The Comic Book Business - My ViewsA column article, Busted Knuckles by: Beau Smith
I've been on the marketing end of comic books since 1987. I've been Vice President of marketing for Eclipse Comics, Image Comics, Todd McFarlane Productions, McFarlane Toys, IDW Publishing, Jun Planning and currently The Library Of American Comics. I talk and communicate with direct market and mass-market retailers daily as well as universities and libraries. I'd love to say I've seen it all, but I haven't, it changes every week, from something small to something big. I'm always amazed by it.
Comic book publishing is driven by passion, personal passion. Like anything else, that can be wonderful and it can also be detrimental to your business. Too much of personal passion can blind you to the mechanics that you need to keep the business moving. Not enough passion can turn your business into a complacent machine with little chance to grow.
Last week I spoke to a couple of direct market retailers, one that had been in business for 17 years (2 stores) and another with one store that had been in business for 5 years, they both told me of their frustrations of the direct market being very unified when at seminars, trade shows and conventions, but losing steam and unity once the show is over. Both had engaged in follow-ups with their fellow retailers and with publishers about plans of promotions, sharing ideas, and ways to increase awareness and cultivate new consumers, but found that enthusiasm petered out once everyone got back to their stores and publishing houses.
They understood how the day to day business can sometimes sweep you away from good intentions, but they also felt that making these follow up ideas priorities is also the way to make sure everyone grows and is still around much later.
Another trusted retailer I spoke with told me that most of their aggressive store promotions and marketing had been developed within their own store. They rarely received any true support or contact from major publishers. They did say that publishers like BOOM and IDW Publishing have been very proactive with plans and ideas, the retailer hasn't been able to participate in all the programs suggested due to budget, but they have been able to work out variations to suit their store, customer base and financial range. That meant a lot to them rather than a publisher dictating "how it is" and not collaborating with the retailer to see how they can adjust a promotion that will work.
As a publisher you really need to have a marketing plan that is adjustable to suit the needs of the retailer as well as having product that is high in quality and content for the consumers. In this hyper-fast , high tech world of marketing, it's important to Tweet and Facebook, but at the same time make sure you use the technology to have substance and don't just toss clever quips out or describe what you had for a snack that day.
Right now libraries are under attack from government cutbacks that make it so hard for not only bringing new books into the system, but also hurt programs that continue the tradition of the printed book as well as open up the digital world to readers everywhere. Librarians are more than eager to support graphic novels, trade paperbacks and collections within the library. They beg for more interaction and direct contact on product. Many that I speak with work hand in hand with local direct market retailers to canvas their areas to make readers out of consumers and consumers out of readers. Recently I've discussed some of these self-start programs with university bookstores and they have been ignited into hook ups with their local direct market retailers as well. Some days I feel a little like an online matchmaking service, which is a good thing.
Universities also have some budgetary cutbacks in recent years, but by working within the community they have been able to work out of the box to make their book business profit in a time where outside sources are trying to shrink it. An area where schools, libraries and direct market retailers all work together and share ideas is one of the ways of not just the present, but the future.
The sales for books are there and will come, but you have to plant the seeds and fertilize the area first. Quick, massive sales are not an overnight thing. Like losing weight, or building stronger muscles, the best and lasting results that will stick come from patience, persistence and a steady, well thought out plan.
Like I said earlier, You'd think after 24 years I would've seen it all or at least have most the answers for everything, I don't, but I figure as long as we all keep our ears and mind open, and listen, then some of those answers will come to us willingly.
The business of comic books is changing every week. No one has all the answers, but attach yourself to those that want the answers and are willing to listen to find them. It's okay to be loud, just make sure you've got something to say.
(NOTE: The photos of Comic Book Stores are random and only used as graphics for this piece)
Busted Knuckles Manly Cover Of The Week: Spawn Fan Edition #1
Todd McFarlane Productions/Image Comics/Gemstone Publishing.
Painted Cover By Brad Gorby
Yes, it's a manly cover, it's got a big nasty Viking, a half naked beauty in fur and it's painted by Brad Gorby, I see nothing to explain.
Busted Knuckles Babe Of The Week: Daniela Ruah
Daniela Ruah is athletic, smart and very easy on the eyeballs. She can pull off a wide range of roles with no problem and has a very distinguishable birthmark in her right eye and her other eye is hazel. You may know her now from her role on the very popular new TV show NCIS: Los Angeles.
"I am Not An Animal."
At least not all of the time, for those of you that think I'm just a boozing, brawling, busted knuckled, bombastic, bellowing behemoth of bad manners, here's photographic proof that I'm an okay guy from time to time, it's a photo of me and my granddaughter, Lorian along with one of my dogs, Chubb as we stroll through the spring sunshine.
See, I ain't so bad once you get to know me.
Your Teddy Bear Of A Tor-Mentor,
The Flying Fist Ranch