Marketing Dilemmas

I’ve been thinking a lot about marketing of late. Over at Crazy 8 Press, we continue to try and figure out how best to get the word our when we have new material to offer. There are five of us with Facebook pages, blogs, and Twitter accounts plus our C8 website and Twitter feed. Still, I question whether or not we’re getting the word out as loudly or as broadly as we should. And if I am right, what aspects are missing?

With the Latchkeys series, there are 13 of us involved so we’re trebling the  number of people we have screaming about the books but the sales don’t seem to indicate anyone is listening. (So, if you haven’t sampled books one and two, you might want to consider supporting the arts.)

At Lunacon this past weekend, I sat in on a panel discussing the value of Book Trailers and while they are pretty and do something, no one was convinced they helped sell actual copies of print or eBooks which I found dispiriting.

Meantime, I also spent some time talking with the marketing folk at Voyageur Books as we prepare to market The Unauthorized History of Star Trek. There’s some stuff we’re doing on the Facebook page (please go click you Like it and follow us for updates) and we talked about things we can do at conventions. Obviously, we’re hampered by being unlicensed so doing much at the huge Creation show in Las Vegas is out and Star or the Star Trek magazine won’t be allowed to cover us. We need to be more viral, sneakier, and louder so we get noticed but are still seeking that vital brainstorm.

The issue of getting the word out and getting people to pay attention is far from limited to book publishing and eBook self-publishing. Comics continue to struggle to get people to pay attention to new releases. Kelly Sue Deconnick, a rising writer, discussed the frustration she feels in an interview over at Newsarama. She said:

The problem isn’t just that we have to get folks to buy it; it’s that we have to get retailers to order it. The failing of our distribution model is that our customer isn’t really the reader, our customer is whoever places the Diamond order at any store. So if there’s a perception that the book won’t sell, it gets under-ordered and it becomes this self-fulfilling prophecy.

Here’s a thing that happens to every creator on Twitter on one Wednesday or another: an incredibly sweet reader who really wants to support you, writes to tell you that they tried to buy your book at their LCS and it was already sold out! It’s only noon, they say! The shop only opened at 10! Your book must’ve flown off the shelves!

And then the creator, not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings, says, “Wow! Thanks for your support — better pre-order the next one!” and then they cry into their coffee. Because, friends, selling out by noon on a Wednesday is not good news. Heck, selling out by Thursday is not good news. That means your book was under-ordered — if it was ordered at all. If the consumer wants the product and we can’t get them the product, our system is broken.

I hate the pre-order thing. Hate it, hate it, hate it. Ten years ago, I was complaining about it on the [Warren Ellis Forum] — I’m a shopper. I looooove to shop. I will spend money. But I am not going to buy a pair of shoes that I’m expected to order three months in advance and am not able to try on! And that’s what we’re asking of our readers. It’s the dumbest system. No wonder we have problems! Is there another industry that works like this?

Westfield Comics recognizes this issue and that’s one reason why KC Carlson writes his fine 10 Things columns each month, calling your attention to new releases from the major publishers you might not consider otherwise. Similarly, twice a month I show up and chat about different collected editions readers might not consider because they’re by less familiar talent or older works they might be totally unaware about.

Publishers are clamoring among themselves to get their wares noticed and the Previews catalog is so chock-full of stuff, it’s hard to notice anything beyond the premier publishers. Retailers are so risk adverse that they will order only what they are certain they can sell, so casual consumers are screwed.

Marketing is a struggle but without it, we can’t sell anything because you, the reader, won’t know it’s out there. The problem today, though, is that everyone seems to be in the same boat so we scratch our heads and wonder how digital phenom du jour managed to sell 400,000 copies with just 400 Twitter followers, or what have you.

How do you find out what’s new and interesting? What makes you pay attention to a new release (film, movie, music, comics, books) and how do you decide if it’s worth your time and money?


  • Pat O'Neill

    Gee, Bob, who would have thought all those years ago at Comics Scene we’d be decrying the deficiencies of the direct market now just as we decried the deficiencies of the newsstand market back then?

    What gets me to look at a new release? Excellent visuals…whether that’s a book cover, a trailer, a poster, or whatever. Make me look…with an intriguing image or a striking logo.

    A solid tag-line that tells me something about the project that will make me want to check it out: outstanding prior credits by the creators, a comparison to something I liked in the past, a good description of the premise (we all laugh at “he’s a comic-book fan, she’s a librarian, they’re detectives!” but look at how much info about the project is packed into those ten words).

    Perhaps most importantly: Being there when I go to look for it. Nothing turns me off faster–because I think it’s unprofessional–than lateness.


  • Chuck Rozakis

    We should chat about this next weekend at I-Con (despite them not putting us on any panels together). This “how to find readers” has been a big question that I’ve done a bunch with in b-school, and I think I have some ideas on how to answer it.

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