Marketing a Small-Press Comic Book
Don't spend a lot on paid advertising. I've yet to see it pay off. The only advertising I'm paying for now is a "booth" at comicon.com, and that's an inexpensive gamble. When it lapses, I don't plan to renew it.
Don't spend a lot on paid tables at conventions. Maybe it's just me, but I haven't found them to be a break-even proposition. You can argue that the exposure is good regardless, but you also can argue for spending the same time firing off materials to reviewers or potential outlets.
- Do get as much free publicity as you can.
- Do create a slogan or catch-phrase or theme for your comic and repeat it constantly. Keep it simple, silly.
- Do hype all the unique features of your comic, whatever they may be: a multicultural theme, creators from TV animation, the most gore per panel, etc.
- Do post messages to newsgroups and mailing lists about your comic and related subjects. If your messages are interesting or informative, people will pass them along. (Search www.deja.com for "PEACE PARTY" if you want to see my efforts.)
- Do print extra copies for review purposes and send them out unstintingly. Creating word of mouth or "buzz" should be your long-term goal. Good reviews won't guarantee "buzz," but they're one key building block.
- Do create a professional image with polished press releases, stationery, and other materials.
- Do establish a website and refer people to it constantly. It's infinitely easier than mailing or faxing them information.
- Do collect all the positive reviews you get and use them in your marketing materials and on your website. Don't neglect to gather comments from fans, even one-sentence comments. Plaster the positive comments everywhere you can.
- Do seek other venues for your comic besides comic book shops. I'd say almost every product has at least two potential markets. One is the traditional shops. In PEACE PARTY's case, the other option is all the museum, arts ‘n' crafts, and trading post shops that sell Indian memorabilia. In the case of a funny animal book, it might be a Disney theme shop or a Wal-Mart or even a zoo.
- Do try to auction your comics on eBay. Most of my auctions have been successful, and the bids often top the cover price. Even if your comics don't sell, you're essentially posting an ad for thousands to see for $0.25 a week. (Search eBay for "PEACE PARTY" if you want to see my writeup. I think it's pretty persuasive for an unknown comic book.)
- Do put out a quality comic that's worth all the trouble. Something fresh and innovative may not pay off, but you can bet the hundredth me-too product isn't going to pay off.
How to build traffic on your website and thus interest in your comic
- As someone once said, content is king. Do keep people coming back to your website with fresh content—for instance, my Stereotype of the Month contest. In this case, people will visit to enter the contest and to see who won each month. And I can promote the contest monthly, when someone wins, and whenever I get an interesting entry. Each occasion is an excuse to send a note to newsgroups and mailing lists.
- Do link everything on your site to everything else, as much as possible. Your goal should be to get people to stay awhile and become familiar with you. The more they browse your site, the more they'll become committed. It probably won't translate to a sale—at least not right away—but it'll make an impression. Studies show you have to expose people to your message an average of seven times before they become comfortable enough to buy.
- Do give away things with a cute little button like the one below. It's one way to "capture" people when they're just passing by and about to go to another site. People love clicking buttons and getting something free, even if it's trivial. In this case, they get a free e-mail (free to them and me) and I get a message saying they visited.
- Do build a search engine into your site. Services like Atomz.com give you this capability free.
- Do use a hit counter to gauge your daily, weekly, and monthly traffic. Sites like Hitometer.com offer this service free.
- Do consider using a tool like HumanClick (www.humanclick.com) to monitor visitors to your site. This lets you see who's visiting your site, how long they stay, and where they came from. It also lets you chat with them if they're so inclined. Again, the basic service is free.
- Do join Web-rings that match your subject matter. Yahoo probably has the biggest collection of them.
- Do take advantage of the many mailing lists that exist just to announce lists, sites, and promotional freebies. Again, Yahoo probably has the biggest collection of them.
- Do improve your rankings in search engines by submitting your site to them. Several Web-based services let you do this simply and free. I've used one called all4one.com. You input a URL and your e-mail address, click a button, and it submits the URL to several leading engines automatically. I make it a habit to submit a few of my pages each week, so it doesn't become a chore.
- Do put your name, your comic's name, and an e-mail link on every page. People may visit a page without knowing its ultimate purpose.
Retailer Steve Bates's thoughts on marketing indy comics
Writer Don McGregor's thoughts on marketing indy comics
* More opinions *
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Original text and pictures © copyright 2007 by Robert Schmidt.
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