Tyler James – ComixTribe https://www.comixtribe.com Creators Helping Creators Make Better Comics Fri, 07 Dec 2018 16:09:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.7.2 Here’s a Formula for Naming Your Comic Book Kickstarter Project https://www.comixtribe.com/2018/12/07/heres-a-formula-for-naming-your-comic-book-kickstarter-project/ Fri, 07 Dec 2018 16:09:26 +0000 https://www.comixtribe.com/?p=4123 Many creators are making a big mistake with their Kickstarter project name. This video will show you how to rock your Kickstarter project title every single time.

]]>
The Comic Book Kickstarter Success Rate is… https://www.comixtribe.com/2018/09/17/the-comic-book-kickstarter-success-rate-is/ Mon, 17 Sep 2018 21:38:30 +0000 https://www.comixtribe.com/?p=4118 Wondering whether the comic book Kickstarter success rate is going up or down? This video has the answer!

]]>
How to Sell Your Small-press Book to Retailers Part 3 – 21 Tips from Actual Comic Book Retailers https://www.comixtribe.com/2015/06/22/how-to-sell-retailers-part-3-21-tips-from-actual-comic-book-retailers/ https://www.comixtribe.com/2015/06/22/how-to-sell-retailers-part-3-21-tips-from-actual-comic-book-retailers/#respond Mon, 22 Jun 2015 13:00:13 +0000 https://www.comixtribe.com/?p=3694 CC_FeaturedImag_06-21-15

Who the hell am I to be telling you how to sell your small press books to retailers, anyway?

If you’ve been with us for the first two installments of this series…

How to Sell Your Small-press Book to Retailers Part 1: Why Bother?

How to Sell Your Small-press Book to Retailers Part 2: The New Series Retailer Portal Site

…then you’ve been hit with a ton of thoughts and ideas from a small-press publisher working in the trenches, trying to make a dollar out of 95 cents in this comics game.

Well, for Part 3, I’m going to shut the #$%! up!

Instead, I’m going to drop 21 tips that come directly from comic book retailers who I’ve worked with over the years. On the panel today, we have:

Colin McMahon of Pittsburgh Comics

PGH_Com_Trans_Logo-220x70

Jeremy Shorr of Titan Comics

Titan

Ernie Pelletier of Friendly Neighborhood Comics

 CaptureFNC

I’m extremely grateful for these three gentlemen’s time and insight. Let’s get to it!

Tip #1: Never Call on a Wednesday.

Calling stores to tell them about your book is great.

Just don’t do it on a Wednesday.

“I am stunned how many calls I get from people wanting me to buy their stuff on Wednesday at noon and 5:00,” say Colin McMahon of Pittsburgh Comics. “Learn your market. More often than not, they piss me off and I intentionally DON’T order their stuff when I see it. A former game distributor would call every Wednesday at 12:30. To him, he knew I’d be there. To me, I have a line of people who are rushing in and out on their lunch break and I need to keep them happy. A 10 min conversation while trying to ring them out is not in the cards.”

Tip #2: Don’t Call or Email on a Wednesday, Either. Or Tuesday, or Friday Night…

Okay, so, New Comic Book day Wednesday are a bad time to try to capture a retailer’s attention.

But guess, what? Those new comics don’t magically appear on retail shelves, which means Tuesday is a lousy day to reach them as well.

“Don’t email stores on Tuesday, as we’re checking in the order and getting the store ready. We need to make 26 new holes on the New Comics shelf, a 3 hour process of shifting,” says McMahon.

Friday nights are also a bad time for many shops that hold Friday Night Magic tournaments.

“Your email header may be glanced at, but no store is digging through their mail those days and it will just get pushed down and out of mind. If I only got 2-3 emails selling me stuff a day, it’d be ok. But I get 200-300.

Instead, retailers suggest you make your emails memorable, and send it when they can actually read it.

The best times to send emails to retailers are Thursday or Friday late morning, early afternoon.

“Just understand what is going on in the store during the week and figure out when we will be less busy… Don’t email a game store during Friday Night Magic and expect them to see it.”

Tip #3: But DO Call and Email.

While certain times are awful to contact them, most retailers are receptive to hearing from you.

“I always read emails,” says Jeremy Shorr of Titan Comics.  “Don’t despair if I don’t reply.”

Tip #4: Sending PDFs is Good…

“PDF’s rule.  If you really want me to order your comic, send me a PDF of the comic.  Front covers are insufficient,” says Shorr.

McMahon agrees. “Send anything you can. If I know more than just the Previews blurb, I’m more apt to read it.”

Tip #5: …But Sending Physical Product is Better.

And while PDFs are the most commonly sent promotional material to retailers, understand a physical review copy is going to be a lot more effective.

“Physical copies are better than pdfs, but I realize there is a cost involved. I stand at the computer all day and the last thing I want to do at night is sit at the computer reading PDFs,” said McMahon.

“I’m old school. I like to read on the sofa. Black Mask sent me a copy of We Can Never Go Home #1. I threw it in my bag. Finally got around to reading it. Loved it. Tripled my order. I’m now hand selling it.”

“The problem with the PDFs is that it, like other emails, they get forgotten and drift out of sight. A physical copy has a better chance of being looked at.”

Tip #6: Remember You’re in a War for Shelf Space…

“Stores have a limited amount of spaces for new comics,” says McMahon. “I am lucky. My new comic wall is huge. I have 658 spaces for new books. But if a store only has space for 200 new books, well, you are going to get squeezed out.”

This is simply the reality of the arena you’re asking to compete in. There’s no sugar coating it.

“Sometimes its just a numbers game. Your shelf time might be shorter than normal so that promo effort needs to be timed right. I need to pull 26 titles off of the wall to make room for 26 new #1s tomorrow.

Tip #7: …So, for the Love of Everything Holy, Hit Your Ship Dates!

“Nothing slaughters momentum on a new series faster than delayed shipping,” says Shorr.

“This is true regardless of who is writing, drawing, or publishing the comic.  The more its delayed, the lower the sales.  Powers is a fantastic example of this – I was selling upwards of 40 copies when it was first being published.  Once its shipping schedule started slipping, people got tired of waiting and moved on.  Now, when it finally gets around to shipping, I sell around 16 copies.  There are myriad other examples but that one is a gold star example.”

McMahon concurs, “Am I going to pull something that I have a lot of that will never sell once off the wall, or that book I decided to give a shot, but it didn’t move, and #2 is now two months late?

Tip #8: Don’t Expect the Retailer to Sell Your Books for You.

“I have 26 new #1s that I need to make room for on the shelves every week,” says McMahon.

“It’s not realistic for me to be able to read all of them tonight and talk about them tomorrow. And then next week its the same thing. There is rarely a break where I can get caught up.”

Tip #9: Diamond and Previews is Your Gateway to the Direct Market.

“I have no idea what is involved getting into Previews, but you really have to try,” says McMahon.

[Want to know what’s involved in getting into Previews? Well, read this article here… and then this one right here. Who loves ya? The ‘Tribe, that’s who!]

“Very few stores have the time to go online and try to find stuff. It’s not lack of desire or laziness. There is more stuff than I can use in Previews. Trying to find more outside of Previews is just an extra step.”

While there are retailers receptive to small press publishers outside of Diamond, it is a hard sell for most.

“I am a one man show. I run the store 5 days a week and do all of the ordering. Most weeks I’m lucky to not fall behind in the stuff I need to do to keep the store running. Adding extra steps to the process for something that might only sell a few copies isn’t worth the effort.”

“I’m not being mean or saying the books not in Previews aren’t worth it. But I do ten hours at the store a day and at least a few at home. Yesterday, my day off was two hours of computer work doing the weekly reorder and FOC.”

Tip #10: Retailers Are Probably Not Going to Back Your Kickstarter.

Retailer Colin McMahon’s take on Kickstarter:

1) I don’t have time to look at them.

2) I have found, through personal experience, that doing the retailer tiers is a wasted effort. The people who are really interested will just do the Kickstarter and the copies I get go unsold. We are trying for the same market.

From my own experience, it never hurts to include a few retailer tiers on your project, but your retailer promotion efforts are much better spent AFTER you have the product in hand.

Tip #11: Great Covers and Logos Matter.

“Have a great eye catching cover! I cannot stress this enough. My main wall is 36′ long, 6 shelves high, 7 books per shelf. 378 covers to look at. You have to stand out,” says McMahon.

“Most non-big, easily recognizable books need to catch the eye. Superman sells himself. You have to have something that makes the reader stop and look. Think back to the old Jimmy Olsen covers… “Jimmy is a turtle? I have to see how that happened!” You need to try to recreate that feeling of, “Wow, what’s this?!?” Just by the cover.”

Retailers also recommend creators make their cover logos clear.

“Nothing worse than someone asking me for a book they can’t find when it was right there, but the logo was so stylish that it was unreadable. How many don’t ask and assume I don’t have it? Not good for either of us.”

“Look at the logo for the Image book Sovereign as a study in how not to do it. Too fancy, not clear. Heck, even the recent runs on Avengers and New Avengers confused people.”

Tip #12: Get Involved with Your Local Shops.

“I also love you pushing the local angle,” said McMahon in response to that recommendation in the first part of this series.

Many retailers, like Ernie Pelletier of Friendly Neighborhood Comics will open their doors to local creators for signings, which in turn increases the likelihood for future shelf space in their shops.

Tip #13: Retailers Listen to Other Retailers.

Endorsements from comics news sites, critics, or other creators pale in comparison to a strong endorsement (backed by dollars) from other comic book retailers.

“I carry ComixTribe books because I deal with Larry [Doherty of Larry’s Wonderful World of Comics] online. And HE talked up your books for you on Twitter,” says McMahon.

“Local doesn’t just mean local. Local means those guys will work harder for you. And that gets you out there to the people (like me) who didn’t know you were there.

Tip #14: Pay Attention to Your Pricing.

“I know you need to make a profit, but my customers won’t even sniff at a $6 independent comic book,” says Shorr. “Which means I won’t order such a thing, either.”

One thing worth noting, however, is that cheaper does not always mean a retailer will order more. In fact, a retailer might even be LESS likely to order your book at $1.99 than he would be at $3.99.

Why?

Because that $1.99 book, when sold, will net him $1 in profit. Yet, it would need to take up the same amount of shelf space as a book at $3.99, which, when sold, would net him twice as much in profit.

This is a major reason why I discourage indie creators from trying to compete with a lowest-price strategy. That’s not a game we can win… and even if we could, we probably wouldn’t want to.

Tip #15: Factor in Shipping Costs with Your Offers to Shops.

Jeremy Shorr recommends that you factor in the shipping costs into your offer when you make a discount offer to a shop.

“If you offer me a 40% discount with an added $5 shipping charge on five comic books, guess what?  That’s really a 20% discount.  I do the math ahead of time and order accordingly.”

Tip #16: Format Your Books for the Direct Market.

“Artistic freedom rules!  However, if your comic book is extravagantly shaped or sized, my customers avoid it like the plague,” says Shorr.

While there are notable exceptions to this, like Frank Miller’s 300 or David Peterson’s Mouse Guard, those are exactly that… exceptions.

“Please keep the shape and size near that of a regular mass market comic book.  The further away from a regular comic book size your item is, the less likely I am to order it.”

Tip #17: Think Carefully About Graphic Sexual Content.

“I am not a censor, but if you must include graphic sexual content in your publication please wait until issue 2 to do so,” suggests Jeremy Shorr of Titan Comics.

“Nothing slows down the entry sales of a comic faster than being forced to seclude it from the general public.”

It’s also worth noting that different shops are subject to different local censorship laws and content suitability guidelines… so be sure to go into the marketing and selling of your book with your eyes wide open when it comes to graphic content.

And make sure you’re upfront about its content, and that graphic content is labeled as such.

Tip #18: Put a Bar Code on Your Book.

“Please invest in a bar code,” pleads Shorr.

Many retailers have invested in expensive POS systems to track unit sales… but that’s all for naught if your book doesn’t have a bar code on it.

[And let’s be honest, you have no excuse for not putting a bar code on your books, because we tell you everything you need to know about bar codes in this meaty ComixTribe articleWe got your back, creators!]

Tip #19: Put a Price on Your Book.

This seems like a no-brainer, but in fact, many small press books do not carry a price.

“Please have a visible price printed on the comic,” requests Shorr.

Again, with hundreds of new books coming in each week, it’s impossible to expect retailers to know the price of everything in their store, unless it’s right there on the cover.

Tip #20: If Your Book has a Spine, it Needs Something Printed on it!

“Collected editions need information printed on the spine,” says Shorr.

“Most of my TPB’s are displayed spine out – if you have a blank spine your item will become lost in the sea of spines very quickly.”

Again, seems like a no-brainer, but I do see plenty of books with spines at cons that lack any information on them. If you’re trying to get into retail, that’s a no-no.

Tip #21: Follow Comic Shops on Twitter.

“If you have a Twitter account, follow comic shops,” suggests Ernie Pelletier, of Friendly Neighborhood Comics (@FriendlyComics). “If we are following you, we can’t send you a direct message unless you are also following us.”

Click Here for a Giant List of Comic Book Retailers on Twitter.

 ***

And there you have it, 21 tips from actual comic book retailers!

Even if you’re not sure you want to listen to my thoughts on the matter, following the advice in this post alone will level up your retailer relations 1000%.

Again, big time thanks to:

Colin McMahon of Pittsburgh Comics

PGH_Com_Trans_Logo-220x70

Jeremy Shorr of Titan Comics

Titan

Ernie Pelletier of Friendly Neighborhood Comics

 CaptureFNC

for dropping knowledge bombs on us. I hope you learned a lot.

]]>
https://www.comixtribe.com/2015/06/22/how-to-sell-retailers-part-3-21-tips-from-actual-comic-book-retailers/feed/ 0
How to Sell Your Small-press Book to Retailers Part 2: The New Series Retailer Portal Site https://www.comixtribe.com/2015/06/15/how-to-sell-your-small-press-book-to-retailers-part-2-the-new-series-retailer-portal-site/ Mon, 15 Jun 2015 12:30:52 +0000 https://www.comixtribe.com/?p=3691 CC_FeaturedImage_retailpart2

Today, convenience is king.

I know people who buy EVERYTHING (books, music, household goods, food, toilet paper…) at Amazon.com.

A big part of Wal-mart’s success is the fact that you can literally get almost anything you’re interested in purchasing under their roof.

It’s this “all-in-one” and “one-stop shop” philosophy that inspired me to create this first tool in my “How to Sell to Retailers Tool Kit.”

Last time, we reviewed in depth the “Why?” side of the importance of selling retailers on your new comic book series.  The rest of this series will focus on the “how.

Tool #1: The New Series Retailer Portal Site

What Is it?

I’ve created a private retailer portal site that can serve as a one-stop shop featuring everything a retailer needs to know about our new series OXYMORON: The Loveliest Nightmare, presented in (I hope) the best possible light.

This is a micro-site.

It’s not a few pages added to this already busy ComixTribe.com website, or trying to serve many functions and masters. Rather, it’s a site that consists of just five total pages, which I’ll detail below.

I’d love to include a link to the site, and I may go back and update this article in the future to include a link to it. However, right now, the site contains some private, for retailer-only content (advanced review PDFs) that we’re not interested in leaking to the general public.

This retailer portal was made in about five hours with ClickFunnels, which is a tool I’m using for a ton of ComixTribe stuff, and is making a huge difference in our business.

The Pages of the New Series Retailer Portal Site

The About the Series Page

This is the first page or home page of the portal site. The goal of this page is to first capture the retailers’ interest and attention, and get them to watch the series trailer and/or download the PDFs.

Ideally, the retailer will also opt-in to the ComixTribe email list if they are not already on it, and go deeper into the portal site.

Portal_1

Elements of the About the Series Page

The Hook – Front and center, the page leads with the pithy, one-sentence, grab the reader by the throat high-concept of the series. In this case, that would be “What if The Joker came to a Gotham WITHOUT Batman?” What’s solid about that hook is that it will resonate with 100% of our target audience (comic book retailers.)

Trailer – A short, under-two minutes long video trailer. Nothing fancy… some voice over of script from the first issue, some royalty free music, and a montage of shots from the series.

Advanced Review PDF Downloads – This was a tip I picked up from Jim Zub – Sending retailers an advanced review PDF of the first issue of a series is good… but sending the first TWO issues sends the message that this book will actually come out on time.

E-mail Capture – While most of the traffic that hits this site will already be on our ComixTribe retailer contact email list, some may not be. And even if they are already on the list, anything we can do to get retailers to engage with this page is a win.

Links to the How to Sell Page – At the end of the About the Series page, there’s a call to action to get the retailers to go to page two, the How to Sell page.

The How to Sell Page

There are some great salesmen and women in the world of indie comics. Plenty of creators absolute crush it at conventions or raise big time bucks on Kickstarter by effectively selling their work to a captivated audience.

“If only retailers would give my book a chance,” they might think.

The problem is, there’s a HUGE difference between a smiling, passionate creator pitching his book in person or virtually to a prospective customer, and that same book sitting on a shelf, alone, next to hundreds of other titles of established brands.

You and I can’t be in hundreds or thousands of retail locations around the globe pitching our books.

We need a retailer on our side, advocating on our book’s behalf.

When a customer asks, “Anything new?” we want OUR books to be on the retailer’s mind.

Portal_2

So, the idea behind the “How to Sell” page is simple…

Explain to retailers in a short, concise video EXACTLY what pitches work on a series at conventions that lead to customers purchasing your book.

Here’s the video included on the how to sell page:

After watching that, any retailer on the planet could (if he or she chooses) replicate the success that I have pitching this book at shows with their own customers.  (That’s the theory, anyway.)

Other Elements of the How to Sell Page

The How to Sell Script – Some people love video, but since I wrote out the script for the video, I decided to put in the full transcript as well. Can’t hurt, and if they decide to reference it, it’s easier to scan text than a video.

Addressing Retailer Concerns – Indie books have a shaky reputation in the direct market. This section is an attempt to address some of the major concerns retailers might have about this series, and anticipate and reframe any of the objections to carrying the series retailers might have.

Links to the Offer Page – A call to action to go check out a special offer.

The Special Offer Page

As creators, we can get romantic about comics. And I’m sure the same goes for retailers…

But I imagine the romance fades pretty quickly when the rent is due and you’re sitting on a ton of unreturnable inventory that will never sell.

Small press books are a risk.

They’re a far bigger risk than whatever the Big Two are putting out… even if what they’re putting out has Nick Lachez eating a Twix Bar where the next panel should be. (Don’t get me started…)

CaptureLachey

(Batman #1, Guest Starring Nick Lachey and Twix.)

So, we’re going to incentivize them to take that risk with an offer to get free copies of OXYMORON Vol. 1 and THE RED TEN Vol. 1 hardcovers, two premium products (MSRP $54.98).

Portal_3

 

We’re only asking retailers to cover the shipping costs in order to get the books.

The idea behind the Special Offer is three-fold:

1)      Let’s reward the select few retailers who actually took the time to check out this series by visiting the retail portal and making a click or two. They are elite company.

2)       Let’s mitigate their risk of investing in a new series by giving them more than $50 worth of complimentary back-list product.

3)      Let’s qualify the retailers who actually take us up on this offer and pay for shipping. By them putting a little bit of “skin in the game” (covering shipping costs), we’ll know they’ll at least have some incentive to try to move that product, and may be good long-terms partners.

At the end of the day, one of the biggest factors in a retailer’s decision to carry a book is this:

Has this publisher/creator/character ever made me any money?

Until that answer is “Yes,” you and I are always going to struggle selling books into the direct market.

So, over the past few years, and over the next few years, ComixTribe is on a mission to make actual retailers actual money…

And if we have to give them some product to prime that pump, so be it.

The Order Form Page

Retailers who choose to click on the offer to get a free hardcover are then taken to an order form page, where they’ll plug in their credit card information and shipping address to cover the shipping.

Portal_4

You’ll notice I also have “bump” on the order form, where I offer them the opportunity to “Double Their Order” for $19.99 more.

It’s a universal truth of sales: the best time to sell someone something is when they already have their wallet open.

As this order form bump offer is still a better deal that Diamond offers, it’s no surprise that about half of the retailers who hit this order page take the offer bump.

Thank You Page

Finally, the portal concludes with a simple Thank You Page retailers will see after they’ve order a book, or entered their email address.

Portal_5

 

 

***

So, there you have it.  Those are the elements to the new series retailer portal site I’ve created for OXYMORON: The Loveliest Nightmare.

Some of you are now probably thinking…

“Okay, cool idea, I guess. But how are you going to actually get any retailers to the portal site?”

Great question.

I did say this was a multi-part series, didn’t I. So, stay tuned for more on that one.

Some of you might also be thinking, “Okay, ummm… I can’t do all that. I don’t have the funds. I don’t have the hardcovers to giveaway, I can’t afford ClickFunnels…”

I get it.

While there are some general principles at play here, and strategies many of you can steal and modify… not everything is going to be something you can use right this minute.

But, that’s how it will always be.

This is a plan taking into account the strengths and assets ComixTribe currently has on hand at this point in our journey… and them putting them to focused, strategic use.

I often say making comics, small press publishing, building a career… it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

And that is so true.

It just so happens, that ComixTribe is no longer at the very beginning of the marathon any more.  We’ve got thousands of steps behind us. Maybe we’re on Mile 2…

Which, of course, means we have millions more still ahead.

Are You a Retailer? Get on the ComixTribe List and Get Access to this Portal Site, the FREE Hardcover and More!

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required





Keep Reading!

How to Sell Your Small-press Book to Retailers Part 1: Why Bother?

Another Creator-Owned Sales Monster in the Making

Everything You Need to Know About Small Press Distribution

]]>
How to Sell Your Small-press Book to Retailers Part 1: Why Bother? https://www.comixtribe.com/2015/06/08/how-to-sell-your-small-press-book-to-retailers-part-1-why-bother/ https://www.comixtribe.com/2015/06/08/how-to-sell-your-small-press-book-to-retailers-part-1-why-bother/#comments Mon, 08 Jun 2015 12:17:20 +0000 https://www.comixtribe.com/?p=3682 CC_FeaturedImage_retailpart1

Six New England comic shops in just four hours, a new personal best!

IMG_2269ComixTribe intern Charles and I took a weekend drive to visit a number of local comic book shops to get the word out about our newest ComixTribe series OXYMORON: The Loveliest Nightmare (JUN151199), which is releasing in August.

As I am committed to making The Loveliest Nightmare the biggest ComixTribe direct market launch yet, I’m focusing on getting retailers to stock this book. In the four years or so that I’ve been courting retailers, I’ve learned a thing or two. I’m channeling everything I know on the subject into this, a new series of articles all about selling independent and small press titles to comic book retailers.

This will be a multi-part series, with this article discussing the why, and the articles that follow talking about the how.

Now, I’m calling this a “how-to” series, but a more appropriate title should be “How I am trying to…”

The results are not in.

These techniques have not been split tested.

No double-blind studies have been performed.

Some, or all of what I’m about to share with you, may not work.

There might (will) be things I’m missing or leaving out.

Twitter_Oxymoron_1024x512_0019

Ask me in eight months, after the new OXYMORON series and upcoming EXIT GENERATION series have both finished their four issue runs, how effective these strategies have been.

TW_1200x1200_EG_1_011

But I know some of you can’t wait that long… and need this info NOW.

So, let’s throw caution to the wind and jump into the deep end of the pool. We are ALL works in progress, after all.

And who knows, I might just have an idea or two that’ll help you sell a hell of a lot more books to shops the next time you try.

Why Do I Have to Sell the Retailer?

You don’t.

Not really.

We’re in a GREAT time to be a creator.

In fact, there are plenty of creators making stupid money entirely outside of the direct market. Kickstarter, Patreon, Online Sales, Comixology, webcomics, conventions… there are many options to make real money in comics outside of the direct market.

Capture_options

However, just because those options exist, doesn’t mean we small press creators should ignore the direct market entirely.

Capture_epicenter

Comic book shops are still relevant in 2015.

I’ve talked to a dozen shop owners over the past month, and to the man (and woman) they all reported their biggest Free Comic Book Days ever this year.

Good comic book shops become a hub of comic book conversation and commerce.

And I don’t know about you, but I want my books in the mix at places like that.

But getting retail space for your small press book isn’t easy. (Ask any creator who has tried.)

It’s not something Diamond is going to do for you.  And if you’re a new creator at a small publisher, it’s not something you can reasonably expect your publisher is going to do all for you either.

Retailers need to be sold on your book before they’ll ever sell it to their customers.

And that’s why you need to sell them first.

The Retailer is Your First Customer

When you’re launching a series in the direct market, one of the most important things to recognize is that retailers are your first customer.

Every month, Comichron.com comes out with estimated comic book sales numbers. While those numbers are benchmarked estimates and not the actual numbers, they’re pretty close… or at least the closest thing we have.

But it’s important to recognize that those are not estimates  of “sell through” sales. Rather, the reported numbers reflect the total number of books Diamond has sold… to retailers.

In order to have the opportunity to sell your book through to a customer, you first need to sell a retailer on the concept so that they stock the series.

And that’s not an easy thing to do.

A Numbers Game That Isn’t in Our Favor

There are a few large players in the comics retail world who carry just about everything in the 500 page monthly Diamond catalog. Midtown Comics, for example, will stock at least the first issues of every book from every publisher in Previews. However, you could probably count the number of retailers who order like that on a single hand.

There is simply too much product.

Marvel and DC put out more than 100 SKUs a month. Image releases 60-70 titles.  A retailer is into the high 300s before they even get out of the Top Six publishers!

And that’s just the arena we’re fighting in.

The truth is, 80% of comic shops aren’t going to stock our books. Period.

Any time spend courting that 80% is time well wasted.

AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE was ComixTribe’s biggest seller to date. But even that series was only carried by about 10% of the retailer accounts in Diamond’s system.

Ten. Measly. Percent.

So Why Bother?

If the direct market is dominated by other players, and if 10% is all you’re getting, then why bother at all?

Look, I get the sentiment, and there are times I’ve thought the same thing.

But there are a ton of benefits to being in the direct market.

Having your book come out on Wednesdays will improve its sales everywhere else you’re trying to sell it… online, digitally, cons, etc.

The legitimacy of the direct market increases coverage on major comics news sites and outlets.

And if your goal is to one day work for major publishers, nothing gets their attention better than getting actual books on actual store shelves.

In short, a good retailer in your corner can go a long way. 

Truth is, we all need more people advocating for our books.

If every purchase of a comic we create needs to be facilitated by us, then it will be very hard to ever scale. Our audiences are only so big, and there’s only so much time in the day to sell.

Capture_retailSell

So, my goal isn’t to get 100% of the comic market to carry ComixTribe books. That’d be a fool’s errand, and momma didn’t raise no fool.

Instead, my goal is to forget about the 80% of retailers who won’t carry our books, and focus exclusively on the 20% of the market out there who might.

If we can change the math so that 20% of the direct market is stocking ComixTribe books instead of 10%… that’ll make a real different in our business.

And because we’re not 100% reliant on the direct market, and also harness the other platforms mentioned above, improving performance in any one channel has a “virtuous circle” effect in improving other channels as well.

So, Who are the 20%?

That, my friends, is the Golden Question.

Who are the 20% of comic book retailers out there worth a damn?  Or at least worth small press creators putting time and energy into courting.

And I wish I had the list here for you all… and if I did, I’m sure some of you would pay handsomely for it.

Unfortunately, that list is something that takes time and effort and making offers and seeing who gets onboard… and it will inevitably be a different list for different publishers and creators.

I mentioned at the top of this article that me and Charlie Boy visited 6 local shops… the local angle is KEY for small press and indies.

Local is something that you can trade on. It’s a UNIQUE SELLING PROPOSITION that can make retailers and their customers give a damn.

Use local first and foremost. 

Don’t worry about selling the whales of the comic book industry until you can first establish a strong network of local shops who can sell your product.

ComixTribe started with just a small handful of shops in New England — Larry’s Wonderful World of Comics, Jetpack Comics, Comically Speaking, Double Midnight, The Comics Palace, Chris’ Comics, Friendly Neighborhood Comics — and we’ve built from there.

Today, ComixTribe has an email contact list of around 200 retailers, which we’re trying to grow.  Later on in this series, I’ll talk about what we’re doing to grow this list and to better identify the 20%

Are You One of the 20%?

And speaking of growing the list, it would be a lost opportunity talk about growing my email list, and not ask any retailers skimming this page to add themselves to that elite company.

Join the ComixTribe VIP Retailers List

* indicates required






(See what I did there?)

Next: Tools to Sell to Retailers

The next part in this series will talk about a tool I’m using to help me position and sell my newest series to retailers. It’s call the New Series Retailer Portal Site, and it’s awesome.

Questions, comments, or ideas you’d like to see covered in this series? SPEAK UP in the comments below!

]]>
https://www.comixtribe.com/2015/06/08/how-to-sell-your-small-press-book-to-retailers-part-1-why-bother/feed/ 3
What Shouldn’t You Be Doing? https://www.comixtribe.com/2015/03/30/what-shouldnt-you-be-doing/ https://www.comixtribe.com/2015/03/30/what-shouldnt-you-be-doing/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 13:27:43 +0000 https://www.comixtribe.com/?p=3635 CC_FeaturedImag_03-28-15

There is no shortage of #makecomics advice out there about what you should do to build a career in comics. Twitter is full of making comics #protips, every convention has multiple panels devoted to the topic, and nearly every interview of a creator will contain a few “here’s what worked for me, do this!” nuggets of advice.  Certainly ComixTribe.com has no shortage of columns suggesting actions creators should take to make better comics, and sell more of them.

But one thing you don’t hear as much about is all the things you shouldn’t be spending your time doing.

By this, I don’t mean the “watch less tv” and “stop wasting all your time playing video games” when you could be making comics kind of advice. That’s small-ball, and most of us get it.

Rather, what I’m talking about are all the things that you are doing related to making comics and building your brand and business that someone else could or should be doing. I’m talking about the lower level, time-consuming tasks you’re filling your comics making time with, that take you away from the higher level tasks that only you can do.

A Looming Gauntlet

The months between December and March are always quiet for ComixTribe and myself. We attend no conventions and we tend to publish less titles in those months. Being in New England, there are other things to do in the winter, like shovel epic amounts of snow.

But taking a peek ahead to the rest of my year, the quiet time is about to be over.  Over the next eight months, we’re launching two new series in the direct market and four or five Kickstarter campaigns are on the horizon. I have three series that need scripting, am editing one anthology project, and want to get one or two more off the ground. Furthermore, I recently started two new endeavors, including a comic industry podcast and a weekly CreatorBlast email that I need to schedule time for. I also have a number of new making comics related products I’m looking to launch and a number of resources I want to create. And finally, I need to continue to carve out time for strategy and big picture thinking on how I continue to build ComixTribe from “a very small indie press” (Wired Magazine) to whatever the next thing up from that is. (See, I really need that strategy time!)

In short, I’m about to be (even more) busy as hell. 

And yet, I still spend a lot of my time on things that, if I’m being perfectly honest, lots of other people could be doing, while scripts that only I could write go unwritten, and projects only I can lead get “someday/ maybe’d”.

For example, in the last month, I’ve spent my limited ComixTribe time on tasks like:

  • Packing and shipping books to customers and Diamond
  • Writing every press release and media outreach that ComixTribe puts out
  • Lettering multiple ComixTribe books
  • Doing simple graphic design work involving lots of resizing and reformatting and image creation
  • Learning how to and then setting up an automated email chain with Mailchimp, and then creating one to give out comics five days in a row to e-mail subscribers
  • Recording and cutting audio ads
  • Creating THE STANDARD webcomic site
  • Answering ComixTribe emails from creators and pointing them to resources on ComixTribe.com for answers
  • Corresponding with ComixTribe’s retail network on direct to retail sales
  • Crafting and scheduling ComixTribe Twitter and Facebook updates

Just to name a few. Now, all the above items are important. All of them play an important part of our overall business strategy. But that’s not the issue. What’s at issue is whether it should be me, ComixTribe publisher, spending my time doing those things, things that with a little training (and a little money), someone else could and would do just as well, and quite possibly faster and better. Not doing all of those things would of course, free me up for the things only I can do…steering our ship through the gauntlet ahead.

Hey Mr. Publisher, Why Are You Doing All That Stuff?

I definitely suffer a bit from what Chris Ducker calls ‘Superhero Syndrome’ (very proper for this site!) Superhero Syndrome is “believing that there is no kryptonite to our hard-working, ‘saving the business world’ ways,” and that we are the best person to do…pretty much everything in our business.

So, that’s part of it. Another part is financial. As a bootstrapped small publisher, who only recently started turning a small profit on the business, ComixTribe has always run a lean operation. We pinch every penny, and the default position has been “if we can do it ourselves, we’ll do it ourselves, and save money.”

But lately I’ve become more aware that saving money by doing so much myself is costing me something even more valuable.

(If you’re thinking, “He’s talkin’ about TIME, isn’t he?” then give yourself a gold star.)

Yes, time, which is a non-renewable resource. Money comes and goes, and there’s always ways to get more of the green stuff. But once time is gone, its gone. And unlike money, which you can choose to spend or not, your time WILL be spent regardless… your only choice is how.

Earlier this month, my wife and I applied for large (to us) life insurance policies on each other. If you ever want to feel your own mortality and the fleeting nature of time acutely, go and see what the odds are an insurance company thinks you’re going to still be alive in 30 years! Confronting ones own mortality almost always serves as a kick in the rear to not only start getting more done…but start getting more of the RIGHT things done in the time you have left on this earth.

As Ducker says, “anything we can do to leverage our time better, get more done and ultimately boost productivity is a good thing.” So, my personal goal for this month is to do just that.

Chris Ducker’s Three Lists to Freedom Exercise

Here’s an exercise that I’ve recently completed to identify the things I shouldn’t do.

Essentially, Chris’ advice is to compile Three Lists:

  1. Things you hate doing.
  2. Things you don’t know how to do or can’t do.
  3. Things you shouldn’t be doing.

Here’s a first stab at my three lists, though I’m sure I can (and will) add more to each column.

Capture_threelists

According to Chris, these three lists should be my guidepost for the things I should stop doing and outsource to someone equally capable of doing them.

What I’m Afraid Of

Okay, so this all sounds easy enough. But if letting go of a large chunk of those tasks was easy, I would have done it already. There’s really only one thing that holds us back from the things we know we should be doing. (Another gold star if you’re thinking “FEAR.”)

So, yeah, there are definitely a few things I’m afraid of or holding me back from taking a lot of these tasks off of my plate.

First, I’m afraid I’ll be a crappy manager…and instead just create more work for myself in instructing others what to do, and then when it’s not done the way I would have done it, end up doing it myself. Delegating isn’t necessarily a strong suit of mine, but it is something I need to work on. Chris Ducker’s book Virtual Freedom has a ton of tips and recommendations for not being a lousy manager, so hopefully I can put those into practice.

Second, I’ll admit there’s a part of me that fears the work I SHOULD be doing. Letting go of lower level, time-consuming tasks like shipping, lettering, and simple graphic design work will free me up to do higher level, tasks like writing, new product creation, and strategizing for growth. But let’s face it… higher level stuff is HARDER. I won’t lie, there’s an appeal to lower-level busy work activities. Leaning back, throwing on a podcast, and packing comics to ship isn’t a bad way to spend an evening. Lettering a few pages while catching up on “House of Cards” will make you feel productive. But the higher level stuff is a lot harder to kickback while doing. So, there’s a bit of fear that removing all the tasty, sugary, empty-calorie comic making activities from my plate, will make it harder for me to sit down to dinner, as it were.

And finally, there’s the added cost of farming out a lot of these tasks. Again, we run a lean operation here. Not all of our titles break even, and we still fight for every sale. And we do have plenty of expenses already. Honestly, it’s the expenses we do have that have made me more open to expanding the things I’m outsourcing. For example, Amazon Fulfillment certainly has costs to it, but it has freed up a ton of time and energy on the shipping and warehousing side of things for me. Outsourcing the bulk of our graphic novel storage and shipping has been a total game changer for me. If I can find just a couple more things to outsource or delegate that’ll have a similar impact, who knows how much that could help ComixTribe grow?

What Are My Next Steps?

1) “In-source” Shipping and Some Simple Office Tasks

Part of running any small business well is keeping your eyes open to the unused resources at your disposal. It turns out, living in my house, is a capable 14-year-old who’s starting to express an interest in working…or at least in the extra money that comes from a J-O-B! Since it’ll still be a year or two until she’s able to work part-time out of the house, I’ll be looking to hire her for a few hours a week to take over our packing and shipping duties, to start. Ideally, I’ll get creative and find other ways she can help keep our business humming… perhaps help us do something with our Instagram account, for example. And if she wants to learn skills (image editing, video creation, social media management), it’ll not only be beneficial to ComixTribe, but those are skills she might use for years to come regardless of what she does with her life. (Parenting bonus points!)

2) Let Go of Lettering

It’s time. It takes me 1-2 hours to letter a page. Now, a lot of that is because I’m also doing a final script pass, but definitely some of it is simply that I’m not a fast letterer.  Given the amount of pages I have needing lettering over the next few months, that’s simply time I don’t have.  So, this will mean that my final script pass has to take place on paper… but that’s probably how it should be anyway.

3) Dip my toe into VAs  

I’ve been captivated by the idea of outsourcing tasks to a virtual assistant (VA) since I first heard the idea from Tim Ferriss’ book The 4-Hour Work Week. And over the past few months, I’ve dipped my toes into outsourcing small tasks for things like internet research and audio voice overs to freelancers on Fiverr.com. The next step is to bring someone on-board for a few hours each week to handle the things I’m doing, but shouldn’t be…along with some things I’m not doing but should be.

***

This is a post that is more of a declaration of intent, than the “how-to” and “lessons learned” I usually write in this space. A big part of the reason I wrote this post is to hold myself accountable…and to get you guys to hold me accountable. So, expect a progress report in a few months about how well I’m doing — or NOT doing — at the things I shouldn’t be doing.

What about you? What things would be on your Three Lists?  What shouldn’t YOU be doing?  Sound off in the comments.

Keep Reading!

Effective Goal Setting

Action Steps

Budgeting Part I–Expenses

]]>
https://www.comixtribe.com/2015/03/30/what-shouldnt-you-be-doing/feed/ 5
We Should All Fail More https://www.comixtribe.com/2015/03/23/we-should-all-fail-more/ https://www.comixtribe.com/2015/03/23/we-should-all-fail-more/#respond Mon, 23 Mar 2015 13:14:17 +0000 https://www.comixtribe.com/?p=3625 CC_FeaturedImag_3-22-15

What’s your favorite sports league? NFL? NBA? MLB? Maybe you’re like Joe Mulvey and millions of Canadians and hockey is your sport of choice. Or perhaps college hoops is your thing and March Madness is your idea of Christmas.

While all those leagues have their charms, the one I’m most attached to and root the hardest for is the North Shore Massachusetts Girls Basketball League…the one my step-daughter Julia plays for. It’s impossible not to be invested in that league. I’ve been watching Jules play basketball since she was in 5th grade, and witnessed her develop as a player. She’s always been a hard worker and a solid player, but more defensive minded than offensive. Her mother and I are always encouraging her to be more aggressive and take more shots (to much teenage eyerolling.)

IMG_1955

The opening round of her 8th Grade playoffs was the other night, and like all leagues, the level of competition definitely rises come tournament time. In a tight game, Jules took a pass from a guard on the baseline. She was covered, so I assumed she was going to immediately pass it back to the guard, as I’d seen her do hundreds of times before. Much to my surprise and delight, she faked a pass, and then drove hard toward the basket, went under the hoop and put up a wrap around hook shot. The fact that she missed the shot by a wide margin didn’t matter to me at all. It was a strong, aggressive basketball move.

She took the shot.

So, what does this little anecdote have to do with making comics or small press publishing, or all the other things ComixTribe.com is known for?

Simple.

I think most of us need to take more shots. I think most of us need to be more aggressive. I think most of us need to miss wildly and fall on our faces and fail, fail, and fail again, a whole lot more than we do.

We cheer on our kids and push them and encourage them to try harder and take chances, when most of us haven’t pushed ourselves out of our own personal comfort zones in years.

We should take our own advice more often.

Now, when I say “fail more” it’s not the failing that’s important. Rather, it’s the striving to do something outside our comfort zone. It’s taking focused action on something where a successful outcome isn’t guaranteed, or even probable.

So, what does that look like for comic creators? What does it look like for you? I couldn’t tell you. But here are few ideas…

  • Introduce yourself to all of your favorite editors in comics and ask if you can share published (or self-published) work with them.
  • Write the personal story you’re scared of writing. Let yourself bleed on the page.
  • Write the convention organizers of the shows you want to attend this year and make a compelling case for why they should have you as a guest.
  • Tackle your creative weakness head on, and commit yourself to improving them…
  • Or decide to let go of your creative weaknesses, outsource them to people who do them better, and focus on improving your strengths and competitive advantages instead.
  • Approach that creator whose work you admire at a con or on social media and try to establish a relationship.
  • Let go of your artistic crutches…or throw yourself into learning a new skill (inking with a quill, digital art, etc.)
  • Ask someone for help when you need it.

Obviously, this is far from an exhaustive list (and I’m sure you can help me add to this list in the comments below.)

But the bigger point is that almost every breakthrough moment in our lives, the moments that years later we look back on and are most proud of, were moments where there was a strong risk of failure.

Asking out our crush.

Applying for the dream gig.

Leaning in for that first kiss.

Quitting the thing we were good at, but made us miserable.

Standing up to a bully.

Owning up to our mistakes.

Art by Doug Hills.

Art by Doug Hills.

These are the moments that define us as people, and help us grow. Theodore Roosevelt (who, in unrelated news, will be meeting a terrible end at the hands of the Oxymoron in the upcoming Killing Time anthology) once said:

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

And who are we to argue with Teddy?

So, take the shot. 

***

Oh, and and as a little postscript, in round two of the playoffs, Jules found herself again with the ball on the baseline, this time with one of the opponent’s stars, a six footer, defending her. Again, she faked the pass back to the guard, again she drove baseline, slashing under the basket, and again she put up a contested shot.

And this time, it was nothing but net.

Keep Reading!

If you found this article useful, you may want to read one of these three articles next:

Getting Feedback

Keep Going

Coming Up Short on Your Goals…Now What?

]]>
https://www.comixtribe.com/2015/03/23/we-should-all-fail-more/feed/ 0
5 Ways to Benefit from Your Backlist https://www.comixtribe.com/2015/02/16/5-ways-to-benefit-from-your-backlist/ https://www.comixtribe.com/2015/02/16/5-ways-to-benefit-from-your-backlist/#respond Mon, 16 Feb 2015 13:35:05 +0000 https://www.comixtribe.com/?p=3610 CC_FeaturedImage_backlist

“Wow, so all this is you?”

CT_SpreadThat was the line I heard most at conventions in 2014. Somehow, slowly, steadily, ComixTribe has become a big fish in the small-press and artist alley sections of most of the conventions we attend. In SCAM, THE STANDARD, and AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE, we now have three complete mini-series under our belt. By the end of this year, we’ll have half a dozen collected editions. In short, we now have a backlist.

In comics, its easy to always look forward — the next series, the next issue, the next page, the next panel, and so on. And I do spend most of my time working on projects I haven’t even announced publicly yet. There is no laurels-resting in indie comics.  However, it’s absolutely critical to be strategic about continuing to squeeze value out of your backlist. As a creator or publisher, your backlist represents a tremendous amount of time and financial resources already invested, and it’s critical to your future success to continue to get as much of a return out of that previous investment.

Look at Robert Kirkman. New issues of The Walking Dead are near the top of the comics charts every month, but it’s his backlist, those early collections and compendiums of work done years ago selling in bookstores around the world that make up the bulk of that series’ revenue. While Kirkman’s series success is an extreme outlier, every publisher puts considerable effort into maximizing the value from their backlist.  So, too should independent creators and small press publishers. This article will cover five ways to do just that.

1. Give Away Backlist Titles to Build Your Mailing Lists

Ask nearly any creative entrepreneur what their most valuable asset is, and I’d venture email contact list ranks right up there. An email list gives you a direct line of communication to your fan base, and that fan base is a renewable resource. ComixTribe has supporters who have been with us from day one, and even in this Web 2.0/ social media heavy world, email is still one of the best ways we have to get a direct message to our Tribe.

One of the best ways to grow that email contact list is to offer something of value in exchange for joining the list. In last week’s AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE Postmortem, I mentioned how we were using NoiseTrade as a service to trade a FREE copy of AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE #1 for a valid email address.

And for the past few years, we’ve also been using Mailchimp, our email list manager, to offer a 100+ page ComixTribe digital comics sampler as thanks for joining our mailing list. (If you’re new to us, this is a great way to sample our titles.)

CT_StartHere

Join the ComixTribe mailing list!

As a special thanks for signing up, we’ll give you 100+ pages of FREE comics!

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required




An objection to giving away these free issues is that it’s devaluing the issues, and that we’re losing out on potential sales.  However, it’s important to recognize that these are backlist titles, many of which are out of print. In the case of AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE, that book is available on Comixology for $1.99, so yes, we could conceivably be losing out on $0.99 (our share of a book sold there) if someone downloads for free through NoiseTrade.  However, there’s a high likelihood the person downloading the book for free was never going to pay for it in the first place. And I’d argue the ability to start a dialog with that new reader via a future email is well worth 99 cents. Remember, when you sell a book on Comixology, that person is Comixology’s customer, not yours.

2. Backlist Binge Reading on Comic Subscription Services

The big comic industry news that kicked off last week was that e-book subscription service Scribd is making a major push into comics and graphic novel distribution, inking deals with Marvel, IDW, TopCow, Dynamite, and more, to carry backlist titles. This business model offers Scribd subscribers unlimited reading for a low monthly cost. Scribd is already a major player in the e-book space, and is making a push to become the Netflix for comics.

Capture_Scribd

If the “Netflix for comics” slug-line sounds familiar, you may be remembering the Comix Counsel article I wrote last year about Comicsfix, another comic book subscription service offering all you can read comics for one low monthly price. Comicsfix has continued to grow its library over the past year, signing top ten publishers including IDW, Valiant, Dynamite, as well as a large collection of indie and small-press titles. Comicsfix has an active presence on the convention circuit, and send out a weekly Sunday Morning Reading email with recommendations to their mailing list.

ComixFix

It may be worth a follow up to compare the comics reading experience on Scribd and Comicsfix, and I’ll admit, I haven’t taken a careful look into either platform yet. It will be interesting to see how Comicsfix responds to the much larger Scribd landing the “white whale” that is Marvel. It will also be interesting to see how good a reading experience the Scribd platform offers, as it wasn’t designed specifically with comics in mind as Comicsfix and Comixology’s readers were.

So, should creators and small-press publishers be scrambling to get their books on these platforms?

The Scribd news is less than a week old. Scribd is a platform that has been very open to self-publishers in the e-book space, so it’d be surprising if they weren’t also welcoming for independent comic creators. We know Comicsfix’s arms are wide-open to the indies. But I also haven’t heard of any creators receiving any payment yet from Comicsfix, and I know I haven’t seen a statement regarding the one book we have on that platform. (If you’re a creator and HAVE started receiving revenue from Comicsfix, please let us know how it’s going for you.) My guess is that, at this point, the revenue potential of these platforms is still quite low.

But it’s not nothing. And generating passive income that doesn’t require any/much additional effort on your part is precisely what you want your backlist to be doing for you.

The content best suited for these platforms are complete story arcs or series, rather than single issues, as binge reading is what you’re looking to trigger. I wouldn’t put front list titles or series still in development on these platforms. But if you have some series that are complete and near the end of their direct market life cycle, they may find new life on one of these platforms.

3. Bundle the Backlist into an Unbeatable Deal

One of the more remarkable developments of last year was the tremendous success of comic book Humble Bundles. I wrote a column last year on the Bundle phenomenon, and since then, even more comic publishers have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars bundling backlist comics and selling them together at a tremendous discount.

Is this action independent creators and small-press publishers can get in on?

The challenge is that bundles work because the offers are so unbelievable good, it’s near impossible for even the most tight-fisted comic book fan to resist them. What makes a bundle offer good is the massive treasure trove of comics being offered. The Image Humble Bundle offered four of Image’s top selling trades for as little as a penny, and you could get all twelve trades for just $15. Buying the same exact comics on Comixology or in shops would cost well over $100, an incredible deal.

This is a problem for us, because most small-press publishers or independent creators simply don’t have that large a high-profile backlist to craft an offer compelling enough to get people excited.

However…

…were a number of independents and small-press publishers to team up and form a small-press supergroup, I think a compelling bundle could be generated. Say ComixTribe, Action Lab, 215 Ink, Th3rd World Studios, Fubar Press, and a collection of handpicked self-publish rockstar creators joined forces in one Indie Comics Humble Bundle, I’m pretty sure we could craft a killer offering that would do very well.

I guess the question is, what the hell are we waiting for? : )

4. Use Your Backlist for Crowdfunding Rewards

Crowdfunding efforts, whether on Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or Patreon, are awesome opportunities to activate your backlist. The old saying goes, the best time to sell someone something is when they already have their wallets open. (“Would you like fries with that?” only replace fries with more comics.) A Kickstarter campaign is a wallet open environment, and anyone who’s run a successful campaign quickly learns that often your best way to raise funds is by getting people already pledging to your campaign to upgrade their pledge to give a little more to get a lot more. I’ve definitely used ComixTribe backlist titles to help build and maintain momentum during our Kickstarter campaigns.

For example, in the EPIC #1 Kickstarter, after hitting the $6,000 mark, we gave all backers their choice of a free ComixTribe comic from our backlist.

Capture_CTchoice

Jimmy Palmiotti, who now has eight successfully funded Kickstarter graphic novel projects under his belt, always includes reward tiers that offer the new project mixed with backlist work. (I particularly like his “Mystery Box” rewards.)

Erika Moen, who I talked to a while back in my article on Patreon, and who is up to $1,118 per Oh Joy Sex Toy comic update on her Patreon page, offers PDFs of her backlist comics to $5/ update Patrons as an added bonus. And Zach Weinersmith of SMBC, who is now getting more than $105K per year in pledges via Patreon, uses PDFs of his backlist comics as rewards for all patrons when hitting certain funding milestones.

It’s clear that whenever you’re running a crowdfunding campaign for a new or current project, you should think about how to use your backlist titles to further the cause.

5. Give New Life to Your Backlist Through Webcomic Serialization

And then there’s webcomics, with backlist titles being particularly well-suited for serializing on the web. Why? Because often the single biggest difficulty webcomics creators face is releasing content on a consistent schedule. The grind of producing a webcomic puts a ton of pressure on creators. With backlist books, the hard part (creating the comic) is already done. All that’s left to do is build a website and upload pages to it.

As our EIC Mr. Steven Forbes says, “Here’s the thing about webcomics: people love free. They love it in droves. They want to be entertained, they want to be entertained well, and they want to be entertained for free.”

Sometimes creators get caught up on pricing… should my book be $1.99, $2.99, $3.99? At what price will the market respond to my book? Unfortunately, for a vast segment of the comic market, they won’t buy our books for any price. They simply won’t take a chance on new creators…not when there are more books from writers and artists they already know they like out there than they could ever afford. So, how do you get these readers to ever give you a shot?

Webcomics is one answer. And, in fact, it’s something that ComixTribe is experimenting with, starting today, as we’ve just launched John Lees’ THE STANDARD as a serialized webcomic with new behind the scenes creator commentary accompanying every page. The first 8 pages of THE STANDARD is online right now, and the site will update with a new page daily Monday – Friday going forward. If you haven’t read THE STANDARD, you are in for a treat, as this series is without a doubt one of the best superhero stories released in the past decade.

CaptureStandardWeb

Now, I know many creators have objections about putting their work online for free in the webcomic format. In fact, John Lees himself had plenty of reservations.  When we first discussed webcomic serialization of THE STANDARD, John worried it’d be like “putting a square peg in a round hole” meaning a story written for an issue format may not translate as well on the web. And I don’t think John is wrong about that. But just because it’s not the absolute best way to enjoy his story, doesn’t mean that it’s not an avenue worth exploring… especially when it has the potential to reach literally hundreds of thousands of new readers.

I also think that history has proven very little to no downside of serializing backlist books online for creators. While these are but a few examples, I’m highly doubtful that Jim Zub, Charles Soule, or Kurtis Wiebe have any regrets about serializing Skullkickers, 27, or Green Wake as webcomics, given how their careers are doing at the moment.

If you are going to serialize a backlist title, however, I think it is important to be clear about what your goals are in doing so. This way, you can determine at a later date whether it was a successful strategy. As a publisher, the goals of serializing THE STANDARD online are as follows:

  • To increase awareness for THE STANDARD, which was criminally under-ordered in the direct market, and rekindle buzz for the series, especially as John Lees now has more “heat” thanks to the incredible reception of his second series AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE.
  • Create an interested reader contact acquisition funnel, and use it to build our ComixTribe reader email list. (This is strategy #1 at the top of this article.)
  • Use the website as a potential launching point for a future crowdfunding campaign for a hardcover collection of THE STANDARD, with daily updates acting as marketing throughout the Kickstarter campaign.
  • Get John Lees more readers and THE STANDARD more fans, and use this backlist asset as a platform builder for all his future projects.
ComixologyAd copy
It’s my firm belief that serializing THE STANDARD on the web will result in more readers in one month than it received in all four years of its direct market serialization.  And though first reluctant to the idea, John has come around, and is sharing wonderful bonus content about every page of the series, making the site worth visiting, even for people who’ve already bought and love the comic.

So, What Did I Miss?

Have you noticed any other creative ways publishers are benefiting from their backlists? Any brilliant ideas no one is doing but should? As always, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Keep Reading!

If you found this article useful, you may want to read one of these three articles next:

Bundle is the New Black

A $95,000 Tip Jar for Comics? 10 Thoughts on Patreon

A Netflix for Comics? A ComicsFix Interview

]]>
https://www.comixtribe.com/2015/02/16/5-ways-to-benefit-from-your-backlist/feed/ 0
AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE Postmortem: Lessons Learned from ComixTribe’s Most Successful Direct Market Series Yet https://www.comixtribe.com/2015/02/09/and-then-emily-was-gone-postmortem-lessons-learned-from-comixtribes-most-successful-direct-market-series-yet/ https://www.comixtribe.com/2015/02/09/and-then-emily-was-gone-postmortem-lessons-learned-from-comixtribes-most-successful-direct-market-series-yet/#comments Mon, 09 Feb 2015 13:42:04 +0000 https://www.comixtribe.com/?p=3584 CC_FeaturedImage_emilyPM

I’m kicking off a new year of Comix Counsel with a postmortem on AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE, the horror mini-series by John Lees and Iain Laurie that took the indie world by storm and became ComixTribe’s most successful series to date. Postmortem articles are very common in the video game industry (in which I am also employed), but I don’t see as many for comic books. The term itself means “after death”, and while the EMILY buzz is far from dead, with the trade available on Comixology now and out in stores February 11, and AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE #0 coming in May for Free Comic Book Day, the mini-series itself is complete. Now is a good time to talk about the many things we did that contributed to the book’s success, as well as the missteps we made publishing AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE in the direct market, in hopes that some of you might be able to apply these lessons to your comic book mini-series launches in the future.

(If you haven’t read any of AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE, you might want to grab a copy of #1 so you know what we’re talking about! We’re making it available for FREE for a limited time. Click here to get a FREE copy of AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE #1!)

Lesson 1: Treat your next project (and every project) like it’s your dream project.

A lot of what’s to come is tactical… the nuts and bolts of executing a direct market release. But before we get into the “blocking and tackling” of it all, it’s important to acknowledge that comic books are first a piece of art. Creating truly great art requires passion, which is an intangible that can’t be measured or quantified, but when it’s missing one can tell, and when it’s there… one can taste it.

AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE reads and feels like a passion project… because it IS one.

John and Iain have crafted a book that only John and Iain could create, and this book exists because of the mutual admiration this Scottish duo has for each other. Here’s how John talks about Iain in a recent CBR interview with Alex Dueben:

“I’ve been a fan of Iain’s since 2011… He immediately stood out as someone with a distinctive artistic voice, and with the more work of his I sought out — “Powwkipsie,” “Mothwicke” with writer Fraser Campbell, “Iain Laurie’s Horror Mountain” — the more he grew to become one of my favorite artists. He just has a real gift for zoning right in on that emotional gag reflex, crafting images that can make you recoil and feel ill at ease. Iain can craft raw, visceral horror on the page. I knew I had to find a way to work with him.”

And here’s Iain on John:

“I saw “The Standard” and I was amazed that someone from the Scottish scene made it, so I sought John out and I’m glad I did. I don’t think there are many small press writers of his stripe out there.”

John and Iain at a signing at Forbidden Planet Glasgow.

John and Iain at a signing at Forbidden Planet Glasgow.

These guys are huge FANS of each others work.  And that matters. Think about that the next time you’re looking for collaborators. Neither John or Iain are household names (yet), but they both got on each others radars, and cooked up something special together. Here’s Lees again on how the story came to be:

“I asked Iain what kind of story he’d want to draw, and he sent me three ideas — one about a man called Hellinger who has visions that help him solve crimes, one about an affable hitman, one about the search for a missing girl on a remote Scottish island — and I merged it all together into And Then Emily Was Gone, a story I hoped would simultaneously be the most mainstream narrative Iain had ever drawn and the weirdest, most out-there thing I had ever written!”

Let’s be honest, this is a different approach to story and projects than most of us take. Usually it’s a writer with a story to tell, looking for an (affordable) artist to bring it to life.  Think about what might happen if you flipped that for your next project?

Lesson 2: Offer the market something different, and the market will respond.

Guys, it’s come clean time. I almost blew it with EMILY. If John had followed my advice, given after getting a first look at EMILY, who knows if the series would have ever come out. Back in March of 2013, John sent me an excited email with the first batch of inked, uncolored, unlettered pages of EMILY. My response was less than enthusiastic. Here’s some of what I wrote John:

“The Glasgow focus is going to limit the publisher interest.  There’s a reason all Mark Millar books start in the US and not his native Scotland.  (It’s because he likes money, and wants them to sell.)  The art isn’t professional caliber.  Laurie has a VERY unique, quirky indie vibe… that has to be a serious acquired taste. He draws ugly.  Now, as long as he’s consistent…that’s something that can grow on folks, but it usually isn’t something people are ready to plunk money down for without an existing attachment.  As you know, as a writer, your words will be judged by the art they are paired with. You may find a local publisher that wants to publish this stuff, and there the Glasgow hooks could be a strength not a weakness.  But in terms of a wider market… I don’t think this will be a step forward from THE STANDARD, in either concept, execution, or sales.”

Wow, did I get that one wrong. Like, painfully, totally, and completely wrong.

Emily_bw1Like the gentleman he is, John took my notes with grace, and then he and Iain went out and PROVED me wrong. And they did that by sticking to their vision and making the book that they believed in. They printed up a small print-on-demand run of AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE #1 for the Scottish indie comic scene, and they sold well. The response was positive, not just from fans and readers, but fellow creators. This early feedback resulted in endorsements from a formidable roster of pros, which we’d later use liberally in the marketing for the direct market release:

“Fantastic…” – Frank Quitely (All Star Superman, Jupiter’s Legacy)

“Super creepy, super good…” – Nick Pitarra (The Manhattan Projects)

“This book is amazing…” – Riley Rossmo (Drumhellar, Bedlam)

“A unique and bold vision…” – Michael Moreci (Hoax Hunters, Cursed)

“A wonderful, twisted little surprise…” – Owen Michael Johnson (Raygun Roads)

“A masterclass in comics…a movie for the mind…”- Shaky Kane (The Bulletproof Coffin)

After reading a lettered, black and white copy of EMILY #1, I completely changed my mind on Iain’s art. Yeah, he draws ugly…but John was writing an ugly story, and by the end of the issue, Iain’s grotesque style was a strength, not a weakness of the book. No one on the planet draws quite like Iain Laurie, and that makes the book worth talking about. AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE #1 drawn by Jim Lee would not be a better book. (It’d sell more, sure, but the phone book drawn by Jim Lee would as well.) I already knew John to be a great writer, but the script he produced leaned into Iain’s strengths. That’s what a great comics collaboration looks like.

EmilyFanI quickly recognized that all of the things I initially feared a weakness, like the obscure setting of a Scottish island nobody has ever heard of, were strengths of this book. While the Wednesday warrior and typical fanboy are creatures of habit and reluctant to get out of their spandex-clad comfort zone, many people who love the comics medium, including retailers, reviewers, and especially creators themselves, the push #ComicsForward crowd to use the hashtag du jour, are hungry for books that are new, and weird, and different…but well-executed.

In indie comics, the most common pitches I see are, in order, are twists on Batman, twists on zombies, and twists on Superman. There is nothing wrong with these comics, and some of them, are quite good. (John’s own THE STANDARD falls into the “twists on Superman” category, and is exceptional.) But in a crowded marketplace, marketing those books and getting people to read YOUR twist on these market-saturated stories instead of the real thing is actually a lot harder than coming out with a book unlike anything else on the shelves.

Weird is good. (Caveat being the book itself is also top notch. Weird simply for the sake of being weird is still a tough sell.)

But even after I was certain that John and Iain had a great little title, it wasn’t until New York Comic Con 2013 that I got excited about the prospect of publishing it. John brought along a stack of the Glasgow black and white EMILY #1 to give away to some pros. We had extra room at our booth, so I told John to put a few out for sale alongside THE STANDARD and the rest of the ComixTribe offerings.  And wouldn’t you know it, we sold out. Easily. More importantly, I personally enjoyed pitching this book to customers…and saw them respond enthusiastically to the concept.  That unplanned NYCC market test gave me all the confidence in the world that we could sell EMILY to the direct market.

And ten months later, when EMILY #1 debuted, it sold 3xs as many copies of THE STANDARD #1, and became our biggest direct market seller in our short history.

Lesson 3: You can never print too many #1s.

Well, actually you CAN… and that’s the problem. But in this case, one of the mistakes we made was not printing enough EMILY #1s, despite setting our print run at 140% of our initial Diamond purchase order.

Setting print runs for a new series is always a tough decision. With SCAM #1, our first direct market book, we made the mistake of setting our print run at:

Diamond Purchase Order + What we thought we could sell online and at cons

It seemed reasonable, sure, but what we didn’t take into account was Diamond reorders. It’s fairly common for retailers to be conservative with their orders of new titles from small publishers. But when release day rolls around, and if critical buzz is popping or customers are asking about certain titles, they’ll put in a quick re-order, and that reorder could be anywhere between 5-20% of the initial purchase order! So, when a reorder came in for SCAM #1, we didn’t have the extra books to fill it. That meant lost sales, and likely lost future sales, as retailers unable to get SCAM #1 on re-order were unlikely to order #2 or #3.

On subsequent titles, we adjusted the print run setting calculation to include a 20% re-order estimate on the first issues, and a 10% re-order estimate for subsequent issues, and that served us well for THE RED TEN and THE STANDARD series.

However, Diamond reorders for AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE #1 came it at 28% original orders, and #2 came in at 19% original orders. We left some money and readers on the table with our conservative print runs.

Some of you might be wondering, why not just do a second printing to print more books?  Here’s the deal… as a quick, back of the napkin calculation, understand that the first book you print of a new print run is going to cost you about $1000, and every book after that is going to cost between $1.00 and $0.20. The more you print, the less each additional book will cost you. But that first $1000 to fire up the presses a second time… there’s no getting around it. So, when your re-order numbers are in the low to mid three digits, second printings will cost you a lot more money than what the Diamond will pay for them.

Emily_Plug

The under-printing of #2 was somewhat understandable, as that issue hit the shelves before #1 had even been released, and we weren’t sure what kind of critical or retail response the book would get.  But there’s no excuse for under-printing a #1… #1 issues will sell forever, if not in the direct market, than at shows or in bundles with other books. You can bet I’ll be readjusting my print run setting calculation going forward.

Lesson 4: Power of the Variants

Variants. Whether you love ’em, hate ’em, or are indifferent, they are a big part of the industry. Marvel recently broke a million copies sold on the new Star Wars #1 by Aaron and Cassaday. Now, the book itself is a great comic, but quality alone didn’t lead to those numbers… the 70+ variants and related incentives Marvel cooked up had a lot to do with those gaudy numbers.

Emily2_Covers

While ComixTribe’s variant program for EMILY was far less ambitious, it was every bit as strategic.  Here’s what the thinking behind our variant plan was:

  1. Keep it simple – ComixTribe isn’t a big enough a player to “game” retailer orders with elaborate incentive programs like Marvel and DC. Either they’re going to stock our book or they won’t. So for our release we decided to go with the most simple variant approach. For each issue, there would be two covers. The “A” cover by Iain Laurie and a “B” cover each by a different artist.  A/B covers would be printed in equal ratio, 50/50, and collated ABAB when packed and shipped by our printer. Retailers would then get an equal allocation of each cover. Simple for us, simple for our printers, simple for Diamond, and simple for retailers. And it meant twice as many cool covers for the series. E300 COVER COLOUR
  2. Variants by industry star artists add legitimacy to the series – It was clear to anyone who read the series that EMILY deserved a place on the shelves. But how does the bootstrapped small-press publisher make sure retailers know that, or even get their attention at all? As I’ve written before, there are a number of keys to direct market success, and simply creating a good book isn’t at the top of the list. Retailers are most concerned with the past direct market success of the publisher and the creative team on the book. Though ComixTribe has a small and growing group of friendly retailers who have done well with our books, we are not Image. Our logo on a book isn’t going to guarantee sales. Likewise, John Lees’ only prior direct market credit was on THE STANDARD, also a ComixTribe title, and one that while critically hailed, struggled to find an audience in the direct market (more on that later). EMILY was artist Iain Laurie’s first book to be released outside of the UK. So, how do we get retailers to take a chance on a weird book by a couple of obscure Scotsman? Well, variant covers from Riley Rossmo (Bedlam, Rasputin, Cowboy Ninja Viking), Nick Pitarra (The Manhattan Projects), and Garry Brown (The Massive), all artists who DO have a track-record of success in the direct market, certainly couldn’t hurt, right? A key here, though, is that all three of these artists became fans themselves of Lees and Laurie and EMILY, and were happy to endorse the series in the form of a variant cover.Emily4_Covers
  3. Double the Space in Previews – By offering variant covers for every issue of EMILY, we doubled our space in our PREVIEWS solicit…at no extra cost! Here’s the deal — putting a book in Previews gets you about 50 words worth of a solicit, and a 2 x 3 inch image of your cover…and that’s it. You want more space than that, you need to open up your wallet to buy advertising, at prices most small press titles could never support or sustain. But, by having two covers, and working with my Diamond reps to make sure both covers were displayed in our listing, we essentially doubled our real estate in the phone book that is PREVIEWS.emily_inPreviews
  4. Variants mean more product to sell – Small press comics are a niche product. Do it right, and you WILL earn a dedicated fan base, one that is willing to throw down money to support your work. However, your fans can only buy what you have to sell them. And if all you have to sell is a $3.50 comic book, it’s tough to see a return unless you’re selling a ton of those. But, by having variants for every issue, we found our die-hard fans would happily spend $7 to get both covers. And since, the cost of adding a variant cover to the print run only adds a few cents per issue to the overall cost, it was a smart business move.

Now, the one mistake I made was not including a run of 100 Artist Edition covers in with my initial print run of EMILY #1. We printed these POD shortly before the New York Comic Con, and it would have been cheaper to roll that into the big #1 printing as well. Another lesson learned.EmilyAE

Lesson 5: The Magic of Going Monthly

AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE was ComixTribe’s first monthly series. The fact that it also became our most successful series is not a coincidence. Let’s face it, the direct market is built on a monthly release model. PREVIEWS comes out monthly. Ordering comics for retailers is a monthly ritual (one likely requiring alcohol, Tums, and oracle bones to get right.) And while Marvel and DC have recently pushed more bi-weekly and weekly releases, most successful comics come out on at least a monthly basis.

Monthly means momentum and increased awareness. While ComixTribe books don’t show up until the 300th or so page in Previews, for five consecutive months, a new EMILY issue was solicited. That made it a lot harder to miss than a book with an erratic schedule. Seeing the book each month gave retailers more confidence in the title. It also made it more likely reviewers and readers would take the book seriously and give it a shot. Check out the AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE Facebook pageEMILY related news never stopped over the past eight months, as there was always a new issue available for pre-order, on sale, a new review posted, a new preview, and so on.

Activity = buzz = sales.

Capture_EmilyDMsales

And speaking of sales, the above chart shows some interesting things about EMILY. Obviously, EMILY #1 would be the highest seller. Orders for #2, which were due a month before EMILY #1 hit the stands, came in at a pretty standard drop (37%). What’s interesting though, is what happened to orders AFTER EMILY #1 hit the stands.  As you can see, initial orders for #3 jumped UP 17% from #2 initial orders, and re-orders were very strong for the first two issues of the series. Issue #4 initial orders were slightly higher than #3, though re-orders were less, suggesting retailers had found the level for the series. Note issue #5 orders dipped slightly, but the series still ended with orders on #5 HIGHER than #2. That’s a great feat for a mini-series.

Capture_StandardDMsalesComparisons in comics are hard, as every series is different. But for the sake of the point, let’s now compare the MONTHLY performance of EMILY with that of THE STANDARD. Both series were published by ComixTribe and written by Lees, and both were critically hailed. But one key difference was release schedule. The Standard #2 came out two months after #1, issue #3 three months after #2, issue #4 four months after #3, and then the final double sized issue to complete the series came out a full year after the previous issue.

What’s interesting is that while initial orders for THE STANDARD #1 were two and a half times less than EMILY #1 (suggesting we did a much better job marketing EMILY initially to retailers), the drop for #2 orders for THE STANDARD #2 was an identical 37% dip to the EMILY second issue drop. However, THE STANDARD series did not get any re-order activity beyond the first issue. And while the issue to issue drops were modest for the series, the trajectory was down, down, down. Unlike EMILY, there was no upward movement at anytime throughout the run.

Make no mistake about it, THE STANDARD is a brilliant series, and 7 years from now, when Lees is writing Batman and AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE is on Netflix, his fans are all going to recognize that series as his first great work. But the erratic publishing schedule limited its already tenuous chance at direct market success. The LCS isn’t built to support indie titles that come out “whenever” they’re done. It’s just not. It’s a lesson that ComixTribe has learned the hard way (even if we sort of knew it all along.)

Okay, but how did you pull off a monthly release?

Neither John or Iain are full-time comic creators. As a result, putting out an issue a month would be next to impossible. In order to ensure a monthly schedule, they banked issues. Iain was able to finish art for an issue every 2.5 months or so. So, that meant getting about three and a half issues of the five issue mini-series completely done before even soliciting #1. That’s a lot of work and takes a ton of patience. It’s also a lot easier when it’s a true collaboration (John and Iain shared the ownership of EMILY) as opposed to a work-for-hire situation where page rates are doled out for multiple issues worth of work many, many months before the book will be on sale.

I realize not all creators can afford to go this route. There is always going to be pressure to start monetizing your series as soon as you can… but the benefits of going monthly on a small press series might just make it worth it.

Lesson 6: Offering Subscriptions

One of the benefits of offering a monthly series is that it made offering a Series Subscription to EMILY a logical product offering on Shop.ComixTribe. I looked at how BOOM! was handling their series subscriptions, where they offered a discount on the books, and shipped the books each month as they came out, for one upfront price. They rolled the cost of the monthly shipments into the offering. And we found that many of our online customers liked the ease of a one click, one time payment for the series that would ensure they received all variants. And it’s a lot easier for us to get that one purchase for the series subscription as opposed to five individual purchases for each issue.

SeriesSubscrption_EmilyA

Subscriptions aren’t a new idea by any stretch. But we’ll definitely incorporate them with our publishing plans going forward.  And hey, looks like Image Comics is getting on board the subscription train, too!

Lesson 7: You Still Need to Beat the Drum Like it Owes You Money!

One thing that can’t be glossed over is that, in addition to making a great book, John Lees worked his ass off to promote it. If you’re a retailer in the UK, you probably received multiple emails and calls from John about EMILY. If you have a comic book review site, you probably received an email from John about EMILY.  Google AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE and you’re going to get pages and pages of reviews, and posts, and interviews with John and Iain.

ShhPositive press for an independent comic book title doesn’t happen by itself. It’s largely the result of hustle on John and Iain’s part, along with the promotional work ComixTribe did on their behalf. Twitter promotion, Facebook promotion, a dedicated promotional site with original content related to EMILY… It’s not one thing, it’s a thousand little things that add up to real buzz and comic market interest.

If you were to do a straight dollars and cents return on investment analysis for all the time John has put into this series, the numbers would probably be shockingly low. But, John (and ComixTribe for that matter) are playing the long game, and betting that all that work to get the word out about this title builds our reputation in the direct market and grows our fan base.

Lesson 8: The Challenge of Trade Sales

The success of the EMILY series enabled us for another first — we decided to take EMILY to a Volume 1 trade collection immediately, and without an accompanying Kickstarter campaign to help fund the large upfront printing costs that trades require. All of our other collected editions (SCAM, THE RED TEN, OXYMORON) were made possible by successful crowdfunding campaigns.  Direct market sales alone would not support our trade collections for our other series.

EmilyFCBD_EmilyAd
But as the final issue of EMILY was due to hit the stands, and after EMILY #0, a prequel story, was accepted as one of the 2015 FCBD titles, we recognized it was crucial for retailers to have the EMILY trade on the shelves in advance of Free Comic Book Day. Waiting to complete a crowdfunding campaign before soliciting the book to Diamond would mean it might be half a year before the EMILY trade came out, squandering all momentum of the series.

Emily_0_FCBD_CoverThankfully, the EMILY series was profitable enough in the direct market to fully fund a small off-set print run of the trade. So even if retailers didn’t order a single copy, it wouldn’t be an unrecoverable blow from a profit and loss sense. So, we rushed EMILY to trade.

While our initial trade order numbers for EMILY Vol. 1 were our highest for any ComixTribe trade collection to date, they were still well under the order number we were shooting for. (Essentially, we were hoping our initial orders would be enough to pay for the entire print run. They fell short of that by about 20%.) Indie trades, even on a buzz-worthy book that made lots of year’s best lists, are a tough purchase for retailers. They carry relatively high price points (compared to floppies) and are unreturnable… making conservative ordering necessary.

I fully expect strong re-order activity on the EMILY trade this month when the EMILY collection hits the shelves, and then again in May as tens of thousands of readers get their first taste of John and Iain’s horrifying world on Free Comic Book Day.

But we still have some work to do before we break-even on the trade print run, which makes me stand by a stance I’ve argued for a while now: a small press publisher should always incorporate a crowdfunding campaign when taking a title to trade. Diamond direct market distribution alone will not sustain small-press publishers.

***

Okay, 4000+ words later…are you still with me? Great! I hope you enjoyed this small-press inside baseball look at takeaways from bringing a series to the direct market.

ComixTribe is now in it’s fourth year of existence and third year of direct market publishing. Ever since we’ve started, we’ve been committed to sharing our lessons learned, successes and mistakes, insights and opinions, as we try to make our mark in the magnificent medium of comics and graphic novels. We appreciate your support, and look forward to another year of new milestones!

Thoughts, Comments, Feedback, Questions? Please leave a comment and let us know what you think of this postmortem.

What do you mean you haven’t read AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE?

For more context on the book we’ve been discussing, please go on and grab EMILY #1, which, for a limited time, we’re making absolutely free.

Keep Reading!

If you found this article useful, you may want to read one of these three articles next:

Another Creator-Owned Sales Monster in the Making

What Free Comic Book Day Means to a Small Publisher

The Creator & Small Publisher’s Guide to the Diamond Distribution Cycle

]]>
https://www.comixtribe.com/2015/02/09/and-then-emily-was-gone-postmortem-lessons-learned-from-comixtribes-most-successful-direct-market-series-yet/feed/ 3
AskComixTribe Episode 5: DIY vs Diamond Distribution https://www.comixtribe.com/2014/11/24/askcomixtribe-episode-5-diy-vs-diamond-distribution/ Mon, 24 Nov 2014 16:35:31 +0000 https://www.comixtribe.com/?p=3559 Talkback Question: What is your comic book shop and do they do a good job stocking independent comics?

Topics: Should you distribute comics to retailers directly, or go through Diamond Comics, Inc? A deep dive into the pros and cons of both avenues into the direct market.

]]>