Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, Ohio. This week, Bennett looks at what the back-of-Previews publishers can do to get noticed.
Fallout from my last couple of columns continues to fall. Via Super-Fly Comics & Games I received this email:
My name is Mike Bullock and I'm a comic writer, most known for Lions, Tigers and Bears and Phantom. I saw this article in the ICv2 newsletter and it got me wondering, as a guy who puts out a lot of "back of Previews" comics.
What can I, as a comic creator, do to get you and other shop owners (I fully understand you don’t speak for other shop owners, but you do have a good perspective from that side of the table) to read our solicits? My new book, Black Bat, the old pulp hero that’s proven to appeal to fans of Batman, Daredevil and Moon Knight, begins this month and pre-sales are certainly not on par with what I was expecting. When I ask the retailers I already know, most of them say they never knew it was coming out.
I’m getting ready to launch another new book through Moonstone called Savage Beauty, and before we solicit it (#1 ships in January) I’d like to do as much as possible to avoid the same trap you say Honey West fell into.
Speaking for myself (and only myself) I really can’t give you an excuse why I haven’t studied the solicits of some of the "back of Previews" publishers as closely as I should have. A lot of retailers can legitimately plead lack of time but it’s been a couple of years since I’ve been part of the day to day operations of a comic book shop. For me it’s probably more a combination of habit, inertia and self fulfilling low expectations; as much as I long to find something "good and unexpected" (as I keep saying) it’s been a while since I’ve found one in Previews. Part of that is a "forest for the trees" kind of thing, i.e., it’s hard for any single title to stand out amongst all of those comics (especially from a small or self publisher), but mostly it’s, thanks to the Internet, if there is a comic that good out there most likely you’ll have read about it for months before the actual solicitation.
For years I’ve believed that the simplest way for a creator or publisher to get a retailer to order their comic is to send them a copy, though I understood why most people don’t do it. Back in the old days when I was doing the ordering this would have meant mailing either a physical or photocopy of your comic which would be cost prohibitive for most people. But now you can send a digital copy to every comic shop retailer in the world almost instantly and the only costs that I can see are in terms of time and energy (and if I’m wrong I’m sure somebody out there will be happy to correct me).
I mean, everyone loves free comics, right? Back when I was regularly working behind the counter one of the highlights of my day was getting promotional comics in the mail. So this is what I advised Mike to do, until he brought to my attention that (surprise) not every retailer felt the same way I did about this kind of unsolicited material. He directed me to the forums at The Comic Book Industry Alliance Website where I found that some of you considered what I was proposing to be "spamming." One retailer even vowed to never order anything again from a publisher who sent him a digital copy of one of their comics, seeing it as "clogging my inbox with unwanted junk."
The idea of rejecting a free comic book is totally counter intuitive to me but I can understand why some of you would feel this way; retailers get a lot of email that they have to go through every day, not to mention limited space on their computers that all of those pdf’s would eat up. Mike liked my idea though, well enough to improve upon it; he suggested that he could alert retailers via email to contact him for a free PDF preview copy of his books.
Of course I also told him even if retailers do like his comics it doesn’t automatically mean that they’ll actually order any of them -- as I’ve repeated (and recently) written some retailers just can’t sell certain comics to their customer base and ordering different comics doesn't always bring in different customers. If nothing else nearly two decades of experience selling comic books has taught me that when you can’t sell a certain comic it’s not necessarily a reflection on either the comic or the retailer. It’s heartbreaking, but it’s true.
That’s all the advice I have; I hope it helped.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.
Column by Steve Bennett
September 9 2010 @ 12:00 am CT
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