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Do Covers and Titles Matter in Self-Publishing?

This subject came up when someone said the cover for PEACE PARTY #1 wasn't exciting enough. I asked my local comic book dealer about that. He claimed that in the high-end market—which is what I'm aiming for—buyers don't pay attention to the cover or title. They're looking for quality, so things like reviews and word of mouth matter most.

Even with a different title, my covers would be the same. And even with different covers, my content would be the same. The title may lose a few random sales to kids, but that's a drop in the bucket compared to the overall market. The natural buyers are older teens and adults, and they seek substance, not glitz.

The title is nothing compared to what I'd say are the key factors in my sales (or lack thereof). One is the basic concept. When I say "a multicultural comic" or "two Indian guys...," a Native American may appreciate it, but many people's eyes will glaze over. They'll be neutral at best or put off at worst, thinking PP is a politically correct comic that's supposed to be "good for you."

Two is the complete lack of reputation of myself and the artists involved. We have no marketability in the industry. How often does someone want to try an unknown product by an unknown creative team? Not very often.

Three and up are the pitfalls inherent in the self-publishing business. No color. No marketing support. No established company. Competition from everywhere. An industry slump. Etc.

So I'd say the title is immaterial in the grand scheme of things. Whether it's good or bad, it makes little or no difference. It's possible some title could make a difference—SEX AND VIOLENCE? KOLUMBINE KID KILLERS? THE UNCANNY X-SKINS?—but I doubt it.

Of course, I knew this going in, but that doesn't make it palatable. The solution is to create a buzz about PEACE PARTY, especially outside the comic book market. With my micro-marketing efforts, I'm doing my part, and so are many others.

I read somewhere that 39% of the two million Native Americans are under 20 years old. That's 780,000 people. If only 1% of them—no, only 0.5% of them—bought a copy, and no one else did, that would be more than enough to break even.

So the goal is eminently achievable. Whether we achieve it or not is another matter. <rueful g>

Readers respond
"Even [a] mature audience is attracted to nice packaging."

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Original text and pictures © copyright 2007 by Robert Schmidt.

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