Make Money from Collectibles as an Author
The worldwide collectibles industry grossed over $370 billion in 2020 and is set to surpass $500 billion by 2028. It’s hot due to a variety of factors. A major one is its investment potential during tumultuous economic circumstances. No strangers to this concept, the wealthy have invested in collectibles for generations, from classic cars and handbags to fine art and stamps. But in recent decades, cultural changes and the internet have led to average people getting more involved, too.
Fandoms have had a major impact. Whether they’re fuelled by a nostalgia for simpler times or the desire to belong to a tribe is unclear. What’s more apparent is that they’ve contributed to the collectibles market more since the internet has brought together these communities, with fans of movies, music and books willing to pay out considerable sums of money to snag a piece of exclusive fan paraphernalia. Harry Potter, Marvel, Star Wars and The Simpsons are all major examples, accounting for millions of fans and billions in global revenue.
As authors, we are well placed to tap into the collectibles market, particularly those of us who have engaged readers who love our characters and worlds. Providing you’ve retained the necessary intellectual property rights, using your IP, you could commission or create collectible items and sell them yourself. And you don’t need to book a slot at a high-end auction house like Sotheby’s, either. As with all indie endeavours, there are DIY options – namely selling at a fixed price on Amazon or in an auction on Ebay. But is it worth it, and what kind of collectibles could you explore to make some extra cash? Today’s blog post contains a few ideas for you to explore.
Special Edition Books
Commissioning a print run of special edition books is the first stop for many authors, and with good reason. According to TechCrunch, books are among the world’s top five collectible markets in terms of value. As your fans are readers, special editions are also likely the one sort of collectible object that will appeal to them. Committing to a print run, you can charge far higher prices for a special edition than you can for a regular print-on-demand book due to their extra perceived value. You could, for example, produce beautiful hardbacks with foiled covers, full-colour internal illustrations and personalised author inscriptions. Set a fixed limit on the number of copies you’re going to print and the scarcity will increase the amount you can charge even further.
If you want to try this tactic, there are several ways to do it. Clays is a popular option. As one of the biggest book-printing companies in the world, the organisation is fully equipped to execute private print runs. Alternatively, you could use a smaller private printer in your local area. Often, both can fulfil online orders and send you bulk orders directly to sign and ship yourself. Remember, though, if you’re used to print-on-demand, that a print run does come with an upfront cost. Hence, you should always gauge whether there will be a demand for a special edition book among your core readers before you pull the trigger on a print run, or – better yet – raise funds in advance using a crowdfunding platform like GoFundMe or Kickstarter.
Comic books are another good option, primarily because they’re easy to produce, relative to other collectible options, and they have a huge cross-over audience with readers of certain book genres. Creating a comic book is a lot of work for a graphic artist but, as you’ll already have the plot nailed down in book form, the workload should be relatively small on your end. And finding an artist able to do the work is easy thanks to service providers like 99Designs, Fiverr and Reedsy. The only big consideration is cost. Tackle that with a crowdfunding campaign, however, and it shouldn’t be a problem.
An added benefit of pursuing the comic book option is that you don’t necessarily have to limit your print run to make them considered collectors’ items in the same way you do with special edition books. Indeed, comic book collectors are typically passionate completionists and so happily buy comics even if they aren’t limited edition, simply because they like the story. Rarity can help you sell at a higher price point, but this is one audience where the supply doesn’t have to be limited to create demand. Either way, if you want the best of both worlds, you could also auction off the original artwork used to create your comics either in physical form or as digital art.
Remember the Pokémon card frenzy of the pandemic? Average Joes, YouTubers and investors alike all bought into the mania, collecting pieces of every 90’s kid’s childhood when the world looked bleak and everybody wanted to return to a more innocent time. However, collecting playing cards wasn’t just a short-term gig. Before Covid-19, Pokémon cards were already huge among collectors that spanned from little kids to seniors. And Pokémon wasn’t the only game in play. Digimon, Magic the Gathering, Top Trumps and all sorts of table-top card games had widespread appeal for decades.
Knowing this fact, it makes sense to consider trading cards another strong bet if you want to get into the collectibles market. Admittedly, the results of this option will be heavily skewed in your favour if you write in a brand of speculative fiction, as fans of genres like sci-fi, fantasy and horror tend to enjoy trading card games more than other genres. That said, it is possible to make trading cards work with other genres like thriller and romance. You just need to find an angle that will appeal to your audience. If you write spiritual romances set in carnivals, for instance, you could produce a deck of tarot cards. Or, as a psychological thriller author, how about an original whodunnit card game? Tailoring your trading cards to your IP and fanbase is key.
Look 15 years into the past and you’ll see that most everyday music listeners considered vinyl records redundant technology. This past decade, however, their popularity has re-exploded. Only instead of being a mainstream vehicle for listening to music, they’re now considered artisan objects, associated with class and wealth. Some listeners buy them because they love the richness of their analogue sounds when compared to “lossy” digital audio. Others get them because they remind them of a different time. And many more get them to listen to their favourite artists without the distraction of a digital screen.
What matters most isn’t the reason why they’re popular; it’s that they can make for interesting collectible products perfect for authors who produce audiobooks. Plenty of companies offer bespoke print-on-demand and batch vinyl production options for individual creators. All they require to get started is an MP3 file. Admittedly, each vinyl holds as little as 20 minutes of content (about 3,300 words), so you won’t be able to produce a whole audiobook this way, but it is possible to use them to immortalise, say, a short story containing your most iconic characters. Make that content exclusive to the vinyl and it could entice a portion of your fans.
It’s too early to tell how big a role digital products will hold on the world’s stage in a decade, but current data trends suggest that Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) – unique, uncopiable digital products – are going to be central to the future of collecting. Market Decipher reports strong growth across the industry, with leading NFT marketplaces like OpenSea growing their revenue by at much as 800% in 2021. Combine that with the rise of e-sports, and a-list musicians like Drake and Ariana Grande delivering live gigs on Fortnite, and you’ll see impressive potential. Lots of readers are spending more time in virtual reality and, as such, now want to own objects in NFT form, just as they own physical ones in the real world.
We can capitalise on this mentality shift, creating NFTs in all kinds of forms – from avatar skins readers can wear in the metaverse to digital concept art created by our cover designers. In February 2021, the high-end auction house Christie’s exposed the vast amounts of money private collectors are willing to spend on such items when they auctioned off Everydays – The First 5000 Days, a work of digital art by artist Beeple, which sold for $69 million. Right now, making your own NFTs isn’t easy or cheap. As the manufacturing costs reduce, though, this will become a more viable option for authors.
In theory, any author can make money selling collectible items. But remember, catering to the collectors’ market will probably only be a viable option for you if there is already a demand for your books. Hence, if you aren’t selling many yet, it’s probably best to focus on writing more and conducting conventional marketing strategies to build your readership first. After you’ve done that, however, creating collectibles is a great way to make extra money and enrich your connection with your reader community.
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