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Tip of the Week: A Request from the iHero Guys on marketing their magazine

Here at Super Genius HQ, I get a lot of email from comic creators and publishers alike.  In an effort to try and answer some of the questions that come up a lot, I’ve decided to start answering those questions here on the site instead of directly.  That way, I figure, more people will benefit from the answers.  So, from now on, if you write me a note, there is a very good chance that it might end up posted here on MatNastos.net.

Today’s “Quick Tip of the Week” comes out of a letter I received from Frank Fradella over at iHero magazine.  Frank is putting out a new superhero prose magazine and wants to get my thoughts on marketing it.  The below note is my unedited response.

Take it away, Frank!

Mat,

What we’re doing now is very much like the old CAA magazine. The difference is that we’ve brought all our printing in-house, so we’ve got the agility of a company like ComiXpress or Ka-Blam, but without the middleman. CAA was a free online magazine. “I, Hero” is available in both print and as an ebook.

I’ll be interested to hear what you think of the new magazine. The entire original creative team came back for this, including Sean Taylor and Tom Waltz (from IDW). We’re doing what we always did, except now we’ve got a few more years of experience under our belts.

If you remember the old CAA magazine, then you’ll appreciate why I’ve always felt like marketing this magazine is like hacking your way through a jungle with a machete. I’d be grateful for any advice you might have.

Thanks and all the best,
Frank Fradella

Frank:

My initial reaction makes me feel like a bit of a hypocrite because it was the same one I got from a ton of people 6 or so years ago when I put my Cadre Comic out (which sold nearly 200,000 copies over 9 issues): While I love superhero prose, I think you’ll be fighting a bit of an uphill battle with a magazine focused on original superheroes without any sort of anchor “name” in the magazine.

The issue is that you’re probably thinking about targeting comic book fans and that automatically limits your audience to comic fans that will read original material AND original material in a non-comic format. You’d also be looking for customers who will take a chance on an all-new product with no history and no guarantee of follow-through (believe it or not, this is a HUGE issue for a lot of fiction buyers). You’re talking about an incredible tiny audience.

Going outside of the comic market is going to be just as tough because the magazine itself would probably best work as an impulse buy for people.

You’ve definitely got a bit of a tough road because you have no base or foundation to build your sales on (by that I mean, no group of customers “guaranteed” to be pre-sold on your work). There’s no immediate “hook” to grab people.

It’s not a hopeless situation by any means, but it is one that requires a lot of work in terms of branding and doing something to catch the market’s attention. It’s time to get really creative in your marketing plan.

That leads to my question for you: what are you doing to break through and get people’s attention. “Good” content or “talented” creators is not a selling point these days, unless those “talented” creators are an established brand on their own and bring in a guaranteed audience. As much as it pains me to say as a creative type myself, quality isn’t as important to selling material as what you do with it is.

That paragraph is going to annoy people, isn’t it? 🙂

I’d say sit down and make a list of your target demographics, figure out where they are and the get to work on making a plan for getting their attention. Your initial reaction may be to try and sell to as many people as possible, but that is going to be the fastest way to failure. When you’re trying to build from scratch, on what I assume is a limited budget, focus is what saves you. Think Niche to start. You can always grow from there.

If you have a bit of time before your launch, or can afford to build things up while actively publishing, I’d suggest a technique a lot of affiliate marketers use: target similar product that will be generating a huge amount of traffic or press, and build a campaign around snaring that traffic online. It could be a movie, video game or anything else. Build a site (or series of sites) targeting the keywords most associated with that product and tie them in to yours. If you do it correctly, you’ll pull in a huge amount of traffic. Converting even a fraction of a percentage of the traffic from an upcoming movie or video game release can still equal higher sales than most comic books get.

Anyway, I’m going to cut things off there. I’ve really just touched the tip of the iceberg. You have a professional, solid and fun product. The worst thing you can do is sit back and rely on the product to sell itself.

Thanks again for the note and make sure not to mention you talked to me to your partner, Tom Waltz. Those IDW guys reeeeeeally don’t like me much. 🙂

Take care and good luck!!

-Mat Nastos, Super Genius
http://www.MatNastos.net

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Mat Nastos
TV, Film, comic book, fantasy & steampunk writer/director, known best for bad horror movies about giant scorpions, killer pigs & dinosaurs in the sewers. You can find his work on Smashwords or at his Amazon Author Page.

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