Baby bibs to dog clothes to … publishing's salvation?

Margaret Atwood offers a blunt assessment of author merchandise.

As traditional publishing revenue is diluted by digital content sales, new revenue models are being bandied about. One example: merchandising. Authors and publishers can use online tools like Zazzle and CafePress to quickly create promotional merchandise to accompany book releases. These items (theoretically) could help authors own their brands, connect with fans, and bring in much-needed money.

Click to see full Dead Author slide

One author, Margaret Atwood, has already employed the merchandising model — not in connection to a book release, but in connection to a keynote speech she gave at TOC 2011. Her vivid imagery involved the “Dead Author” (pictured above) and the danger of solar flares.

So what does Atwood think of this merchandise model? Is it a boon to authors? Does it hint at a bright future for publishing?

Don’t get your hopes up.

“No, I don’t think it’s a good model!” she said via email.

Atwood said she created her T-shirts, mugs, clocks (?), baby bibs (??), and dog shirts (!!) to satisfy fans:

Twitterers and other readers requested them! It’s in answer to my comment at TOC that authors can’t live from rock concerts and T-shirts … They said, “Please do the T-shirts.” They even told me how.

Atwood may be right — merchandising probably won’t save publishing. Still, she shouldn’t underestimate demand for a limited edition Atwood bobblehead housed in a solar-flare-resistant case.

(And in case you’re wondering, my T-shirt has shipped.)


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