BY JENNIFER M. CONTINO
Ever since I began writing about comic books and the people who create them over ten years ago, I'm always surprised by the amount of comic creators who don't know how to promote their books. So, with the current state of the economy, I thought now would be the ideal time to share some tips from my perspective on how independent comics creators can get the most bang for their buck!KNOW YOUR PRODUCT
If you can't clearly and coherently explain what your comic book series is about, how do you expect anyone to be able to understand your goals and ideas? When you're working on a comic and someone asks you, "Oh, what is Great Comic Book Z about?" and you stammer, get lost in a thousand thoughts and repeat yourself more than three times, without really getting to the point, that isn't going to win you any readers or get anyone to pick up your book at conventions. You should be able to succinctly summarize your book in three or four sentences. If you can compare it to something instantly recognizable, if you can come up with that Hollywood tagline like "It's Indiana Jones meets Air Buddies, but with gophers!" then that lets people relate to the product in terms he or she understands. You have to be able to answer questions. You have to be able to explain your concept in simple terms. SELL YOUR PRODUCT
If you're shy, you have to overcome that shyness and force yourself to interact with potential buyers at conventions and retailers who could help make or break your book and the comic book press. When a comic book reviewer approaches you and asks you about the book, you have to take that as a chance to help spread the word. Give him or her a review copy. If you get a positive review, or get an interview from the reporter, that could help sell dozens or, even, hundreds more copies of the book than you might have sold on your own, going from show to show. You have to be proud of your work. You have to believe in yourself or you won't be able to get anyone else on your bandwagon. Obviously if you've spent time, energy and money creating a product like this, you have to believe in what you're doing enough to share that enthusiasm with those around you. ESTABLISH A WEB PRESENCE
The World Wide Web is an awesome tool that just about anyone can use to promote anything. If you're working on a comic book series, create a website devoted to the characters and the story. On the website have clear contact information for yourself and other creators involved. Give some details of the main characters, the plot and other elements involved in the story creation. Put up some sample art from the comic books or, better yet, run the first few chapters online to help build your audience so, when you print the books, you've already got a fanbase established. Also having a presence on the web through webcomics or previews, gives you a chance to get some feedback and see what elements of the story are working and what might need tweaked here and there.
Along with having an official website you should make sure you have a presence on several social networks including Myspace, ComicSpace, LinkedIn, LiveJournal, FaceBook
, to name a few. It's free to join all of those sites and you can post frequent updates about your work, details about convention and other appearances and other information. It keeps you relevant and present in reader's minds. It helps build a community around your work. It also humanizes you to the potential readers and lets them realize your hopes and dreams. SEND OUT PRESS RELEASES
Just about every comic book newssite has contact information on it for its writers and publishers. When you're working on a book and have a new issue in print, you should send out a press release that has clear information about the book, the creators involved, the publisher, the official website, ordering information and teasers about the story. Having your press release run on comics sites lets others know about your product and might gain you more orders from the books. Also before flooding inboxes with large art files, you should ask or put "art available upon request" at the end of the press release. ADVERTISE
OK not everyone has a thousand dollar budget for each issue, but there are ways to get the word out there about your book for minimal costs. A lot of comics sites have small press advertising deals. There are other sites that offer banner exchanges. There are other sites that let you name your price for advertising, such as Project Wonderful. If you're self-publishing your comic book, you might be able to do ad exchanges with other independent publishers. Also on your own website, you could do banner or button ad exchanges with other places. Look around online, there are a lot of deals to be had. BE THE SQUEAKY WHEEL
You have to try to get the comic book press to cover your product. That means you have to establish relationships with reporters and others in and around the industry. Create some press kits around your work. Have packets ready to send out to reporters. E-mail them to see about interview opportunities. Most sites need two to four new stories every day. Your project deserves consideration for coverage as much as any other comic book work, but you have to let people know
about the comic book.
I can't tell you how many times I've met a comics creator and he or she has told me, "Yeah, I had a book out last year." And I ask, "Did you e-mail me about it?" Then he or she replies, "No, I didn't want to bother you" or "I didn't think you'd write a piece about my comic book" or anything along those lines. I've covered just about every single type of comic out there. There is very little that I won't cover, but at least give yourself the chance to see if I would or wouldn't do a piece on your book.
And when you contact a member of the press to talk about your comic, make sure in the body of the e-mail you send them information on the book, including a two or three paragraph description of what the story encompasses. Also, don't send one member of the press to another comic book site to learn about your book, because the likelihood of that happening is slim to none. Give enough information in the intro e-mail for a potential reviewer or reporter to know everything without having to hunt online for more details.
Also if you send a copy of your comic book to a reviewer or interviewer, you should make sure that you have your e-mail contact information somewhere in the comic and you should also follow up with an e-mail a week to ten days afterwards to make sure the book arrived. There are dozens of times when I've received a comic from someone in the mail, there isn't a return address and there is no contact information for the creator in the book. Make sure you always include your contact information. IN CLOSING
It's up to you to be your biggest fan and promotional machine. You only get a few chances to shine and have to be ready for your close-up. These are just a few tips and suggestions to help get you on your way ....