Marketing comics by Ken Marcus

superhumanresourcesOver at Robot 6, writer Ken Marcus (SUPER HUMAN RESOURCES) has a long list of marketing tips that, in the Post-Benchmark era, will need to be heeded more than ever, as he faces harsh facts:

People do not care about you. Not readers, not retailers, not the press and maybe not even your publisher. No one gives two turds about your book except for you. (The publisher thing isn’t really true, but regardless, this NEEDS to be your working mindset.) So making other people give two turds about your idea rests solely on your shoulders. That’s another way to say “marketing.”

If you build it, they will ignore it. Look, there are too many baseball diamonds in too many fields in that Previews catalog. And most of them look better than yours. Too many people think they can send their files off to the printer and book their table in San Diego. Nope. You’ve created your book. Now comes the hard part.

You’re getting great press when your comic comes out. AKA, you’re ‘effed. This is the No. 1 thing I don’t get. Creators doing all their interviews and previews the month their comic is out. Indy comics are all about pre-ordering. Getting people to ask their LCS for your comic the month it’s in Previews. This is the already-on-life-support lifeblood of indy comics. You have a few weeks before your issue #1 hits Previews and through the rest of that month. That is your sweet spot for pushing all your press and PR.


There much more, equally common sense advice, but the last bit we quoted is both accurate and frustrating. The disconnect between marketing to the comics shop retailers who are the customers for Diamond and most comics publishers, and marketing to the people who are the customers of the comics shops is still a wide one. In a world of tiny margins, it’s a hard one to negotiate.

Or as someone very smart about comics we were talking to the other day told us, in complaining about the ideas of some publishers, “They think an interview in Newsarama is all they need.”

Comments

  1. Ken is a good guy. He posts often on Rantz’s Panel&Pixel forum.
    He’s one of those with their head screwed on straight. His book is good, the concept solid and his marketing dead on.

  2. Thanks for the post, Heidi. And the kind words, Jimmie.

    SHR is on The Beat!!! Made my day.
    ken

  3. Tom Spurgeon says:

    The one caveat that I suggest to people about adopting the mindset that no one cares about your book but you is that it can — not always, but can — diminish the role that great marketing and PR people can have if you’re making a decision where to publish. If you think it’s up to you, you might not value those great situations where it isn’t, or you might cut too much slack to shady publishing outfits that offer little more than a chance to enjoy some money off of your stuff.

  4. I’ve never read words that resonate with such clarity as the way Ken phrases them quite so eloquently in Point A. Bravo.

    ~

    Coat

  5. Wow. Ken’s marketing comments should be The Gospel to any and all new creators and publishers. There’s a tremendous amount of quality stuff out there that’s often lost in the ocean of comics! Then there’s the hurdle of separating a comics fan from his/her money usually spent on time-tested favorite titles.

    Y’know, Ken, I was one of those guys who didn’t care about your book, but now I will seek it out.

  6. As I’ve proclaimed elsewhere, SHR is one of the funniest books I’ve read in a long time. I’ve been recommending it to anyone who’ll listen.

  7. michael says:

    His new book looks great and I hope to get it when it comes out, but in regards to his comments on how to get indy books sold, I have some problems.

    1. I dislike Diamond for most eveyrthing they’ve done to destroy the comic book market.

    2. though it may help creators to pre-order, that’s not how I do it.

    Around the days before the internet as we know it today and everyone had a computer, ’94 or so, I recall many of the small time publishers used to distribute their books through mail order, if a shop did not have it. You would simply call some phone number they provided and usually they had some sort of ‘staff’ who could get some books to you. This may have been the best way, b/c the money goes straight to the creators, rather than through a distribution process.

    Possibly, this may be the best in the future so that the greedy, messed up Dianmond isn’t seen as the only hope for an indy book to survive.

  8. Here’s where I agree with what Ken said, AND point out he was smart enough to post a link to a preview of the first issue of Superhuman Resources at Panel and Pixel.
    Which meant I read it.
    And I loved it. It’s very smart and funny.
    Which means I am saying right now to go enjoy it and buy it.

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say publishers don’t care about the book, but it’s true that responsibility for PR falls first (and many times ONLY) on the shoulders of a creator.
    Nothing outs an newbie or the naive faster than whinging that their publisher isn’t promoting the book, then refusing to do it themselves because “it’s the publisher’s job.”

    Of the publishers I’ve been with on creator-owned books, NBM was the one on the ball. The rest, I had to work my ass off.

  9. Thanks for the kind words everyone. Yeah, Lea articulated my point better than I did.

    I meant to say that it falls on you ultimately to promote your book. If your publisher and/or marketing folks help (and the Ape guys did help a lot) that great. But it’s gravy. It is still your fundamental responsibility. That should be your working M.O. A lot of folks don’t get that.

    Oh, I would be doing my job as a marketer if I didn’t post a preview of SHR. Here you go:

    http://www.apeprinting.com/apereader/SHR_01_READER/index.html

    Tell your retailer you want to see more.
    ken

  10. Besides being a good guy, Ken is also speaking the truth.

    Running a comic news site (Indy Comic News), I deal with some new and established publishers who just send me their PRs- and that is it! This in light of the site having a bunch of ways to promote themselves, and myself informing creators and publishers they can contact me in regards to marketing their titles and themselves through the site.

    Granted, Indy Comic News isn’t a Comic Book Resources or Newsrama BUT in today’s market, creators and publishers need to utilize every marketing opportunity that you can- especially when it is free.

    I think both creators and publishers are going to have to realize very soon that the way people interact with and view marketing is changing at a rapid pace. They either need to put in the time and effort to stay in the game or they will find themselves on the sidelines wondering what the f*#k happened.

    Wesley

  11. The Beat says:

    Diamond “destroying the comic market”?

    Everyone is fair game for honest criticism, but seriously…that’s ludicrous.

  12. michael says:

    Sry, Heidi, I stand by that. There has simply not been enough research/study on the effects that the monopoly giant that Diamond has on the comic book market (like raising the prices or undercutting what Marvel was trying to do with it’s own distribution). But I think what practices they do make, has slowly been setting the market up for tremendous failure, much like the current economic market of today.

    As others have said, I think comic books are as strong as ever today, but the comic book industry, as a whole, has been suffering, a lot. I think it’s easy to look past Diamond in what they do, because they are involved in promoting/creating so much of the comic book world. But that is only one part of it all. Ultimately, I think what one has to look at is a very complex equation of economics and future gain, which is not easily identifyable.

    I hope I’m wrong, but through the years the trend has been more negative than positive effects from Diamond and their practices.

  13. Ken’s main point, that you have to market your own stuff is spot on. Challenge here is that most creators are not marketing people. 95% of publishing your work is getting people to buy your book.
    Having said that, too many depend on Diamond for everything. Diamond is a DISTRIBUTOR. Diamond moves a book from one point to another.

    YOU market your book. You have to invest just as much energy in marketing your book as you did in creating it. If you dont have a background in marketing, you had better get to work. And stop following the traditional comic book marketing model. Look at other retail segments to figure out new ways to promote what you do.

    And for god’s sake figure out who your audience is. If you dont know who the book is for, you wont know where to target your marketing efforts.

    Also, stop trying to compete with DC and Marvel because they arent the competition. EVERYTHING else is. THe Combo Meal at McDonalds, that stupid robo cleaner, and Shoes….you are now competing with everything else.

    And(there are probably more of these) Stop thinking about creating a collectible item. You all seem to have that buried in your subconcious everytime you go to print. Create and market a story that people will want to read.

    And, use the web. It is the most effective marketing tool you could ever have.

    As for that issue about Diamond Distribution? What most of you dont seem to register is the comic industry has been run forever, by people who are fans and not business people. It’s not entirely wrong but it is a problem as not enough of you are really business people. Those distributors who collapsed in the past, leading to the point where Diamond was the Last Man Standing, those distributors were run by fans…not good.

    If you dont think it’s fair then create a distribution system. Do your homework and create a delivery system. It’s good to have passion for what you do but dont become blinded by that. In the end it’s about moving a book from one point to the other.

    Ken is basically right. No one cares about your book-unless you promote it and talk endlessly about it and market it in as many places as you can. YOU sell your book no one else does.

  14. Ok, so I am not done with the commentary. I just reread Ken’s posting and there is a conflict in the information. He says its not your job to build demand for your book and to work on chatting up the retailers on CBIA. Authors who pimp their own books in ‘regular’ publishing move a lot of books. Build your audience and then you have something to add to your marketing tool box.

    News releases do suck but only if you dont know how to do them. Furthermore, if you dont have a relationship with the person at the newspaper, website or magazine whom you are targeting, they arent going to look at it. Email blasts from an unfamiliar name are just spam.

    Finally, broaden your freakin horizons! There are some really cool shops out there but there are also a bunch who are not run like a business. Set up your own site(keep the FLASH apps off of the front page) and sell your stuff that way. Or, you can keep doing the same ol, same ol and complain that you cant get a spot in Previews.

  15. Hi Argh. All good points. I was saying it’s not your job to to build demand for your book. It’s your job to show retailers you’re building demand for your book. That’s a critical part of building an audience.

    My point being, you have to do both. Just building demand isn’t enough. You have to let retailers know about it. That you’re out there doing it. In the pre-order game, it’s all about the perception of rising demand. Not just the pre-orders itself. If that makes sense.

    Thanks,
    ken

  16. Hey Ken, this is very true. Build the audience and show the retailers that you are ‘working the book’, it’s a process which require a lot of effort. I am glad you were emphasizing the labor involved. I do understand the pre-order game as well…perception of demand helps create demand.

    As for my other ranting, that was really directed at everyone who expects Diamond to be the one-and-only avenue for moving a book. They are not the evil empire just a business.

    It’s great to see someone taking a lead in some pragmatic thinking for publishing and marketing. Keep it up.

  17. Wow, Michael…you just sound ignorant. I’ll give you partial credit for effort. You *want* to sound like you know what you’re talking about, but it’s all coming out like you got a “word of the day” calendar. So, Diamond’s destroying the industry because of, how did you put it…right, “a very complex equation of economics and future gain, which is not easily identifyable [sic]” Is there an original idea in that post?

    I’ve said it before, as have others on this site: it’s not Diamond’s job to *market* your book. It’s their job to distribute your book. If orders are low, it’s not Diamond’s fault; it’s your fault. It’s because retailers didn’t know who the hell you were because you didn’t properly introduce yourself to them, the ones who are placing the orders.

    To Ken, great article. You clearly have a better understanding of small press marketing than many folks out there. Good luck on the book, as it looks great.

  18. Does anyone have an effective way to promote my website and get back links Do you recommend the use of articles and articles submission

Trackbacks

  1. [...] So all you need to do is get an interview or a review and that will sell everyone on your comic? Maybe not. But that begs the question why we don’t do the obvious things like take advantage of free press? (Well, by free I mean we can accomplish it with a little elbow grease.) It could also be time to redesign (or create) your business cards, too. [...]

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