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B&N 86: Become A Better Creator–Press Release & Solicits

| August 14, 2012

It’s another glorious Tuesday! I’m here, you’re here, so let’s talk about some Bolts & Nuts, shall we?

Sometime during your comic book career, you’re going to do some things that you absolutely hate doing. I mean, ab-soul-lutley hate. More than likely, it will be two things. What are they?

Writing solicitation copy, and writing press releases.

I’m going to tell you a few things about both of these. The first thing about them is that neither of them are easy. The second thing is that they both require the selling of your soul, because while they may seem to be about the story, they really aren’t. They’re about selling, and selling is not about telling the story, which is what we all want to do, in whatever capacity we want to do it. The last thing I want to tell you is that, while solicitations may be generally ineffective, both solicitations and writing press releases turn you into liars.

Okay, yes, that sounds bitter. Let’s go through it, though.

Solicitation copy. This is the easy one first. Solicitation copy is all about giving just a hint, a tease, of what’s inside the comic that’s coming out soon. Want to see an example of solicitation copy? Go pick up Diamond’s Previews catalogue. You pick that up, you’ll see nothing but solicitation copy within the pages. Solicitations, and [of course], previews.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the solicitations are for the reader, though. They aren’t. You’re barely even making the comics for the reader. No, besides yourself, the solicitations are for the people that Previews is really for, as well: the retailer.

(Is everything for the retailer?) You’d think that way, wouldn’t you? But you have to sell to the retailer in order to sell to the customer. If you don’t sell to the retailer first, doing things to get you noticed, then your comic won’t make it into the hands of the customer, which is where you want it, anyway.

Does this make solicitation copy important? Honestly, I don’t know. I’d skip it, if I could. I’d rather just give either the preview to the retailer, or the entire book. Because the solicitation copy has to distill the book and have a hook for that single issue, all in order to sell that issue to the retailer.

Solicitations don’t have a specific word count, but they shouldn’t be overly wordy. And by “overly wordy,” I mean that 75 words may be too much. You’d probably be better off with around 50 or so, if not a touch less. Remember, you’re not trying to tell the whole story, you’re trying to whet an appetite. It can be pretty difficult.

Press releases are a different beast. Even though I can write them, I’m certainly no fan of them. The reasoning for this is pretty simple: most press releases aren’t really news pieces. They are pieces of hype to try to persuade you to pick up the comic.

They’re harder to write, too.

Press releases have a formula that can be used, but some of those guidelines are going by the wayside, simply because this is the Internet Age where we’re always on, always connected. Things are different on the web than they are in print, and that’s changing how we view some things.

When you read a lot of press releases, you’ll start to see certain patterns. The first thing you’ll notice is that it more than likely isn’t really a news item. Generally, it’s an item that the company wants to get a little bit of hype on. And before you start saying that it doesn’t have to be a news item, think about this: you’re sending them to news media in the hopes that they’ll run it, right? News media, news piece.

What is it if it isn’t news? Fluff and hype, designed to sell comics. Don’t believe me. Go, read a few. Now, the blame here is threefold: one is the publisher/company writing and sending out the press release, the second is the comics news media not asking for real pieces to run for their news [a big portion of the comics news media is unpaid, so this can only go so far], and the reading public who also doesn’t ask for real news to be run. So the fault is with all of us.

Can a press release be persuasive? Sure. Just know that they’re generally written by one person, and whenever you see a quote in one, the one quoted may not have said whatever they’ve just been quoted on. Remember, this is fluff and hype designed to sell comics. And if you’re persuaded to pick up a book because of a press release, then it has done its job.

Press releases also follow a formula. These are a little more stringent, but some of the guidelines are also falling away, especially when it comes to page count. Once again, that is because of the Internet. This means your press release can run a little long, but I don’t suggest it. While it isn’t necessarily just the facts, you should get to it as soon as possible.

Also, while it may be just fluff and hype, do your best to couch the release in as newsworthy a way as possible. No need to offend everyone’s sensibilities.

Want to learn how to write solicitation copy? Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery: go find some, and copy how it’s done. Read a few from different companies, get a feel for them, and start writing.

Want to learn how to write a press release? Do a Google search for the term, and then read a few articles on the subject. The format isn’t difficult, but writing it can prove to be a challenge. I suggest writing a few and getting a feel for them before sending them out to the various comic book news media. You’ll only be helping yourself.

That’s all I have for this week. See you in seven.

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Category: Bolts & Nuts, Columns

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.

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