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I’m going to go over how to  build your own t-shirt shop, and how the only start up cost for you will be samples of your work. That is right. No stock, no shipping the products yourself, just the ability to get merchandise into the hands of fans, readers, or subscribers.

Order minimums are difficult to fulfill for someone who is just starting out, especially if you are unaware of popular sizes, and aren’t sure if a design will be particularly pleasing.

As a new author, I wanted to have merchandise available for readers, contests, and fundraising, but I knew that I couldn’t afford to have massive amounts of backstock with the usual order minimums of 100 shirts, especially only with one book out at the time. I also knew that my schedule didn’t allow for the filling and shipping of shirts and merchandise, when the most important part of my job is to write.

How much time should you spend on Merch?

This is up to you, but I’d create one design and have it ready for contest prizes. Your readers read books, and odds of readers buying merch on their own accord are low. I wouldn’t spend a whole lot of time here. If someone wins merch, encourage them to take pictures and post about it. Then, get back to writing!

Print Aura

Cue Print Aura!  It is an on demand printing service, which means you keep no stock, and are not responsible for shipping and returns. It might sound like a dream, and that is because it is wonderful! They even have microwave and dishwasher safe mugs, toes, and pillows!

So why did I choose them over competitors? t-shirt printing is around $10-13 per shirt, which beats the 20-30 you’d spend for a one time print from anywhere else. The catch is that you have to design your own graphics! I learned through the free program inkscape and am still learning today. A summary of what I learned can be found in my blog post DIY Graphic Design.

You can print a shirt by uploading your graphics file and also a mock up file for placement. I always think that I’m not very computer savvy, so if I can do it, you probably can too! Watch all of the print aura videos before you get started, so that you have some help, and you’ll be on your way in no time.

After you create your order you can either place manual orders, in which you select your items from a drop down and print aura tells you the total, or you can integrate it with a store front. I would not set up a store, because again, Merch isn’t going to be a top seller, and you need to focus on your books.

The best thing about print aura is that they have real and prompt customer service, which is a huge thing for me.

To me, Print On Demand is something that I need to be an author, so applying the same principle to merchandise is an effective way to raise funds or reward people during contests.

 Good luck!