5 Reasons to Buy Comics Directly from Me (Instead of from Amazon.com)

Just this week, I’ve started offering copies of my graphic novel Tonoharu: Part Two for sale on this website. You can order it (as well as my other books) from my store. I’m selling it at cover price ($19.95) plus shipping:

You may have heard of this other site called Amazon.com, where you can get the same book at a discount, and get shipping thrown in for free if you order enough stuff. I’ll admit, they offer a pretty sweet deal.

Now: if you decide to order through Amazon (or decide to order it at all for that matter), that’s awesome; my sincere thanks for your support.  But for this week’s entry, I’d like to argue a case for why you might consider buying comics directly from me instead. I’ll do so in the form of the ever-popular Top 5 list:

5 All the books I sell are first editions
Amazon.com will be selling the first printing of Tonoharu: Part Two of course, but they sold out of the first printing of Tonoharu: Part One years ago. All the comics I sell are pristine first editions, perfect for the debonair, sophisticated comic book collector.

4 I offer a better selection (of my own work, anyway)
Right before I started working on Tonoharu, I did a 44-page comic called Young Men of a Certain Mind. I printed up about 1000 copies. I didn’t put a barcode on them, which excludes them from sale at most retail outlets, including Amazon. So the majority of them are still sitting in my closet. It’s the cheapest book I offer at just $4 plus shipping, and is pretty much available nowhere else. It still holds up, I think; it’s the oldest work I’ve done that I can still read without cringing. :-)

All the books I sell are signed*
I’ll make them out to whoever you want, and include a doodle. That’s sure to impress your friends… er… right? 
(*Copies are also available unsigned too, of course)

Copies of Tonoharu: Part Two from me will arrive sooner
Amazon won’t be selling copies of Tonoharu: Part Two for another few weeks, so if you want a copy sooner than that, I’m your man!

Ordering directly from me helps support me
When someone gets a book directly from me, I get more money than if they buy the same book from Amazon.

Why should you care? Well, at present, my book sales unfortunately don’t earn me a living wage, so I need to do other work on the side. The more money I make from my comics, the less time I need to spend looking for money elsewhere. This in turn will allow me to devote more time to Tonoharu: Part Three, which will allow me to bring it out sooner.

So that’s my list. The link to my store, once again, is this:


All that said, I’d like to mention that I really & truly appreciate any sale, no matter where you choose to make it. I’d also like to make it clear that I’m not trying to vilify Amazon or booksellers or anything. They provide a valuable service, and deserve to be compensated for it. Without them my book wouldn’t have reached nearly as many readers, and for that I am truly grateful.

In fact, let me again mention the link to pre-order Tonoharu: Part Two from Amazon:
Tonoharu: Part Two pre-order from Amazon.com

And a link to my super-awesome distribution partners over at Top Shelf:
Tonoharu: Part Two pre-order from TopShelfComix.com


Minneapolis Indie Xpo Wrapup

Pictured: My sparse, ratty little table

Last Saturday I had a table at the inaugural Minneapolis Indie Xpo.

MIX is only the second convention I’ve ever sold my work at, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I wasn’t expecting much. My first convention (SpringCon 2010) was an interesting experience, but also quite humbling. Attendees showed little interest in my work, and my sales were in the low single digits.

Since I was lugging books to MIX in my backpack, I didn’t want to bring more than I needed. So I brought eight copies of Tonoharu: Part One and about a dozen copies of Young Men of a Certain Mind. That was 2-3 times as many as I sold at SpringCon, so I figured that’d be enough.

I’m delighted to say that sales were much better than at SpringCon; I sold out of Tonoharu a couple hours before MIX ended, and only had a couple copies of YMCM at the end of the night.

Granted, I was selling Tonoharu at a discount; 25% off the cover price. But I also think that the venue was a much better fit for my work. SpringCon is more about mainstream comics, and sort of has a flea market feel to it. Not the best place to try to sell artsy, hardcover graphic novels.

This is why I’ve decided my next convention appearance will be the Twin Cities Book Festival, instead of FallCon (they fall on the same day, so I can’t go to both). Guess we’ll see how it goes!

Oh, one more note: MIX was just awesome. If you didn’t go this year, I strongly recommend you check it out next year. I was damned impressed with the whole thing. Thanks to organizers Andy Krueger and Sarah Morean for putting together such a great show!

Self-Publishing a Graphic Novel (in Eight Hard Steps) Parts 2 & 3

A couple weeks ago, I gave a presentation on self-publishing at the Loft Literary Center as a part of their “Graphic Novel & Comic Writing & Illustrating Conference”.

Daily Cross Hatch reporter/cartoonist Sarah Morean recorded the whole thing, and will be posting it in segments on the Daily Cross Hatch website. Parts two and three are up now, so take a look:

[ Self-Publishing a Graphic Novel (in Eight Hard Steps) Parts 2&3/8 ]

Previous installment: [ Self-Publishing a Graphic Novel (in Eight Hard Steps) Part 1/8 ]

My Self-Publishing Presentation

Last Saturday I gave a presentation on self-publishing at the Loft Literary Center as a part of their “Graphic Novel & Comic Writing & Illustrating Conference”.

Daily Cross Hatch reporter/cartoonist Sarah Morean recorded the whole thing, and will be posting it in segments on the Daily Cross Hatch website. The first part is up now, so take a look:

[ Self-Publishing a Graphic Novel (in Eight Hard Steps) Part 1/8 ]

In the interest of good karma, I’ll plug something Sarah’s organizing: the Minneapolis Indie Xpo will occur on August 21st at the Soap Factory. I’ll have a table there, and it looks like it’ll be pretty cool, so check it out! Here’s their website: http://mplsindiexpo.com/ (Warning: The homepage has an autoplay YouTube video, so mute your speaker volume if you’re at work!)

Next week I’ll be posting the cover for Tonoharu: Part Two. Stay tuned!

Self-Publishing Presentation

Next month I’ll be giving a 90 minute presentation about self-publishing graphic novels as a part of a conference presented by the Loft Literary Center and Hennepin County Library.

What: Graphic Novel & Comic Writing & Illustrating Conference
Where: Open Book, 1011 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN, U.S.A.
When: Saturday, June 19th, 2010. Conference opens with a keynote speech at 10am, with my presentation beginning at 11:15am
Admission: The event is free but registration is limited, so interested parties should register online or by phone: 952-847-8800

Further details, including a downloadable brochure, can be found here.

*UPDATE* The event is now full. To all those who have signed up, see you there!

Thoughts on SpringCon 2010/ Selling Comics at Conventions

Overall, my self-publication of my first graphic novel Tonoharu: Part One went pretty well. But there is one area where I dropped the ball, and it’s an important one: marketing/promotion.

I left for Japan to study East Asian calligraphy the same month my book came out, and between that and a broken ankle that I was nursing back to health, I did next to nothing to market my book once it was released. Books live or die based on how well the authors promote them, so this failure on my part is no small matter. So now that I’m back in the U.S., I’m trying to get back into the marketing that I’ve neglected for the past two years.

It was in this spirit that I attended SpringCon 2010 last weekend. It was my first time at SpringCon, and the first comic convention I’ve ever attended as a “guest cartoonist”. Here are a few thoughts on the experience:

You Have to be In It to Win It
For my first couple hours at SpringCon, I sat hunched behind my little table, and doodled while I waited for someone to come along. When someone came over and looked at my stuff, I adhered to the “don’t speak unless spoken to” rule, and waited hopefully for them to ask me a question or make a comment. No one did, and I didn’t make any sales.

Then indy comics darling Tim Sievert (author of That Salty Air) came along and set up his table. I noticed his sales seemed to be better than they were in my neck of the woods (I guess it’s hard to have sales that are less than none, but you get the idea).

I asked him about his sales technique, and he told me he had learned through trial and error that it’s best to be proactive. He stood rather than sat, and didn’t doodle or read during lulls. He said if you’re just sitting there drawing, potential customers are hesitant to come over and “bother” you (even though you want nothing more than for them to do so). So Tim figured it was best to stand, and to make it clear that you’re ready and waiting to talk to anyone who stops by.

He also said that when someone starts looking at your stuff, you should say something–anything–to them. When Tim first started doing conventions, he originally felt (as did I earlier in the day) that trying to start up a conversation would seem pushy, or might chase people away. But experience had taught him that taking the initiative and starting conversations with people helped his sales, and made the time go by quicker to boot.

So I tried Tim’s techniques, and they did indeed improve my sales, if only marginally. But it could’ve been worse; there were a couple cartoonists across from me that sat hunched over and doodled the whole time, and I swear I didn’t see anyone stop by their tables the whole weekend…

Cheap is Good
The vibe of the convention was very much that of a garage sale. I don’t mean that in a disparaging way; garage sales are fun! But they’re not the best venue to sell fancy $20 hardcover books. Most of my sales came from my $4 comic book Young Men of a Certain Mind; over the whole weekend I only sold three copies of Tonoharu: Part One, and one of those was to a friend who would’ve bought it anyway.

Other cartoonists I talked to agreed that it’s important to have cheap options; people might plop down a couple bucks on a cartoonist they’ve never heard of before, but they’ll rarely risk much more than that. Cheaper comics can act as “gateway drugs”; if the people buy & like a cheap comic from you, they sometimes come back later and buy more expensive ones. I’m thinking I might create a $2 mini-comic to offer at the next convention I attend and see how it sells.

Humble Pie
Before going to SpringCon, I had somewhat unrealistic expectations. I wasn’t expecting people to be lining up to see me or anything, but I figured I’d get a few fans of Tonoharu: Part One stopping by and asking when Part Two will be out and stuff like that.

But really, there was almost none of that. A couple of my fellow guest cartoonists said they were looking forward to Part Two (thanks guys!) but no convention attendees gave any indication that they had ever heard of me before.

Granted, I think SpringCon probably brings in more of a superhero comics crowd, but either way, it was a good reality check. I put out one graphic novel two years ago, and haven’t done anything in the public realm since (other than this blog). It’s only natural that I would still be essentially unknown. So it was a good reminder about the importance of marketing and promotion. I plan on promoting my work more aggressively in the coming months.

Overall, the convention was exhausting, but fun. I met a lot of local cartoonists and reconnected with old friends, and made just enough off book sales to pay myself minimum wage for the fourteen hours I spent behind my table.

I’ll be making a couple more public appearances later this year, so check back for details!