Comic-Con 2009: Panels

I went to three great instructional panels during Comic-Con, and I’d like to pass on the general points they made:

Marketing Indie Comics

  • Send postcards to potential buyers
  • The trend in our economy is a move to niche markets and combining small audiences (example: Penny Arcade uses jokes that only 8% of the audience will get, but this creates loyalty and an ‘inside joke’ feeling among that 8%)
  • “Be shameless” – write people again if they don’t respond the first time. They may have simply misplaced your first e-mail…you’ll never know if you don’t try again
  • Seek out bloggers and reviewers to mention your work/mini/book – format the e-mail so that it can easily be copy-pasted into a blog entry; this will make it very appealing to the blogger since it’s instant, easy content. Just make sure it is free of grammatical erros and has no strange formatting. Aim for under 400 words and include only small jpeg files. Don’t forget to mention the release date!
  • Good cons for promoting small press/indie: regional cons (Wondercon, Heroes, Baltimore, Toronto, Emerald City, MoCCA)
  • Print outside of the US to keep your costs and prices down (China, Korea have printing services to US)
  • You can actually negotiate prices with printers for a better rate; if you are printing 5,000 copies, they want your business and may bend the rules to get it
  • Haven (alternative to Diamond distribution)
  • Cross-promote laterally (same size, different people audiences, like among webcomics)

Breaking Into Comics – Jessica Leigh Clark-Bojin (Zeros2Heroes)
This panel was on alternative ways to earn a “first professional credit” in order to bypass the catch-22 of needing professional experience to be hired by a publisher. This was by far the best presentation I saw all weekend, with a great speaker, great PowerPoint, and great content.

Facts: If you are a jaw-dropping artist or writer, you will find work, no matter what your other skills are. If you suck as an artist or writer, you will not find work, no matter what your other skills are. But what if you are in-between? What can help push you over and make you appealing for employers? The answer: professional credit. Big names on your resume say that an established company trusted you, and they took the biggest risk by employing you first, making it easier for later companies to trust you.

Known options for breaking into comics:
1. Partner with an emerging artist/writer
2. Pay a professional artist (if you are a writer)
3. Enter competitions

Alternatives:
You can sidestep the gatekeepers by partnering with organizations other than comic book publishers. Some examples:
-The Federal Government (there are actually funds for making comics to educate the public about comics. What else might there be in federal funding? Suggest something!)
-Broadcasters
-Educators
-Public Cultural Funds
-Entertainment Companies (often test properties by releasing a comic with the hook and main characters first to see how it sells)
-Private Institutions (Companies have found that sending information to employees by posting it in comic format in bathrooms is much more effective than sending out a memo. Suggest this to a business!)
-The Legion
-Heritage Groups
-Local Religious Groups
-Local Cultural Groups (ranging from gay rights groups to the humane society, and any other group you may have in your area)

Send a ‘One Sheet Cover’ to your target groups: who you are, what you want, and what’s in it for the other person/group. Prove that you are the person to pull it off with a work sample or previous work. Suggest how they might put you to work, help them picture it.

Be a pro: Set the budget, schedule payments and delivery milestones, create contracts for you and your partners (including writers, artists, letterers, and the employer), manage the workflow, conduct meetings, and deliver a great product on time.

“Just because there’s a ladder in front of you doesn’t mean you have to climb it. Come at it from the side or back–or fly over and parachute down.”

Making Webcomics – Ron Perazza, Kwanza Johnson, Kevin Colden, Cameron Stewart, Molly Crabapple

  • Aim for a short, punchy, memorable, and easy to spell url for your webcomic. The shorter, the better
  • Promote to scenes outside of comics, or people in other subcultures/scenes/demographics who may enjoy your work–if you make comics about knitting, try promoting them to knitters instead of comics readers
  • “Please RT this” be shameless with that phrase on Twitter–it can reach a lot of people
  • Also, don’t forget to tweet updates. It’s what twitter is best for
  • Make artwork embedable so it can become viral. Just make sure that your name and a link back to your site are attached
  • Don’t worry about your work being stolen–posting on the internet and having your work reposted gives you great exposure, and the original post serves as proof that you uploaded it first if you ever get into a legal spiff.

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