Last time I talked about how to better leverage the internet to help build your sales and presence as a small press comic book publisher. I’ll be coming back to the internet and ways you can expand what you’re doing by using it, but right now I want to move to talk about a place that most small press comic publishers aren’t really doing much with — the offline world. Although, some of these tips do crossover with the online world as well.
In the past I’ve said over and over again “by focusing on the comic book industry you are limiting yourself — cutting your business off at the knees — by not opening up to the mainstream.” This is also true by limiting yourself only to the internet as an advertising platform. You might be surprised to hear me say that because of how I earn my living and my own love of the internet. But it’s true. Moving your branding offline and out in to the real world can be one of the best things you do for your business.
Now, I know a lot of you are saying “I go to comic conventions” or “I go out and talk to comic shops in my area.” You’re limiting yourself because the comic industry is a dead end for the indie comic publisher. It is — no one wants your books in the comic industry outside of other creators, and even they probably don’t want your books. However, the mainstream public will buy your book, you just have to let them know it.
What follows are 5 tips for marketing your comic books offline and how to start building your business locally. Remember, in spite of it being a global economy these days, every business is a local business and that is where you can start.
1. The Local Media is your Friend.
One of the first things any small press comic book publisher should do is go out and make contact with the local media – newspapers, television and magazines. Most communities have one or more of these outlets and most larger ones have all of them. The local media loves hometown business and will often write up business profiles on local companies or organizations. You just have to let them know you are there. The good thing about a business profile is people will take notice of one where they are more than likely to just skip over an advertisement. If you get there attention then make sure to be prepared for an interview. Come up with a one sentence description of what you do and have something ready for when they ask you why they should be covering your business instead of someone else’s. This is a good place to bring up any community ties you have.
Which brings us to…
2. Go out and Sponsor your Community.
As a comic book publisher, if you’re not already involved in your community then you are missing out on some priceless free PR. You should be getting involved with teaching kids to read, getting your books out to school classrooms and even sponsoring things like little league sports teams. Having a local hockey team wearing your characters on their jerseys can be a great experience AND gives you a bunch of little billboards running around with your company’s branding. This kind of thing, along with giving out free books to schools, can build a huge amount of buzz on your business locally.
Another idea we’ve done in the past is to team up with school as a fundraiser. We’ve put together special books for local communities and split the profits with high school bands, churches and PTAs to help them raise money. We’ve also donated specially designed books to those charities to help build word of mouth for Nifty Comics.
3. The Special Offer.
Put together an offer uniquely tied to your business and what you’re doing. For example, give a discount if someone buys an issue of your book and then later decides to pick up a trade compilation. Offer exclusive covers to larger stores in exchange for them carrying your books — this works well in the comic industry but works ten times better outside of it. We’ve had multiple covers going out for each of our books and will continue to do so. This has nothing to do with the speculator market. What this does is to give your distributors something unique and something which generally includes their branding as well as your. Do you know why that is a benefit? Because they will be more likely to actively sell your books because they have a vested interest in them.
Those are just a couple of ideas…there are tons of different things you can do to help add a little special incentive to your comics if you sit down and think about it. Oh, and this works online as well.
4. The Package Insert Program.
Advertising and marketing costs money. There is no way around that fact and, unfortunately, there is no way around the fact you absolutely have to do it. One way to save money and expand your advertising reach is to team up with other business who target the same or similar markets or demographics as your comic books. In other words, when you send out mailings you will include their materials along with yours and they will do the same. You can often just pay another company to include your brochures or info along with their mailers instead of doing a trade off.
Becoming involved in a package insert program will get your brand out to places it wouldn’t have otherwise gone on its own. We’ve teamed with skateboard shops, t-shirt companies, a variety of retailers, a small wrestling federation and about 20 other places. The opportunities are almost endless.
5. Be Recognized as an Expert
As a comic book publisher, the most important thing you can do is to build your brand and to build the public’s perception of you as an expert or leader in your field. One great way to do this is to contribute articles to your local newspapers, trade magazines or even online. Get your name out there. Get your URL out there. Get recognized. The more used to seeing your name out there, the more likely people will buy what you are selling. The branding game is all about recognition and familiarity.
They key to all of this is to get your brand out to where it isn’t currently represented…to get it out of the muck and mire that is the comic book industry and to take it out to the mainstream.