There are a lot of times when creators try to put the cart before the horse. They’re thinking about licensing and merchandising before they think about finishing the book they’re “working” on. They’re thinking about movies or television shows or quite possibly video games instead of thinking about making a good product that will support the things they want to create.
Merchandising takes a good book in order to support it. (Sure, you can try going the opposite route, but this is comics, and there aren’t a lot of comics that started out as t-shirts or posters first.) There are few characters that are just everywhere anymore. Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man are the mainstays. Wolverine has grown into his own. The real newcomer is Deadpool, and when his movie comes out, you’re going to see more Deadpool merchandise coming down the pike. I doubt it will be anything like 1989’s Batman, but it will be a noticeable bump.
What can creators do in this merchandising climate? Create a good book. And by “good,” I mean just that: a quality book made of a solid character, good writing, great art, and positioned to make the biggest splash in the direct market that it can. Then you maintain that book for at least a year, publishing as often as you can. (12 issues if possible, but no less than quarterly.) You need the publishing history in order to have a point of reference for the character, especially if you haven’t gone far and wide with it.
Once you have this in place, once your character is in the minds of the public, then you can start thinking about creating and selling merchandise for your character.
A word about Kickstarter.
If you’ve created a campaign for a book you want to create, merchandise might be something you want to consider. Merchandise might also be something to think about if you’ve already created a book and now want to do some unusual type of merch for that book. C is For Cthulhu by Ciaramella and Murphy was a very good children’s ABC book that went through a successful Kickstarter , and then the creators decided to make a plush doll out of Cthulhu. That campaign was also successful.
You can make merchandise off your creations, but again, the characters should be solid, and the merchandise should be novel or unusual if you want to see it have some sort of success.
But it all starts with the book. Without that, your merchandise won’t go very far.