Pond Life #7 by Martin Conaghan – Getting A Promotion

Pond Life #7 by Martin Conaghan – Getting A PromotionSo, we've covered getting your comic an endorsement, the importance of getting the right logo and I've also looked at the fundamentals of writing and artwork – then I went into the practicalities of writing a comic-book script and attending conventions.

This week, I want to talk about getting your comic promoted. (I'll cover getting your comic printed and published in another column – even if it is slightly the wrong way around).

When your book has been returned from the printers (or in the case of a very early comic I produced by myself – the copy shop), you're going to want to think about making people aware that it exists, then get it out there in the real world where people can purchase it, read it, and enjoy it.

For most people, self-promotion is the first avenue to pursue, but if you can afford to advertise on websites, or in print, that'll certainly help. But for the small press guys, a national advertising campaign is probably beyond reach.

These days, it's not difficult to set up a simple website or blog chronicling the path of your comic and issuing teaser images or snippets about how the book was produced. Most artists and writers keep such a blog where they can idle away the hours waxing lyrical about their influences and such like. Similarly, it's probably a good idea to set up a Facebook group (or, a MySpace page, if you live in 2003) and bombard your friends and family with messages telling them to buy your book.

Another great service is MyEbook, an online book creation service that lets you post a digital preview version of your comic that users can browse through for free (it also has extensive printing and e-commerce facilities that some people find quite useful too), and there's a dozen other online facilities that perform a similar task.

Popular comic-book messageboards and forums, such as Millarworld, Jinxworld, Comic Book Resources are all terrific outlets for creators trying to tell the world about their pride and joy.

The key to self-promotion is to be prominent enough without spamming people, and brief enough without boring them to death. Repeated, shameful promos for a self-published title is likely to make people angry, while the odd email, post or update (providing it contains something new and useful), will generally be warmly accepted. The internet is there to be exploited, just be careful that you don't cheese people off in the process.

It's also important to make sure people can actually hold a copy of your comic in their hands and review it properly, which means spending a little extra cash on review samples/copies and taking the time to post them out to key reviewers in the hope that they'll look upon your work favourably and give it a half-decent critique.

You should never underestimate the importance of printing extra copies of your book for review. Not doing so is cheap and short-sighted; print an extra 20 copies and post them out to the websites or publications most likely to give you a couple of inches of column space. While Bleeding Cool doesn't review every comic sent its way, plenty of others try to; The Forbidden Planet blog, Jazma, Down the Tubes, Comics Bulletin and The Comics Journal, to name but a few. Then there's the million and one comic book podcasts out there that will most likely give you a mention, including Geek Syndicate, Sci-Fi Pulse and the brilliant Small Press, Big Mouth produced by Stacey Whittle.

All of these outlets (and others too numerous to mention) will be more than happy to accept a free copy of your product in return for a few words of criticism.

You could also consider mainstream publications such as The List or local/national newspapers – but you have to ask yourself if these outlets are likely to review your work, or, more importantly, if they are likely to help you shift more copies. It's all very nice and dandy having your photo in the local paper holding a copy of your comic while dressed up as Superman, but will it really shift any more issues in your local comics shop?

The last, best outlet for promoting your comic is good old-fashioned word of mouth – and for this, there is no magic dust, potion, wand or spell that will make it happen, other than spreading the word about your comic to the wider world, along with one other vital ingredient; it has to be good.

Whatever you do, tell everyone about your comic; print flyers, postcards and posters – be creative and gimmicky. Dish them out at marts, cons and shops. Email everyone you know and as them to purchase a copy of your book.

But most importantly of all; let the world know.

Martin Conaghan is a journalist and broadcaster at the BBC and a freelance comic book writer. The views expressed here are his own. He is also the writer of Burke & Hare.

Are you a small press publisher, writer or artist? Do you have something you think might be worthy of mention on Pond Life? If so, tell Martin about it at pondlife@copydesk.co.uk

You can request to follow Martin at Facebook or Twitter.

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Rich JohnstonAbout Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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