I’m going to start off today’s article by correct a horrible error that has been propagated by comic book fans and pros alike. The statement I’m about to make may or may not cause you to think I’m an idiot. OK, MORE of an idiot than you already do.
Here we go:
Comic books are NOT a niche market. Comic books are a medium — like music, but they are not themselves a niche market. Well, they’re more of a format or delivery system for visual storytelling (as CD’s are for music), but let’s not nitpick. For the sake of this post I’ll be using “comic books” as a stand-in for “visual storytelling” to keep things from getting too complicated and off-topic.
That’s right. Comic books are NOT a niche market. However, the comic book INDUSTRY has turned itself into one and that is one of the reason it is in such bad shape. You see, when a format or medium becomes a niche market, then it is on the road to disappearing from the marketplace. 8-track cassette collecting may be a niche market, but music will never be. The comic book industry has quickly allowed itself to become 8-track cassette collecting and is in danger of going down that dark path to obscurity and derision. Luckily comic books (or, visual storytelling for those of you who are anal), by nature, is not a niche market.
The reason I spend the extra time and space on pointing that out is because of the answer I get from comic book publishers/creators when I ask the question “what is your niche market?” The answer I almost universally receive (even from larger publishers) is “comic book fans” or “comic buyers.”
Needless to say, hearing that makes me want to cause physical harm to anyone unluckily enough to be near me. What an answer like that says to me is one of two things:
- The “publisher” has put absolutely no thought in to the business aspects of comic book publishing or sales. Or,
- The “publisher” is a complete retard.
More than likely, knowing the comic industry as I do, it’s a combination of the two.
So, that brings us back to today’s topic: what is a Niche market and how do you develop one for your product (yes, yes, your “comic book”)?
“The definition from Wikipedia reads: “A niche market is the subset of the market on which a specific product is focusing; therefore the market niche defines the specific product features aimed at satisfying specific market needs, as well as the price range, production quality and the demographics that is intended to impact.”
That’s a pretty good definition, but may be a bit too “business” for comic book publishers. Let’s try something a bit less specific, from Wictionary.org:
“a relatively small and specialist, yet profitable, market”
Hmmm. That’s a bit too broad. Here’s one a bit closer, from Groundbreaking.com:
“An easily identifiable market that can be targeted for direct promotion”
I kind of like that, but let’s try this one from “Entrepreneur.com:
“A portion of a market that you’ve identified as having some special characteristic and that’s worth marketing to.”
There we go! That’s as close to a perfect definition for “niche market” as I’ve seen anywhere. A niche market is specific group of buyers (or fans or whatever you want to call them) who are tied together with an interest and who are (hopefully) responsive to your product. In other words, a group of people who want to buy your comics.
That brings us to one of my most asked questions — one I hear almost every day from comic book publishers and creators looking to sell their product:
“How do I find my niche market?”
As I’ve talked about a few times before (in the “Comic Book Market Analysis” and “Conversation with Gerimi” articles, for instance), to have the best chance at success, finding your niche market should be done at the product development stage and not once you have a finished product. Use your niche market research to help make sure you have a sellable product before you pay to have it produced — I don’t necessarily mean for you to begin the process with the niche market research, but use it as a “check” to make sure you have a commercial product.
Here is a list of steps in the process of finding your niche market.
3 Steps to finding your perfect niche market!
1. Define your market.
Take a moment to think about what it is you are selling — look at the essence of the comics you want to produce. Analyze what it is your are selling and what you want to sell. Start with your analysis in the most general of terms: who might be interested in this? Let’s use my buddy, Shawn Granger, and his book Family Bones as an example.
Family Bones is the true story of a pair of serial killers, the Copelands, who lived in Missouri. (If you’re interested, you can find out more about it on Shawn’s website)
Here are the questions I’d ask him: Does your comic interest people interested in true stories? OK, now that’s a pretty general market, but it’s a good place to start. Does it interest those who are in to true crime stories? Getting a bit better and more defined, but we’ve still got room to focus. Yes, you could stop there, but you’ll find with a bit more thought there could be an even better focus. Does your comic interest fans of serial killers? Bingo!
From there you could also pursue those interested in the history of Missouri, as well. Once you have your main niche market down, it is easy to expand your target a bit. Let me repeat that – once you have your main niche market down. In other words, start smaller and then grow.
The better you can define that group of buyers, the easier it is going to be to track them down and get them to buy your books.
I know there will be a few people out there who say “but, isn’t that limiting my chance at sales?” Not really. If you go broad — say with “anyone in the world who reads English” — you have no practical way to market your material. You are also going to be faced with a lot more competition. And, you can always grow your market once you have a base established. Become profitable before you worry about growth. Don’t be Crossgen.
As a sub-question here you also need to answer: “Is there a sufficient demand for your product” and “is the niche market big enough.” Find out not only if there is a demand/need for your product but also if you’ve narrowed down your niche too far. Too tight of a focus can be worse than not focusing enough.
Read the rest in my new book, “Comic Book Marketing 101,” now available as an eBook for only $4.99!
- Doing marketing analysis and research to maximize your comic’s potential for success
- Developing a marketing plan
- How to do a proper Product Launch
- Hands-On case studies using the work of publishers IDW Publishing, Boom Studios and Moonstone Books! Learn from their mistakes!
- And more!
For the Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Comic-Book-Marketing-101-ebook/dp/B005PPPRIU/
In multiple formats: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/91945
-Mat Nastos, Super Genius