Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Jim McCann on Comic Book Marketing

Last night, Jim McCann joined the Comics Experience Creators Workshop to discuss comic book marketing. Jim was the perfect guest for this topic because of his unique perspective. Jim spent six years in the marketing department at Marvel before becoming a full-time writer in May of 2010, and since then he has written books for Marvel (including Hawkeye & Mockingbird) as well as promoted his creator-owned title, Return of the Dapper Men, published by Archaia.

Heidi MacDonald of The Beat has called Jim "a member of the Nicest Guy In Comics squad," and truer words were never spoken. I had previously seen Jim on a writing panel at NYCC in 2010, and he was insightful, entertaining and generous with his advice. Last night was no different, with Jim sharing his thoughts and answering questions for well over an hour.

While I couldn't possibly cover all the information Jim provided (the recording is available to Workshop members for a few weeks), here are a couple pieces of advice from last night for comic creators trying to promote their own work.
  • Get the word out BEFORE Previews - When he was at Marvel, Jim avoided having the very first mention of a project appear in Previews. By the time a book is in Previews, retailers only have a relatively short window to enter, and then adjust, their order prior to the Final Order Cut-off (FOC). So, try to start building the buzz a couple months out, if possible.

  • But not TOO early - It's a mistake to promote your project too soon, if you don't have enough to show. At a minimum, you need a great cover and/or some sequential artwork, not only to catch the attention of those who might cover your project, but also for potential readers.

  • Know your audience (and your reviewers) - Spend time getting to know your "audience" for marketing. Don't send a PDF of your non-superhero book to a website or reviewer who only covers superheroes. Pay attention to who is writing what--and what they tend to like--on the comic book news and review websites. And personal contact is a good alternative to (or at least a good initial step prior to) a mass press release, especially if you and your comic are not well known.

  • Social Media is great - This has been discussed ad nauseum because it's true. Marketing is a conversation, and Twitter and Facebook, etc., are a great way to keep that conversation going, and, hopefully, to get readers involved in the promotion as well.

  • Keep one eye on the calendar - Don't try to promote your book the week before or after one of the bigger conventions because you'll get lost in the deluge of news. This is true not only for the bigger cons like SDCC, NYCC and C2E2, but also for shows like WonderCon, Emerald City, etc.

  • Work the unique angles - Janet Lee's unique artistic process on Return of the Dapper Men -- using pine boards and decoupage -- really caught people's attention. When Jim saw the interest this was generating at conventions, he focused on getting video interviewers to come over and see what she was doing. If you have a unique angle, then work it! Do something fun at conventions--just don't be obnoxious. (Side note: Jim would prefer if you don't accost him at a convention, if you are dressed in a clown costume.)
As you can tell from just these few points, Jim was a great guest offering very practical advice. I know the members of our Workshop forum will be discussing the ideas Jim raised for a long time to come.

Thank you, Jim, for the time you spent with the Workshop and for being so willing to share your knowledge!

Rob Anderson
Moderator, Comic Creators Workshop