Comic Books, Bigfoot And Beer
"Bigfoot… with a broadsword."
That's how I would pitch it to people. And from that one simple line, I was able to get the average convention-goer to stop and go, "Oh? That sounds awesome!"
It also helped that I had a 7 ft. tall Bigfoot standee beside me.
But how did I get it to the point where I'm now three conventions deep with more on the horizon (self promotional plug, you can see me and the big guy next at www.venturacomiccon.com)?
More importantly, as an independent, no name creator, how did I get 25 of the most badass stores to give Bigfoot – Sword of the Earthman a shot? It's been an eventful journey leading up to that point.
If you haven't read the first article Rich posted a couple of weeks ago that document the journey to bring Bigfoot to life, I encourage you to give it a quick read. It ended with my decision to self-publish.
I quickly learned that creating a comic book was one thing. Sure, writing the script, finding artists and maybe even finding a quick print-on-demand printer to work up a few copies had its share of challenges (and there were many!) But what did I really know about actually getting the book out there?
Luckily, it's a cliché, but you can find just about anything on the internet. And from one quick search, I located two sources that have been absolutely indispensible. "Comic Book Marketing 101" an e-book by Mat Nastos and the entirety of the how-to posts from the ComixTribe guys I cannot emphasize enough what a tremendous source of information both of these have been. For info on SEO (Search Engine Optimization), barcodes and beyond, check them out.
One thing I learned early on was to not do any of the hardcore marketing right away or more specifically, as an unknown, don't do any hardcore marketing until you have something to sell. As a new creator, if I send out press releases, email blasts and any other attempt to try to get someone to check out my site, if I don't have anything they can actually purchase (or pre-order,) then I've wasted that "first look" excitement. I ran into this problem early on when I went to the Cryptomundo site and they ran a brief article on my book… a full year ahead of the actual release date!
Lesson learned. But don't confuse this with a production blog. A production blog of some sort is an excellent way to build an audience with updates, teases and a great way to keep oneself motivated to do the work. Just don't go to the media yet before you have some product.
In the meantime, Andy and Tom were hard at work bringing issue #2 and #3 to life, so there wouldn't be any lag with the release. Once the three issues were in the can, it was time for the marketing.
And a company name.
For a publishing name, I wanted something unique. If I was going to put this on a letterhead to send to the press, I knew I needed a name that would stand out, but would still be personal enough for anybody that knew me to go, "Of course you would name your self-publishing label that."
Seriously, go to my Instagram account at "joshua_henaman" and you'll see why the name was a no-brainer. I also knew I could use the name in my press releases. And, of course, Tim Daniel absolutely killed it with the logo.
Right about this time, things start to get blurred. It's kind of a, "What came first, the chicken or the egg" scenario. Did I approach the various media outlets first or did I approach the retailers first? It was a little bit of both. You can get press by saying you're in X number of stores and you can get stores by saying you have a tease/press release at such and such site. For me, the two kind of merged together, but I'll keep them separate for now.
Back in December of 2012, I wrote a piece on my blog about press releases. It quickly became (and remains) my most popular post on the blog. Rather than bog down this already lengthy article, I'll just link to it here.
In short, I actually dig writing press releases. I treat them as teasers to entice the reader or reviewer to check out the book or site. Just don't be boring.
When I finally decided to go to retailers, I basically tweaked the media press release a little and added some info (page numbers, release date, retailer discount (50%) and a brief bio.)
So, how did I find retailers? Easy. I stole the list from Sam Humphries, Tyler James and Ian Brill.
Well, in reality, I looked to their "Where to buy X book" on their sites (or press releases) and realized that these stores were indie friendly. I recently did a panel at Wondercon this year and one of the questions asked was, "I know you guys really can't say who the retailers are that carry your book, but how did you get it there?"
It was quick to point out that an indie creator will GLADLY tell you where to buy his or her book. It was through ComixTribe's (Tyler James) site that I learned of Happy Harbor, Larry's Comics, Jetpack Comics, and the entire NECRA scene. It was through Sam Humphries "Sacrifice list" that I learned of Vault of Midnight. And on and on. I'm also located in Los Angeles, so Meltdown, Blastoff, Hypno and Comics vs. Toys were absolute musts. If you go to my site you'll also see a list of stores that have had a "Bigfoot Sighting".
I've also scoured the "Master List" and "Fresh Comics US" for a state-by-state list, which led me to B & D Comics, Strange Adventures and beyond. Keep in mind, out of around 400+ emails that I've sent out, it's only in 25 stores, but it's a start… Not bad for an unknown.
You'll note, one thing I really don't get into much is the actual printing. I thought about it, but Dirk Manning already covered this more eloquently than I could have.
Just know, printing is expensive. That cannot be emphasized enough. The single biggest piece of advice that I could give to anyone out there is to open up a separate banking account and start funneling money into that account. Today. Whether it's paying artists, printing the books or even something basic like postage, the funds quickly disappear.
So that's it for this one. I'm sure I missed some things and may have unintentionally glossed over some issues, so feel free to shoot me a question.
To put it simply, issue #4 of Bigfoot – Sword of the Earthman is available NOW at www.bigfootcomic.com and this Wednesday at a select group of the 25 most badass stores in America and Canada!
Oh, and while I wrote this article, I was sipping on a Pliny the Elder from Russian River Brewing. I have to live up to the Brewhouse Comics name, of course.