Here’s a question for you: How do you get comic books printed at a very affordable price? Printing overseas and printing in bulk are two options that come to mind right away, but there is a third option that many large comic book companies use and is probably the most effective. I’m talking about advertising. According to marketingcharts.com, promoting products on printed material is among the top 10 most influential forms of advertising. 62% of people are more likely to buy a product if they see it being displayed in print, it is no wonder that billions of dollars are spent on it every year. It’s also logical that anything printed (or purchased for that matter) in large quantities will lower the cost. Add to that a couple of sponsors advertising their products within the pages of these books and now they are being printed practically (if not completely) for FREE! Ever wondered how big time comic book companies can afford to hand out FREE copies of a number one issue of a brand new comic book at conventions? The answer; bulk printing and advertising. It’s not rocket science, but rather genius marketing.
It is with this model in mind that I encourage the smaller comic book publishers to take a page (no pun intended) from our wealthy competitors and take a stab at using the juggernaut that is print marketing to push their projects. Obviously, neither the financial capabilities nor the notoriety of our products are there to reach the numbers that Marvel Comics or DC Comics attain, but we can certainly apply the model in a smaller scale. Let me explain.
In the early 2000′s, a form of printing caught on that made every writer and artist team feel like they could become the next CrossGen Comics. This was printing on demand or POD. Companies like Comixpress and soon thereafter Ka-blam somewhat evened out the playing field. They allowed us to print 50 books instead of the 5000 books that would not sell out and probably are still sitting in some of our basements because we went to Quebecor to do our bulk printing like the big boys. I guess we figured we would save some money by printing in Canada with the same company Marvel and DC Comics used. Why? Because the books would cost us like .75 cents a book. What we failed to realize was that in order to get that price break we would have to print a few thousand copies of the book. That meant we would shell out a few thousand dollars. Not exactly an affordable price when your budget for printing as an up and coming independent publisher is non-existent.
It was also around this time that there was a large influx of films based on comics making their way into theaters. Movies most people had no idea had once been comic books or graphic novels like V For Vendetta (2005), From Hell (2001), Road to Perdition (2002), Bulletproof Monk (2003), Constantine (2005), A History of Violence (2005) and The League of Extraordinary Gentleman (2003),to name a few, were given the green light by Hollywood. Producers were looking for fresh new ideas and publishing companies like Dark Horse (publisher of Hellboy by Mike Mignola, 2004) had them. With the introduction of printing on demand and Hollywood’s fascination with comic book stories, the independent publishing industry was set for huge amounts of success. Films like Hellboy made independent creators see the possibilities and the real probability that one of our stories could realistically make us serious money. Fast forward now to 2013 and examine the most recent example of this theory in a film entitled 2 Guns, starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlburg. The comic book “2 Guns” was written by Steven Grant and published by BOOM! Studios in 2007. It took six years for this comic book to make it to the big screen, but it finally made it. Granted it may not be every writer or artist’s dream to have a movie made from their comic books, but I think we all want compensation for what we’ve created. Right?
My point is, that if we want to reach any level of success, we must use the resources available to us and help one another feature each other’s projects. The independent publishing society is a small industry: not in size, but in product available to the public. There are plenty of writers and artists with creator owned projects that no one has seen! I’m talking about great projects. To see for yourself, just walk up and down the aisles of a comic book convention and visit the Small Press area.
This brings me back to my initial question: how do we make printing affordable? The answer I’ve come up with is simple. Let’s do what the successful companies have done: Advertise! It amazes me that what most of the publishers I know don’t do or haven’t done yet, is sell ad space within their pages. Why not? Why shouldn’t we advertise products in our books? Promoting each other’s projects within one another’s books is a great way to push our titles and reach a larger audience. Simply pay for ad space in a fellow self-publisher’s book and that will automatically help him/her get their book to print. If possible, work out a deal for when your book is ready to go to print and have that same self-publisher then put an ad in your title and help you finance the print of your book.
That exchange of money, though it may sound a bit redundant, is a lot more helpful to the cause than “ad swapping”. For those who aren’t familiar with the term “ad swapping”, it basically means exchanging or trading ads between two publishers within their respective titles. While this sounds like a logical way to help each other, it really isn’t. You see the key to getting a book printed lies in helping each other with the financing of the books. How will Independent Publisher A, who is looking for money to print his/her book, benefit from simply printing Independent Publisher B’s advertisement in his/her book? If Independent Publisher A never goes to print with his/her book because of the lack of funds that he/she initially needed, then it is only logical that Independent Publisher B’s ad for his/her book will never be seen. Thus, neither independent publisher will reach the audience they wanted and both books essentially die. This is what happens to a lot of books and I have seen it time and time again. No, in order for our books to have a chance, selling advertising for print within the pages of our books is a very congenial way to do so.
Companies spend billions of dollars advertising in printed material every year. Think about that! There’s a reason why they spend so much money on advertising. It works! I’m not saying go out and charge thousands of dollars for an ad in a book without distribution, but do the math and see how much you will need to get a print run for your next convention and charge accordingly. Ultimately, selling and buying advertising is key to printing comic books at an affordable price.