The Cranky Agnes Logo and Other Ways To Exploit You

Mara Lubell does it again:

Cranky Agnes 2 Color Logo

Isn’t she the greatest? Both Agnes and Mara.

So the idea was to use this on the website and also on aprons as gifts within the industry, and then Mollie said, “Put it on merchandise and sell it,” and I thought, Ouch, exploiting fans. Except people are asking if there’s a Cranky Agnes apron as soon as they read the scene where she puts it on (beta readers, the book won’t be out until August) so is that still exploiting?

And I’d been thinking about other things, too, just for fun. Like a bumper sticker that says “Tucker for Mayor, More of the Same,” which given the way many readers feel about Phin and the dock scene, has that nice double meaning to it. And an advertising calendar from the Goodnight Gallery with one of Tilda’s paintings on it. Things that might have been in the books, fun things.

I don’t know why that seems less exploitive than a T-shirt with a bookcover on it. I’d still be charging for the stuff over on CafePress and making money, albeit not raking in the big bucks. Maybe because it wouldn’t be such blatant advertising? We’re going to do a T-shirt over there for the HWSW workshop definitely (“Nothing but good times ahead” on the front and “We’re doomed” on the back which pretty much describes the mental state of writers), but that’s another “real” thing, you get T-shirts when you go to writers’ conferences.

I can see Zelda’s business logo on the T-shirts her employees wear to work in, especially if we come up with a business name that’s really fun (I know Mara will come up with a logo that’s fun). Part of me loves the idea of making things from the book real, and part of me is still saying, “Ouch, exploiting fans.”

I think I like the idea of this stuff so much because it extends the world of the book into the real world. You get the Goodnight Gallery Calendar because you’ve been to the Goodnight Gallery. You wear the Cranky Agnes Mob Food apron because you’re a Cranky Agnes fan, not because I’m selling Agnes and the Hitman. I know, it’s a fine distinction, but I think that’s why it feels like play to me instead of promotion, even though it’s blatantly promotion.

So we’re cogitating on this and we’re probably going to do it. But I do want to know what you think of it all. Does the fact that the things we’re thinking about selling all come from inside the book instead of outside it (bookcovers, etc) make it different? Can you think of anything else that would be fun? Because if we’re going to do this, I want to do things that will make people smile when they see them, bring back the stories for them. It can’t be a T-shirt that says, “Buy everything Jenny Crusie ever wrote RIGHT NOW.”

Although that would be a damn fine T-shirt.