A “New System” for Publishing Comic Books?

I formed my own comic book company in 1994. Catfish Comics published 14 issues before fading from view. After a six-year hiatus, I’ve returned to the self-publishing game with SINNAMON: GRRL VS. WORLD #1.

A few people have asked why this comic is only available via ComiXpress. They ask because in the past, SINNAMON comics were available at comic book stores. Those fourteen issues were published through what I call the “traditional system”.

Let me outline the basic steps behind the “traditional system”:

1. Get the comic book listed in a distributor’s catalogue. Since the late 1990s, the catalogue with the widest market penetration is Diamond Previews.

2. Take note of when the book will be listed in the catalogue. Normally, the book is listed three months before it’s available for sale. For example, if SINNAMON #13 was coming out in December, it would be listed in the September Previews.

3. Wait for the orders to come in. Keeping with the example above, orders for SINNAMON #13 will arrive sometime in November

4. Send the comic off to the printers.

5. Sometime in January, receive payment from Diamond for the books.

Other than keeping track of various deadlines, the system isn’t very complicated. All things considered, it’s probably the only way a publisher can get his or her book out to comic shops all across North America. But is it effective for smaller publishers like yours truly? I would say not.

This isn’t a diatribe against Diamond Distributing. There are small publishers who have complaints, but the reality is that the overwhelming bulk of Diamond’s sales come from five or six publishers. There’s going to be an obvious imbalance in the treatment of someone who might produce sales of 1,000 books compared to someone doing thirty or more times that amount.

I stayed in the publishing game until 1999. When I encountered problems getting SINNAMON SAGA #2 completed, I threw in the towel. I had been considering this for a while, because I had the gut feeling the “traditional system” was not in my best benefit. It took a few years away from the business to gain perspective and figure out why my gut was probably right all along.

Why? Let’s look at what I consider to be the major weaknesses of this “traditional system”.

Start with Diamond Previews. Each month’s issue is the size of a small city’s telephone book. How exactly do you make your book stand out from the many hundreds of books listed? You could advertise. How much money do you have set aside for advertising? Now if you’re reading this article, odds are very good you have nowhere near the advertising budget of companies like DC, Marvel, or Image.

Fine, you say. You’ll be creative and find other ways to get people to notice your book. Go for it! Every small publisher should embrace the principles of guerrilla marketing.

Now you’ll come up against the second major weakness.

Suppose you get your book noticed. Perhaps you get a favorable mention in a newspaper article, or become an Internet darling. Great! So now people want to buy your book.

Where will they buy it? Under this system, the only place is a comic shop. And how are books sold at a comic shop? The new comics come in on a Wednesday.

And that’s it. Generally speaking, your book has one week on the main shelves. All your marketing must be targeted to get people in the shop that week. Otherwise, your book will be fighting for space among all the other back issues, assuming it hasn’t sold out.

That’s not the only fly in the ointment.

Remember my description of the “traditional method”? Remember the part where store owners do their ordering? That means your marketing must hit during that ordering period. You need to get shop owners to order your book. If they’re not won over by your marketing, you need to get people to go comic shops and order the book.

Whoa. Stop.

Did you read that sentence carefully?

“You need to get people to go to comic shops and order the book.” Any sales person will tell you that the key to sales is to place as few obstacles before the customer as possible.

What could be easier for a customer than clicking a link?

Let me outline each step of the “new system”:

1. Produce your book and get it printed at a Print On Demand printer. I use ComiXpress. If there are other POD printers who do comic books, feel free to contact me with details.

2. Set up the online sale page. ComiXpress will set one up for you. They take a cut from each sale, but in exchange they are taking the orders and handling the shipping for you. ComiXpress accepts credit cards, which is another factor in making life easier for customers.

3. Promote your book.

That’s it. Compare this to the “traditional system”. Notice how this system is less complicated? You’ll also notice the absence of any external deadlines. Your marketing no longer depends on getting word out by a specific date. Instead, your marketing only has to get the word out. It doesn’t matter when word gets out, so long as every mention includes a link to the shop (or your web page). So if you get mentioned in a national newspaper or magazine, you don’t have to worry that shops have sold out of your book.

Here’s an example of how the “traditional system” fails small publishers. Ten years ago, I worked for a publisher on a book titled Bruiser. Much to our surprise, BRUISER #3 got a positive review in a comic book magazine (not Wizard). This was the kind of good news any publisher would want to receive. Did it help BRUISER #3?

It did not. The review appeared a few months after the book had hit the stands. Since the original solicitation had been very small, there was no way anyone could find a copy.

Ten years later, such an article could include a link to a site that provides more information about Bruiser. That wouldn’t put any books on the store shelf, of course. However, the publisher could sell Bruiser from the web site. The onus would be on the publisher to have copies on hand. So after getting the order from Diamond, the publisher could have an extra box or two printed up.

An extra box or two is fine if you only ever publish one book. I put out fourteen issues of Sinnamon, and because initial orders were good, I overprinted four or five boxes per issue. In ten years, I’ve moved a fair number of back issues, but do the math. Right now, I have about twenty boxes of Sinnamon comics in the basement. It’s a good thing I live in a house.

Personally, I rather like the idea of keeping ten or twenty copies of a book on hand, and let ComiXpress print out more books as they’re needed. It definitely beats moving to a bigger place, especially in this housing market.

Although this “new system” makes life easier for the small publisher, it does not make success automatic. The only way to sell comic books is to work hard at marketing. Diamond Previews does get into every comic shop. The economics of this “new system” means you can’t afford to sell your book through comic shops. Instead, you must focus all your marketing upon getting people to click on that link.

This is not a bad thing. Too many small publishers think that being in Previews is a marketing accomplishment in itself. Too many of them think a Previews listing automatically translates into sales. That is not the case. No matter what system you choose, marketing will be the key to your success. It is my belief that the “new system” will allow a small publisher to maximize the results of his or her marketing.

My belief gets put to the test with “Sinnamon: Grrl vs. World #1”. If it works, expect to hear from me again!

How To Avoid Getting Catfished

Online dating has become increasingly popular within the last 10 years. There are all types of dating websites online for all types of people. Many people feel that the draw of going out and finding a good person with genuine intent of falling in love just isn’t the same anymore. It is said that online dating cuts having to make trips to the bar and club scene in half; making the losers out there easier to avoid. What’s even better is that you can do it right from the comfort of your own home in your PJ’s. There are thousands and thousands of people who sign up to do online dating every week. It doesn’t matter if it’s through Facebook, Twitter, or Match.com. Many feel that the chances of them meeting that special someone is going to be pretty high because everybody’s doing it. Now whether or not everyone gets the results that they’re looking for, remains to be seen in more ways than one. Enters Catfish. A “catfish” is a person who creates fake profiles online and pretends to be someone they are not by using someone else’s pictures and information. These “catfish” use dating and social media sites, usually with the intention of getting other people or a person to fall in love with them. It is one of the ugly sides of the online dating equation that is often leftout. MTV now has a docu-series dedicated to this unfortunate side of online dating.

By now, everyone in America knows about the heartbreaking and inspirational story of Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o and his dead girlfriend was a hoax. People have become attached to the story because they want to know whether or not he was in on the hoax. They are also wondering how could a superstar college football player get duped into falling in love with someone who didn’t exist in the first place?

Now anyone who has read my articles in the past, knows by now that I am totally against online dating. I find it to be a form of escapist entertainment that encourages people to withdraw from the reality that surrounds them. It’s lazy, passive, and the fact that you have to be tied to a computer to do it makes it even more disturbing. For those that enjoy the idea of finding happiness and love online, there are ways to avoid becoming a victim of Catfish and the tips below should help.

  • Schedule A Meeting – Facetime is the number one rule in any form of dating. Scheduling a face-to-face meeting should always be the first rule of thumb with online dating. It helps you to establish a form of trust, and you are able to communicate a lot better. If your online partner makes up excuses as to why they can’t meet. It is likely due to reasons they are ashamed, or something they don’t want you to see and find out about them. Move on!
  • Never Reveal Personal Information – While it’s tempting to share every detail of your life with a person you think you could be in love with, do not ever give anyone you meet online personal information about yourself. This is at least until you have met them face-to-face and have established some form of an offline relationship.
  • Background Checks – You do not need to be a member of law enforcement to do a virtual background check on a potential suitor. The online search engines work very well so never be afraid to use it. Upload their photo on tineye.com. This will allow you to see where on the Internet the photo has appeared. People who catfish often tend to use a photo they’ve swiped from the Facebook or Instagram page of someone else.
  • Watch for Language – There are a lot of scammers out there using online dating websites to lure people into sending them money. Many of those who commit these crimes are from West Africa and the former Soviet republics. If their command of the English language is fuzzy, but they are claiming to be a native citizen of your country, it should raise a a red flag. The person is likely up to no good.
  • Never Send Anyone Money!
  • Never Agree to Purchase Anything Online For Someone and Send it to Them!
  • Know Your Personnel – It’s one of my favorite sports terms used most often in the NBA. You should always be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of those around you; be it a teammate, co-worker, colleague, friend, and especially someone claiming to be in love with you. If a person’s emails, messenger chats, phone calls, etc. don’t seem to be following earlier conversations or contradict things that were already said, it is likely that your online lover is following a certain seductive script.

No one wants to think they could be taken advantage by an internet dating scam, and yet hundreds of thousands of people are every single year. There is nothing wrong with wanting to find love and happiness with someone. There are many people who have formed successful relationships after meeting online, however, Catfish scams are real. It’s better to be prepared and recognize when someone is trying to take advantage of you.

Is Your Cougar Net Empty? How to Write a Winning Online Profile

One of the problems of trying to connect with people online is getting their attention. There is a lot of competition out there and Cougars are selective. They know what they want, which also means they know what they don’t want. If older men are no longer inspiring, then don’t fall in their footsteps. Cougars are looking for fun, excitement and someone who reflects that in his profile will get responses.

When I read the profiles here and on other dating sites, I start feeling like I am watching repetitive scenes from the movie Ground Hog Day; you know…the one with Bill Murray where every morning when he wakes up the day is exactly like the day before.

Every profile starts to look and sound the same. They all blur into each other. I read. I click to the next. I read. I click to the next. If there is nothing in the very first line that grabs me, I click DELETE and go to the next.

Did you read what I just said? IF THERE IS NOTHING IN THE VERY FIRST LINE THAT GETS A WOMAN’S ATTENTION, SHE WILL CLICK DELETE.

People are busy. We only have so much time to do so many things in any given day. If you are not having any luck getting responses from your online profile, then take some helpful tips and do a profile makeover. What have you got to lose? Oh, yeah… another lonely Saturday night…

Here we go:

1) Read a ton of profiles for both men and women.
Notice which ones grab your attention and why. Make some notes. Take a close look at the very first line. That is your “signature” line that tells people why they should bother to read the rest of your profile. When you read women’s profiles, you start to understand what they are looking for and what kind of language they speak.

2) Do not put yourself down.
Don’t say,”Well, I’m just me,” or “Wow. I never know what to write on these things,” or “Ask me if you want to know more.” It makes you look wishy washy, lame and like you have a lot of insecurity issues. It also makes you look like you don’t know who you are. If you don’t know who you are, why should anyone be interested? If you are online, you are already in a public venue. So don’t hide who you are and then expect someone to “recognize” how special you are by some magical telepathy and hit you up to know more.

Instead, write something that plays to a personal strength you have. “Dashing young dude with a penchant for sweeping you off your feet and onto the dance floor seeks fun loving, leading lady to star in everlasting relationship.”

Get my drift? Sparkle! Shine! Excite us! Give us the ‘wow’ factor!

3) Don’t make cliche’ statements.
Don’t start your profile with “I am…” statements. “I am beautiful, sexy, compassionate, honest, intelligent…” yeah, yeah…everybody says that. Did you ever read a profile that said, “I’m a loser, drug addict, unemployed bum sleeping on my mother’s sofa?”

Tell us something about you that makes you different from everyone else. “One of my passions is animal rescue and this summer our group is hosting the Basset Hound Olympics to raise money for their veterinary care.” Gee, doesn’t that tell someone how compassionate you are and how you like doing charity work? Be specific. Actions speak louder than words.

Avoid “I like to work hard and play hard,” or “I am as comfortable in a dress as I am in jeans and a T-shirt.” How many times do you see those statements? “I enjoy fine dining.” (Who doesn’t?) “I am independent.” (And that means…?) and for God’s sake aren’t we all sick of “I like to take long walks on the beach” and that nauseating term,”with that special someone.” (Pardon me while I skeeve.)

4) Be compelling
Take a stand. State an opinion. This way you will look defined as a person to someone and will attract people who share your same views and interests. “My idea of a great first date is microwaving crayons into shapes of famous historical figures and then discussing socialism over a fine glass of port,” is more definitive than “I like to do silly things and discuss events of the day.”

People like to meet people who know who they are. It shows you have something to bring to the table and that you can hold up your end of the date or relationship.

5) Post a good, clear picture of yourself.
Smile. Don’t post a serious shot because you think it makes you look cool. It makes us wonder if you just got out of prison. Don’t wear sunglasses. Don’t try to look or act cool. Look friendly, happy, approachable and fun! Don’t flash gang signs or peace signs or flip the bird. Leave your penis in your pants. We’ve seen them before and they ain’t all that and a bag of chips.

Put up several photos, especially of you doing fun things that we might enjoy doing with you. Do not put up a pic with you and your ex. Do not put up a pic with you and half of your ex cut out of the pic. Ladies, believe it or not, not every man likes to see us with our dogs. *sigh* So include a pic of you and Bonster, but put some other pics in as well. If a guy is not a pet owner or loves his 23 cats, he will probably pass on you and fido.

6) Your screen name says a lot about who you are and what you are looking for.
If your screen name is “Young and Hung” or “Licking My Eyebrows” we know you are looking for booty calls and not a serious contender for anything beyond a one night stand and you probably expect us to drive to you and pick up a pizza on the way over. We also know you probably have a different girl every night, a few diseases brewing and an axe in the hall closet. DELETE.

7) Be sincere and be honest in who you are and what you are looking for.
Be honest about your age, weight, height. Don’t post pictures more than a year old or with brown hair if you have just dyed it tomato red. When people see your picture and arrange to meet you they are expecting to meet who they see in the picture. Anything else is deceptive and disappointing. Don’t post a group photo. We can’t tell who you are and we are not interested in meeting the group. We are interested in meeting you.

Don’t say you are looking for a long term relationship if you are really seeking friends with benefits. One reason I have so many options to choose on profiles is so people can really connect with people who are looking for the same things. If you are married, separated, divorced and a bit fragile and just want to test the waters then say so. “I just got out of a long term situation and just want to meet new people for fun and conversation and see how it goes for a while before I start to think about anything serious again.” People appreciate honesty and transparency. It shows that you respect them and it also shows you have a level of integrity about yourself.

8) Tell us who you are.
If you want to capture someone’s attention, you need to put something on the hook before you cast your line. No fish on earth will bite a clean hook. Few people will respond to a profile that has nothing or very little on it. Why should they when the next one they click on has lots of info on it that they can read and connect with?

Talk about your hobbies and interests and convey your enthusiasm: “I like to skydive” is informative, but, “There is nothing like nude skydiving to really get the adrenalin flowing. There is just something so thrilling about plummeting down to earth at 100 miles an hour while grandma is tracking me with her telescope that is spiritually transcending,” really gives us a clear picture of your passion about it.

9) Tell us what you do professionally.
Why is this important? Because it helps us visualize you on the job doing what you do during the day and it helps us to connect with that image and with you. It further defines who you are and helps us figure out if we want to connect with you. If you are a butcher and the woman reading your profile is a member of PETA and a staunch vegetarian then why waste time emailing and chatting and then meeting if she knows in her heart of hearts that this will never work?

You can say, “I am a student” or you can say,”I am in my third year of college studying marine biology. You haven’t seen anything in life until you watch two starfish mating. It is the most life affirming thing on earth. When I finish school, my goal is to have a catfish farm in a small southern Delta town and export catfish to Dubai.”

Wow. I am so there…

10) Be open. Be friendly. Be approachable. Be fun.
Be someone that someone else would like to get to know better. And express who you are through writing. Profiles are written. Not every one is a good writer, but this is the medium that you are selling yourself in. It is a visual medium. If you don’t write well but can express yourself through speaking, then upload a 60 second video on yourself telling everyone who you are and what you are looking for. Keep the video short. Famed Canadian award winning film director Mack Sennet said never have a gag over 90 seconds. The audience loses interest.

Be respectful. Think about what you write before you write it. “I like women with big asses,” is not in any way flattering to any woman, even if she has a big ass. Don’t be crude. Crude is gross. Crude skeeves women.

A well thought out and prepared profile with good photos will get you noticed. If it is obvious that you spent no time on your profile, then whoever sees it assumes you are just a player and not seriously looking to meet anyone and will click off. If you take no time to fill out your profile, then why should anyone take time to respond? No one wants to respond to a void or a profile that says,”I’ll tell you later.” That’s like saying,”I have a secret and if I think you are worthy enough I will share it with you.” (Skeeving again.) NEXT.

Write complete sentences. If your language skills are not so good, then ask someone to help you express yourself in writing. If you can’t communicate who you are and what you are looking for then you won’t interest anyone.

You have to remember that there are millions of profiles on many dating sites. You are in competition with all the other profiles online. You have to see yourself as a product and wage an advertising campaign in order to get results. If you had to make a commercial for yourself and had to produce a 60 second spot, what would you say? What would your lead line be? You need an attention grabbing beginning, a well thought out, informative and exciting middle and a “close” to end.

The goal is to get responses. When you get responses then you can decide who you want to continue communicating with.

The bottom line is: If you are NOT getting responses online, it’s because your profile sucks. Even a profile with no picture will get a response if it is well written and compels someone to want to know more. Your profile is your calling card. It is your advertisement. It is your presentation of yourself to the online community. If it says nothing, offers nothing, then it will get nothing. And nothing is exactly what you can expect.