The hype machine.

I received word earlier this week that my big non Strongman 2 project, which was supposed to be coming out around the beginning of 2011, would be moved up several months due to scheduling issues with some of the publisher's other books.  The formal announcement for the book will be at San Diego Comicon, in just a few weeks.  I had originally considered going to SDCC, but it's an expensive trip, and since I didn't think I would have anything to announce or pitch (based on original scheduling, announcements were supposed to happen in the fall), I didn't book anything.  SDCC gets booked up at all levels (commoners, creators, exhibitors, hotels, flights, even restaurants) months in advance - like, many months.  So, with roughly three weeks to plan a trip, I decided just to let it slide.  I'm bummed about it - even though there are going to be a lot of announcements planned for SDCC, and my book might even be lost in the noise a bit, so what?  It's my book, coming out from a publisher I'm very excited to work with.  I wish I could be there.  Even my book aside, it's one hell of a party. Anyway, once the announcement comes out, I can start to formally promote it - I can do interviews, I can post on message boards, Facebook and Twitter, I can blog about it (funny thing there is that I've already BEEN posting about it here fairly extensively, but once I got things set up with the publisher I went radio silent to avoid over-hyping too early - some smart detective work should let you figure it out, if you're curious) and do whatever else I can think of to feed the hype machine.  I've been caught slightly left-footed on this whole thing, though.  I thought I had many months to get word to owners of shops to order the book, get some buzz going, but now I've got about a month.  So, I'm trying to spend time (when I have it - I am BUSY right now) thinking up creative ways to promote the book in the little time I have.  I need something clever, something new, some angle people haven't thought of before.

It's a tough thing to do, and I can understand why people or companies with resources have entire marketing departments.  It's hard enough to focus on making a good creative product, without being forced to sell it as well.  And keep in mind that based on the way the comics industry works, you have to sell it twice - first to comics retailers and shop owners so they'll stock it in their stores, and then to the customers several months later.  Tricky, tricky.  The publisher helps to a degree, but every one is different in terms of what they're capable of and willing to do, and unless it's a Marvel or DC book, a lot of weight falls on the creative team.

As soon as this book is set up and hyped properly and stocked in stores and all that, I'll have to do it all over again for Strongman 2 a few months later.  Here are a few things I'm planning - don't consider these "tips," but they're things I hope will help get my books somewhat more in the public eye:

1. Make a huge spreadsheet with contact information and notes for everyone I know in the comics industry, broken out by creators, editors, retailers, press and others.  I've managed to make a lot of connections in the last year and a half since Strongman came out, and I've got a huge stack of business cards.  It's silly not to have all of that organized in some way.

2. Once I have (1) finished, I'll send targeted emails asking appropriate people if they would be interested in getting a preview copy of the book.  It's a way to get pullquotes - if you're lucky - and a good quote can be INVALUABLE.  I've written about this before, but I got an amazing set of quotes on Strongman, and they continue to move that book for me to this day.

3. Try to set up interviews and press opportunities.  I know some people at some of the various outlets, and hopefully I'll be able to set up some chances to talk.  I like giving interviews - it's always fun to speak with someone about your work.  The holy grail here is non-comics media outlets.  VERY tough to do, since there's not always a lot of interest, but there are certainly more angles to exploit than there used to be.

4. Targeted mailings to retailers - this is the "postcard campaign."  I'm not sure how well it works, and I'm sure that for retailers it's pretty easy enough to ignore the hundreds of postcards they have to get, but I have some ideas about how to do something unique. This new book is music-related, and I think perhaps there's something there I can exploit.

5. Whatever else I can think of.  This is the one that separates the men from the boys.  The really creative marketing ideas can get a book noticed in a way the other four items on the list would never be able to do.  If I could do it, this would be where I'd get indie music guys to read the book and/or endorse it, or put on concerts, or film a music video starring my main character, or record an album... who knows?  I don't have a ton of time to do anything too elaborate, but I'm working on it.

So, to end with a little positivity, yes, I do recognize that I'm incredibly lucky to be in the position to have not one but TWO books coming out within the next six months to promote.  I can't wait, really. Exciting times.

For next time (perhaps - I realize I rarely stick to these "coming soon" things at the end of my entries - for example, I still haven't written up my appearance on Jeopardy!) I've got a number of things to write about: a deleted scene from Strongman 2 (with art, as painful as that is), the Strongman movie, some fantastic new opportunities, and, assuming I don't get an entry up in the next two weeks, more on the project that will be announced at SDCC.    Like I said, exciting times.

Announcing 27, coming from Image comics November 2010!

Happy Father's Day.