Three simple words: become a fan. It’s a straightforward request, actually. But how do you convince the public to go ahead and “become a fan”? The words may be lucid, but the desired result is the tough part. How does an unknown product build a fan base? I can tell you how MAS Media Studios has tried to do it.
In July 2007, Anibal Arroyo, Jonathan Syphax and myself, Jorge Medina, came together to form MAS Media Studios. Equipped with two flagship titles, Street Journal and Russ5377, we decided to give self publishing a shot. We knew that in order to find success in this very competitive industry, the product would have to possess the qualities that the professionals were kicking out. Not only would the artwork have to kick ass, but the stories would have to capture our audience as well.
“Great art will sell you a first issue, but great writing will sell you the entire series”. That became and has remained our mantra as we strive to put in as much work developing the stories as we do perfecting the artwork. Everything an independent publishing company puts out is scrutinized to the 1000th power. From the initial line the artist puts on the page, to a misspelled word on page 24. There’s hardly any room for error (if any). As a matter of fact, this may be common knowledge to anyone in the industry, but the casual fan may not be aware of how important a single art-line is. Great lines can be the difference between you buying that book or putting it back down and saying “Looks great, good luck with this, guys.”
The artist working on an independent comic book (meaning NOT Marvel, DC or Image Comics- names you’ve probably already heard of) is under a lot of pressure to sell that first issue of a book the public doesn’t recognize. And if he does succeed, the incubus now falls on the writer. The words accompanying the art have to be poignant, entertaining and they have to leave the reader needing to be…wait for it…A FAN.
And that right there folks, is just the beginning. Past experiences have taught us that the product is very important. The next challenge when we first began was, now that we had the product, how did we get it into the hands of the consumer?
We looked into nationwide distribution, but the stigma that falls on the independent publisher blistered all over our chances of getting it. You know, the black mark that causes the would-be-fan to ask the question, “If I buy your first issue, how do I know there’ll be another?” In other words, independent publishing companies are here today and gone tomorrow. The question of consistency quickly leads folks to then ask, “Are you in Diamond?” What is “Diamond” you ask? Only the biggest and, in the discerning eyes of the industry, the only distributor of comic books. Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc., is a tough nut to crack. Getting into Diamond is like winning the lotto: hard and unlikely when you’re an independent publisher with a small bank account. Diamond prints a catalog containing thousands of comic book titles every month and sends it out to all the comic book shops in the United States. The comic book shops place their orders and Diamond serves as the ultimate middle man who makes the comic book sales wheels turn. If your book is good enough to make it into Diamond, then it should be good enough to be sold in every store in America.
Some might say, “maybe your product wasn’t strong enough to make it into the catalog”. And they might be correct. Maybe the product wasn’t strong enough, but I have seen plenty of great product picked up and plenty of mediocre product picked up as well. Some of the great product was dropped from the catalog, while the mediocre product remained. And why? Because the mediocre product had deeper pockets and could afford the advertising rates that would shine a light on their product within the catalog. Mass distribution is a complicated animal, one that we will perhaps tackle in further detail in another blog.
Anyway, here we were with what we considered a great product and no distribution. Other avenues opened up however, and with the magic of the World Wide Web, we decided to self distribute. Our printer offered their web store to sell our books and we created a website to help with sales. The website, however was a poor man’s version and we knew, or at least Mr. Syphax felt, it needed to be redesigned. Enter Rick Carzado. Rick is a very talented web designer who was introduced to the group by Anibal. Rick understood our vision and delivered. Within a period of three months he designed our current site and we here at MAS are extremely happy with the results.
Today, the quest to build a fan base continues. Our website is averaging a high number of visits and our fan pages on Facebook seem to be gaining some momentum. But it’s never enough. The hustle has to be non stop if we wanna stay relevant in an industry where independent publishers seem to come and go like the days of the week. This is the reason why we have managed to publish multiple issues of Street Journal and Russ 5377 as well as an anthology entitled Hot Tales & Bad Asses (HTBA).
HTBA was an idea that Anibal presented to us in attempt to get more of our stories out to the public in a shorter amount of time. The anthology would be comprised of 8-page stories about strong female leads. We contacted fellow artists who were interested in contributing to the book and we were off and running. The result was a 54-page anthology that proved to be quite a triumph, to say the least. We are happy to announce that we don’t have any copies available of the first print. At all!
With the extraordinary success of HTBA we decided to put together another anthology and are currently working on one that is still untitled and will be due out later this year as well as the launch of Future Scope (a subsidiary company lead by our very own Jonathan Syphax).
The road (not to sound cliché) has been a long one. It’s been paved with miles and miles of road trips to multiple conventions, countless hours of social media networking and days that never seemed to end at “The Lab” where the magic happens. Every step has been well worth the long nights and the many heated discussions within the group. All of which has been part of the campaign to recruit MASadonians! Fans!
A very wise person once told me, “if you want people to like your stuff, just ask them to”. Lets see if it works. For more information on Russ5377, Street Journal, Hot Tales & Bad Asses and Future Scope click the links and dare I ask? Become a fan!