I like to have folks interact with us and I thought I’d pass along some questions we got from a listener to the podcast and share my answers with you all. If you have some other thoughts to add to mine, feel free to add them in the comments area! Everyone’s situation is different, but there are some good basic points here that should apply to most comic creators out there.
What’s a good way of promoting your comic/site when you’re just starting out?
Get on Twitter and Facebook and start building your social network. Yes, they may be other artists, but they have readers as well and the exposure will help you in the long run. It takes a long time to build a significant following, so start now! Advertising on Project Wonderful is a huge help, but you have to design your banner correctly or they won’t be effective (read Ken’s articles on banners). Even spending a little here and there will help bring in new readers. Pick sites similar in content to your comic and target those. Targeting saves you money and generally gives a greater return on investment.
When is the right time to start making merchandise?
I would generally recommend that you wait at least a year or more before thinking about merchandise, but every comic is different. Ask your readers what they want. Don’t fall into the trap “I’ll make a t-shirt with my logo and everyone will buy it.” They won’t, trust me. I’ve been seeing success with coming up with clever t-shirt sayings that relate to your comic. My readers chose “Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll… Just Not In That Order” from a series of designs I suggested. If you do a book, be sure to include exclusives like extra comics and sketches.
Is it better to focus on one comic or work on multiple projects?
In the beginning, focus on one project. You can’t really do more than one without them both suffering. Once you build a team of folks you work with, you can start doing other projects and delegate artwork/writing to others. Do one thing, and do it well, then diversify.
At what point are you ready to take your comic to a convention?
I’d have at least one year’s worth of archives before going to a con. I waited two years before doing a major con as it cost major money. Be sure to have developed your brand, your marketing pitch and have a good solid product to sell. You can start earlier, but be prepared not to make your money back. Going to cons early in the comic’s first year will help with the above networking, so it is worth the investment in that sense. But if you’re tight on budget, I’d wait until you have built up a good audience and following which will help you make your first con a success.
Another way is to start at the local comic book shops and see if they would be interested in hosting a local comic creators event. If you are lucky, some other creators will be in your area (thus why it’s important to get Twitter and Facebook going strong). Even if it’s just you, see if you can get an afternoon where you come in and draw while their customers shop. Do free mini-sketches or do quickie portraits. I know most comic readers love to see someone drawing. And by drawing in public, it breaks the ice for doing a convention. My first con I was scared shit-less at drawing in front of people. After a while, that eased up and I got into a groove. Nothing beats building a local base and comic book stores are a great way to do that.
What are some of the best cons to go to?
I would start with small cons at first and work at handing out flyers or bookmarkers or even business cards so folks get to know your comic. It takes time to grow. I will be doing my second con in March of 2011. I went the route of waiting and doing a larger con. It is risky, but I did make some great contacts and networking is sometimes better than making a sale (but the money comes in handy at the end of the day too!).
As far as the actual names of cons, anything on the East Coast seems pretty good (bastards). San Diego Comic Con has become a Mega Con and mostly for TV/Film stuff. The two cons in Chicago now seem on the rise again. Most importantly, ask around on Twitter and you should find one near you (hopefully).