During my first six months as an indie comic book publisher, everything I thought I knew about comics was shattered.
I’ve been an avid comic book reader for more than 30 years, and it turns out I knew nothing. Not about why fans really buy comics, not about what matters to them, and not about what makes the successful comics I loved successful.
In this article we’ll face some harsh truths about the life of the indie publisher and about the fans. In my next article, I’ll show you how you can the harsh truths around to become a successful indie publisher and to reach the fans who would really love your comics.
Ready for some harsh truths? Here they are:
Harsh truth #1: Reviews don’t help sales.
One of our first series, Wynter, was immediately called by reviewers an “SF extravaganza” and that reading it was “necessary for you to exist”. Increase in sales? Zero.
All right, I thought to myself. It’s issue #1, people are wary, they need to see I can do it again.
Wynter #2 came out. Reviewers across the web started calling it “the best sci-fi comic on the shelves today”. Increase in sales? Zero.
All right, I thought. That’s just two issues. People need to see more.
Wynter #3 came out. It was again hailed as “the best SF comic book on the market” across the board. Increase in sales? You guessed it: Zero.
Conclusion: Positive reviews don’t help sales.
Harsh truth #2: Ads don’t help sales.
We placed ads on CBR, a comic book website with hundreds of thousands of unique visitors. The results: 14 visitors a day from CBR.
Turns out this is a well-known fact in start-ups. If you’re totally new, ads don’t work. You have to get people talking about you, create communities of readers, and then ads would work.
Conclusion: If you’re an established comic book company, ads may work for you. If you’re an indie, don’t waste a cent on ads. It’s a waste of money!
Harsh truth #3: It doesn’t matter that you’re good.
The fact that people think you’re good will not get them to recommend your comic book to their friends in any meaningful way.
The reviewers that called Wynter such great things did not successfully recommend it to their friends. The fans that emailed and tweeted about how much they loved it did not recommend it to their friends in any meaningful way. At least not at first – not until we grew.
So: Being good doesn’t make you viral and doesn’t increase sales. Not when you’re new and small. And not on its own.
Harsh truth #4: People will refuse to read you for free.
Undeterred, I was throwing pasta at the wall to see what sticks.
New Worlds Comics offered a free Wynter #1 through two reasonably popular comic websites. All the readers had to do was email to get a free copy.
An average of 14 people per website emailed.
Conclusion: God damn, this is tough!
Harsh truth #5: Fans don’t care about previews
Don’t take my word for it. You can do the research for that right now.
What’s your favorite super-popular comics news blog? Go to its Facebook page, where you can see how many people actually click ‘Like’ on every post.
Now compare the number of Likes of posts about previews with the number of Likes on their other posts. The Likes on the previews are always low.
Conclusion: Sharing awesome, unbelievable, magnificent art or previews from your awesome, magnificent, unbelievable indie book will not get you more sales. It’s not what fans really want.
Harsh truth #6: Talking about your comic makes people want to not buy it
I think you should read that line again: Talking about your comic book will make people want to not buy it.
Look at every indie publisher out there. What has s/he got to talk about? Their comic book, of course! How else will people learn about it? How else will they learn that it’s awesome? (Warning, warning: We’ve already seen that your comic book being awesome will not get people to buy it.)
The problem is that ALL your Twitter/Facebook/website/Pinterest/Tumblr/Instagram/etc. followers know that you’re here to sell.
So when you try to sell, it turns them off.
I’ll say it again: When you try to sell your comic book by telling people about it, you are turning people off. It just doesn’t work. It doesn’t.
Yes, those harsh truths look bad. Really bad.
But don’t despair, because the good part’s coming.
Although what we think gets people to buy does not actually work, fans still spend their dollars on comic books. So there are ways to get them to spend money on yours.
Here’s the results I can attest to:
- After 9 months of slowly gathering 2,000 Twitter followers overall, I changed my tactics and now I’m now getting 1,000 new followers a week.
- People are starting to talk about our comic books and actually recommend them to each other visibly online.
- Traffic to the website is increasing weekly.
- Sales are increasing drastically.
This isn’t happening because I’ve been around for some time, or because of the quality the comics (which has remained the same from the beginning). Things are changing because my attitude is changing.
In the next article I talk about how to change to bring the change.
See you next time!
And one last thing. If you’re an indie publisher, join our #IndiePower initiative. Together, we can become stronger!
This article was originally published by the Comic Book Illuminati Magazine.