Yesterday I saw a tweet urging people to pre-order a comic from their local comic shop, complete with an image of a you could print out and hand your LCS crew, including the Diamond code. Handy! Here's the thing: the tweet didn't include the date the book comes out.
A quick Google revealed that the comic had premiered digitally last year. I went back to the tweet, because the book sounded super interesting and I wanted to find out more info. The publisher's logo was on the form, but it was pretty little and I had to squint to figure out which publisher it was.
The publisher's website had no information about the book.
Here's the thing: this isn't a call out of the person who tweeted the form or even the publisher. In the course of reviewing or researching books, I end up doing a lot of digging to find really basic information, so I'm the kind of person that will dedicate 20 minutes to figuring out what's going on. Your average comic reader? Probably not. For folks who don't have an LCS, or prefer to buy digitally, that tweet was all but useless, which is a bummer.
And this is something I see with alarming frequency: creators of many stripes (but especially comics) making it harder for people to find and buy their work. I ended up having a bit of a rant about it on Twitter, and some smart folks added a little bit of advice, so I wanted to formalize it into a post.
Step 1: Acknowledge that the publishers you work with are not going to do you any favors, especially if you are a letterer, colorist, designer, etc.
Step 2: Make a website and buy a domain. It doesn't have to be a fancy website, but the domain should probably be your name or some variation on it. Add the domain to your Twitter/Instagram/whatever. The site should include:
- Your work! This feels like a dumb thing, but seriously it's important. I see creatives with no portfolio site and their Twitter bio includes books that ended months ago.
- If you can, try to list out every individual issue that you worked on. This is a pain in the ass, but it's especially important if you work at one of the publishers that has super long runs of a book, or multiple runs of a book with the same numbering. The ultimate goal is that if I Google "Comic Book Title #34 Colorist" your site will come up.
- Every once in a while, open an incognito window or private browser and do that Google thing I just described. See what happens. Does your site come up?
- Consider putting a picture of your face on there. It can be a headshot or your favorite selfie or a picture of you smooching your cat. The reason for this is twofold: first, it makes you a real person instead of a hypothetical. People feel more connected to those they can picture in their head. Second, it makes it easy for people to ID you if you table at a con somewhere. I can't tell you the number of times I've walked up to get something signed only to find out the person I'm talking to is a tablemate or a helper. It's not the end of the world, but it can be a little awkward.
- A link to any store you might have, and links to where to buy your books (digital or physical).
- When you announce a new book, do it on your site! You can link back to that post from Twitter or Facebook or whatever. Make sure to include:
- The full name of the book.
- Excellent advice from Kieran Shiach: Consider SEO when you name a book (if that's in your control). Is there already a comic with that name? Is there already a book or movie with that name? Is the title you're considering a regularly used word? Basically, if I have to Google "[Title] comic 2018" to find your book, maybe reconsider.
- The entire creative team and their roles. (Seriously, at least do writer, artist, colorist, letterer.)
- Help your buds!
- Link to their portfolio sites if you can. Links like this help people get jobs and help SEO*.
- The publisher (do them a favor, even if they aren't doing it for you).
- The date it's hitting stores.
- Bonus points: give an elevator pitch instead of including the publisher's marketing stuff. What would you tell your friends to get them to read it?
- The full name of the book.
- Appearances! Any signings or cons you're doing. Basically, if you're gonna be in public selling or talking about your work, put that on your site. (Please include your policy about signings. For example, do you ask for donations to the Hero Initiative, but sign stuff for free up to 10 items? Write that down.)
- This is also a good place to advertise if you're selling anything or taking commissions at those appearances.
- Brag about yourself. Include the kind of blurbs you'd want on the back of a book on your site! Any positive reviews or great tweets. (Asking for permission first is always a good look and it will likely flatter anyone you quote.)
- You should also curate a list of reviewers, sites, and journalists that like your work. Send them PDFs or ARCs whenever possible. If it's easy for them to get hyped, they will!
- Share this list with your publisher(s). Urge them to reach out to those folks, too. Offer interviews.
- A note about interviews: whenever possible, do it as a total creative team. Let's change how we talk about comics art and colors!
- Any awards you you win or might be eligible for. Letting people know what you're eligible for takes the guesswork out for them. It feels like being narcissistic asshole, BUT, especially some non-industry awards rely on eligibility announcements to know what's up.
- Bonus points: awards that aren't in the comics industry. Winning a scifi/fantasy award like the Hugos exposes your work to an entirely new population of readers.
*SEO is Search Engine optimization, the art/science of making the results you want show up when people use a search engine.
If you have a WordPress site already, here's some great advice from @Bairfanx: You should install the Yoast plugin on your WordPress and use good meta titles and descriptions for everything.
So there you have it. This will hopefully make your life easier, I know it will make my life easier as a reviewer.