Digital comics and the Comixology age
Everyone loves holding a physical comic in their hands, but a lot of new and occasional readers have really embraced reading comics on their tablets and phones, so it is a path a small press creator shouldn’t overlook. Plus, unlike physically copies, it doesn’t actually cost you anything to sell your comics digitally. Again, you are not going to buy a boat with the proceeds, but is a way of getting your comics out there…internationally too!
Once you have physical stock of your comics you’ll realise that overseas sales will not be as high as domestic and this is down to one simple reason, Postage and pack costs are a pain in the arse.
In a lot of cases, the postage overseas will cost a customer more than the actual comic that they are buying from you. Utilising sites like Comixology, will bypass this.
The only problem with this is it can be a little long winded to set up your account.
You are gonna need your basic bank account details, account number and sort code, but you will also need your IBAN number (International Bank Account Number) and BIC (Bank Identifier Code).
Don’t panic if you do not know these, because they can be found easily, either via your online bank portal or you may have to ring or pop in to your local branch to get them.
I for example use the Halifax, when I log on to the portal and select my account. There is a button that says “more information”, I press that then the next button “account information” BINGO!
Other banks you are going to have to have a little look around the site once you have logged in or as I said before give your bank a call or pop into the local branch.
Once you have all that, the forms you have to fill out tend to be straight forward and you should be able to set up your comixiology account.
Once you have done all that you can upload your comic, but you need to remember that after you have uploaded your comic it can take a while (a good few months) for your comic to go live.
So, please be patient with them.
I personally have had to resubmit comics, because Comixology said that I had too much white space on the comic page outside art work.
So, remember when I said you need a bleed area for the printer, to save yourself some hassle and time, it might be worth creating two PDF documents, one for the printer with the usual bleed areas and one with less space to use for your online submissions.
As well as the actual comic you are uploading, you are going to need an image you want to use that will appear in the reader’s catalogue that is 600 X 600 pixels and in Jpeg format, such as:
You are also, going to need a low res jpeg of the cover of each issue you are uploading.
The rest of the uploading process is pretty standard and you should be able to do that without a problem.
Once all that is done, you will get an email from Comixology a week before your comic goes on sale.
But as I said before, this can take some time.
Setting up shop.
Ok, you finally have your hard copies back from the printers and they look great, don’t they?!
Its time to start selling!
First things first, you need to set up your online store so people can start buying these beauties.
Pop over to www.bigcartel.com and sign up to open a free online shop! All you need are your paypal details, cover images for your comics and descriptions. It is so easy and it’s FREE and you can even link the “store” to your own website if you have one. You can have up to five products on there and it doesn’t cost you a penny to set up or use. If you want to upload more than five and then there is a monthly charge.
As you upload your comics for sale you get to set up the prices you want to charge per comic.
Again, I sell my comics for £3.00 each plus P&P.
So, you need to work out how much your P&P is going to be!
There are a couple of ways to do this, buy a DECENT hard back A4 (C4: 229mm X 324mm) envelope (don’t buy cheap envelopes, because if a comic gets damaged on route you’re gonna have to give a refund), put your comic in the envelope and weigh it on your kitchen scales. Then go to www.royalmail.com/price-finder and work out how much it costs to send one comic 2nd class and try keep the customers costs as low as you can. Stick in another comic and work out the cost to send two, then repeat for three and four. (it’ll save you having to go through it all again later if someone orders more than one)
Repeat the same exercise with overseas costs, however there are no second class options for sending abroad, so just use the cheapest/quickest arrival option you can without sending your comic via a container ship that will take six months to get there.
Work the costs out for the U.S, Europe and Australia at the very least.
Alternatively, you can go into your local post office with your comic and envelope and ask them to give you the costs, but you are gonna annoy anyone else waiting in line behind you!
Working it out at home is a whole lot easier.
Once you have these costs you can add them to your online store and charge people the right amount.
Don’t be cheeky by upping the postage costs to try and make a little more money, it ain’t smart and it ain’t cool. You need to remember you want repeat business as you have new comics for sale.
We have missed something haven’t we?
Our unit cost of £2.40 per comic has gone up, because you need to add the cost of the envelope.
I buy board back pocket peel and seal envelopes online and they cost me £12.00 for 125, that’s an extra 9.6p cost per comic, lets round that up to 10p, So to sell your comics online will now cost you £2.50 each. All these little costs add up and will affect your breakeven point. So, selling your comics online for £3.00 + P&P mean you will now make £0.50p per comic you sell.
But who is going to buy them?
Does your website get a lot of traffic?
Probably not, so we need to…
…Spread the word
I’ll be honest, I not the shrewdest of social media gurus, but I get by. Other than twitter I’m pretty useless. Well, let’s put it another way, up until a month ago i thought “Grinder” was a spices website…boy, was I surprised.
But I’m pretty good with twitter, I think, especially using it to promote myself and my comics.
What’s the secret? It’s easy,
Promote other people’s small press comics and art as much as your own.
Don’t be a dick. You do have to be your own biggest cheerleader, but remember no one likes a ME ME ME attitude.
If you RT and like other people’s work, they might in turn return the favour.
I see twitter as a great way to communicate with people who share a common interest with me, comics. A lot of people on there have become really good friends and AMAZING supporters of my comics.
Many of these people actually buy my comics too, which is really humbling.
It happened organically too.
You have to take as much interest in other people’s creativity as your own.
This way it becomes a community rather than a tool, because communities support each other.
It is not an overnight thing either; you have to work at it.
DO NOT insult other people’s work or pick arguments with someone who has different opinion on who was the best artist on Batman.
Play nice and respect other people.
I have got to the point where if I send a tweet out about a new comic, I know it is going to be RT’d and liked by at least a dozen or so people, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but if each one of those people has at least a hundred followers that we don’t share that’s another 1,200 people that will potentially see my work along with my own 1,700 followers. It may not mean one single sale, but word is spreading.
DO NOT ask professional comic creators who work in the industry to RT your work.
You can if you want, but I think it makes you look like an arse.
There is nothing worse than looking in my twitter feed and seeing the same small press creator replicating the exact same message 20-30 times asking different professional comic artist/writer (who do not follow them) to RT their new comic for them.
To me it looks desperate and needy.
If you and the professional comic creator do follow each other, if you are going to ask them to promote your work. Do it in a DM, so the world cannot see, but again, I personally wouldn’t cross that line.
I only want people to RT my work if THEY think its worthy.
Not trying to sound egotistical and I am not a name dropper, I have a few professional comic creators who follow me and I would never dream of asking them to RT my comics.
Even If i knew them outside of Twitter and they were a REAL friend, I still don’t think I would ask them, because a good friend would do it anyway.
Why on Earth would I ask a complete stranger, who doesn’t know me outside of my tweets to risk their reputation retweeting my work to their followers?
My comic could suck and they could get crap for recommending a book that isn’t good because they were just trying to be nice…us geeks have a tendency to turn on creators very quickly.
So, for me, it’s a no no.
Hastags are a great way to spread the word of your new comic, stuff like #NCBD (new comic book day) and #Makecomics will get more hits on your tweets.
If you are using twitter on a PC rather than a ipad or phone, they now show you the statistics of your tweets and how many people are interacting with what you have got to say.
They are all averages, but at least you can see just how many people are clicking on the links to your site or looking at the pages you a posting.
Twitter is also a great way to get in touch with comic review sites and podcasts who may be interested in reviewing your work. A good review goes along way and again reaches a wider audience. Find them on twitter and follow them, see if their profile has a link to their sites where you can submit your comic for review.
A free PDF goes a long way
Even though I sell my comics digitally on Comixology, I have still given away hundreds of free PDFs to people on twitter.
Everyone loves a free comic and it helps builds relationships with people.
It shows them you are just not out to make money from your followers.
I regularly do a “who would like a free PDF of XXXXX #1?” tweet and I give away loads.
A lot of those people end up buying physical copies of my comics too, either because they really liked it and it is worth their cash or because they now think I am a good egg and wanna support me.
It works in another way too.
If you have the second issue of your comic coming out soon, why not give away free PDFs of issue one?
If people like issue one, they might go and buy your new one.
Or if you have the fourth issue of your comic coming out, give away PDFs of issue three. It means to catch up, customers will have to go and buy issues one and two and may buy #4 to find out how the story ends.
The Hard truth
Now, before I start going into how to sell your comic, FINALLY. It is time for some tough love. I hate to be the one to say this to you, but the chances of you being called up to the majors to write Batman is So incredibly slim it may never happen. It could happen, it really could, but let’s be realistic here and not have delusions of grandeur.
The reason I am saying this is not to crush your dream, because if that is your dream, never lose it, you might be the one that actually makes it come true.
I’m saying this because, I want you to be honest with yourself and what you want to get from making and selling your own comics.
If you realise that getting to the big time might never happen, I honestly think you’ll enjoy making and selling your own comics a lot more.
JUST MAKE COMICS BECAUSE YOU LOVE COMICS and you want to tell your own stories…if the industry does come knocking that is amazing. If it does, you grab that opportunity by the short and curlies and live that dream for the rest of us.
Now for more bad news!
Selling small press comics isn’t easy, reading this thread isn’t going to magically make your comics fly off the shelves. You have to work hard…I’ve sold 1,300 comics in seven months and I’m not saying that to show off, I’m saying it because I have had to work my arse off to do it.
If it was that easy, everyone would be doing it.
You have to graft hard and more than anything you need to remember to have manners.
Be polite, ALWAYS.
Selling your comics
I’m a salesman for a living, not the best, by far, but the difference between me and other people i have worked with in my career is that I am not afraid of hard work. I worked my way up from being a tele-sales person to a field sales manager and I have signed deals that are worth millions of pounds.
I’ve been sent out in the rain in the middle of winter (I’m not exaggerating) by my bosses to “door knock” to try and find potential customers and I’ve been spoken to like I was something scraped off the bottom of someone’s shoe. Being as salesman can be incredibly soul destroying profession.
In my day job I have to try and convince people to buy something that they can get cheaper online.
It’s rough and the you hit the phone all day and make between 150-200 phone calls, you might find one person who is in the market, but they already have three quotes and are not looking for a fourth.
Activity wise, you have to do the exact same thing every day.
The good news is that you are selling comics to people who like comics and want to read good comics, that is half the battle, right there. You are selling a product they want.
When my wife and I bought our house we went to buy a sofa. We went into a large UK chain that I’m sure everyone has heard of. While we were there and after we had picked our new sofa, I had to deal with a member of staff there who I took huge umbrage with. While he was making small talk as he placed the order he asked what I did for a living, so I told him. To which he told me, “yeah, sales is really hard, but us salesman need to stick together”, my annoyance came from the fact that he thought his job was like mine. I have to go out and work REALLY hard to find my customers, whereas his walk through the door daily, because they are looking for a sofa. I’m not trying to take away from him that his job maybe hard and his targets are not huge. But it was the way he perceived my role as similar to his.
As a seller of small press comics, we are that sofa salesman. Our customers are there, all we need to do is show them our wares and sign them up.
So, how do you do that?
People buy people
My old boss used to say this all the time and it is VERY true. People are not going to buy anything from you if you are an arsehole. I’m guessing that we have all seen Kingsman: Secret Service, If not, one of the movie’s leads, Colin Firth makes an example of some no good hoodlums and teaches them the lesson that “Manners Maketh Man” after they are incredibly rude and try to start a fight that he finishes.
This is the same in all walks of life, it doesn’t matter if you are selling over the phone or face to face, be polite. Even if someone doesn’t buy something from you this time round they will be more than willing to speak to you again if you are nice.
My comics are no better than yours or anybody else’s at the comic con or online, so why have I sold 1,300 comics in seven months?
At the Comic Con
I did my first ever comic con in May of 2016 and I sold 212 comics in three days, I didn’t know that this was anything special until one of my buddies at the same show told me that he is lucky if he sells 30.
I know that when you buy a table at the comic con you get a chair…but never sit down.
Unless you are an artist and you are making your scratch from doing commissions at the con, you should never be sitting down, EVER. (unless for medical reasons you have to sit down)
As people are walking passed you at the con if you are seated they will literally be looking down on you.
Never a good first impression.
I’m not a body language expert or anything, but If you are standing up, it means you are talking to some as an equal. It makes people feel more comfortable and not worried about disturbing you.
Keep your phone in your pocket…if I know you have read this thread and I see you at your next comic con, behind your table, with your phone in your hand, I’m gonna SLAP IT OUT OF YOUR HAND.
Unless your wife is about to go into labour or a member of the family is at deaths door, that phone should not be in your hand.
If you see me with my phone in my hand at a con, it’ll most likely be me checking the time, because I don’t wear a watch. But, if it has been longer than 30 seconds slap away.
So, let’s recap…You are standing and your phone isn’t in your hand.
Sorry, if this all sound patronising, but you would be surprised how many people I see sitting on their bums holding their phones at the comic con as potential customer just walk by.
Next, for the love of God “smile” and I don’t mean a creepy serial smile, I mean just a nice friendly smile. Because you know what, people WILL smile back. If they do, say “Hello”, people are friendly at cons and will usually respond.
You’ll find that so many people at comic cons are looking to connect with other people and talk about what they also love, COMICS.
The same thing happens when you walk into your local comic shop. How many times do you see customers talking with the staff about comics?
Unless the owner is a miserable sod…I’m gonna say you see it a lot.
As people are walking passed and you are being friendly, invite them over to have a look at your comics.
Don’t ram your comics down their throats with a hard sell, while smiling just say “please feel free to pick them up and have a look”
Some will ignore you, not because they are rude, a lot of comic readers are incredibly shy. Some will put their hand up and say “no thank you” and walk passed, but some will come over for a closer look.
Because you engaged with them, politely!
I cannot begin to tell you how important this is. On the first day of the con in May, I was like a deer in head lights at first because I had no idea what was gonna happen and then I was like a ferret on crystal meth. I was just waaaaay too excited.
It wasn’t until half way through the second day that I had my “pitch” down and it rolled off the tongue naturally.
So, what is a pitch?
A pitch is a short description of your comic that you use to get customers interested.
It shouldn’t take you more than 20 seconds to say and it doesn’t need to have too much detail.
For example, my pitch for Cordelia Swift is:
“It’s a Steampunk murder mystery, with a strong female lead character”
BOOM, ten seconds and its done. It lets you know exactly what to expect from that comic.
That’s all you need.
Let’s look at what information we can take from that short pitch; you have the theme, genre and the description of the protagonist.
Another way to do it is, compare it to something similar. This is good to do if your comic is a bit too complicated to boil down within a 20 second pitch like the one above.
With my new comic Transfer, its Quantum Leap meets Johnny Mnemonic.
You need to do this with your comic.
Try and boil down the description to its bare bones of what it is.
Then practice it…over and over again out loud.
It won’t at first and you will screw it up, you’ll get tongue tied, but keep doing it.
Then eventually, click, it will sound natural, like you are saying your own name, I promise.
If you have two or more comics that are completely different, no one wants to hear pitch after pitch after pitch of what you have for sale at your table.
If this is the case, you need to combined them into one.
At my first con I was selling the first two issues of both Cordelia Swift and my comedy comic, CHUNKS.
My pitch was “We have Cordelia Swift, which is a Steampunk murder mystery, with a strong female lead character or (then pointing to CHUNKS) we have inappropriate toilet humour”
Not one person who heard that pitch didn’t smile, because it was short and amusing.
Then people would gravitate to the comic that they liked the sound of more.
A picture speaks a thousand words
If your comic is going to appeal to a niche audience and is not an all ages book, you might need to try and set the bar early with what customers are expecting because you don’t want people to come back complaining that your comic is offensive.
Not everyone is gonna love your comic and let’s face it, some people are easily offended.
CHUNKS is a harder sell than Cordelia Swift because of its content, it is a little bit more risqué, so what I do is I show a single panel with a joke and say to people “if this panel makes you laugh, this comic is for you, if not then might I direct your attention to Cordelia Swift”
You can do exactly the same with your comic, not just to warn people, but to sell your comics too. If there is an amazing panel or a page that sums up the story, use it as a selling tool, ask a potential customer to read it.
Get them hooked.
Make small talk
As a potential customer looks over your comics, just ask them “what comics do you usually like?” people want to talk about comics at comic cons, surprisingly. Even if someone doesn’t buy a comic, have a chat, be polite, people will remember you for the right reasons. I’ve had long chats at my comic table on the Saturday and that person hasn’t bought anything, then on the Sunday they have come back with a friend and said to them “this is the guy I was talking to you about, I think you would like his comic”
Manners work, just be friendly and nice.
I know not everyone is a confident as me when meeting new people, how do I know this?
Well, believe it or not, I wasn’t always a confident person…hyperactive, yes, annoying, you better believe it. Confident, not a chance.
I started in sales purely by accident, it is a long story, but I was temping as a receptionist for a courier company while at university. Answering the phone, I spoke to the MD, when he called in to speak to the GM. I didn’t know who he was and I even put in on hold for a while…I like to see the little light blink.
The MD was so impressed with my polite manners on the phone, he told the MD that if a job becomes available, he needs to offer it to me. Then a Tele-sales role came up and guess who it was offered too?
Little old me.
When I got the job I was terrified to pick up the phone and try and sell to a complete stranger. It was the complete opposite to what I was doing on reception. There people called in and I either put them through or took a message, that was easy.
This courier company had a wonderful training program for its staff. I hated it at the time but they sent me away for training days where I had to do the most cringe worthy training excises, such as role play (mind out of the gutter please, children) we had to sit there in room of full of strangers and pretend we were having a phone conversation and one of us had to sell to the other.
What it taught me was, fake it.
Confidence can be faked so easy and if you fake it long enough, you start to believe it.
So, “stand” behind your table, “smile” and pretend you are confident, even if you are incredibly shy.
You might only need to pretend for a couple of minutes while someone is at the table.
But, you know what, you might have a nice conversation with someone who shares your love of comics.