This is the ninth in a ten entry series of blog posts about my experiences self-publishing my first graphic novel, Tonoharu: Part One. I’m writing this informal “how-to” guide in the hopes that my limited experience might be of some value to aspiring comic book self-publishers.
This guide is offered with no guarantees. I’ve done my best to provide accurate information, but I assume no responsibility for any negative consequences that result from following my advice. For other important disclaimers, please see the first entry in the series. Links to other installments in the series can be found on the bottom of this entry.
Part Nine: Marketing
One final book recommendation
Once you’re starting to think seriously about book marketing, it’s time to get one more book:
1001 Ways to Market Your Book by John Kremer
This is the only standalone book on book marketing that I’ve read, so I can’t say how it compares to other books on the subject. But it works as a good companion to The Self-Publishing Manual, and contains just what it says: hundreds and hundreds of ideas for marketing your book. Additionally, there are little tidbits about the book industry scattered throughout, which make this book a fairly good resource for information on that front as well.
On the down side, it’s organized poorly, and the author shamelessly self-promotes himself to the point where it becomes grating. I mean, it’s a book on marketing, so I suppose some of that is to be expected, but Kremer takes it too far. Every other page he plugs some project he is involved with, some of which only had a tenuous link to book marketing. It got on my nerves after a while.
But ultimately the good outweighs the bad, and 1001 Ways to Market Your Book is worth checking out.
Once you’ve skimmed through 1001 Ways to Market Your Book and the marketing section of The Self-Publishing Manual, you’re probably ready to start up your marketing effort.
There’s no good excuse to not have some sort of online presence as a part of your marketing. Compared to other marketing efforts, maintaining a website is cheap and easy, and once you get it up and running, it requires little work to maintain. I’ll admit that the setup is sort of a pain, but if worst comes to worst, you can always get a tech savvy friend to help you.
You should pay for a domain name and web hosting. The cost is negligible, and definitely makes you seem more legit than having a page on a website hosted by another party. As a self-publisher, you’re always going to be trying to appear as more than a hobbyist, and a web address of “YourName.com” sounds a lot more impressive than a web address of “freewebhost.com/users/yourname”, or whatever.
I used a company called Lonex for my domain name registration and web hosting. My site’s gone down a couple times (not anytime recently), but the Lonex tech support has always been really quick to respond to these issues, and the down times haven’t been too long. And they’re really reasonably priced. All in all, I’ve been quite pleased with them.
Your Website’s Content
In the very least, your website should serve as a sort of digital brochure about you and your work. It should have a bio about you, information about your work, and contact information.
If you want to get a little more ambitious, you could also maintain a blog. Even if you only updated your blog three or four times a year, it’d probably be better than not having one at all, but the best blogs are updated regularly. I update mine once a week; that’s frequently enough so that fans of my work might remember to check back regularly, but infrequently enough so that updating it doesn’t take over my life (usually).
You can’t please everyone of course, but the content of your blog/website should be written so that it could hypothetically be interesting to someone who doesn’t know you personally. So blog entries that feature photos from “Thanksgiving 2008” are would probably be a bad idea.
Try to write entries that might intrigue readers and media people to find out more about you and your work. When a reporter is deciding whether or not to cover you, he or she will probably visit your website long before they even think about contacting you personally. Articles about me often feature information that the reporter got from this website.
The content of my blog tends to focus on Japan and comics, since I’m promoting a comic that features Japan. Your blog should also focus on the subject matter of your work.
I use the free program WordPress for my blog. More information about WordPress can be found here.
Review Copies/Contacting Reporters/Etc.
Other key components of a marketing effort include sending out review copies, press releases, and contacting media people to tell them about your book. I’m no marketing expert, and for the most part, if I wrote much more on the subject I would just be parroting what you can find in The Self Publishing Manual and 1001 Ways to Market Your Book, so I’ll leave you in their capable hands for the rest of your marketing advice, save two more general pieces of advice:
1) For review copies, in addition to sending them to the places recommended in The Self-Publishing Manual and 1001 Ways to Market Your Book, you should also ask your sub-distributor for recommendations to places to send them (I wrote about sub-distribution in the previous entry). Your sub-distributor knows the comics industry better than you, and probably knows of places to send your book that might not occur to you.
2) My last piece of advice is the old saw “fake it until you make it”. For many people in the book industry and general public, self-publishing is synonymous with poor quality. Media outlets will be reluctant to cover you if they think you’re self-published. Try to appear bigger than you are; set up a company name, and create marketing materials that look professional. If your book is good enough and readily available to the buying public, most publications don’t really care if it’s self-published or not, but by appearing like you were published by a “real” publisher, it will be a lot easier to get your foot in the door.
That’s it for this week. Next Friday’s entry will bring this series to a close (finally).
How I Self-Published a Graphic Novel
1/10 – Introductions / Disclaimers
2/10 – Honing Your Craft / Creating Your Comic
3/10 – Research, Research, Research
4/10 – Savings & Money Management
5/10 – The Xeric Grant
6/10 – Preparing for Press
7/10 – Working with Book Printers
8/10 – Distribution
9/10 – Marketing
10/10 – The Long Haul / Conclusion