on their website, keeping in mind that Barry and I are country mice. We went into instant culture shock in the multi-story parking lot.

Seeing that LA is only 2.5 hours from our ranch, as opposed to being on the other side of the continent. We went.

Getting in cost $150. I can’t remember that was just for me or $150 each for my husband and I. We were hosted at a booth taken by the IBPA, Independent Book Publishers Association. They’re the biggest and oldest organization representing indie authors and presses. The organization was known as the PMA back then. The IBPA hosts the Benjamin Franklin Awards, which may be the most prestigious contest for indie books. They READ every word of a book they’re judging. It’s very tough. The IBPA does great things for Indies and is worth joining.

Anyway, the IBPA maintained a booth at the BEA and allowed us micropress members exhibition space. I don’t remember if there was a charge for that or not. Probably.

Book Expo America DID have little cost in addition to the $150 entry fee: any author exhibiting there had to do a book signing and GIVE AWAY fifty copies of his/her book(s). We originally published Numenon as a hardback, to that cost was not inconsiderable.

My signing was scheduled at the IBPA booth. I don’t know why I was there as opposed to the “signing room” with all the major authors. Probably because we decided to go at the last minute and the main room was full. The “signing room” was a very large, corridor-like room with long tables running down both sides. Each author had about two feet of the table’s pristine, white-clothed real estate within which to sign books.

Carrie Fisher was there with a new book. A line of people wanting an autographed copy stacked up in front of her, moving from her perch, out the door, disappearing into the massive main hall beyond.

Here’s a funny story: we used a book consultant in producing my first two books. She’s the one who told us about the BEA and got us to go. One of her other clients, an adorable and ancient MD, had written his memoir. He had a colorful life as a Hollywood doc and I believe was a Holocaust survivor on top of that. He was signing his book at the same time as Carrie Fisher. She was swamped. He sat in front of a pile of his books, all alone.

Carrie looked over at him and shrieked, “Dr. Whatever! OMG! It’s Dr. Whatever! I love him! He’s my favorite person in the world.” He was her doctor. She jumped up and ran to the beaming physician. They embraced.

She went back to signing her book, but sent her line of I-want-your-autograph people to him after she signed her book. He was flooded with loving new fans and had a wonderful BEA experience.

I was sure that my signing would be a bust, even though BEA hires people with big signs to roam the aisles and point the crowds to authors having signings. I didn’t think they would help me. I was a two-book nobody and–Staples Center is HUGE, HUGE, HUGE! They had the main floor, a bridge over to another floor where the cafeteria was, more floors. Nooks and crannies full of authors and books.

I was in culture shock just parking the car. Where we live, cattle in the streets are the biggest traffic problem.

The big publishers, Random House and all the rest, monopolized the main floor with magnificent, specially-designed structures displaying their books. BEA is for booksellers–book stores, etc.–so the reps of the big 6 (or 5 or 3, now) publishers were all over taking orders from stores. Their presence was very professional and took up lots of very expensive floor space.

Smaller publishers, not the majors but substantial publishing houses, and I mean every friggin’ one of them, had smaller displays and booths arranged in rows radiating from the central core/temple area. The IBPA’s booth wasn’t too far back, but it was small and down an aisle. I would be forgotten.

On the other hand, the atmosphere was electric!  I leapt into the crowds and didn’t look back. The bigger booths offered wine, appetizers, seating areas, famous authors on call, and FREE BOOKS. Everyone had to give away fifty, remember. MANY famous authors were there. OK, maybe not so famous, but I remember Carrie Fisher and I got meet Mark Victor Hanson and his entourage.

Crowds filled the space like circling flocks of birds or schools of fish, ignited by a celebrity sighting. Before my signing, I joined a stampede, unable to resist the gang mentality or my own excitement! Captain Kirk was there! With a new book! I didn’t even know William Shatner could write, but I always liked the fact that he rode horses.

I cruised the aisles myself, ending up with several shopping bags of books that looked interesting. All free–giveaways of new books and galleys is good business. All the publishers offered their bounty freely. The only catch was, due to union rules that no one but union members could use wheeled carts to move books or anything else, I had to heft my gleanings in bags that ended up weighing about fifty pounds each. But it was fun!

The seek-and-find mission distracted my attention from my feeling of impending disaster at my booksigning. I expected my signing to be about the same as that older doctor’s without Carrie Fisher’s intervention. I was way back in the aisles, in a small booth with an unknown book about the richest man in the world and a Native American holy man. I would be unable to even GIVE fifty books away. I’d have to take them home. (That mind-set is a residue of my social standing in third grade.)

IT WAS A DELUGE!  Smiling people swamped the little booth, demanding that I sign my precious Numenon before giving it to them. Never in my life have I felt so popular! Being an author was wonderful! WONDERFUL! We were so smart to come to BEA! This was wonderful. The sales this exposure would generate would finance our retirement.

Only one thing marred it: Wandering around the aisles, I met a veteran of the Marines who had written his life story. He was published by a military press. Most regrettably, he’d been hit in the head by a missile as he was driving his tank in Iraq. He lived but was almost blinded, lost most of his hearing, and suffered terrible injury, from which he was rehabilitated as much as possible, which was what his book was about.

Nick Popaditch was an heroic and impressive figure in his dress uniform. His beautiful wife, a Native American woman, accompanied him. We chatted for a while and I invited him down the aisle a bit later, offering him a copy of Numenon.

I’d forgotten all about the couple when they appeared at my signing. He held her arm and walked slowly, more magnificent standing than he’d been sitting in his booth. Also grievously injured.

I’d forgotten to put a book away for him. In the melee, all of them had been given out, every single one! I gave them a copy of Stepping Off the Edge, my previous book, but the couple was visibly disappointed. I mailed a copy to the address he gave me, for Wounded Warriors. Never heard anything. They left, disappearing from my life.

I will plug his book; I found it very moving and inspiring. Nick Popaditch, Once a Marine.

Well, the Popaditch‘s didn’t get my book, but the rest had been a triumph. I had a blast with the holiday/cocktail party/star-struck/as-many-free-books-as-you-could-carry-away atmosphere. My book signing had been a great success! The books would go out into the world, and come back as sales and fame for me and my writing. What could be more fun?

My husband is very quiet and reclusive. He hated every minute of BEA.

* * *

When we got home, I looked at Numenon’s sale page on Amazon. Multiple copies of Numenon “signed by the author” were up for sale by many sellers. Also on eBay. Those excited people who came to my book signing were penny-ante booksellers grabbing free stuff to sell. They didn’t care about my book; they were trying to earn back the $150 it cost them to get in. I felt really ripped off.

OK. Much processing later. So I gave away a bunch of books. A well-known consultant to the book business once told me that books fail because there aren’t enough of them out there. “The book has to be visible. Give them away to get them into people’s hands. Give away LOTS.”

When it all shook out, I don’t know that I got a single review from those books or got anything at all.

Would I do it again? I would if I was Carrie Fisher and already had a following. Or if I was really rich and just wanted to go to a party about books and snag a couple of bags full for free. (Aside from Nick Popaditch‘s book, I don’t think I read any of those I picked up.)

That’s my experience at BEA. I did have a great time. I might have had a better time had I gone to some of the award presentations, starting the year before and in future years, when my books began to win prizes. That’s what you’re supposed to do if you win an award: pump it for all it’s worth. Get your face in front of cameras. Announce it everywhere. Scream it for the yarboards, or halboards. Rooftops. That’s called marketing. I’ve never gone to any of the ceremonies, wasting opportunities.

The  IBPA puts on a great award ceremony for the Benjamin Franklin Award. Be sure and go, if you win. I was a finalist for that with my first book, Stepping Off the Edge in 2006 (or 7).  Looks like the ceremony is separate from BEA now, but it used to be held in a location near the BEA at the same time.  Also, the Independent Publisher has a great ceremony for winners in the IPPYs, its book award. Here’s a blog article by Lisa Shea, who won two awards in the IPPYs. She went to the ceremony and give a rundown of what it was like. I’ve won three IPPYs awards over the years, but didn’t go to their  award ceremonies. Looks like I missed something.

Why didn’t I go to the award ceremonies? I’m not a “goer”: I didn’t attend any of my graduations after high school. The only reunion I’ve gone to was for the employees of the Santa Clara County Planning Department, where I worked for a long time. Loved those folks.

Would I go again if a fairy godmother gifted me? Sure, especially if I had an award to pick up. Otherwise, I’d want to build up my brand and visibility with every tool I had before venturing forth. Which is what Indie authors should be doing anyway.

I hope this tale is illuminating. I don’t know if conferences devoted specifically to fantasy or genres would be any different. I’d say: build your brand, your sales, your visibility, then evaluate going.

 

Sandy Nathan

Sandy Nathan, who’s got a lot of cool books for you to check out. Click the link.

 

The article's over: the fat lady's singing.

The International Partying Score: Greeks – Zero; Icelanders – Over the top!

 

Everyone knows Scandinavians are the best partiers ever!

I WRITE ABOUT STUFF THAT REALLY MATTERS TO ME ON YOUR SHELF LIFE. I write irregularly, as the spirit moves. It’s moving.  What got me going today?

This article: UCSB to Greeks: the Party’s OverAn article from the Santa Barbara Independent talks about the fraternities and sororities at UCSB, members of which are acting up and getting the institutions kicked out in record numbers. I would have lifted images from the article, but they were all copyrighted and stuff. The first one was of a sheriff’s officer looking tough. Scared me.

But here’s a good one: “Greeks”–fraternities–are being banned from UCSB at an unprecedented rate. Since early December three fraternities have been banned and a sorority suspended. The linked article tells you all about it.

The stupid and inane behavior on the part of the Greeks that got them tossed has prompted me to share this never-before-revealed anecdote from my early years.

I never saw the reason or need for fraternities or sororities. Places for guys and gals who already felt superior to everyone to band together and throw parties that the Vikings would find offensive, and feel superior about it? Why? I thought they would have died out in the 1950s from sheer irrelevance.

I never saw the need for “acting out” either–getting so drunk or stoned I didn’t know where I was or who I was with, other than another “Greek.” Nor will I allow myself to be “hazed” by anyone or perpetrate the practice on my fellow humans. So why Greeks? Why do people join them?

There is one valid reason for fraternities and sororities. That is to introduce young people to parties so wild that they will not be horrified when they go to Scandinavia. I know this. When I was a high school senior (and what were fraternities doing allowing 17-year-olds at their parties???), I went to a frat party at Stanford. My girlfriends seemed to find them fun. I don’t know why. I’ve never seen such out of control drunken behavior in my life. It didn’t seem fun.

But, my family visited Iceland the following summer. Most of the young people left the cities and went to work on the farms during the summers. They had parties, BIG parties. I went to one in some big community building somewhere and discovered that when it comes to partying, Greeks are Pablum-eaters. I survived only because I’d been shock-proofed at that frat house.

Grow up Greeks! We Vikings have means to tame you.

So, good ol’ Stanford frat, whatever you were, thank you for opening my eyes to the potential for over-the-top depravity. Aside from a couple of roving fistfights, they seemed to be having a better time in Iceland, too.

Despite my anti-Greek sentiments, I must confess that I am a member of a fraternity, or honorary society,  Omicron Delta Epsilon,  the International Honor Society for Economics. Or I used to be. I haven’t paid dues in about forty years.

Despite all those Greek letters, did we economists indulge in drunken riots? No. We were/are so serious that we are sometimes called in to defuse international political battles. We do this by boring the combatants into comatose states. We’ll do it for your group, too. Just let me know and I’ll dispatch a cadre of econ nerds pronto.

So long for now,
Sandy Nathan, who’s got a lot of cool books for you to check out. Click the link.

The article's over: the fat lady's singing.


Should You Set up a eStore to Sell Stuff to Promote your Book?

In Love by Christmas (Bloodsong 3)

In Love by Christmas (Bloodsong 3) This is actually 20" X 30", a poster mounted on a board by Costco.

After having mugs made with images of my covers on them for Christmas gifts (an adventure), and designing a calendar for my own use yesterday (arm still aches from too much computer time), and completely giving up on ordering T-shirts from one manufacturer, I got the probably masochistic idea of  starting a store on my site. I’ve been researching that possibility and wanted to ask my readers who’ve tried it if it was worth it in terms of financial reward or anything else. Satisfaction? Also,  which services are best–I’ve got some experiences to share on this.  Well, if anyone has anything to share, please do.

My experience working with some of the main “swag”–stuff used to market books or anything–providers is below. My words aren’t a comprehensive review. I’ve included links to a few sites that thoroughly evaluate more of the various POD “printing stuff”  services, including those I mention below.  All are worth studying.

Tested: Best Sources for Company Schwag Evaluates 5 of the biggies.

Printaholic.com 2015 T-shirt rankings. Interesting. T-shirts only here. The “usual suspects” are reviewed, but they don’t end up in the order you’d expect.

Printaholic.com’s overall best 2015 rankings. They review all print-related stuff: business cards, photos, brochures, T-shirts. Definitely something to look at.

Listio’s 2008 comparison of printing and merchandising Very thorough ranking of 4 top services with comparison table and screenshots of what the sites look like and how easy they are to use. It’s from 2008; don’t seem to have done one since. They rank the sites overall and talk about site useability and the market the site seems pitched at. I.e.; kids (young people) vs. adults.  Interesting rankings.

 PRINT PERFECTION: “Our platform handles the purchasing, management, and fulfillment your company’s branded swag.” Interesting to know about if you decide to go into the swag game with a vengeance. They handle merchandising and giveaways of “A wide variety of tools to help you easily run swag marketing campaigns:”

And now I hear from Valerie Douglas that YOLA.COM will set up a whole website store for you, for free, it looks like. Whoa.

You can explore these and do your own searches. I searched Google for “ZAZZLE, VISTA PRINT OTHER WHICH IS BETTER FOR MERCHANDISE STORE”

Here’s my experience with these places:

This is a handout for our "Holiday Potpourri at the Grange" I made the post on Photoshop and had reproduced as an 8" X 12" one-sheet and a big 20" by 30" image mounted on board for the sandwich board out front. CLICK THIS IMAGE: IT'S PRETTY FULL SIZE.

COSTCO PHOTO CENTER: I use this service on-line. The Photo section is separate from the rest of Costco. To get to it, sign in on your Costco account (which means you set up a password and give them your email),  and hit Costco Photo on the menu bar at top. You’ll be presented with a bewildering array of choices of stuff they make with photos.

I use them for BIG poster boards using my book covers. I display these at events and speaking engagements. (These are posters of my covers mounted to a stiff board. You can put them on easels or tripods or lean them against walls.) When I’m done speaking, I leave the big blow ups around my family room where I work. Seeing my covers writ large subconsciously reinforces that SOMETHING will come from my efforts.  We had a “literary salon”, an authors’, musicians’, and artist’s event, locally before Christmas. I made 2 of the 20 X 30″ versions of our announcement for sandwich boards outside the building. One is in my family room now. Again, makes it real.

If you want to make a poster, ask your book designer for a 16 X 20 @300 dpi version of the cover, or 20″ X 30″ if you’re feeling expansive. Some designers charge for this, others don’t. What you upload to COSTCO is what you get, so if upload a 16″ X 20″ image at 72 dpi or save a 72 dpi image at 300 thinking it will work, your image will look lousy printed, no matter who prints it.

CALENDARS AT COSTCO: They do really big, high quality calendars. I’ve ordered them for years, using the book de jour for the images. I use covers, photos of the characters and locations I’ve downloaded, new author photos, etc. This is more “Make it real”, but I love to look at my covers. A new image every month is great. Costco also allows you to customize individual days with photos and text. You can put hearts or your book’s heart-throb hero in on Valentines.  Or your real-life sweetie’s photo! Pictures of family members on their birthdays. For instance, I used a photo of my dad in uniform for Veteran’s Day. This type of customization is not particularly hard to do, just requires attention to detail.

If you do videos for your books, this is a terrific use of the images you produce for the videos. Make ‘em the photo of the month!

EASE OF USE of Costco’s photo system? Horrible. Drives me crazy. The size the COSTCO calendar I like has 14″ W X 11″ H images. What I upload has to be that size at 300 dpi to fill the calendar page. Books are typically 6″ X 9″ high, which means I have to use the high resolution poster size image and cut it down or do some fancy Photoshopping with the 6″ X 9″. Assembling the images takes forever, as does loading and arranging them on the calendar’s pages.

The way the Costco calendar system works, you create an album for each project. To upload, you click the album title and select the images. Then you have to select the album again when you upload the image(s), or it makes a new album. I forgot that second click every other time and ended up with about 8 or 9 albums, all with one or two pics in them. Took a while to figure out where my photos were, but I did. You can move the photos to the right album and delete the superfluous albums later, after you’ve found them.

So, steep learning curve. Products can be delivered to your local Costco warehouse in a week to ten days. No shipping with this option, and you don’t have to pay until you see and approve the calendar if you do this.

With all the hassle, I love my calendars and the pain of creating them fades quickly. The one I chose ended up costing $20 and change, including tax, picked up at my local Costco.

COSTCO ENLARGEMENTS: Easiest and cheapest I’ve seen. Upload at photos at home, order on line, pickup in the warehouse an HOUR later. I now use Costco enlargements of my cover images as the front of my press packets. Slick and NICE. I did an 8″ X 12″ One Sheet on Photoshop and printed it at Costco. It looks way better than one printed at a print shop: it’s a photo. Clear and distinct as clear can be.

With all it’s foibles, I love Costco, but haven’t used the other services as much. VISTAPRINT, ZAZZLE and the others also do calendars and enlargements. Maybe not big poster banners, but …

A BIG BUT–if you want to have a gallery or store from which you can sell the stuff you make, Costco doesn’t offer it. I use the calendars, etc. for my own use. Bears searching elsewhere.

ZAZZLE IS A TOP-RANKED CUSTOMIZABLE/CUSTOMIZED SUPPLIER OF ALMOST EVERYTHING THAT CAN BE PRINTED. They have lots of calendars, both to buy as is and to do up yourself. One pretty similar to the one I ordered from Costco (14″ X 11″ and customizable month image as well as special images for holidays) for $18.95 plus tax was $20.95 at ZAZZLE. It was shaped a bit differently, 11″ W X 17″ H, which is better for working with rectangular book covers. And you can mark them for sale when you design them.  And have your own store. Find out how on the site: search My Own Store. I think I’ll look into this, after plowing through all those evaluations on the sites way above. I don’t think you make much money with ZAZZLE, but set up is free and they DO handle merchandise well. How do I know?

Uh, my initial, well, my first two orders of my own stuff from ZAZZLE were a bust. Which is why I did my calendars with COSTCO rather than ZAZZLE. I ordered T-shirts for my family with my book covers on them for Christmas, having barely enough time before Christmas to get them for the holiday, my typical ordering style. ZAZZLE took the order, then contacted me a week or so later, saying they’d canceled it because I’d used copyrighted material.

Yeah, I had used copyrighted material. COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL THAT I OWNED. I hold the copyrights to the books, their covers, and everything about them.  So, what’s the problem?

“Oh,” replied ZAZZLE, “no problem, now that you explained it. Order again and we’ll make and ship your shirts.” By this time, they couldn’t produce and ship the T-shirts by Christmas. Also, when I ordered the first time, the shirts were on 40 or 50% off. The sale was over when the snafu got cleared up. They offered me 15% off the second time around. Sorry, not good enough. Got my dander up.

DOING T-SHIRTS ON ZAZZLE: I would make sure I had plenty of time to get my images together, and carefully read Zazzle’s guidelines for image quality. I couldn’t find any more than “Use 300 dpi.” Maybe there’s more. Remember: they run sales all the time, so get 40 or 50% off when you order. If you miss a sale, you can get the next one.

With my next order, I will include a statement that I own the copyrights to my book covers.  I wrote a note to ZAZZLE after they cancelled my order, proving that I had the copyrights.  I put links to my Amazon page, my websites, my blogs and offered to send them screen shots of the books’ copyright pages and documentation from my designers that I held the copyrights. ZAZZLE said that was fine and agreed to do the T-shirts. Too late. If I order a T-shirt from them again, I will include all this at the start.

You can do the same, telling them what happened to me and that you don’t want our order delayed the same way. (You do own the the copyrights, don’t you? Different designers work in different ways. Note that this order was not for sale, just for gifts. I don’t have the right to make swag with the Mogollon cover. My contract with the model/actor on the cover precludes sale of the image on secondary products.)

QUALITY OF T-SHIRTS ON ZAZZLE: I knew about the quality of custom T-shirts from ZAZZLE, having ordered a T-shirt for my husband from them. Wendy Potocki had some wonderful shirts designed her Halloweenpaloosa promotion in October.   I ordered a shirt from that promotion from ZAZZLE, and put the cover of my Vanessa Schierman PhD, WITCH, on the back. Vanessa Schierman PhD, WITCH was my long short-story contribution to Wendy’s promo. If you click Vanessa, you’ll be taken to my website, where you can download the short story I wrote for Wendy’s promo for free. It’s cool. I’m going to augment it with more short stories over the year, hopefully generating a book.

ZAZZLE did a high quality T-shirt with a great printing job.

These are the first mugs that arrived from Zazzle. Print is so bad you can't read it. Images are blurred and the wrong colors.

MUGS FROM ZAZZLE: Another painful story. Also for Christmas gifts, I ordered porcelain mugs with images from my book covers on them.

I LOVE PORCELAIN MUGS! So much lighter and more elegant than those honkin’ earthenware ones that break your arm to lift and chip if you look at them. ZAZZLE has some really pretty porcelain mugs that you can customize with your own images. If you order during a 50% off sale, they’re a great buy.

I put together an order for my family and uploaded it, Photoshopping up some images of the right size and resolution. Very quickly, THE THINGS arrived. They were my mugs, but with distorted colors, illegible print, smears in the design. The physical porcelain mugs were GREAT, but the artwork was mangled.

I complained and asked for a refund. Didn’t want to go through another round of the above, so I asked for my money back. This takes way longer than a store credit, but I didn’t want to try again.

By pure happenstance, my description of what was wrong with the mugs and why I wanted my money back specifically outlined their problems. I waited for my refund, arms crossed, toes tapping.

They sent me a whole new order and they were perfect! And in time for Christmas, too! Which made me think, “Why didn’t you do this the first time?”

If I were to order porcelain (also known as fine bone China) mugs again or ANY mugs, which I would, I’d put a note in my order: Please make sure the print is legible and colors and the design are not distorted. I’d tell the story of my first order right off. And also tell them that I had the copyrights.

I learned about design from this. My first few mugs I designed with the specified 3.25″ high X 3.25″ W image and applied it one on one side of the design area. Since book covers are 6″ X 9″, the 3.25″ corresponded to the 9″ high dimension, the reduced size graphic was narrower than 3.25″– about 2.2″ wide by the 3.25″ high.

After doing a few pieces with single images, I discovered somewhere on the ZAZZLE site that I could use a 7.25″ W X 3.25″ H image on the mug I was using. After that, I Photoshopped a 7.25″ W X 3.25″ H canvas  and put TWO images on it, pushing them to the outside of the 7.25″ canvas. Loaded, that gives you an image on the mug’s front and back, very slick. You can use the same image, different ones, or two colorways of one cover. Ultra cool.

I’d definitely use ZAZZLE for T-shirts and mugs, with the caveats noted.

VISTAPRINT is another highly rated purveyor of customized print materials. I’ve used Vistaprint for One Sheets (single one-page sell sheets) for my books and for post cards. Both were adequate. I’ve also used Tu-Vets (they’ve since retired) and SIMPLY BROCHURES. They were AMAZING… HEAVY PAPER, GLOSSY BOTH SIDES, killer color. Way better quality cost way way more than Vistaprint. Unfortunately, you had to order A LOT. Vistaprint was fine for the small jobs and I didn’t end up with 500 extra copies.

I tried to used VISTAPRINT for T-shirts after my fiasco with ZAZZLE. I found that they had LOTS of information about the graphics that should be supplied for the T-shits and templates for the images. I didn’t find these on ZAZZLE and thought that I might not have had the problem with the mugs had ZAZZLE included stuff about CMYK color instead of RGB.

Whatever. I found VISTAPRINT specified the image for the T-shirt had to be 12″ X 12″ CMYK color, and 300 dpi. OK. Book covers are 6″ X 9″. You may have a poster size you can cut down, but you’re going to have to do some major surgery, including butchering its design, to get your cover to 12 X 12. I designed one T-shirt out of about 10 that I wanted to order and gave up. It sat in my shopping cart until Vistaprint removed it. (Checking, it’s STILL there.)

Well,  having created another monster blog post which doesn’t fully cover the subject, I’m going to wind down. What was the subject?

What does having a store on one’s website or anywhere do for an author’s career? Does such a store even make sense? My interest in my book covers is likely to be higher than anyone else in the universe’s. Does a demand for T-shirts with Leroy Watches’ image on it, or Will Duane’s, or Elizabeth Bright Eagle’s exist?

Did my relatives even appreciate the mugs I gave them? Would they order calendars or mouse pads or mugs or anything else I might turn out if they didn’t know me? If they did?

That is the question, as is: Does the investment in time to get all this stuff set up pay off in monetary reward? Don’t have the answers, but if you have more experience, I look forward to hearing for you.

Ciao,
Sandy Nathan my website
my interactive website
my FB author page
my Amazon Author page

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