(or: ‘How to Not Piss People Off’)
by Gordon Mclean
I recently launched my debut comic No More Heroes and so while I’m obviously no seasoned pro deeply entrenched in the war for readership I’ve been freshly exposed to the realities and hardships of trying to get people to notice my comic amongst the thousands of other new titles. The lessons I’ve learned are newly burned into my brain and I thought I’d write them down so they’re not forgotten when I’m hopefully fighting beside the old pros. More importantly, they might be of interest to other creators or help other newbies.
Here we go…
1. Reply to everything. Every email you receive, every comment on your website, every post on the self-promotion threads you’ve created on comic book forums (you have done this, yes?), every blog response. Everything.
Engage with everyone who’s taken enough interest in your work to say something about it and you’ll hopefully not just keep their attention but also get them talking about it with other people. Don’t just reply to the positive responses – if you ignore anyone who’s critical then that’s a reader you’ve lost because you didn’t take the opportunity to earn a second chance.
2. Don’t ‘Hit it and quit it’. Almost every comic book forum has a section where creators can promote their work and you should definitely create a thread in each one publicising your work (again: you have done this, yes?). However, do not visit the forums just to update your thread and then immediately move on to Youtube to watch a video of a falling iguana or whatever. Such behaviour can be seen as rude by forum regulars. You could be putting off potential readers who’ll ignore what they see as just another spammer.
Interact with each forum. You should be interested in the industry you’re working in, after all, and keen to see what’s going on and what the fans think about it. Stick around, become known to the regulars and they’ll take more interest in you and be more likely to check out your work. Would you rather read something from a stranger or a friend?
3. The power of the signature. Here’s another reason you should spend some time on forums: if you create a signature that catches people’s attention and directs them to your site then every single forum post becomes an ad for your work! Merely updating your own thread gives you one new ‘ad’. Adding your thoughts to, say, twenty threads not only gifts you a bit of promotion for each post but can also potentially grabs the attention of forum visitors who don’t read the promotional threads because they’re more interested in arguing over Before Watchmen. Go in to their threads rather than just hope they come to yours.
Note: do not post a comment on every single thread as this will be seen as just another form of spamming. Too much is as bad as too little.
4. People are interested in people. When promoting/selling your comic to someone tell them about the characters, not the genre or concepts. Which of these sounds more interesting:
- “It’s a mix of science fiction and action about a robot that travels back in time to kill someone.”
- “A woman discovers that her son is going to become the leader of mankind in a war against machines and struggles to survive when a robot is sent back from the future to kill her before she even gives birth.”
It’s the second one, right? They’re two ways of telling someone about Terminator and, though the concept of a time-travelling cyborg killing machine is a hell of an attention grabber all by itself, the second method makes it more exciting by focusing on the people and what happens to them.
When someone is looking at the intro page on your website or the comic’s cover on your convention table the first 30 seconds can make or break the potential sale so use them wisely! Set up the dilemma the characters find themselves in and hopefully you’ve interested them enough to want to see how the characters get out of it.
5. People are interested in people – Part 2. Do I need to point out you’re a person too? Unless you’re an animal of some kind, in which case I’m impressed by your internet navigational skills. Anyway, you’re selling yourself as much as you’re selling your comic in terms of how you talk about your comic, how you conduct yourself on forums, how you converse with people at cons etc. You should obviously be friendly, approachable and equally as interested in others as you hope they are in you and your comic.
You may also have an additional source of PR in your life, some interesting or unusual aspect of your existence that can also be used to ensnare people’s attention. For example, while I was working on No More Heroes I lost my job and used my redundancy money to fund the comic’s production and pay the art team. I was surprised when people picked up on this and used it as the lead-in when running an article on the comic (I even made it to the front page of Bleeding Cool!). With hindsight I shouldn’t have been: human interest is what the media’s based on, after all.
Look at how many comics get publicity due to the fact they’re by a big-name creator or someone famous. You can’t compete with that (well, unless you can, in which case why are you reading this?) but you may have something in your life that gives you an edge. Used to be a nurse and one of your mutants is a healer? Mention this. Using your comic as a way of dealing with the death of your parents? Mention this. Especially if you’re Batman.
With millions of other comics creators out there you need to use everything you can to make you and your work stand out. In today’s industry you can’t be shy.
I’ve more tips and suggestions but I don’t want this to turn into a novella so I think I’ll shut up for now. If you want to see more or have your own tips to share please get in touch (email@example.com) or leave a comment. Please share this article with others too and let’s get a debate going. All talk about comics is good talk. Unless it’s talk about burning them.
Also, and most importantly, BUY MY COMIC! (yes, I have no shame)