Tamora Pierce Merchandising FAQ
Have burning questions about how we merchandise for Tamora Pierce? Want to know when certain things launch? There are so many passionate fans within Tammy's fandom that we want to answer all of your questions but a lot of them come up pretty often, so we've gathered them here! Don't see your question? Please feel free to drop a comment and we'll add it!
- One of your items is marked as sold out! I missed the pre-sale but I really want it! How can I get it?
Short answer: If an item is sold out, please check the listing specifically to see its status. Often, our items are limited edition or limited run and only a certain number are produced per the contract with the artist. Limited edition items are not reprinted in the year they are produced, and we try to push new items out first.
Long answer: We do merchandise a little differently. Rather than ordering large stock and having to potentially sit on it (incurring fees for storage, and relying on us to put it on sale to sell off) we either agree to a quantity with an artist and purchase that amount, OR operate on pre-orders based on demand.
Once a pre-order concludes we order around 15-45% more on top of that stock. Preorders are fulfilled first, and then the remainder goes up, less 15% left over for lost packages, wrong sizing, or other issues.
At the end of the year, this 15% stock (called "safety stock") goes up during the holidays so we can make room for new merchandise.
Each artist contract has specific terms we adhere to - most of the time we try to set a specific number of items produced under that contract. The artist is made aware of how many units we intend to sell and what our potential profit would be in comparison to theirs. This allows us to work with new artists, but also protects those we work for. Most large storefronts pay a laughably small amount for artwork that is then produced on several thousand units; we don't do that!
We know this can be frustrating for fans who miss out on pre-orders, however, being able to scale and grow slowly means we will be able to keep putting out merchandise for you in larger quantities!
2. What size is the team making merchandise?
Dual Wield Studio is Rowan and Adrienne as the owners, with a variety of freelancers who we use for various tasks. We've hired Josh Boykin of Intelligame to help manage projects, along with Nik Ritzinger to assist with data entry, sourcing, and other tasks, and Kate Andersen who helps make excel less of a monster. You can see a lot of the creators we work with on our CREATORS page.
3. How much have you worked with Tammy, personally?
We've met in person a few times and she has final input on all products, but she's super busy writing the books we all love! A lot of the approvals process goes through Cole and Julie, who both work with/for Tammy!
4. Why haven't you done merchandise for [character/book] yet?
There could be a variety of reasons why we haven't produced merchandise for your favorite character or book, but generally the reasons fall into these areas:
- We make the best merchandise when we're canon familiar. That means we take direct inspiration from the books and create items we want to see. This means we have to read the books! Tammy, as you know, has written a TON of books. They take a long time to go through.
- The character or item might have real-life ties that we want to avoid merchandising. (See: items featuring Beka Cooper's nightstick.) Our merchandise should be accessible to as many people as possible, and absolutely should not make anyone feel uncomfortable, so we strive to make sure we're creating items that everyone loves and anyone who buys feels safe in doing so!
- The character or theme or item is incredibly niche, generic, or would not sell enough units to justify the expense.
- We are working on it, it's just the merchandise creation process can take upwards of a year!
5. Why is there no Emelan merchandise?
Short answer: We're a small team and can only manage so many artists/projects at any given time.
Long answer: I (Rowan) grew up reading all of Tammy's books as a kid, but Tortall was the IP that I resonated most with and saw myself in the most. While I love Emelan's stories and characters, Tortall was the one that really got me. When we took on the license for Tamora Pierce's works, I aimed specifically for Tortall because I remembered these the most vividly and knew I could make merchandise for them. Tortall is also a very large universe, full of tons of books and options for merchandise. The idea of going into another huge universe when we haven't fully explored all of what there is to make for Tortall seemed like a lot to deal with when we were also just starting our business and getting our feet under us. The goal was to do it at the start of 2020, and then, uh, a pandemic happened!
6. Why are you doing staggered launches of maps (or other items)? Why not do a pre-order?
With the pandemic, there is a ton going on behind the scenes that you guys don't see. Pre-order items generate a ton of customer service work and inquiries, both from folks who have questions about orders they've made as well as inquiries about shipping dates, shipping methods, etc. We try not to run a ton of pre-orders at once, because each pre-order means a slew of customer service inquiries that all boil down to "please just wait, it hasn't been the full pre-order period yet."
To try and mitigate that, we try to do 1 batch of items that is sent out, and then open a new order up to a certain amount, and then see that fulfilled. However, we have other items we're aiming to launch on the storefront so it can be tricky to balance everything that everyone wants!
With the number of people who want maps (or any other high-demand item) if we did a preorder, even with a very fast turn-around time there would still be a sharp spike in customer service inquiries, and issues to solve. We're trying to schedule this during a time where it's not too overwhelming to deal with. We're trying to balance the needs of those who work with us, as well as your needs. Thank you for your patience!
7. I have a great idea for merchandise! You should make it! How do I tell you about it?
So, this one is tricky. At any given point we have 10+ items happening in the TP world, usually much more. Often times, items that people suggest to us are items we already have in the process. It may be frustrating for you to know that you, personally, could set this process up much faster than we seem to be doing, but licensing is a little different than setting something up on your own!
Currently, we're working on a method to allow for folks to submit ideas and be credited when they're ideas we didn't have pending - but this also takes time, energy, and money! We'll make sure we let you know when we have that program ironed out.
In the meantime, if you're an artist who does merchandise and wants to work with the Tamora Pierce brand to get your items licensed, check here. If you have an idea but no method to execute it, we're going to ask you hang onto that until we have a system in place!
8. I want to work with you, but when I applied, you denied me. What gives?
Realistically, we cannot work with everyone who reaches out to us. Behind the scenes there are a lot of factors that impact what items get made, who we work with, how items are chosen. If you reach out to make something and we send you a response that thanks you, but lets you know we are not able to work together, please don't worry! We get an enormous number of inquiries on product ideas, submissions, suggestions, etc, and it just not possible to work with everyone. Additionally, as we grow, it becomes impossible for Rowan to customize an answer every single email that reaches out to us. In order to make sure everyone gets a response, we're not always able to offer a tailored reason why an item, idea, or something else is denied. Sometimes the answer just isn't something we can talk about (eg: you wanted to pitch an Alanna pinset, but we're launching an Alanna pinset a week from now!)
We'll let you know as soon as we have it, but often times this is based on a variety of factors, the number one being: things happen! Sometimes shirts get lost on the way to the fulfillment center! Sometimes a brand of shirts is just out entirely and the order is delayed. Sometimes maps get soaked in the rain and have to be reordered. Sometimes the poster tubes to send maps are too large/small and there is no store that has them! COVID makes everything so much more difficult, so we try to announce same-day or same-week where possible but ask for your understanding in that it may not be possible with every item.
10. Can we work with/for you?
Dual Wield Studio isn't hiring right now, but may be in the future. We want to stay small and scale gradually, especially with how uncertain things are in the world. If we did hire FT staff, we would want them to have full benefits, vacation time, and other benefits that any company employing people should have. We're not at a point where we are able to offer those things, so we do not have any FT employees. However, if you are an independent contractor (outside of art) who is experienced in the following we would love to talk. Please note, you must be an established independent contractor, or an official business and have all necessary paperwork set up. Is this you? Shoot an email and resume off to email@example.com.
- Social media management
- Marketing (SEO, or just marketing in general)
- Accounting and bookkeeping
11. Shipping is expensive! Can you make it cheaper?
Unfortunately, we don't control shipping rates; it's all determined by back end wizardry from different providers. Please check our AUS storefront run by Hawberries for the maps! We are still working on getting a UK storefront for fans; if you're a UK based artist or creator with the ability to fulfill items and you have all relevant paperwork in place, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org and we can chat!