Why Previews Sucks or How To Sell Comix
I haven’t posted about comics for a while, but mostly it’s because of how busy I’ve been and haven’t had time to read all that much that’s new. Except Shirtless Bear Fighter. Damn, that’s a fun book. You need to go buy it. Do that. I’ll be here when you get back.
Are you back? Did you read it? Wasn’t that fun?
We can all agree that Previews is a barely readable mess, right? A jumble of images and ads that may somehow be close to the page of the comic being solicited, but the vast majority are a tiny paragraph with a postage sized image that tells you next to nothing about the book, so that ordering a $4 24 page indy feels like a crap shoot. But that’s not what annoyed me this month.
‘WE’VE GOT A GREAT NEW LINE OF BOOKS AND YOU HAVE TO BUY THEM. IT’S A WHOLE NEW LINE OF 8 MONTHLY COMICS THAT ARE LIKE NOTHING YOU’VE EVER SEEN AND OH BOY HOWDY, YOU NEED THESE AWESOME COMICS!!!!”
That may well be, but when all you have on the Big Ad You Spent A Lot Of Money On is how awesome the books will be and how I need to get in on the ground floor….I’m gonna pass unless I am a big fan of the creators. The hype tells me next to nothing about what the books will be about. What do I mean? Grab a nearby paperback novel. Turn it over. Now read what’s on the back.
That should tell you the genre, the tone and have a hook to make you think, “I want to know what this story is.” Some author’s don’t need to do that, but most do. George R.R. Martin’s next Game of Thrones book won’t need a back cover blurb, but Jeb Bronie’s (get it? Jabronie? Never mind) better have a kick ass cover showing a cool encapsulation of the conflict and the back cover blurb needs to grab me or it’s going back on the shelf.
That’s what your ad in Previews should be. If you’ve got a cover, show it, and it should be an image that makes the reader curious about what’s inside AND give an idea of the interior art. In the 80’s, you could get away with a cover by Dave Stevens and interiors by Bob Hacksalot, but now, with comics at $4 a pop, that’s not gonna work as well.
In the description, don’t tell us it’s the start of an amazing 12 issue epic…that may actually make me say no, since I have a couple of long boxes of indy comics that ended mid story, and I remember those creators and just buy the trades from them now. Tell us the story hook. Give us a question that the story answers or a reason to want to read it.
“The Gatlin Brothers have been one step ahead of foreclosure on their chicken farm for as long as they’ve owned it, but as the final notices come due, a plane carrying ten millions dollars’ worth of cocaine crashes out behind the barn. They are stuck with a choice:
Figure out how to sell the drugs, evade the authorities, keep ahead of the local gangs, hide from the cartel that is looking for their missing shipment, and save the farm…
Inform the police, lose the farm and get jobs at the local meat processing plant.”
In that little blurb, you’ve got the gist of the plot and a strong idea of what the story will be. Like the hook or not, you at least KNOW what you’re buying as opposed to:
“Writer John Doe, known for his work on Marvel Tie-In to a movie mini-series and indy book that came out three years ago and sold 7,000 copies and artist Sam Pencilpusher, who just graduated from the Kubert School and did uncredited backgrounds on Bob Artist’s DC work bring you a 6 part story with action, crime, drugs and suspense from the publisher who does a bunch of comics based on TV shows from 30 years ago!”
Maybe I’m overgeneralizing, but when I look through Previews, I see a lot of credits, but not a lot of hooks. It’s like when a movie trailer tells you a movies if from the studio who gave you a movie and a director who worked on something I haven’t seen. It narrows your audience, while the trailer that leaves you wanting to know what happens widens the audience.
You want sales to go up? Make Us Want To Know What Happens Next.