The Comics Survival Kit


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Some comic shops do an okay job of selling comics. Some, those special ones with excellent management and staff, manage to do a lot more. They create a sense of community. I asked the owner of one of the best comics shops I have ever been to how new and veteran comics creators can make their communication with retailers more effective and helpful.

Listen up, guys. This is a good lesson for EVERYONE!




For beginning pros, I recommend always carrying yourself professionally, and graciously when reaching out to retailers. Try to understand that we often wear several hats, and we interact with a lot of folks, so an immediate response isn’t always a negative. 
Just like we present ourselves in a friendly, warm and professional way when customers come in our stores, that’s how you should present yourself to a creator. Be responsive, be friendly, but also be assertive, straight-forward, and stay on point. There’s no need to go overboard when soliciting; just be professional and friendly. :)
- Try to stick to e-mail as opposed to cold-calling. Most owners or purchasing managers are often busy when they are on the sales floor, and the last thing we’re going to be receptive to is a pitch during a Friday lunch rush. E-Mails are preferred, as we can come to them on our own time. E-Mailing on Mondays, or Thursdays tends to be the best time to get your fastest response, as those are often the days when we’re most on top of our inboxes.
- It may be time-intensive, but try to research a bit about the stores you’re emailing. A quick extra sentence ontop of your standard pitch which helps the retailer see why the book would be a good match for his store helps a lot. Remember how good it felt to have that barista remember how you take your coffee, even though you may not have remembered them? That feeling is universal, and can be applied to anything. We’re all people. :)
- Signings: reaching out for signings is definitely good, but don’t be too aggressive. Any good retailer will want to blow you away with their in-store event, and if they don’t seem totally gung-ho for the signing — then it may be because they don’t feel it’s a good fit. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing, it just means every store is different and has different audiences. The last thing a shop wants to do is waste a creator’s time. 2-3 months prior to a signing is usually the ideal time to plan; this gives the retailer proper time to promote, bring in proper stock, and also lock in good rates on travel costs. 
- Ordering new books: 2 sentences in a solicit is too little, 7 sentences is too much. One neat, tight paragraph where you define the audience of the book is ideal. Striking teaser images to drum up excitement work just as much on retailers as they do fans, but in different ways: we watch the fan’s responses on Twitter, we look at who’s excited, and we predict who we can get excited based off that one image and one paragraph. 
Don’t worry about giving the whole plot away in the solicit, just a quick brief paragraph that defines the audience and sums up the plot is perfect. Think of the solicit to a first issue of your new series as the mission statement of a business. 
If we know a book is ongoing out the gate, that means that we will be planning for a longer shelf life, which means higher orders on single issues. If you’re not sure if the book will stay ongoing; instead of confirming it as a mini out the gate, leave it unspoken, and if it does find its footing and go ongoing, then great. If not, it’s a mini. Monthly comic buyers are much more into the habit of an ongoing, whereas minis tend to have more of a “I’ll wait until it’s finished” mentality, and that will kill you on the order numbers for issues 4 & 5.
Finally, here’s a quick notes on production that I think every new creator could take to heart, as it really does help the sales on your books: 
Always keep the price and issue # of your book clear on the front cover.
Always keep the title BIG and BOLD on the front. Someone should be able to walk into the store, stare straight across, and see it. Brian Wood & Mark Millar’s books all follow this rule really well; think about it. 
If you have a say in it when working with a publisher, always push for a quality paper stock. It doesn’t have to be super thick, or super glossy, but needs to sit nicely on the shelf. The flatter a book lays on the shelf, the more we are able to stock on the floor at one time. For a high volume store, this ensures your stock stays strong through a busy day until the store is able to re-stock at end of night. 
Avoid paper stocks that “balloon” near the spine; I don’t want to point any of these out — but, you’ve seen them before. These do not sit well, and limit the amount that are able to be stocked at one time. Also, it just isn’t as aesthetically pleasing to the eye of the shopper
I already mentioned this above, but: define your audience. Think of WHO you want reading your book, and then think of who WILL read your book. This is the number one selling point when approaching retailers, and you need to be able to code that into everything: the teasers, the solicits, the promotion, the marketing. 
Hope this helps!
The Third Eye
Your Friendly Neighborhood Comic Shop, locations in Annapolis and Prince Frederick, Maryland!
2027-A WEST ST
M-F: 11AM-9PM, SAT: 11AM-8PM, SUN: 11AM-6PM
M-F: 11AM-9PM, SAT: 11AM-8PM, SUN: 11AM-6PM