My last Journal was a compilation of some varied ideas regarding Creator Owned comic book properties. Some discussion of what Marvel and DC represent to writers and artists. My random thoughts regarding Diamond Distributors and some ideas I thought Image Comics might want to consider.
Since I hit the Publish Button I've received a lot of interesting feedback and there's been a lot Internet talk on the subject. The most interesting feedback so far was directly from the Publisher of Image Comics, Eric Stephenson. I guess he might have some insight, right? I thought so too! Eric and I have known each other since the very, very early days of Image Comics when he was writing and editing and he's always been very helpful over the years. I was surprised that he stumbled across my journal and thrilled that he took the time to address what I brought up. He's good that way. After emailing, we thought it would be nice to make our discussion regarding these loose topics available to creators and fans alike.
ERIC: After reading your thoughts on Image's position with publishing I wanted to clear some misconceptions up. I'm all for ideas about how to increase the awareness of our material. I think there's some big problems across the board in comics and one we all need to tackle. But making erroneous statements about what we do here doesn't help matters, because a lot of people are already walking around spreading a bunch of half-truths where Image is concerned.
You wrote: "For one thing, not everyone that is creating their own comic book is a Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane or [ insert comic book creator with a built in fan base ]. Image comics offers all their creators the same privileges. That privilege includes ONE page in Previews."
In most cases, if a book is starting out, its first issue gets more than one page in Previews. I've got the Previews for titles shipping in April 2011 in front of me right now, so let's just look at that as an example:
Super Dinosaur #1 has four pages
Blue Estate #1 has two pages
Green Wake #1 has two pages
Undying Love #1 has two pages
'68 #1 has two pages
Nonplayer #1 has two pages
Zero: JM Ken Niimura Illustrations TP has two pages
Obviously, we can't give every single title multiple pages on a regular basis, but we've actually been giving launch books a couple pages to show off interior art for years now.
You also wrote: "Image pays for that or has a deal with Diamond [ Diamond is the biggest means of distribution in the comic book marketplace ] which is great - but that's it. That's the ALL the advertising you get."
Also not true. We actually do place banner ads on comics Websites like CBR and we regularly highlight titles on our own Website. We also advertise in other Diamond publications and through a weekly retailer newsletter, not to mention the Diamond Website. We also distribute preview copies of books (these days, more and more, we're doing this digitally, using ISSUU) to retailers and reviewers. We send review copies out. We frequently do posters for books that are sent to retailers. Whether those posters are put up is entirely dependent on the retailers in question, but we have done and continue to do these when they seem like they'd help. We send out postcards for books. In the past, we've done bookmarks for various trade paperbacks and graphic novels. We also run house ads in our comics, and we frequently run previews for other titles in our comics, too. Running a preview for, say, CHEW #1 in THE WALKING DEAD certainly helped increase awareness of that book.
Most of the press you see for Image comics? We set that up. The preview art you see online? We send that out. The articles on Image and various books that have appeared in the New York Times, USA Today, etc.? We did that. Signings, panels at conventions, etc.? All of that is arranged by Image. The implication that we do nothing is a little insulting, especially coming from someone I would have thought understood the company a bit more. Given that there are a grand total of ELEVEN people working here, I think we do an admirable job Dark Horse has over 100 employees. IDW has something like 30. Could we be better at certain things? Certainly, but we do a lot for a small staff.
DAN: That is an impressive amount of work for 11 people...! I had no idea. I didn't mean any offense by my journal - I just thought the advertising was pretty limited and the policy was different. Taking into account all the convention work and the means of solicitation - I stand corrected! Thanks Eric!
ERIC: Not at all. I love this business and all of this is very important to me. Concerning the advertising aspect, though, I'm not sure where you want any of us Image, IDW, Dark Horse to advertise. Entertainment Weekly? TV? That isn't cost effective for Marvel and DC, why would it be for the rest of us?
DAN: A man can dream, right? I was thinking of targeting college campuses to start with. I wouldn't imagine that would be as costly as huge magazines and national broadcast television. Maybe some authorized Image Comics Panel discussions on campus that could lead to organized clubs or the present day equivalent of what a club might be on a college campus these days? What do you think? I'm sure that's not as simple as snapping your fingers and with the limited amount of resources available, etc... But maybe mentioning that Image Comics and some of it's creators would be up for some University Tours or something...
ERIC: I think that's an interesting idea, and you're right, it's not going to be as expensive as advertising. What's more, I have to think it would be a more direct method of engaging readers. Honestly, there are probably lots of things everyone could be doing beyond merely advertising in the usual places, and it's good to hear new ideas. I was reading something online recently, it may have been Skottie Young's blog or maybe it was Tony Harris, that said there's a lot of talk about how something needs to be done to broaden our readership, but very few ideas suggested about how to actually do that, so ideas like this and some of the others you brought up in your journal are a big help.
DAN: Gotcha. So what's one of the things most new creators don't pick up on when they're starting out? Any pointers or suggestions?
ERIC: The one thing most people don't seem to get is that the most successful books at Image are the ones that come out on time, by creators who are motivated to make their books successful. For every John Layman or Robert Kirkman, there is a creator content to just turn the book in, LATE, and then wonder why things didn't work out. I've seen it time and time again. There's a book right now the first issue came out in January, great reviews, sold out. The second issue should be out now. Tumbleweeds. Probably going to be over a month late. That doesn't help on any level, and it's the main reason creator-owned books aren't supported by many retailers: They don't believe they're going to come out on time or, in some cases, ever.
DAN: Thanks, Eric. Mind if I share this on my next Journal? I know you're super busy and you won't be able to field questions - but I think everyone would dig hearing your perspective.
ERIC: Sure thing. More than happy set the record straight on all this stuff.