In this day and age self-publishing your comic book is not only possible, it’s becoming prevalent. However, the journey from idea to finished issue in hand is only part of the process. Comic book creator and editor Jason Enright tackles an important question for new indie comic creators: how do you sell the comic you’ve created?
Until Next Time,
So you have successfully made your first comic book. You wrote it, maybe drew it yourself or collaborated with an artist. It is lettered and off being printed.
You’ve been so focused on getting it made (which is a huge accomplishment by the way, congrats!) that you have not had a second to think about how to sell it. Well, as someone who has been in this position: selling my own indie comics for the past few years, allow me to offer some advice. This blog will discuss how to put your book in comic shops, sell at conventions, and maybe even submit it to Diamond for mass distribution. This will by no means be an all-encompassing guide, but instead will be a good way to start a discussion with some helpful tips along the way. I hope you’ll comment and add any tips and tricks of your own, as well.
So nobody expects you to put your comic in all 2500-plus comic shops on day one. Start small, start local. Go to your favorite local comic shop and ask if they would carry your book. Be prepared for a “no” or a “maybe.” Have a business card with your contact info and be prepared to leave a sample.
Most shops work with small or first-time publishers on a consignment basis. Consignment means that you don’t get paid up front; you get paid after the books sell. If a shop likes your book, they may ask for five copies and tell you to come back in two weeks, and collect your money plus any unsold copies. This is totally fine, but write up a receipt or some kind of simple agreement that you’ll both sign, to protect yourself when you come back later. Some stores may already have a consignment agreement form.
The trick to consignment is to be consistent. Keep the number of copies you give them low, like 3 to 5, and visit to collect your money regularly. Don’t go so often that you bug the shop, but don’t go so seldom they forgot about your deal. When I was selling my indie books, I would go out once a month to visit all my shops and collect. Also, don’t visit shops on Tuesday or Wednesday. Tuesday is when shops get their entire weekly order in and have to inventory and shelve it. Wednesday is new comics day — their busiest day of the week.
So now that you have your book in your local shop and maybe a few others nearby, what’s next?
Well, you could start expanding out to other shops within driving distance. However, I highly suggest you call or email to see if you can make an appointment. Don’t drive 45 minutes to a shop only to find out that the owner isn’t there that day. Send a polite, business-appropriate email (proofread it!) and ask if their shop does consignment and if you can set an appointment to deliver books. Offer to email them a sample pdf and include a logline that describes your book. Keep this email short and sweet.
Develop a route that allows you to visit your consignment shops in a fuel-efficient way. Google Maps will be your friend. Just as above, stay consistent. Maybe one Saturday a month try to drive to all your shops and deliver new books and pick up any money from sales.
The Con Game
After that, you’ll want to start looking into conventions. Again, I urge you to stay local and expand slowly. A convention is a big commitment with a lot to consider. Research and find your three closest conventions. I’d suggest starting with one that is only one or two days long. Look at the exhibitor section of a convention’s website to find their application and how much a table costs. Generally, Artist’s Alley or Small Press tables are the cheapest, but be sure to look for hidden costs. How much is parking? Do they require you to rent chairs? Does the exhibitor fee cover the admission ticket?
Once you register for a show, you need to figure out what to bring. It is helpful to have a few different products available at different price points. Maybe in addition to your books, you can make prints of your covers. It is also very helpful to bring some sort of freebie which you can give away while pitching people on your book. Bookmarks or postcards are good, but make sure they have your website and social media information on them to generate sales after the convention. Buttons can also be fun. Make sure to bring lots of change (singles, $5s and $10s), and look into getting a Square or Paypal device that reads credit cards.
Finally, remember that you are at the convention to sell. Stand up at your booth and engage anyone who passes by with a friendly greeting. Have a sample comic out on the table and invite them to check out your book. Be prepared to give a very brief description of your book like a logline. “It’s an epic adventure featuring Samurais vs. Robots in space!” “What would you do with your 15 minutes of fame if you became the world’s most famous superhero, but had no actual superpowers?” By the by, don’t steal those – they are descriptions of Darby Pop books.
Remember to take care of yourself at the convention. Most convention days are 10 or more hours long. Pack a lunch so that you can stay at your table and drink lots of water. If you can, consider tabling with a friend or fellow comic creator. Also keep track of all your costs and compare them to your sales to see if the show was actually worthwhile for you.
So, those are my thoughts based on playing the indie comic game for a few years, although I’m sure there’s much more that could be added. What has been successful for you? What hasn’t? Let me know in the comments section below.
Jason Enright is a freelance comic book editor and marketing consultant. In addition to crafting his own independent comics, he has consulted with IDW Publishing, Darby Pop Publishing, and Fanboy Comics. Follow him on twitter at @JasonEnright.