Thursday, July 24, 2014

How To Make Money With Your Blog By Selling Swag

The unfortunate truth of being a writer is that the amount of money you make is directly connected to what you sell. Whether it's ad clicks on your blog, subscriptions to you through kindle, garden variety book sales, or something else entirely the formula is pretty simple; more sales = a bigger check.

This will be on the test. Show all your work.
Unfortunately for a lot of writers out there it's impossible to make a living wage from words alone. We don't have a big company setting up a book tour, nor do we have reporters dogging us to know when the next book is coming out. If we're truly fortunate we have at least a few fans that will show up to shake our hands at conventions, and maybe buy a book off of us.


So how do you rake in the cash to pay your rent, put food on your kids and a table in your mouth (or however it's supposed to go)? Corporations call it expansion into a new and engaging product line. The rest of us call it selling swag.

Can You Self-Publish Your Own Swag?

For those of you who haven't read up on self publishing and how it changed writing as a profession (bear with me this is relevant), here's a quick explanation of how it works. An author writes a book, formats it, designs a cover and goes through all of the steps that would normally be done by a publisher. The manuscript is then submitted to a service like Amazon's Create Space, and it creates ebooks, and print-on-demand books. Ebooks as we all know are electronic books that can be read on an ereader, laptop, smartphone, etc., whereas print-on-demand books are physical, traditional books that are not printed up and bound until someone orders them. For every copy that's sold, authors get a royalty cut.

The reason this works is because authors don't have to pay to print huge amounts of books and store them somewhere to be sold, only making a profit once the stock has been emptied. If no one buys copies then there's no demand, and therefore no printing, which means that the author incurs no loss of funds. If the book sells well then the author rakes in the cash, and if the book doesn't move the author's out nothing but time and effort (along with any marketing budget).

So what's your point?
The point is that you can do this with more than books.

Whether you want to create key chains or bumper stickers, messenger bags, tee shirts, hoodies, coffee mugs or any of a dozen other products you can get them made with the same print-on-demand system you would a book.

Here's How

Step one is to find a website that offers this kind of setup, like Cafe Press or Zazzle. Once you've become a member and poked around at the tools the next step is to come up with a product design. For instance, say I wanted a black tee shirt with a white silhouette of a man in a beret holding a red garotte wire between his hands with the phrase Kill Your Darlings under it and spattered across the back in red letters The Literary Mercenary. All I would need to do is design that image and upload it.

Seriously though, do you guys want me to do that?
Once an image is uploaded all that's left to do is to create a product page. Once the product is saved it will appear on your store. For every product that you sell you get a cut, and if you create something popular then it's quite likely word will get out fast about that clever sticker or brutal tee shirt. Hell, enough people start wearing and carrying your swag they might even decide to buy a book or two while they're at it.

Some Tips For Running a Store

It's important to remember that even if your store is there to help support your writing and book sales that you've got to put a lot of time and work into making it float. You've got to keep putting out new designs, you've got to publicize your products, and you need to do your absolute best to give the people what they want.

In short you're now running a whole creative industry, rather than just writing books.
As if this shit isn't hard enough already.
Can it work? Sure it can! It's very possible for you to hit the right turn of phrase, the right image, or the right product to shoot you up harder than a test-your-strength weight on body builder night. As with everything else though, there's no guarantee. Your store might start netting you hundreds of sales a month, giving you a nice, cushy pad to your bank account. It could also sit vacant and empty as Jerusalem's Lot.

It all depends on you.

Other Ways to Make Money From Your Blog

In the interest of simplicity I've gone through The Literary Mercenary and collected all of my other entries about how to make money off your blog in one, easy-to-find spot. Just click right here, and you'll get access to the whole list.

That said, do you guys want to see me open a store for The Literary Mercenary and Improved Initiative? Because I will, if you do.

Once again, thanks for stopping by! If you want to get all of my updates just plug your email into the box on the upper right, or follow me on Facebook and Tumblr. If you'd like to keep the Literary Mercenary going then tell your family, tell your friends, drop a tip in the "Shakespeare Gotta Get Paid, Son" box on the top right, or check out my Patreon page and become a patron today!


  1. Awesome tips, Neal! I really enjoyed reading through your walkthrough. It seems to me that you are indeed a man of swag! I am excited to hear more from you. All the best!

    Tom Hall @ WCS Solutions