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Situation:

  • 5 year comic book series (by my spouse; I do marketing, website, etc)
  • 4 issues a year (in theory...it's been slower)
  • Issues are available as e-comic only
  • Every 4 issues is collected into a book
  • Books are available as e-books and as trade paperbacks
  • Traditional (small) publisher (in UK, we are in US) but one who does no marketing

The 3rd issue is coming out in a couple weeks. The 4th issue and first book will be out this summer.

The goal is to make money. Yeah yeah, it's to get this lovely work out to the public, etc, etc...but the reality is it's going to take a lot just to break even. We pay nothing for publication of course but we paid the artists, and that's a lot. If we can break even, my spouse can continue writing without killing our family budget.

Where do we put our marketing emphasis?

Both the e-comic issues and the books will be listed on the website, on social media, and mentioned on promotional bookmarks and other materials. But what is the best focus for selling more and encouraging new readers?

We don't have any numbers yet for the e-comic and the first book isn't out yet. We make more royalties from book sales, but the exact amounts are unknown. About $7-10 per paper book we sell direct to consumer (like at conventions, book signings), probably $5 for books sold in stores. A couple dollars for e-books. E-comics we get $0.50/issue.

How do we best focus our marketing efforts?

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    (I'd be interested in checking it out -- free previews? With Free Comic Book Day (first Saturday in May) coming up (at least in the U.S.), it may be a good time for a one-off sample) – April Salutes Monica C. Apr 24 '19 at 13:05
  • Are the storylines contained in a 4-issue book? I know that there can be larger arcs (like Fables vs The Adversary over the first 50+ issues), but each collected TPB, which might be different numbers of issues, focused on a main storyline: the Election, Boy Blue's Quest, etc.) so there was a sense of satisfaction with the volume, yet enough of a bigger-picture cliffhanger/game-changer (plus investment in characters) to make you want the next volume. – April Salutes Monica C. Apr 24 '19 at 13:08
  • @April It's an ongoing series but it is designed to have 4-issue arcs specifically to go along with the book collections. An 8-pager was in Octal but IMHO the writing isn't as strong and it's a different artist (the new one is amazing). Also, it's 17+ and FCBD is geared for kids (alongside adults), so not sure about that. It would be insanely expensive to print and distribute too...really small (but experienced) publisher. We've been leaving bookmarks in comic book shops, and spouse went to WorldCon too. But it's hard. I'm guessing we're up to a few dozen readers...maybe. – Cyn says make Monica whole Apr 24 '19 at 13:59
  • @April I don't want to this question to be seen as advertising but if you'd like to know more about the work, ping me on Chat. – Cyn says make Monica whole Apr 24 '19 at 14:05
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    Secespitus, wow! Thank you. I was considering offering a bounty on this myself but have been focusing more on tag stuff. Issue 3 is being lettered (the last step before going to the publisher) so we're really hoping issue 4 and the BOOK will be out in mid-summer. I'm not a marketing person but hello I guess I am now. This info will be very helpful. – Cyn says make Monica whole May 6 '19 at 20:58
3
+300
  • individual issues 50¢
  • eBook ~ $2
  • printed book in stores ~ $5
  • direct sale ~ $7+

I'm not sure how helpful this will be, but starting with observations.

Your marketing should focus on the one type of sale you can control: direct to buyer. This is your "luxury" or "gift" market. Try to think of ways to get people to buy a copy for their friend. Perks can include a few other things like the bookmarks (mentioned in another question) and autographed copies. Maybe you can get the artist to sign a few to keep on hand too.

You might even consider a higher tier of related merchandise. T-shirts and mugs are corny but maybe a printed card or framed print could serve as an even higher-end gift item, that makes the print book seem more practical and affordable by comparison.

Treat the copies in stores as something that promotes you, and legitimizes the product. You won't get steady updates or quick income this route, but you should feature it in your promotional materials, website, etc, as a status, similar to reviews and pull quotes. You are not really directing people to go buy it in the store, so much as you are saying "these fine retailers loved it too" – not that heavy-handed of course, but leverage the brick-and-mortor stores as a feather in the cap.

I'm not sure how much you "own" the digital copies and can manipulate their sale price or other promotions (besides just a link on your website), or whether they will cannibalize your print sales. I guess the strategy here is the single issues are the lowest commitment for the reader, and the cheapest way to "try" the product. There is another angle that single issues are the most immediate way to get new issues, but that is honestly compromised by only 4 per year. You can't really emphasize that it's "faster" when it's seasonal (it is technically faster, but it's not really like you can sell 1 and then another and another. The "glow" will wear off before 3 months). Another problem is the potential that someone buys 2 single issues and skip the full book, because the money is going twice to the same product. It's a low dollar amount, so it's probably psychological, but it might compromise sales by breaking up your market.

Maybe there is a way to encourage a subscription to the digital copies? Either the full book once each year, or the quarterly issues. If they can somehow be pre-sold, or pre-committed to buy each issue as they are released? No idea how that might work, but it might be as simple as an email list and notification. A quarterly reminder by email might drive customers back to the print version – again, to buy those gifts for their friends.

Good luck!

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    Thanks for your answer. To reply to your questions (and implied questions) ... 1. Subscriptions: Yes, Comixology does this already. They charge your card only when the new issue is ready then send you an email. A really nice feature. 2. We have no control over the price of the e-comic. 3. Quarterly comic series are standard for indie comics. 4. Promotional items are certainly on our wishlist but they're really expensive and may not sell well. Right now we just have bookmarks, which of course we give away for free. 5. The book collection will have bonus features. – Cyn says make Monica whole May 8 '19 at 23:32
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    6. We're in California & the artist is in Italy. We've never met him. The wonders of our digital world. The colorist is in Argentina & the letterer is in the UK. My spouse's co-writer is in the American mid-west. No one has met anyone else in person. So signing stuff is HARD. 7. Selling in person requires going to cons & paying for a booth/table. WorldCon was localish last fall but won't be again for a long time. Most cons don't do adult material. Comic Cons are usually very Hollywood oriented. We're exploring smaller expos, etc. 8. Our cost for books is set but we can sell for any amount. – Cyn says make Monica whole May 8 '19 at 23:37
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You are over thinking it. Do not optimize based on assumptions. Optimize based on data. The marketing focus should be based on the sales you get in response to marketing. Try lots of things. Keep track of how much resources they took. Keep track of how much sales (or some reasonable proxy) they produced. Stop doing or modify things with low return. Focus on things with high return.

These are general basics of marketing. What you are marketing and how does not really change anything.

If you can not optimize based on results or actual data, the next best thing is to optimize based on efficiency at your end. Do the types of marketing that are most convenient or effective for you to do. Basically this means minimizing the opportunity cost.

  • Hi Ville Niemi. I appreciate your taking the time to answer the question. But you're not really addressing the question. I have no data. Zero. None. I don't know if that's because the retailer isn't telling the publisher or because the publisher isn't bothering to tell us, but we have no idea if we've sold a dozen copies or 1000. In theory we'll get an annual report in July. But then we won't get another one for another year. We'll know how many copies we sell at conventions, but that won't be tons anyway. So how to proceed to maximize sales without data? What is best practice? – Cyn says make Monica whole May 6 '19 at 23:10
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    Also, we are already spending out an immense amount of money to pay our creative teams. We're not a big company with the time and financial resources to spend in trying out different strategies and seeing what works and what doesn't. Reiterating what Cyn said ... what we're looking for is best practice. – El Cadejo May 7 '19 at 23:59
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I'd stop trying to market it yourself. I'd publish it on a site like Webtoons or MangaFox and let them market it for you. Webtoons, in particular, pay writers of popular comics. Have a look at how many people register and follow comics on Webtoons?

  • Hi, I appreciate your taking the time to answer but I'm afraid this isn't helpful. We would be in breach of contract with the publisher if we did what you suggested. The comic is already up on Comixology and Drive-Thru Comics, which are a lot bigger than the sites you suggest. Of course these places pay. We just don't have the stats yet. And you haven't addressed the book collections. They're being sold through Amazon and whatever brick & mortar stores we can convince to carry them (our local bookstore chain said yes already, with a meet and greet). – Cyn says make Monica whole May 7 '19 at 23:53
  • Just looked up Webtoons...They have 200+ comics on there that are all free to read. They put ads on the site and pay creators with a share of the ad revenue. In contrast, sites like Comixology (with many thousands of comics) charge $2 per issue and half goes to the publisher (who in turn sends half of that to my spouse). (costs vary by comic but ours is $2 per 22 page issue) – Cyn says make Monica whole May 8 '19 at 0:03
  • As for MangaFox, I'll just say that going to that site generated ad boxes offering me "sexy Asian women in ___" (my hometown). Complete with a PG-13 photograph. Yeah, no. – Cyn says make Monica whole May 8 '19 at 0:08
  • I can see why my answer wasn't helpful. Your comments have clarified several issues. I use an ad blocker so I don't see the ads on MangaFox. If you get to be a featured artist on Webtoons you get at least $2000 a month, I've read. – S. Mitchell May 8 '19 at 16:15
  • Thanks for the followup. I'd like my question to be as clear as possible. Could you let me know what I left out of it that was unclear? Thanks. – Cyn says make Monica whole May 8 '19 at 16:23

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