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B&N Week 51: What Happens Next

| December 13, 2011 | 1 Comment

Once more, Tuesday is upon us! I swear, the weeks have just been flying by. Who’d have thunk it, eh?

This week, we’re going to talk about something that doesn’t get mentioned much. I’ve already spoken a LOT about the creation of comics, as have many, many books on the subject. However, not many go into what happens after you’ve created your book. That’s what I want to talk about now. So, let’s get into the Bolts & Nuts of it, shall we?

I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again: just because you’ve created it does NOT mean they will come. One does not follow the other. But, let’s go through it.

You’ve written the comic, paid the creative team, found a printer, and you’re now holding the book in your hand. Let’s call it a graphic novel about clowns and their love of cars. With me so far?

Okay, so you’ve got the book in your hot little hands. You’ve read all the books, you’re looking for clues for the very big question: what happens next?

Well, there are several ways to go about it. On all of them, your mileage may vary.

You can talk about and be cryptic with your idea, dropping hints here and there in order to build buzz with it. That also means doing some advertising and giving preview pages in strategic locations. That’s always a good way to get buzz about your book.

Another way is to get to your local comic shop. Hopefully, you have a relationship with your local shop(s), and you spend a decent amount of money in them. [One way, if they offer it, is to do two or more pull lists, depending on the number of retailers are in your area. Break your list into different parts, and get some comics from one retailer, and some from another.] Let them know ahead of time you’re working on a book, and ask them if they’d look it over to see if they’ll carry it.

Now, this is not guaranteed. Some retailers are NOT indy friendly. They just won’t carry your book if you’re not in Previews. Others will. But you won’t know if you don’t ask.

To talk about ourselves for a moment, ComixTribe is seeing movement with Tyler’s title, The Red Ten. Tyler is a patron of Larry’s Comics, and Larry is a big believer in indy books. Larry is also extremely active on Twitter. Follow #comicmarket if you’re not already doing so. Don’t be afraid to interact, either. Anyway, Larry is pushing The Red Ten. If you’re able to get retailer support for your book, then you’ve won a very big battle.

Like I said before, if you’ve created a physical book, you’re really going to be marketing to the retailers. They are the ones you have to get on board with your book, because they’re the ones who know their readers tastes. And if they really believe in your book, they’ll bend over backwards in the marketing of the book for you.

Distribution. Either for physical books or digital distribution, the effect is the same: you want readers to read the story. If you’ve got a highly salable book, then you can try to get it through Diamond, and we’ve already talked about that. If you’re going the digital route, then you’re going to look at Graphic.ly and ComiXology, among others. [And no, nothing is stopping you from creating both a physical and a digital book. Just be sure to price them differently if you want them to sell. People see digital as a throw away or an impulse buy, which means you have to price accordingly. Don’t be afraid to give the first issue away for free, and have the second issue be something that’s paid for.]

Reviews.

Reviews are important, because the reviewers tell people whether or not they think your book is worth it; however, reviews are also extremely hard to gauge when it comes to sales.

There is something that doesn’t get spoken about when it comes to reviews. Not from the creative standpoint. First, let’s look at it from the point of view of the customer.

The simple question reviews attempt to answer is whether or not a book should be bought. That’s the most basic use of a review, but reviewers are rarely able to answer the question in such simple terms. They’ll break it down into some arbitrary system that measures the worthiness of the book. A scale of 1 to 5, or a number of stars, or whatever other system of measure they care to use. All to answer a “yes/no” question. And does that review sway the customer? More than likely not. Oh, some are swayed, to be sure, but the amount is negligible. But in the indies, every sale is a sale, so we take what we can get.

From the reviewer’s standpoint, you have to remember that this is going through the filter of their personal taste. Most reviewers aren’t qualified to review. They’re like Monday morning quarterbacks: they review the work, but haven’t created a book. Most reviewers know what they do and don’t like, but are unable to adequately express either. Then, it is also a matter of their taste, rather than a matter of looking at the work and studying it for what it is. I don’t like Will Ferrell movies because I don’t like movies about man-children, but I’m not qualified to say that the movies he makes are good or bad from an artistic point of view. I’m just going by my taste. So are most reviewers.

Now, keeping that in mind, you also must keep this next part in mind. It is very important.

No review is wrong.

Let me say that again, because it is important: no review is wrong.

The reviewers are not talking about the merits of the work, and they’re not talking about the amount of time and effort and money put into the work. The reviewers are talking about how the work struck THEM, and that is an important thing to keep in mind.

Maybe they didn’t get it, or they didn’t understand it, or they just didn’t like it. None of the reviews are wrong. The fault may lie with you as the creator.

Let’s talk about me for a moment.

I wrote a book called Runners. Most people will make the comparison that it is The Walking Dead, with vampires. I sent out preview copies to reviewers so that some buzz could start to be built over the book. Most of the reviews were positive, but a decent portion of the reviewers didn’t necessarily “get” the book, saying it was about this or about that.

Is that the fault of the reviewer, or the creator? [For my part, I’ll take some of the blame, but at the same time, I don’t want to give everything away right at the beginning.]

We also got a negative review. (Really, now! Dish!) [Listen to the podcast. The talk on Runners starts around the 54 minute mark.] What did I do with it? How did I react?

I thanked the reviewers for their time. For everyone that reviewed the book, good, bad, on point and missed marks, I thanked them for their time. I didn’t point fingers, I didn’t say they didn’t get it, I didn’t try to defend the work at all. I thanked them, and left it at that.

Why?

Because while it is much easier to throw a tantrum, it generally doesn’t do any good. In fact, it could have a negative effect on how you and your book are perceived. Your goal is to make the best book possible. Reviewers are part of the front line. They are the ones who are going to be saying the first words about your book. Do you want to leave a bad taste in their mouth by being a jerk? Remember, Malefactor Nein doesn’t have a face, but Kletus Jerkovitch does, and it is Kletus’ name that will be on the front cover of the book.

What else do you do once the book is created? Simple. You create the next book. Actually, you should have been creating the next book while the first book was being created.

Sam Humphries created a book entitled Our Love Is Real. He studied the market, he did a limited run, he did a lot of things right. He did them so right [to include creating a quality book—that is the caveat in everything we do] that he was able to get Image comics to pick up the book.

And for an encore, his next book has already sold out of the first printing—and it hasn’t even come out yet!

If you’re a writer, it doesn’t take that long to come up with a story. If you’re an artist, you’re looking for work when you get near the middle to the end of your current assignment. But you’ve got to create the next book. (And it has to be on time?) [Every time!]

And that’s it for this week! Homework is to think about what happens after you’ve created your book. How are you going to get it into the hands of your soon-to-be adoring fans?

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Category: Bolts & Nuts

About the Author ()

Steven is an editor/writer with such credits as Fallen Justice, the award nominated The Standard, and Bullet Time under his belt, as well as work published by DC Comics. Between he and his wife, there are 10 kids (!), so there is a lot of creativity all around him. Steven is also the editor in chief and co-creator of ComixTribe, whose mission statement is Creators Helping Creators Make Better Comics. If you're looking for editing, contact him at stevedforbes@gmail.com for rate inquiries.

Comments (1)

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  1. As a publicist it warms my heart to read this!!
    Unfortunately a lot of creators find themselves lost as to what to do after the comic is created so a guide like this to give them a push in the right direction is great.

    Not all of this will always fall on the creator (says the eager publicist) but having them on board and interested in the success of their book and actively working will produce better results.

    As wonderful as Sam Humphries’ example is, he is not the norm (hence why it’s so astonishing and fantastic to see such success). He’s the ideal and I hope with his example we can all do so well. Lessons can be learned from his campaign and I’m doing just that myself.

    But ultimately, like you say Steven, you will probably get negative feedback or no feedback at all. Take a breath and look at what you’ve done not just as a creator but also as a self-publicist. It might have been your outreach, not necessarily your work (but keep it in mind, Steven is wise in his advice).

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