NYC Comic Con 2011 (2nd Entry).
Advice for small/independent publishers. FOR FREE!!
An actual conversation that took place at this year’s comic con (From now on referred to as NYCC), and it was a replay of a conversation that I have often with publishers and editors who I meet on social basis from time to time.
Let me clarify that this conversation doesn’t happen that often, it is not like I am having dinners with comic publishing industry every other Thursday, or any such thing.
But it does occur, and more often than not with independent / small publishers.
There is this small publisher who has been asking for my advice regarding Internet Advertisement, and Search Engine Optimazition, and I’ve been giving them pointer just for the love of the craft. But sometimes the writer, othertimes one of the Executives start getting very adversarial, just because they don’t agree with my recommendations. I met with them at the convention floor, and we went over this again, which prompts this blog entry.
I constantly engage in a dialogue/verbal battle about a few things small publishers should never do, but lots of them still do. Let’s summarize them here in 3 points:
1. Bait and Switch Covers.
I mentioned how the guys at Zenoscope and many others engage in this type of activity a lot, mainly with cheesecake cover. And one thing is to have one style on the coves, while having a different style in the interior, which is not too bad. Zenoscope gets away with it, cause the interior art is not that inferior to the covers and they usually have decent writers, penning those stories.
Another thing altogether is to hire fabulous illustrators and cover artist, and then have the interior graphic storytelling put in the hand of amateurs who are still learning the ropes.
It is only ok to do if:
a) You are fly-by-night publisher and don’t care.
b) You are OK tricking a few teens into buying the first issue, but knowing that likely they won’t come back for the second, so you just lost a large segment of sales, and engaged in a practice of diminishing returns.
2. Treating your story like its never-ending manga. (and this is not a derogatory statement about manga)when you are publishing floppies
So, you are going to publish a book. But you are going to start small, right? with floppies and 16 pages?
Nothing wrong with that! It is awesome!! Diamond may even pick you up!
But you are writing the great American Graphic Novel (or so you think yourself), and you are taking your time exposing characters and detailing the timelines to the smallest minutia? And you expect to retain my interest? How if nothing happens in the first 16 pages, and I just paid you 2, 3, or $5 for your floppie? Don’t you know that you are publishing a POP (as in Popular) medium? As such, we need to be dragged in, as an audience searching for entertainment!
If you are going to publish floppies, and floppies are the first exposure your audience will get to your style, characters and story, your FLOPPY SHOULD KICK ASS from page 1 to 16. Cause you only have so many pages to engage me. You only have so many pages to make me want to come back.
And no, I won’t come back, because all your friends think you are awesome.
I won’t come back and buy issue 2 because you were smoking week in your friend’s basement, and though it would be so cool to have a superhero werewolf, and you forgot to weave a story around it.
No, I won’t come back just because you have an interesting plot twist that will show up I issue 9, and I have to wait for it….
3. Where is your advertisement?
I mean, fine, your comic is decent, your art is acceptable, your story shows promise… but who knows about it? Your immediate family and your religious congregation? Jeez! C’mon! We are in the 21st century!
Internet CAN go viral, if you invest in making it go viral. And by investment I don’t mean just money. That could work too. But if you don’t have money (and who does these days) , you have to make it take off. There are search engine optimization techniques that will put your product in the right context; there are marketing guerrilla-techniques you can adopt to gain exposure for your product; you have to have a presence active in forums and boards and other social media outlets… by the way, how good does your company’s Facebook page look? Have you covered Yelp, and Myspace, and the rest of the gamut? Are you using WordPress or Google Blogger to increase your presence?
I assure you, these three points are the cornerstone of every conversation I have with small-minded small independent publishers. I mean one thing is to have the drive and the faith in your project to get you through thick and thin, through all those lean times when despair sets in and you think you are not going to make it, but another thing is letting the experience of creating something get to you. After all, the majority of the published comics in the US are published as a social experience, not as a lonesome art project by a solitary artist (KEY WORD HERE IS “MAJORITY”)