It’s been a busy pair of weeks for me here at Super Genius HQ. Unfortunately, as the holiday season ramps up, my free time away from affiliate marketing tends to become a bit scarce. In other words: I’ve had no time to write up new Internet marketing articles for comic book publishers since the end of November!
Even worse than that, Twitter has been a bit quite on the ranting side of things, so I don’t have a whole lot to share there either.
Luckily, even though time has been at a bit of a premium lately, I did fall in to an Internet marketing related conversation with comic book creator, and all-around nice guy, Gerimi Burleigh.
Gerimi is the creator and publisher of a really cool graphic novel called “Eye of the Gods,” which he publishes through his own self-publishing imprint of Optic House. I first met Gerimi back at the 2010 “Pasadena Rock’N'Comic Con.” While the comic con was far from “Rock’N,” I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with Gerimi about comics and have continued to pester him via Twitter ever since.
A few weeks back, I put out the call to indy publishers, asking what comic book publishing related Internet marketing questions they’d like to see me cover. Gerimi was one of the few who responded. What follows is a slightly edited version of our back-and-forth conversation on Twitter.
(begin Gerimi Burleigh chat)
Gerimi Burleigh: What I’d like to see is something on developing new markets outside of the comic industry. Also, how to deal with the declining of pleasure reading currently happening.
Mat Nastos: You’re kind of asking for two things. The first, is something a bit impossible to universally define. There’s no real universal way to find a new market (for any type of product). But I’ll write up some starter tips.
Gerimi: I know there’s no magic bullet… trying to figure out how to condense time spent marketing (it’s a full time gig) so I have time let to create
Mat: Really, it should start with your comic idea and then, before you spent time/resources to produce, you research who might want it.
Gerimi: I still need to implement all the SEO strategies you posted… I suppose I should focus on walking before trying to chew gum
Mat: Getting back to your question. Second, when you talk about the “declining pleasure reading,” it sounds like you read a buzzword somewhere & are worrying about a problem before you have an audience. You’re worrying about losing readers before you have any at all! I’d be more worried about getting touched inappropriately by a comic shop owner on a Wednesday.
Gerimi: Lol… comic shop owners have been inappropriately touching my wallet for years! Thanks for the info.
Mat: In terms of researching now markets: that research is similar to keyword research. Almost the same. It’s just that there are so many different markets & are all set up differently in terms of retail/distribution. No single strategy works for all. It should really come from the product idea itself — figure out what your product is and, before you produce it, do research to see if the market exists for it.
Gerimi: Trying to develop a 1000ft view of creativity through the lens of marketing… really business 101 stuff… which I avoided in school (dumb-ass). Ironically, I’m up to my elbows in marketing for the DM since my book is in Diamond. The “Stockholm Syndrome” rt made me laugh… then cry.
Mat: Things for you are going to be a bit tougher because you are in a different situation — you’re going to have to do things in reverse, which is a lot tougher. You’ve got a product & are trying to see if there is a market for it. A bit easier to go the other way. Instead of doing the standard market research and asking the market “what is YOUR need & how do I fill it” you’re trying to find a need for an existent product. Much more work involved.
If it helps, I know all about the pain you’re going through because that’s what I had to do w/my Cadre stuff in 2005. I went product first & then had to figure out who wanted it. What happened there was I had to grow my sales from 800 or so with the first issue up to just under 20,000 copies sold for the 9th issue of the Cadre I put out. Where, with my fantasy-specific stuff, I approached vendors first and had over 5000 pre-orders in my first day of marketing/sales…well before I had even finished drawing the actual ElfSong comic!
Gerimi: Is the size/health of the industry is an indicator, seems like market forces have dictated that there isn’t really a huge demand for comics.
Mat: I don’t think that’s true at all. The comic format is well-loved, even outside of the comic industry, probably more so.
Gerimi: Superheroes / Superhero movies, yes… but the medium of the comic book itself (& the myriad of genres within), not so much demand.
Mat: From my own experience, I’ve seen there is way more demand for product in comic format than in just superhero material. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to sell comic format work to mainstream audience. You just have to have a product that isn’t targeted at inbred comic readers. A lot of creators can’t seem to create for mainstream
I think the problem with the industry is when it became exclusively a destination buy (comic shops) versus an impulse or leisure buy. The problem w/a destination buy is you have to let market know it is there & give buyers a reason to spend effort to find it.
Gerimi: Another thing I’m trying 2 wrap my brain around is the perception that marketing professionals have a different world view than artist types
Mat: My business and creative sides don’t like each other very much.
Jumping back a bit, a lot of mainstream readers feel like comics is a great format, but can’t read or understand what is being produced now. It’s not open, in terms of content & storytelling, to regular people. But they are open to buying product in the format. It’s just that the product has to be targeted to the new markets.
Gerimi: When does an audience go from Niche to Inbreed? …the former is considered a positive, while the later seems to be what the DM is stuck w/
Mat: I think “inbred” would be describing a niche that is closed to outside audiences – for comics, it has closed itself off in terms of content AND in storytelling. Current comics are very difficult for normal people to read — to figure out what to read next, etc.
Modern coloring, in addition to a lack of gutters & borders, have been issues with a lot of people I’ve done market research with…and I’ve done focus group style testing (along with blind polls and the like) with a few thousand people over the years.
What it comes down to is: If your audience CAN’T read your books then they WON’T read your books. Comics is a closed community.
Gerimi: Profitability seems to be about forgetting what YOU want & focusing on wants of others. Which conflicts w/ why people enter creative jobs
Mat: Profitability is more about taking your creative side & “checking” it with market need. No need to ignore one for the other. However, not all ideas are commercial. I’d say come up with an idea, then check it with the market. If there’s a need, go forward. I think a lot of comic creators (and publishers) assume that every idea they have is a goldmine and will find an audience. It’s just not true — not every idea is a home run. You’ll wind up with a lot of foul balls over the course of your career and the key is to do your best to identify which is which.
(end of Gerimi Burleigh chat)
That’s it from me for today. No clue if that helps clarify things for anyone, but I will be exploring the topics of finding/researching/developing new markets for a product in the near future.
Until next time, Happy Holidays!
-Mat Nastos, Super Genius