I previously posted about writers selling out, but this article in the Guardian, about the bizarre accoutrements available courtesy of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter empire, brought a wry smile to my face.
No doubt, many people buy this tat as collectable objects, a good investment likely to go up in value. Who knows? Perhaps a plastic Hagrid bauble will be deemed to be worth a small fortune on the Antiques Roadshow 2119. Early editions of the books go for impressive prices—a first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone sold for £60,000 at auction in 2017.
An avid collector of memorabilia entered the record books.
The first time I became aware of merchandising as a source of revenue, was back in the late 1990s when it was widely publicised that the Rolling Stones made more money from T-shirt sales than they did selling tickets to their concerts. It was an exaggeration, but as this article shows $135.9 million in merchandising sales isn’t to be sniffed at.
Just think of the collectability of Star Wars‘ toys and figures. This sort of marketing and money making is easiest in the Fantasy and Science Fiction genres. I recall a terrible failed attempt to hype a damp squib of a 1990 film called Dick Tracy.
Based on a 1930s comic strip, and starring Warren Beatty, Al Pacino and Madonna, much money was thrown at marketing the film through merchandise, novelisations and theme park rides by backers Disney. My local department store’s clothing department had a separate display area featuring yellow trench coats and fedora hats like Dick Tracy wore. They sat there unbought for a month, before being withdrawn.
In my chosen writing genre of Crime, it’s hard to think of merchandising opportunities, apart from the eternal Sherlock Holmes’ tweed suit, deerstalker hat, Ulster overcoat and travelling cloak. Not to forget his violin and magnifying glass, though we’ll draw a veil over his cocaine-injecting hypodermic syringe.
There’s a 221b museum in Baker Street, at Holmes’ supposed address, and sometimes other books engender a tourist trail. I’m well-placed in Cornwall, to take advantage of this, for Winston Graham’s Poldark stories have twice been adapted into television series, and Daphne du Maurier’s Cornish novels are regularly filmed. Visiting the Daphne du Maurier museum/shop at Jamaica Inn is a sobering experience showing how an author’s work can go on earning a fortune for decades after their death. I lived a mile away from this hostelry for about six months, bewildered by how hypnotised the holidaymakers were who spilt off fifty coaches a day. The shop brought in more money than the bar did selling beer.
Should my Cornish Detective novels ever sell as books, getting optioned for a television series, it could be that local traders, pubs and hotels will make money off my creations. I deliberately chose locations ideal for filming with this in mind. Apart from the books themselves, I can’t think of any merchandising potential.
How about your books?
Have you thought of additional ways to sell them, using clothing, music, figurines and games?