Robot 6

The Middle Ground #29 | Dear sir or madam, would you read my book?

If there’s one job in comics that I’m not sure that I’d want, it’d be the guy who has to tell everyone that J. Michael Straczynski isn’t writing the Superman or Wonder Woman series anymore (sorry, Alex). But if there’s another job, it’s PR person for an indie publisher.

See, Marvel and DC have it (relatively) easy when it comes to PR, at least when it comes to the comics internet: Sites like Newsarama, Comics Alliance or this very place are pretty much primed for almost any piece of (real) news that either publisher puts out, because news from either publisher – or, to a lesser extent, Image – is big news, both in terms of the fact that the companies are so big in the industry that they can set the news agenda if they try hard enough, and in terms of the fact that stories about Marvel and DC are what the majority of visitors to those sites want to read, and every website wants the hits, so they’ll go where the virtual money is. But for indie publishers, that’s not only not the case, but any and all press that gets released will have to fight for attention (and, let’s face it, normally lose) against the Marvel/DC PR for the day.

This came to mind yesterday, when I looked through this week’s shipping list and saw that Archaia’s Return Of The Dapper Men was coming out. Through sheer force of will – and, I think it’s fair to say, writer Jim McCann’s background with Marvel and just sheer likability – Dapper Men has somehow become a must-read book for me, and had managed to do so months before its release. How did that happen?

I mean, sure, yes: A lot of my interest comes from the fact that I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by McCann, and knowing that he and I share similar tastes in comics, TV shows and Marvel characters that need to have their own monthly series because they are awesome (Seriously, who wouldn’t want to read about Alison Blaire again every four weeks? Music-hating terrorists who hate joy, that’s who), but there’s a lot that’s the result of planning and subtle yet definite intent; McCann was talking about Dapper Men on his Twitter feed and in interviews for a long time, which would’ve provoked at least a “What is that damn thing he keeps talking about?” reaction from most anyone reading. But as the book moved along in terms of production, McCann and artist Janet K. Lee would also share glimpses of the book online and, as order deadlines were due, even get review copies in the hands of tastemakers to keep the book in fans’ minds – and, hopefully, get them telling their retailers that they’d like a copy.

It’s probably not a repeatable phenomenon – How many other indie writers would have McCann’s experience, or personableness? – but there’s some kind of lesson in there about how to bring people to your comic, about making people aware of it without selling them, and letting others tell people how good it is when it counts. Of course, I could be wrong, but I’ll be spending my $30-odd on a copy, so it worked for me, if nothing else.

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3 Comments

I always tell people that I spend about a month writing the Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer books and about seven months promoting them. It’s not something I particularly enjoy, but on the indie side you have to make that effort.

Jim, of course, is extremely skilled at PR. But he’s backed it up by putting out great comics.

Dean Haspiel told me in an interview its 40% work and 60% promoting it. Although McCann is probably the most recent example of a good self-marketer, people who’ve done it successfully before are the pre-Vertigo Brian Wood (Brian Wood Month, anyone?), early 00 Warren Ellis and Mark Millar. Some have done well by being relatively mum — Garth Ennis comes to mind.

This in part is due to less-than-stunning PR by comic companies by and large, but also an extension of the freelance nature of comics. Comic creators as of late have also gone into hiring their own personal PR people — in addition to agents — such as Robert Kirkman’s hired PR firm The Workshop, which suppliments Image’s PR, as well as the work of Jeff “Jah Furry” Newelt, who has been brought on by several comic creators to get the word out about a title — supplimenting the publisher’s own efforts.

I’m surprised there isn’t more third-party publicists in comics — even if its an extension of an agent’s work.

It seems to me that in order to get attention to you product, you need to have written something for Marvel or DC.

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