How to Market your Comics and Build a Fanbase that Lasts: 6 Tips to Get Your Comics the Attention They Deserve Online
Arguably, one of the most difficult and stressful things in any Comic book creator’s professional life is getting exposure for their work.
If you care to spend a few hours trying to navigate the tricky minefield that is cold-calling potential news outlets, review sites, podcasts, potential publishers and others, you will more than likely discover two common issues:
- Finding WHO to contact is often very difficult as more and more of these places are inadvertently or intentionally hiding their contact information.
- If you do find a contact, getting that person or organization to respond and take action can be a nearly impossible task.
With that being said, we’d like to throw our experience having been on both sides of this fence into the conversation and share with you some techniques, tactics, and ways of thinking that will hopefully help you vanquish that formidable foe that is PITCHING YOUR COMICS!
In this article, we talk less about hard tactics and more about building relationships and making your Comic as prolific as possible. This is about your online presence and how to leverage it in order to find the success you’re looking for in the Comics industry.
1. Change your thoughts; change your behavior
Firstly, let’s talk about mindset. The more we connect with this fantastic community, the more and more we’re convinced that this is one of the major hurdles keeping many creatives from achieving the success they crave. We’re not talking about a “you can do it” mindset. The fact that you’ve already taken the plunge and poured your heart and soul into a Comic means that you know you can do it. We’re talking about patience, tenacity, and the self-permission required to promote your own awesomeness.
- Have patience. Nothing happens overnight. Expect this process to take years! You’re building something you want to last forever, so take your time and do it right. Most Brands (and that’s what you are now; a brand) take an average of 3 years to gain enough exposure and recognition from their prospective audience in order to turn their work into a viable career & cash flow.
- Be tenacious. Persistence, consistency, determination, “get back on the horse-id-ness”. You have to make the decision that nothing is going to stop you from achieving your dream and push through the hard times, the slow times, the time’s people ignore you, are mean to you, or are just plain indifferent to you. Put your shoulder to wheel and don’t look up until you start to feel it moving. Only the strong will survive the Comics game.
- Give yourself permission to promote your own work. Many creators struggle with this one. The thought that they don’t have the right to ask for people to read and buy their Comics because they are “nobody” is pervasive in our industry. Everyone starts out as nobody. You have to be brave and give yourself permission to pitch and promote your own work. For those of you with crippling introverted-ness, try setting up a fake PR account. Give your PR rep a name and email account and let him or her pitch, sell and plug your work. It’s like business Cosplay!
2. Be prepared
Take it from us, an unprepared Comic creator is a forgettable Comic creator. If you’re not ready to be found and put your best foot forward, busy customers, news outlets, and publishers will simply move on. So get your shit together!
- Have a digital review copy ready to go. Create a compressed digital version of your Comic that you can quickly and easily share with prospective readers. Use a service like https://www.ilovepdf.com/ to both create your PDF Comic and compress with no visible loss of quality. A PDF that is less than 100 MB is ideal. It will download very quickly, preventing your reader from getting bored waiting and moving on. Using a service like https://wetransfer.com/ is great for sharing your Comics. (Note: PDF is the most widely accessible file type. If you choose to save as a .CBR you may find many folks simply can’t open it and won’t bother downloading any special software to do so. Sorry, but it’s true.)
- Showcase & sell your work. If you have a website, upload lots of samples of your Comics and make sure you offer them for sale as well! Make sure that once you have a potential fan’s attention, that you feed that attention with lots to look at, read, and ultimately, buy! Make use of the internet and its platforms. You can upload samples and sales links to sites like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Behance.net, Artstation.com and of course ComixCentral.com!
- Be easy to find! If we had a nickel for every person who’s Comic book we have read with no contact information inside, and another nickel for those who we’ve tried to contact with no email on their website or social accounts, we’d have so many freakin’ nickles! People, you have to let readers know how to find you! It’s imperative to have your contact info on all your social media accounts, your website, and your Comics! How is Marvel supposed to find you?! They (and others) sure as hell aren’t going run around trying to figure it out. We’ve had people say to us, “why can’t they just tweet me? Or DM me?” Why?! Because professionalism. That’s why. Don’t be stubborn about this, this isn’t a battle you want to lose. Be easy to contact!
3. Be social – Make and maintain friendships
We’ve been paying attention to Comic creators for a long time now, and the one common trait we see in all those that inevitably rise above their peers is friendliness. Weird right? Or is it. When you consider the old adage, “It’s not WHAT you know, but WHO you know” this stops seeming weird. Our world is undergoing a massive transition. The old ways of networking still work, but the new network is bigger and more powerful than anyone could have imagined. There are over 7 billion people on this rock, and while you once may have been able to touch and talk to a few hundred at your local Comic-con, you now have (outlandish as it seems) the opportunity to turn billions into your potential fans and buyers. And you never know, who the person you’re talking with knows. Treat everyone like they’re someone, and you’ll never go wrong.
- Set up social accounts on all the platforms that appeal to you and start using them regularly.You might think this is stupid, but if Facebook is powerful enough to sway an election, it’s powerful enough to launch your Comic book career. We have also found Twitter to be a hotbed of Indie Comics conversations and Instagram a great way to drive traffic to our site, but you should use the ones that are the most fun for you. After all, you’re going to have to maintain them. And maintain them you must! Post new content at least once a day (as long as it’s fresh and interesting. If not, step up your game) and interact with your followers… well… as much as you can. There is a direct correlation between social interaction and sales. It’s going to take some time, remember to have faith and patience.
- Do your homework and make an All-Star list. Do you know the top 10 people you’d like to know who you are? Create an All-Star list of the top 10, or more, people you’re interested in getting to know. Search those folks out on social media and start interacting. DON’T be a creepy asshole though! Just follow them. Pay attention to their posts. Comment when you feel interested in the post. RT when you feel it’s appropriate. Tag them on your posts – THOUGHTFULLY! Ask questions. Don’t be pushy and DON’T get pissed if they chose not to respond. That’s ok, find a new All-Star! There are so many amazing people out there to learn from and network with. The goal is to get on their radar and create a connection. You’d be surprised how quickly you can become “friends” with people you previously may have thought untouchable.
- Engage. Do not use your social media accounts as a megaphone for the things you want to pitch. This is the fastest way to get unfollowed. Spamming social is always a bad idea. Instead, find like-minded people and make friends! Ask them questions about their work, join Twitter chats like #CXCpowerhour, join groups on FB, play Hashtag games, ask questions, share your works in progress, ask for feedback, have fun! Most of all, remember that social media is meant for being social. It’s a conversation regardless of platform, and the more social you can be, the faster your audience and a network of friends and fans will grow. It’s not rocket science champ. Being popular works. Always has, always will. Instead of hating on it, use it to your advantage.
- Don’t underestimate the power of face-to-face interactions. If you’re an introvert, this may sound like sheer hell. We get it. But making “real life” friends is not only great for you personally, but also goes a long way in helping you reach your Comic book goals and growing the indie Comics community. You can find local groups of creators in almost every city in the world by simply Googling “Comic book creator groups in my area” or using Meetup.com. If none exist, don’t be a chicken and get one started!
4. Don’t sell yourself short
Resist the urge to belittle or downplay your own Comics. You’d be surprised how much self-deprecation in this particular instance influences people’s decisions regarding your work. When we receive emails from creators telling us their Comics “aren’t very good, but I’m trying” or “I’m still learning, so please take that into consideration” as opposed to “This is my Comic, I’ve created it over the last 5 years and I’m incredibly proud of the work I’ve accomplished”, it’s stunning how much these words skew our opinions. So even if you HATE your own and think you suck worse than everyone else on the planet, fake it. You don’t’ have to brag, but resist the urge to shit on yourself.
- Write 2. When sending your requests for review, or publishing to a perspective outlet, write 2 emails, DMs or PMs. The first one is to get all the flowery, self-deprecating language out of your system. Really go for it. The second will be a copy of the first with all the self-hate stripped out. Keep to the point, be proud of your work and bonus tip: keep the ass kissing to a minimum;P
- Practice being nice to yourself. Being kind to yourself doesn’t make you arrogant, but it does make you confident. Try and catch yourself being nasty to your Comics and yourself. Everytime you say something mean. Stop. Then think of the exact opposite sentence and say it out loud. – “This Comic is embarrassing. I’m the worst.” turns into “This Comic makes me proud, I’m pretty great!”. – Yes, it’s cheesy, but consider this: Neural pathways in the brain are strengthened into habits through the repetition and practice of thinking, feeling and acting. So just give it a shot if you’re prone to self-hate talk.
5. Get creative & stand out from the crowd
- Create a free “teaser comic” and give it to everyone who looks your way.
- Run a contest
- Create a Youtube show about your creative process, daily habits, your dog who tells you his thoughts on your Comics!
- Sell or give away swag you create
- Create a soundtrack or Spotify playlist to accompany your Comic
- Contact 100 Instagram influencers and offer to draw their avatars or write a short story about them and their followers
- Create trailer videos
- Get your messed up friend to do a live read of your Comic to a group of Senior Citizens on Facebook live
- Be rich and famous (;P
- Pull a PR stunt
- The ideas are endless! If you need any, you can always reach out to us… we have some hella creatives we know:)
- Check out this adorable and incredibly creative game
Shizamuramade for their fans! Create a Sarilho
6. Cold call
This is the part many people dread. The Cold call. Fortunately, this doesn’t actually have to involve phoning people anymore (not for pitching Comics anyhow). But it does involve sending out custom and thoughtful emails to prospective publishers, news outlets and anyone you want to read your Comic. Your ultimate goal is to leave to an impression and create a relationship. Below are some tips on how to do just that.
- First. Construct thoughtful and to the point messages. Create a template to work from (we’ve included a sample below), but resist the urge to copy and paste in bulk. It’s our experience that anything that starts with, “To whom it may concern” and reeks of being a form letter, gets deleted immediately. If you can’t be bothered to talk to us like people you want to have a relationship with, we can’t be bothered to read it. This was a hard lesson learned on our end as creatives as well. So don’t feel bad if you’ve fallen into the copy & paste trap in the past. When crafting your messages be yourself. Be honest and upfront about what you want. Then, if the recipient decides they like you, they know EXACTLY what to do for you.
- Prepare a Press Release. A Press release is a one or two-page document that shares breaking news with the public. In a nutshell, you write up a Press Release every time you have news to share! Launching a Kickstarter? A new issue of your Comic is about to drop? Attending a Comic-Con? Say something horrifying you need publicly apologize for? Press release time! Check out our article How to Write a Press Release & Create a Press Kit for your ComicBook, Kickstarter or other Event
- Slide into the DM! This is a weird phrase that used to imply you were going to send a photo of your junk to another person in their direct mail on a social media platform. It kind of still does. Don’t do that. But DO send thoughtfully written and to the point PERSONAL messages to people, you’d like to connect with. The best way to get a response in this fashion is to offer them something they want. Do not randomly send out your Comic book. No one wants to have something the didn’t ask for shoved in their face, no matter how awesome it is. This is human nature. Instead, ask for permission to do so! Strike up a conversation. Be an
f’inghuman! Say Hi. Show them you’ve taken the time to see what they’re up to and be friendly. Then, if you get a response, ask for permission to send them a review copy of your Comic. Again, this was a hard learned lesson on our part! So learn from our experience. Spamming is a dick move bro.
- Stay on the radar. If you’re going after a high-level critic, publisher or influencer, chances are they aren’t going to respond to your first interaction. They’re busy and are probably being solicited multiple times every hour. Your job is to stay on their radar. Check in on a random basis. Send follow up emails and DM’s. Follow them on social media, and like and engage with their posts. Show up to a ComicCon you know they’ll be at and make real-life contact! Don’t be obnoxious, give them breathing room, be professional and polite, but don’t let them out of your sight. That is not until you get told, in no uncertain terms that it’s a hard NO. (Even then, stay on the radar) If you stay on their radar long enough and I guarantee something will happen. It might be a restraining order, but it will be something!
- Exchange real value. This one can be hard, but it’s a great way to get your foot in the door. What do you have to offer the person you’re trying to reach? Think about it from their end. What do you have they want? (And it isn’t your Comic. They have lots of those) How can you help them? What can you offer to make sure they don’t forget you the next time they have an opportunity that could benefit you? A quick, “I have 500 followers. How can I use my reach to help your cause, or get your message out?” could do wonders for your career. Exchange real value, be creative and make an impact.
We’ve provided this sample email to get you started — We don’t guarantee this will get you in the door, but it’s a start! Once you learn the how, you’ll just need persistence!
Hello Name, (do your best to find the direct contact you are trying to reach. Using a person’s name goes a long way when trying to establish a bond. #science.)
My name is —————-. I’m the (writer, creator, illustrator, etc) of (Comic book name). If you’re not familiar with it I’d love to provide you with this (preview, review copy, issue 1, etc) you can quickly download using this link. (link to wetransfer.com file)
From here on out, it has to be very personal. Sorry sport. But we hate form letters! Let your personality shine, be yourself. Keep the self-deprecation low and the over-the-top ass kissing even lower. You are attempting to create a business relationship, you don’t want to give away any leverage. So keep it short, to the point, polite and don’t forget to ask for what you want! The wost is a rambling email that never makes the ask. Be honest and upfront about what you want, so if the recipient decides they like you, they know EXACTLY what to do for you.
Finish up with a plea for them to contact you with any questions and don’t forget to add all your contact details in the footer. Chances are if you’ve made it this far, the person you are contacting will want to stalk you a little and make sure you’re not a Nazi or something that could hurt their public reputation. So make it easy for them:
Short little bio
My website | My CXC ComixShop | Twitter | Facebook | Email address (yes again) | Other relevant links