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UnConventional - Getting on the Shelves pt1

Posted On Thursday, February 14, 2013

     A recent trip up to out of town reminded me how lucky I am to be a creator in Columbus, a town that truly supports its indie creators.  While out and about, I took the opportunity to introduce myself to a couple of stores that I happened to find, since I'm always on the lookout to expand my brand presence and all that.  But the response of BOTH shops I visited attested to the dismay so many creators have about trying to get into what remains of the retail comic specialty shop market.

You can see him saying, "I don't do
Indies," can't you...
    "We don't do Indies."  Was the essential standing -- despite one shop suggesting the other was more indie-friendly.  Fortunately for me, my comic book education has garnered the understanding that this reluctance isn't really the retailers fault -- in fact, it's good business.  No matter how good your book may be, let's face it -- it hasn't garnered the same following, marketability and recognition that so many characters from the mainstream side of comics inherently have (being around 50+ years affords you those kinds of things).  And even then, books featuring the likes of Spider-man, the X-Men, Wonder Woman, Batman and/or Superman STILL may or MAY NOT sell!  Now, if these bastions of comic bookdom can be so finicky in their returns, can you truly expect your self-made title to a.) be bought in equative quantities and b.) fly off the shelves?  Well, I suppose you could…but it wouldn't be a very smart plan!

     What I think is necessary for small-press creator is to, first and foremost, understand what exactly they're up against.  I vehemently argue that small-press has to mean lower quality -- it's more about how much product we can afford to make and have out there at any given time -- so certainly eliminate the idea that you're standing as a small press/ indie creator is an indicator of SKILL.  But you have to see that you're competing for shelf space against the comic book GREATS (both the characters AND the creators), so you're going to have to market your book, your brand and yourself a bit more…creatively.

     I posed the question via Twitter a few days ago and one of the responses suggested taking out being Indie as a sales point and while I know I'm proud of what I've been able to achieve on my own as a self-publisher, it really makes a lot of sense.  Even now, when a popular writer hooks up with a well-known artist and they do a book of original characters, the work is referred to as creator-owned.  And they really have NO PROBLEMS getting into retail shops (anything from Mark Millar, Bendis and Oeming's Takio series and a quite a few others).  This name-game kinda plays into something I've seen locally where "indie" is more of a stylistic idea -- kinda underground, maybe not as slick in its approach to comics, subject matter and all that.  The term "alternative comics" comes to mind when I think about it and I have to wonder if things haven't taken a synonistic sway.
Apex Prime, from The Trouble w/Love
is definitely a Superman Analog!

     Another idea is to NOT be afraid to claim similarity to the mainstream books currently on the shelves of your intended shop.  If there's ANYTHING remotely similar in your book to Superman, why not use it -- Supes has already gotten in, so he's a gonna be a strong reference point for the marketability and possible sales of YOUR title!


We'll take a break here, but I'll be returning soon with some more ideas to help build better relations with comics shops as a indie publisher!

*Editor's Note -- I thought about this after posting:

While I don't think that being of the Indie Market inherently means your quality is bad, I do think the lack of external checks and balances may suggest a higher likelihood of falling short from retailers expectations.  I'm not familiar with a vast number of distributors that specialize in the small-press market, but I know that Liber Distro has a submission process, marking a particular standard they're looking to associate themselves with.  Aligning yourself with such a company could both facilitate ordering your books and establishing how good they may be (obviously this relies on the credibility of said distributor -- Liber Distro is still growing in that regard).

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