Thursday, March 10, 2011

Pounding the Pavement

Four days to Final Order Cutoff, the last day that comic retailers can order copies of Nonplayer #1 (which hits the stands in less than a month).

It turns out that the work of making a comic doesn't stop when you send the finished pages off to the printer. There's this whole other magical, impenetrable thing called "promotion." I don't have much experience to inform my decision-making in this area, so I've opted for the blunt-force approach: I'm contacting individual retailers and reviewers one-by-one via email. I'm sure there are useful force-multipliers that I'm overlooking (for example, a shout-out from somebody like Patton Oswalt, Chris Hardwick, or Felicia Day would probably quadruple my sales, but I don't really know how to make it across their fan-moats). If anybody has any good ideas, I'm putty in your hands.

So far, I've focused on Twitter, the Nonplayer website, this blog, DeviantArt, and the Project Waldo Facebook page. A word to the wise about DeviantArt: when you open your account, pick a username that relates in some way to your real name (or which is at least relevant to your interests). I chose "hughferriss" out of habit (many years ago, it was the only numeral-free name I could find for a Yahoo account). Now I've got thousands of people out there who think Nonplayer was written by a guy named Hugh Ferriss. I am not Hugh Ferriss. Hugh Ferriss was an extremely talented architectural renderer of the art deco era, and I certainly wouldn't mind being him, but sadly I am not him. This is enough of a problem that I'm considering opening a new DeviantArt account, even though I've already got a couple thousand people following the hughferriss account. It'll take many hours to get everything set up again, and I'll lose a lot of followers. Don't do what I did. (Edit: I went ahead and set up a new account -- one with the word "Nate" right there in the username. That's two hours I'll never get back.)

One weird thing about promotion is that it requires constant bragging. It's awkward in the same way that writing a resumé is awkward. I've decided to treat the Nonplayer website as the rah-rah outside voice and let this blog be my inside voice. Also, I'll be posting new art here soon.

Anyway, I've been sending personalized emails to comic shops, websites, blogs, podcasts, and magazines. I'm seeing about a 30% response rate, which is a little better than I expected to get through the unsolicited email approach. If you do something similar, I recommend finding out the name of your key contact and using it in the greeting, and then working the name of the store or website into the first couple of sentences. This is your way of saying "this is not spam." The other thing I try to do is keep it short. My story synopsis is one sentence long, and then I toss out four positive one-sentence reviews. I try to keep in mind that retailers and reviewers probably get thousands of unsolicited emails, and they're not likely in the mood to follow me on a wondrous journey through the labyrinthine backstory of Nonplayer.

By far the biggest promotional boost has come from you guys -- many of the shops I've contacted have told me that preorders have been coming in, and they've upped their orders as a result of customer interest. One good example is Comics Heaven in Stockholm, Sweden. When I first contacted them, they wrote back to tell me they didn't plan on stocking Nonplayer until it came out in trade paperback. A week later, I got an email from Dan Cooper at DICE, who said he'd gone around his office talking up Nonplayer and then gone into Comics Heaven to order fifteen copies. And a week after that, the shop contacted me again to report they'd upped their orders. That was a great feeling, knowing that somebody was excited enough about the comic to go to bat for it like that.

If you're interested in helping out, please swing by your local comic shop this weekend and remind them about Nonplayer. Tell the owner that if he/she contacts me at nonplayercomic [at] gmail [dot] com, I'll send them a signed poster. I've listed the shops that haven't gotten back to me below -- if you see your favorite shop on this list, please hit them up for a copy! And if you don't see your favorite shop on any of these lists, now's the time to drop them a line. After Monday, it'll be too late.

North American shops that have not confirmed interest in Nonplayer, in alphabetical order:

8th Street Comics, Saskatoon
A-1 Comics, Sacramento, CA
Alternate Worlds, Cockeysville, MD
Amazing Stories, Shrewsbury, NJ
Atomic Comics, AZ
Bedrock City Comics, Houston, TX
Books, Comics, and Things, Ft Wayne, IN
Bridge City Comics, Portland, OR
Captain Nemo Comics, San Luis Obispo, CA
Chicago Comic Vault, Chicago, IL
Chicago Comics, Chicago, IL
Comic Heaven, Willoughby, OH
Comic Smash, Los Angeles, CA
Comic Stop, Redmond/Lynwood/Greater Seattle, WA
Comic Store West, York, PA
The Comics Keep, Bremerton, WA
The Comics Place, Bellingham, WA
Comix Connection, York, PA
Comix Experience, San Francisco, CA
Corner Comics, Totem Lake, WA
Cosmic Comics, Bellingham, WA
Cosmic Monkey Comics, Portland, OR
Danter Room, Olympia, WA
Dark Tower Comics, Chicago, IL
Desert Island, Brooklyn, NY
Dr Comics and Mr Games, Oakland, CA
Dreamworld, Culver City, CA
Earth 2 Comics, Sherman Oaks, CA
Excalibur comics, Portland, OR
Fantasy Shop Inc., Saint Louis, MO
Forbidden Planet, New York, NY (note: Forbidden Planet UK is fully on board)
Golden Age Collectables, Seattle, WA and Vancouver, BC
Golden Apple Comics, Los Angeles, CA
Heroes Comics, Fresno, CA
Isotope Comics, San Francisco, CA
Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash, Red Bank, NJ
Karen's Comics, Portland, OR
Lone Star Comics, Dallas, TX
Lost World of Wonders, Milwaukee, WE
Meltdown Comics, Los Angeles, CA
Midtown Comics, New York, NY
Mile High Comics, Denver, CO
New England Comics, MA
Olympic Cards and Comics, Lacey, WA
On Comic Ground, San Diego, CA
Phantom of the Attic Comics, Pittsburgh, PA
Purple Earth Comics, Huntington, WV
Ron's Coin and Book, Yakima, WA
RX Comics, Vancouver, BC
Silver Snail Comics, Toronto
Source Comics and Games, MN
The Secret Headquarters, Los Angeles, CA
Things From Another World, Milwaukie, OR
Third Coast Comics, Chicago, IL
Universe of Superheroes, Jacksonville, FL

And stores outside the United States that have yet to respond:

The 3rd Place, Dublin
The 4th Dimension, Dublin
Album Comics, Paris
Alternate Worlds, Windsor Victoria
Comics Etc., Brisbane
Comikaza, Israel
Comix, Brazil
Dynamic Duo Comics, Adelaide
Good Fellows, Helsinki
HQ Mix, Brazil
Pep Comics, Netherlands
Pulp's Comics, Paris
Story, Dublin
Sub City, Dublin
T3 Terminal Entertainment, Frankfurt

But let's end on a high note! These are the North American stores that HAVE shown interest in Nonplayer:

A Comic Shop, Orlando, FL
Alakazam Comics, Irvine, CA
Arcane Comics, Seattle, WA
The Beguiling, Toronto, ON
Challengers Comics, Chicago, IL
The Comic Bug, Manhattan Beach, CA
Comic Oasis, Las Vegas, NV
Comicopolis, Santa Cruz, CA
ComicReaders, Regina, SK
Comics Conspiracy, Sunnyvale, CA
Comics Dungeon, Seattle, WA
Cosmix, Montreal, Quebec
Downtown Comics, Indianapolis, IN
Dreamstrands, Seattle, WA
First Aid Comics, Chicago, IL
Floating World Comics, Portland, OR
Graham Crackers Comics, Chicago, IL
Heroes Aren't Hard to Find, Charlotte, NC
Newbury Comics, MA
Planet X Comics, York, PA
Strange Adventures, Halifax, NS
Third Eye Comics, Annapolis, MD
Titan Gaming, White Horse, YT
Unreal City, Saskatoon, SK
Vault of Midnight, Ann Arbor, MI
Westfield Comics, Madison, WI
Zanadu Comics, Seattle, WA

And the fine stores abroad that have shown interest:

Comics Heaven, Stockholm
Dave's Comics, Brighton, UK
Forbidden Planet UK (in a big way, at 16 stores -- all but Edinburgh, the manager of which reportedly isn't all that into the comic)
Gosh!, London
Kings Comics, Sydney
Mega City Comics, Camden, UK
OK Comics, Leeds, UK
Paradox, Poole, UK
Travelling Man Comics, Manchester, UK

Thanks for all your help, guys. None of this would have happened without your support.

20 comments:

  1. This looks amazing dude! I can't wait.

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  2. Just got confirmation from Dr, Volts here in Salt Lake that he's ordered a bunch of copies!

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  3. Ben - Thanks a lot, man! Your graphic novel is looking GREAT! What beautiful color! I love the way you handled the dragon's breath. Blue flames are sweet.

    Jer - Awesome! Thanks for dropping him a line for me, Jer! If you think he might want a poster, all he needs to do is contact me at nonplayercomic [at] gmail [dot] com. I really appreciate your help, Jer.

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  4. I am genuinely amazed by this, and will be showing it to my pal who owns two comic shops.

    Great work!

    Mike

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  5. Just made sure mine's gonna be on order at Purple Earth in Huntington, WV.

    Owner said he's gonna email me soon just as a point of contact, so I'll forward him your email addy so he can hopefully get a promo poster from you.

    I'm so pumped to take in the whole first issue!

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  6. No love from the LA shops? Well, my preference would have to be House of Secrets in Burbank! Contact Paul he's an awesome guy.

    http://www.artoffiction.com/HouseOfSecrets/contact.html

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  7. Both the 3rd Place and Story in Dublin have closed down in the last 2 years. I know the owner of Sub City. I'll get him to order some and if he doesn't sell them, I'LL buy them.

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  8. So glad to see that Downtown Comics in Indy said yes, was just in the north side store today talking to them about it.

    This is like waiting for SWTOR to go live lol

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  9. If you know Phil Noto he posted work this week that he did for Patton Oswalt, so maybe he could put you in touch. His blog is http://philnoto.tumblr.com/ and his email address is phil@notoart.com, according to his other website.

    BTW, I sent you a commission request, I hope you got it!

    -Sean aka fedres

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  10. So you will never guess what happened when I asked my comicbook shop in Bellingham,WA( not Cosmic comics btw) to order Nonplayer. They ordered two more copies and one of the owners said that he saw you at Emerald city and remembered your art: )

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  11. I buy my comics at one of the Atomic Comics in AZ. I'll try to suggest to them that they should order multiple shelf copies of the book. Or at least, one shelf copy. They definitely tend to cater a bit more towards mainstream, big two comic buyers. I also know that due to the economy, they don't tend to buy a lot of shelf copies of new indie books.

    At the very least, I will have them put it on my pull list, so that the book is on their buying radar.

    Also, Chris Hardwick always seems to be gushing about Twitter helping him connect with potential guests on his show and whatnot. So, I think if you push on him through it, getting the book mentioned on the Nerdist doesn't seem all that impossible.

    I also suggest trying to contact the guys at House to Astonish. They have been great about choosing their books to review on their podcast. King City and Orc Stain have received some free promotion through them at least.

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  12. Hey, I'd like to know ... will this comic be in the normal, small/thin format, that most US-comics seem to have? I ask because it would be a shame ;) The style is very franco-belgian and we get these comics here usually in a bigger format (A4 or bigger) and not as a thin 'leaflet' ... yeah, I know, much more expensive, these comics usually cost 20 euro, not 4 or 5 ... but well, this comic would deserve a good, big format! The art is so great! I'd love to see it in a big format, maybe even hardcover. Oh well, it will take until I can get my hands on it anyway, as I'm in germany ;)

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  13. Well, Scott McCloud gave you a shout out on Twitter, that should help a bit shouldn't it? I see nothing but good things for you man, well done for all the hard work and perseverance.

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  14. P&H - Today Scott also posted to his blog, see Catching Up with Nate Simpson.

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  15. Congrats , looking forward to getting my copy

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  16. Pretty awesome to see Westfield comics on there as I am sure that is my doing. I will continue to spread the word!

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  17. Mr. Hawthorne - Holy canolis, your artwork is amazing. Thanks for the assistance and the kind words -- the feeling is absolutely mutual!

    Michael Mayne - Thanks for jumping on your LCS, Michael. It's all the more flattering that it's you who's doing it! I hope digital distribution has been panning out for you -- definitely the wave of the future, and you've got chops to spare.

    Stuffed - Thanks for the link! I have contacted House of Secrets and am hoping to hear from them soon. In a few cases, shops have gone ahead and ordered Nonplayer without dropping me a line (guess they hate free posters), so hopefully there will be a few copies there for you next month!

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  18. Declan - That was invaluable information -- it's nice to be able to erase a couple of red marks on my contact sheet (though I'm sorry to hear so many stores have gone belly-up in Dublin). I'm enjoying your tweets and digging massively on your artwork, by the way. Please continue being awesome.

    BookAddict - Yeah, Downtown Comics were super nice, and sounded very enthusiastic about Nonplayer. I hope the comic sells well for them. Thanks so much for your help, man!

    mswas - Wow, Phil Noto is great! Thanks for the suggestion, Sean -- I've added him to my contact list and I'll see what I can do. Also, I'm sorry I wasn't able to take on your commission -- another time, hopefully!

    tormentedartist - Oho! That's good to hear! Might you be referring to Roman? He was a really nice guy. The comics industry is a very small world, isn't it? Speaking of -- made any cool drawings lately?

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  19. ability-normal - All great advice, man. I have experimented a little bit with contacting people through Twitter, but I'm moving forward pretty gingerly for fear of pissing someone off. I'll get through to Chris one day, for he is rad. Good news about Atomic Comics, though: they did get back to me and they will be stocking copies of Nonplayer! Perhaps your pull request was the straw that broke the camel's back? Thanks!

    And yes, I love House to Astonish very much. They've been pretty up-front about not wanting people to solicit reviews from them, but I know I'm already on their radar and am cautiously optimistic that they'll give the book a look. They seem to have a particular interest in creator-owned stuff from Image. We'll see! (P.S. I'm following you on DeviantArt. Your stuff is sick.)

    elfy - Yeah, for its initial release the comic is in the standard comic format. However, there has been much discussion about releasing the book in other, larger formats down the road, and the pages were authored at high resolution with that eventuality in mind. With any luck, there will be something out there in a French-style album before long. Thanks for your patience, Elfy!

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  20. P and H Design - I know! Scott McCloud! I'm never going to get used to that sort of thing. It's so weird to have somebody at his level even know that I exist. I hope I get to meet him someday to thank him in person (I wonder if I could get him to sign my Cintiq -- he was the guy who first alerted me to its existence!). Thanks for the heads-up, Helga!

    John - Thanks for the link! Even radder!

    Dominic - Man, I hope you like it after following this blog for so long. I look forward to hearing what you think of it!

    Richard - Thanks for getting Westfield to take a look at the comic, Richard! I hope it turns out to be an easy sell for them!

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