Most comic book publishers these days will have their own websites. The smart ones will have their own domains, the less-smart ones will only be on free hosts such as Myspace, Comicspace, Geocities or one of a thousand other choices. Unfortunately, most publishers stop there when it comes to their online presence.
Today I’m going to give you a list of 6 ways to expand your market by leveraging the Internet to its fullest extent.
1. NEWSLETTERS, Why They Rock and Why Your Relationships are Important.
Relationships are one of the biggest keys to marketing success. Make sure to run an email newsletter at least once a month to get your company in the minds of your customers. Keeping a list of past customers emails and including them in your newsletter emailing is an absolute must. Past customers are some of the easiest to convert in to new sales.
While emailed/electronic newsletters are a must, print newsletters convert at a much higher rate because of their tactile nature. Former customers are much more likely to open a print newsletter from a company they’ve ordered with in the past than an email one.
Building an email list to send your newsletter out to is easy. Setting up a “subscribe to newsletter” button is the most obvious way, but there are tons of others. Offering free content downloads (ebook versions of your comics…or the first chapter of a trade paperback or graphic nobel) or giveaways/contests are two more excellent examples. Use your imagination.
As part of relationships, try to make friends with your subscribers…to give them a degree of engagement with you. That personal connection and getting your readers to “like” you will translate to more conversions and more sales. The feeling your newsletter subscribers get — the excitement they feel — will tie them to you and your product more than almost anything else. If they feel like they are “in it together” with you, then you’ll have lifelong customers. Erik Larsen and John Byrne are two great examples of doing this in their forums (as are Brian Bendis, Warren Ellis and Kevin Smith).
2. USER Generator Content and Why Free is Good.
Take advantage of free content generated by visitors to your website. That’s the long way of saying “let your readers post reviews and comments.” User added content is how Amazon has built itself into one of the largest retailers in the world. Free content is a great thing, especially free content written by readers who will write in the same way other potential readers may be searching the internet. And positive reviews of your comic books by your readers is always a good thing.
3. SEO and the Niche Market…or, Why Bigger Isn’t Always Better.
A lot of people are going to scoff a bit at this comment, but SEO and most types of search engine marketing (including PPC) are going to be fairly worthless to a small press comic book publisher. The reason for this is because there aren’t going to be many people out on the internet actively searching for small press comic books. You might do well to market or do SEO for a few key terms (“free comics” and “online comics” being two great examples, but neither will make you much in the way of money unless you are running a PPC or landing page campaign for your books on Wowio), but in general it isn’t going to generate a huge amount of traffic or sales for you.
Unless, of course, you are targeting a specific niche market. Go after any niche your books might relate to – for Nifty Comics it is the Celtic/Scottish audience who attend Celt, Scottish and Rennaissance festivals. Our book, Fionn, is beginning to get a bit of a following in those circles because it targets a fairly large niche which is almost completely unaddressed by the comic book industry. There are tons of these very profitable little niches out there and aiming your books at them can amount to a success you will never see in the comic industry itself.
It may sound counter-intuitive but ranking #1 in Google for the phrase “comic books” probably won’t do you a lot of good as a small press publisher because people searching for that phrase are not looking for an indy black-and-white comic book. However, ranking #1 for “Scottish super hero” may help you get 20,000 in sales for your first issue.
4. BLOGS and Why Yours Sucks.
Let’s talk about Blogs for a moment or two. Blogs are one of the best ways to get your message out to your potential audience. I use Blogs successfully for all of my non-comic book business. Chances are you’ve already got a Blog and chances are you’re doing it wrong.
A Blog can just be a random collection of thoughts or an online journal. If that’s what you want to do, it’s fine for a personal Blog but just won’t cut it for a business. Sorry. For a Blog to succeed you need a few things. First off, every post or article you write needs to be built around targetted keywords that will bring in potential new customers to your website. You need to figure out what those keywords are in advance and work them in to every paragraph of your Blog posts. There are tons of articles online about keyword density, finding keywords and the like so I won’t go in to that here.
The second thing you need is follow-through and persistance. You need to post, at the very least, a few times a week on the same days…and, truthfully, you need to post every day to really get your Blog registering for those keywords. You need to have the persistance to keep posting daily for 3-6 months before you see any real return on your work. I know it’s hard because I go through it myself for every new website I put up. It sucks and it’s painful and, unfortunately, there’s no real way around it.
5. REFERRALS and Letting Word of Mouth Do Your Work For You.
If you’ve got a web page then chances are you have a “Tell-a-friend” button or form on it somewhere. Chances are also very likely most of your readers aren’t using it. The easiest way to change this, and to help generate some pre-qualified traffic to your website, is to set up a referral bonus/encouragement program. In other words, offer a freebie when someone refers a friend to your site. What this does is make your referral system into an action oriented one. You give your readers a call to action and a reward for taking that action. This is one of the best forms of advertising out there.
6. AFFILIATE Programs and Why You’re an Idiot if You Don’t Have One.
I’ve talked about this in a few of my other posts and received a few pissed off emails from failed publishers who didn’t take too kindly to my calling them idiots. To them I say “deal with it.”
The best example of an affiliate program in action is Amazon.com’s Associates program. An Amazon affiliate places a bit of code on their website and receives a percentage of any orders referred by their site within a set period of time (either 30 or 45 days, I forget). I’m sure a large number of the people reading this have even tried out the Associates program in the fast with varying degrees of success (my sites pull in over $4000 from Amazon per month).
As a publisher you should be setting up your own Affiliate program once you have your first trade paperback out — it doesn’t work as well with single comic issues because of the lower price point, but you can try it if you want. Set up the program through a manage it yourself program, such as the one from Idevaffiliate, and offer your affiliate partners between 10%-25% of each sell to entice them in to joining. The higher the affiliate commission, the more affiliates you’ll sign up.
Yes, it does take a bit of work to put together and manage, but a successful Affiliate program is a goldmine. What could be better for your business than 5, 10, 20 or even 100 freelance commission-only sales people? If you have to think about an answer to that question then you shouldn’t be involved in running any sort of business at all. The more affiliates you sign up, the more potential you have for increased sales…plus, you’re paying them a lot less than Diamond or a comic book store takes as a discount (even at 25% you’re still ahead of Diamond’s 60+% discount).
That is it for this time. Check back for more and check back often.