(AVG. READING TIME: 6 mins.)
(Photo Credit: kevin dooley)
Comic Conventions are crowded, overly crowded. The venues are often huge and packed that it tends to get somewhat difficult to look for a title that’s new, interesting, and unique.
The big problem, then, is how to attract those potential buyers to your booth.
This post will help you discover …
- Why Being Remarkable Is Critical
- How to Stand Out at Conventions
- Real-Life Examples
- 3 Simple Ways to Be Noticed
Why Being Remarkable Is Critical
When you walk into a bookstore or a comic book shop, what’s the first thing you see? Books. Tons and tons of books, all lined up in rows and columns. Let’s say that you’re a no-name comic book creator yourself and just recently had your first issue published. You head to the counter and ask the saleslady if they have your title available. They say that they’ve never heard of that book before.
You decide to search for it yourself amongst the load and loads of issues lined up on the shelves and tables. They’re alphabetized, so it’s pretty simple. Yet you can’t help but feel that no one’s ever going to buy your comic book. There are just too many other options that they could easily choose from. And that’s the big question you have to ask yourself…
“Why should anyone buy your comic over other, more popular titles?”
The fact is that they shouldn’t. You’ve just got a first issue. There’s no reason they should choose your book over the rest.
What’s that you say? But your book has better drawings, better coloring, better story than all the other overly-hyped material that’s out in the market? Oh, I don’t doubt that possibility for a second. But that’s not the problem. A lot of good stories get shoved down the ranks for their lesser alternatives. It happens in Hollywood all the time, for one example.
I mean, why did Firefly and Freaks and Geeks get cancelled, whereas shows like Gossip Girl get 6 seasons? There’s no justice in that! (No offense to Gossip Girl fans)
“What do I do, then? How do I avoid obscurity?”
Well, the problem here lies with our modern day lifestyle. We find ourselves in a world where there are WAY too many choices, and not enough time. We’re bombarded with all sorts of alternatives and mediums for entertainment: TV, Tablets, Smart Phones, the Internet, Video Games, Movies, Books. And oftentimes, many would prefer all the rest over reading a book.
“So how do I get attention for my book already?”
That’s what we’re here to try and find out.
How to Stand Out at Conventions
A convention is just another big comic book store—but with more people gathered inside all at once. Try to imagine it as one big bookshelf. You see the spines of every single book on the shelf. You don’t know any of the titles there, making it harder for you to decide which one to buy. The trick, then, is simple:
Make your comic remarkable.
What is remarkable? Brilliant author and marketing expert, Seth Godin, defines remarkable as “WORTH MAKING A REMARK ABOUT.” And then he retells his parable of the Purple Cow.
Let me re-envision the parable using my earlier example of the bookstore:
Let’s say you’ve got a short amount of time left on your lunch break—say, ten minutes. After work, though, you’ve got a long commute and you want to keep yourself occupied. So you decide to buy a book.
You walk into the nearest bookstore and find it’s totally cluttered, disorganized, and filled with titles you’ve never even heard of. Nothing catches your eye at first glance, and you don’t want to just pick up any book. You want your money’s worth. You try to scan one shelf, one book at a time, for the remainder of your break.
“Book, book, book, book… wait a minute, what’s this?”
When Seth Godin sold his first 10,000 copies of Purple Cow, they were inside purple milk cartons. When he sold his follow up, Free Prize Inside, the books were contained inside cereal boxes. (Both were snatched up almost instantly, by the way.)
Imagine that on the bookshelf for a moment: book, book, book, book… milk carton? Cereal box?
Now imagine that put into practice at a comic con. Imagine people walking around carrying milk cartons and cereal boxes. Is it remarkable? Of course! It would get people talking and asking questions, “Why is everyone carrying around milk cartons and cereal boxes?”
Why, you just got the whole convention talking about your little product! You got their attention! Now you have to sustain it by churning out a comic that is in itself remarkable. It has good art and a good story. If you’ve got all that working for you, you’re in business!
In the publishing world, a certain number of books have taken the world by storm with their innovative way of marketing and packaging their books.
1 The adventure novel series, The 39 Clues is one that sold 8.5 million copies in 2 years, and has been translated into 24 languages. What’s different about it? The book comes with collectible game cards that facilitate interaction with its young adult audience. It’s a small, practically inexpensive innovation that greatly affected the selling of the book. Why? Of course, kids that bought the book would show their friends and classmates the book and the cards. It would get them talking, spreading the word.2Wreck This Journal is an illustrated book that encourages its readers to do exactly as the title says: wreck it. They start tearing, poking holes into, and burning pages. Each page has an instruction that you’re supposed to accomplish, whether it’s smearing food or spraying perfume onto it. In much the same way as the previous example, it gets people talking, and it immediately catches their attention simply because it’s different.
3 What’s so different about Mouse Guard? It’s a square book, for one. At the most it contains up to four panels per page. It looks like a children’s book at first glance. Its coloring is amazing! Completely different from your typical digital coloring in most comics. All these elements of design worked together to create this gorgeous comic book.4 Archaia is one other publishing company I admire. Their soft innovations are remarkable. Have you seen the covers of their comics? Some of them look more like books, particularly classics. You know, those leather-bound/cloth-bound tomes of Shakespeare and Charles Dickens. It’s amazing! It’s unique. What’s more, they stand out amidst all the glossy covers.
3 Simple Ways to Be Noticed1 Create Lines. Lines are always remarkable stuff. If you can find a way to get a line going at your booth, you’ve just gotten everyone’s attention. Listening to podcasts, I’ve discovered one creator who got a line going for him at a comic con because he did on-the-spot sketches (for FREE) to anyone that commissioned him to. He did it regardless of whether or not those same people bought his book there and then (although eventually, because they kept coming back every year, they did). Which brings me to my next suggestion… 2 Give away FREE stuff. When we first tried to sell at a komikon, we had this crazy idea to give away free candies at our table. True enough, we got a lot of people nabbing the free candies (and even coming back for more!) but we weren’t exactly able to capitalize on the opportunity to sell them our comic (because of issues with lack of salesmanship). How can you fit that into your own product? Don’t offer free bookmarks or stickers. Those things are invisible. Give away something that no one else is giving away. Even better, give away a piece of yourself (just like in this next example). 3 Personalize It. Why do we wait in a line of hundreds of people just to get an autograph from our favorite author or artist? It makes our copy personalized. If you want to be remarkable, however, you have to do something other than just signatures. I remember this one story of a comic creator that colored-in this one page inside his comic on-the-spot, as a fan was buying his work. Remember that you’re main goal is to provide a service to your readers/customers, and to create lasting relationships with your fans. What better way to do that than to give them a story that they’ll forever remember.
The conclusion is simple, then, if you want your comic to stand out amongst the rest.
What does that mean, exactly? Two things…
- Go to the edges. Be different.
- Don’t play it safe. Safe is boring. Safe is risky.