Posts tagged: writing life

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

In Love by Christmas is a #1 Amazon Bestseller in Metaphysical Fantasy! What a day!

Authors don’t have many days like I’ve had today. I’ve read about the joy of being a bestselling author and having a #1 bestselling book, but today I’ve experienced having them. Being a bestselling author and having the book is MUCH MORE FUN than reading about the experience. The really top-selling independent authors have shared their selling techniques–Cheryl Kaye Tardif, Joanna Penn, David Gaughram, and John Locke, to name a few. They talk about using the days you’re allowed to give your Kindle books away free on Amazon as springboards to huge sales afterward.

I’ve done the giveaway part very successfully before, but it’s never carried over into the paid part, the way the marketing books say it should. This time it did. So I can post what follows.

But first, let’s give credit where credit is due. Thank you, my readers and buyers, for your support of me and my work and for buying In Love by Christmas. Without you, none of the below would have happened. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I hope that In Love by Christmas knocks off your socks, rattles your brain, and shakes up everything in between. I consider that the least I can do in performing my job as an author.

These are the happy notices I’ve been looking at today:

In Love by Christmas is a #1 Bestseller in Metaphysical Fantasy

Note that cute little orange tag to the right of the book’s name. It will carry that with it forever. It’s a #1 Bestseller. On Amazon, in the Metaphysical Fantasy category.

More good things happened. It was like winning the Holiday grab-bag at Weight Watchers–I did that yesterday, too. What a haul! Woo-hoo!

Amazon Movers & Shakers are the books that have shown the greatest jumps in sales.

So there we were, Leroy, Cass, and I tottering on top of the book cover, Number 1 Mover and Shaker on all of Amazon. For a while. These things change every hour, but I can say that I got more than 15 minutes of fame. It was almost twenty-four hours in this spot.

Amazon has a new program of ranking authors. In Love by Christmas's stellar performance got me a ranking.

Here I am: It's not number 1, but it's better than I've been able to do writing and publishing since 2006.

Just like the Bestselling title goes with the book, so does the rank go with me.

More and more goodies, just like that Weight Watcher’s gift box. Truly, I can’t say which was more fun, though that’s probably because I haven’t gotten the dinero in my paws yet.

This was a good day: In Love by Christmas hit Number 219 in THE WHOLE KINDLE STORE and …

I’m tickled about the categories where In Love by Christmas shows up. First, my heart and soul are in Metaphysical and Visionary fiction. I started writing to change the world. Save it, if I could. I haven’t succeeded too well, if you follow the news, but my goal hasn’t changed in the eight or nine books I’ve written. I write more flamboyant stories, perhaps, but their roots are in my visionary experiences and spiritual life.

Long ago, when the Bloodsong Series was forming within me, I had an explosive spiritual experience which put several of the books in my brain in an instant. Native Americans were an integral part of that experience. Writing the books of the Bloodsong Series, all of which feature Native Americans, has changed my life. Leroy Watches Jr. has also changed my life. He is what used to be called a black Indian: his roots are Native American, African American, and Caucasian. His experience is different than that of many of my characters. He talks about it in In Love by Christmas. Or lives it, more.

In Love by Christmas is a multicultural and interracial romance. It’s a beautiful love story that transcends race, but doesn’t ignore it. Leroy will tell you about it in the book.

You’ll see them all below. At one point, In Love by Christmas was top rated or close to it in eleven categories. I’m mind-boggled. And now, In Love by Christmas is ranked in all those categories. Thank you, buyers and readers!

In Love by Christmas was ranked in a total of eleven categories.

How about a present for those of you who have read this far? A MOVIE! Here’s a video of our hero, Leroy Watches Jr. as he begins his search for his soul mate.

IN LOVE BY CHRISTMAS: A PARANORMAL ROMANCE – Noel – Montreal Version + from Sandy Nathan on Vimeo.

Leroy Watches Jr. is a shaman whose Power sometimes makes things worse. Despite his flaw, he must save his soul mate from her addictions, her father, and Evil Incarnate, or she’ll be damned forever.

Trying to unite with his true love, Leroy embarks on a pilgrimage that takes him to the highest levels of European society. As he travels, his shamanic Power grows. So does the Dark Lord’s hatred of him.
His prospective father-in-law demands that Leroy and Cass be in love by Christmas. Can they be?

All my best! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support. Happy Holidays, whatever holiday you celebrate in this season, which includes no holiday at all …

Sandy Nathan
Sandy Nathan–My Interactive Website
Your Shelf Life, my blog for authors and readers. Oh, that’s where you are!

 

Old People, Computers and Technology–It’s Simply Cruel

Sandy's Sad

All I wanted to do was make a lousy video …

I’ve been grappling with Animoto.com all day, trying to produce a really good video for my new Christmas paranormal romance In Love by Christmas, also known as ILBC. I did create such a video. I produced about twelve, all sightly different. Different music, theme, words. I also fixed typos on the videos I’d just made and the ones I produced yesterday. As you know, typos multiply any time you take your eyes off your text. God knows what goes on on my hard-drive or in the cloud at night. Typo frolics of a reproductive kind.

Yesterday, I made some other videos of ILBC and posted them. Actually, I didn’t post them. Unbeknownst to me, my Animoto account has tentacles more invasive than an octopus’s, so that any little thing I finish is promulgated all over my cyber/social universe. All the “toss this stinkeroo in the trash” versions seem to end up on my FB wall. Other places, too, most likely. But, to continue …

Despite this, I really like Animoto.com as a way to make book videos. I can use their technology and produce stunning results. But PLAYING videos from their site … I don’t like so much. Those files hit so many snags they might have been using some of my old pantyhose as a power source. Takes so long to play a vid that even my MOM wouldn’t hang in there.

My web guy, Don Herion, suggested hosting my videos on Vimeo or Smugmug, as faster, higher quality places to mount my results. I tried Vimeo and found that it had superior play back to Animoto.com’s , but NOT superior enough. My MOM would lose interest after the second stall, plus all that jiggling made me dizzy. So I got on Smugmug and signed up for their free trial. Yesterday. If you hit that link in two weeks, it may not exist, as will be explained below.

Smugmug gives you this amazing website, all yours, if you can figure out how to use it. It’s very chic and stylish, design-wise, which means that if there are any controls for the site, I can’t find them. So, I won’t sign on for more than the free two weeks unless I make amazing progress in the cyber dimension. If a 69-year-old woman with two advanced degrees can’t find the friggin’ controls in two weeks, it’s not worth paying for.

Although I seem to be rambling, I’m writing about the elderly and technology. Did I mention that my husband got not only a brand new iPhone 6+, but a new Apple laptop to go with it? GO BARRY! After a week, he can competently answer the phone, without dropping the device from his belt holster. Today, he was working on ANSWERING EMAIL with his new laptop.

This afternoon, we practiced the New Intimacy: he sat at one end of our family room with his new toys while I sat on the other end with my sturdy 27″ iMac, attempting to produce the perfect video for In Love by Christmas, or ILBC, as I may have said, perhaps several times. I did make several, if I could remember which ones were the good ones. Also, I somehow erased the vids I’d previously sent to Vimeo and to Don Herion, my web guy, to post on my website. So those are all screwed up, as is the video embeds and locations I sent my publicist. This is really important, because THE BIG PUSH starts soon and he needs to get the visuals out there.

IN LOVE BY CHRISTMAS ANIMOTO

This is how the front image of "winning vid" for ILBC looks on my Animoto page.

This afternoon, I sat in my ergonomically designed chair, swearing softly at the short, computerized films bursting from the screen, listening to my husband swear at his new computer and phone. I did help him once or twice, “Push this arrow to return an email.”

This is how people relate in this new age. Sort of like sitting on opposite banks of a river, throwing electronic tomatoes at each other.

Basically, technology for those over sixty is dicey. Even for younger people, sometimes. I believe the cyber age responsible for the degeneration of our social order, which isn’t saying much. You’ve been out to dinner and looked at the next table, to find everyone on his or her smart phone. You’ve shaken your head and tskked sadly, until you got a text you had to answer.

The the problem is not technology, it’s learning how to use it. Every family should be assigned a 12-year-old from the local elementary school to teach the elders how to at least get to the gaming apps. That’s only right.

Meanwhile, here’s the vid I made on Animoto, transposed to Vimeo. You should be able to watch it easily by clicking appropriately, though it may stutter a bit the first run through. The Smugmug version will take me longer to post. I have to find the controls.

So, I did produce the #@^!! video. I’m not saying that the elderly can’t do tech stuff. We can. We may simply use unseemly vocabulary for long periods while doing it. This is not a sin. Old folks have feelings, too, and need to express them. Sometimes, %&*%#!! isn’t enough. But it was today. Enjoy the video.

Next time I’ll tell you about making Christmas presents for your loved ones using the graphics of your book covers. This is not as easy as it sounds, even given the plethora of companies promising the mouse pad of your dreams, or your hubby’s dreams. (Or porcelain mugs, my particular weakness.) That’s another story.

Sandy Nathan

And here’s the beast itself:

IN LOVE BY CHRISTMAS – NOEL VERSION 12/12/14 from Sandy Nathan on Vimeo.

Leroy Watches Jr. is a shaman whose Power sometimes makes things worse. Despite his flaw, he must save his soul mate from her addictions, her father, and Evil Incarnate, or she’ll be damned forever.

Leroy embarks on a pilgrimage that takes him to the highest levels of European society. As he travels, his shamanic Power grows. So does the Dark Lord’s hatred of him.

His prospective father-in-law demands that Leroy and Cass be in love by Christmas. Can they be?

If that doesn’t work, this link to the video on Vimeo will.

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