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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Seven Ways To Market Your Comic Book And Yourself

So you have a comic book -- be it from a major publisher, an indie imprint, or self-published.

Any way you slice it, you are going to need to effectively market yourself.

Notice I said "market yourself" -- not market the book.

Hell, of course you have to market the book. But, in such a highly competitive arena in which you have found yourself, You as Creator will be just as important as Your Book.

Here are a few tips:

1. Think Small
Imagine, if you will, how many e-mails a typical online editor of a goodly-sized comic book website must get. A great portion of those e-mails are, "Please feature/review/promote/mention my book."

Now, what you have to ask yourself is, "how am I going to stand out in that crowded inbox?"

One strategy you might find useful is to not depend on the bigger sites/blogs but concentrate on the key smaller ones. A key smaller site/blog may not have as many hits as Newsarama, but would have good writing and a core readership.

This is not to say you shouldn't send your PR e-mails to the large sites. You should definitely cover those bases. But sometimes it is better to be a well-featured fish in a smaller pond than a drop of water in a big ocean.

2. Don't Assume Your Publisher Will Handle the PR

Even if you're with a bigger publisher, it is still up to you to promote your book. Don't assume that your company will do that for you, leaving you alone to concentrate on the finer points of Milkshake Man.

Sometimes your publisher WILL go all-out to promote your book. And sometimes, especially if you're starting out/you are not high-profile/your book is not high-profile, there will be a lack of PR. It's just a matter of how thin the publisher can spread their public relations budget/time.

Bottom line: always proceed as if your publisher is under-promoting your book, and the job is on your shoulders. That said, please mind the individual "disclosure" policies of your editors/companies.

3. You Are Selling YOU.
If you're a freelance comic book writer or artist, there is a good chance that you will need to line up another job after this one. You, as a freelancer, must "sell" yourself PR-wise all the time.

Especially for the bigger/edgier publishers, you as a creative entity are a Package. You are your talent and You. In some cases, with some people, that will be more blatant than others. And there are some publishers and editors who do not care about stuff like that. But, this is becoming more and more the trend.

So, there are certain things you should keep in mind:
  • It is important that you have another non-comics stream of income either coming in or immediately waiting in the wings (unless you are already able to comfortably able to support yourself purely on your writing/art). It's important because if you seem desperate, if that next comic is going to be the difference between you paying your phone bill or having to use smoke signals, people are going to pick up on it. That sort of neediness and desperation drives potential editors away.
  • In fact, you always want to be in a position where people come to you, and not the other way around. Approaching an editor for work puts you at a disadvantage. To the editor, you are just one more out of the countless people wanting something from them. But, if you conduct a proper PR campaign (and if you have actual TALENT), you can get the word out there and increase the odds that people come to you. Not a guarantee. I'm just describing the ideal situation.
  • Do a quick check on your overall image. You certainly don't have to be a Brad Pitt (or a John Cassaday), but you should be able to present yourself well. You should be able to be interviewed well. You should speak clearly. And you should be positive about yourself and your accomplishments.
  • If you have conducted an objective analysis of your image and find it lacking, don't kick yourself over it. Image is just a bunch of crap used to help with sales & stuff. It's not an accurate reflection of your worth or who you really are. But if you think that you are standing in the way of your own publicity, consider getting an agent or some consulting.
4. YouTube It.
I have found that that the comic book-related tags on YouTube are very popular but relatively underused. Consider shooting a small videocast about yourself or your comic and posting it. I just post some little vidcasts and I get a bunch of subscribers. If you have a hair's more talent than I do with my crappy little video application, think of what you might accomplish. And you have a comic book to promote! Images! Be creative! (again, if working with a bigger publisher, make sure you know their policies on this and don't piss them off).

5. Educate Yourself On The Internet
There is a lot of inexpensive/free options out there on the Web to promote your comics and you. Educate yourself about them. Make sure you have the basics: a website, a Facebook, a MySpace, a blog. Because you might not have these things -- but your competitors do!

6. Network Network Network

A big portion of the sweet deals in comics in general are made through one's Network. Your Network is made up of all the people you've met and worked with along the way:
  • If you want to build or increase your network base, be "cool" about it. Don't seem like an opportunist. Opportunists are talked about behind their back and called Opportunists. You avoid this by relating to the people you wish to network with as human beings and not Editor #5 or Big-Time Writer. Be natural.
  • Remember the old adage, "the people you see on the way up are the people you'll see on the way down." Say you're moving up the ladder and you decide to treat Assistant Editor Y like crap. Assistant Y could be the guy in charge of hiring your ass one day. He or she could be in charge of the whole editorial department, even the president of a company. This happens more times than you think. And now Assistant Editor Y, who you dissed eight years ago, tells everyone: "don't work with X." And you're X! Don't be X. Don't even be W.
7. Reach Outside The Comic Book World
The success of comics like Perry Bible Fellowship and Y The Last Man have largely come from outside the standard comic book community. There is a whole untapped market of potential readers out there. Don't stick all your PR eggs in all one comic book media basket. Find other on-comic niches that might cotton to your comic and reach out to them.

Extra-Credit:
Professional Lettering

If you don't have professional lettering on your book, and the lettering looks like crap, you are in a big big big disadvantage. If you are promoting your smaller-pub/self-pub book or shopping it around, make sure you have invested in quality lettering. This is make-or-break stuff. Same thing goes for quality inking.

Well, I hope this little guide to help market your comic book and yourself helped you a little bit. There's a lot more that goes into a successful marketing/PR campaign for a book, but these are some good basics.

Remember, though: you have to have good content to "market." Most of the time.