Marc Alan Fishman: Sell! Sell! Sell Your Comic!
Hey kiddos! I decided I wanted to add a touch of linkbaiting this week to my article. Since the interwebs just goes gaga (but not Lady Gaga) over lists, I thought it was time I give you one… as I lay out to you the secret sauce that makes Unshaven Comics’ Big Mac. That Big Mac is, of course, the reason why we are (in part) as successful as we have been at comic conventions throughout the Mid-West and East Coast. Over the last five years, we’ve cultivated pitches for each of our books, such that it becomes abundantly clear to those standing in front of our table that they need the book we place in their hands.
In between discussions of great grub, good flicks, and other bric-a-brac, many of our fellow creators have asked Unshaven what lands us our good sales and closing ratio. And rather than write a book and sell it to them, I thought it’d be fun instead to even the playing field. So, without any further padding, let’s get into those tips you yourself need to turn your pet project into a product-moving behemoth.
1. You have my undivided attenti – Hey! Zombies!
When you’ve made eye-contact with a potential customer (a “fan,” if you will) and you’ve politely asked them if you can tell them about your comic book – you are doing that, aren’t you? – be clear that you have literally thirty seconds or less to captivate them. If you can’t get through the biggest reasons why your comic is appealing to them in that time? You might as well sit patiently and wait for your mother to walk by the table to listen to all you have to say. This isn’t a proclamation about the attention span of the millenials mind you… this is Advertising 101. So, tip 1: Keep. It. Short. Sassypants.
2. It’s like chocolate meets peanut butter.
Clichéd as it may be, a good pitch saves time by referencing previously available material. Yes, I know that your book is a beautiful and wholly original snowflake. But you know what? I don’t care. When you can tell me that your book is like Fight Club and My Little Pony, I’m free to the do the mental math quickly. Barrier to entry is now lessened, or the wasted time on someone you’re not going to sell to is shortened. So, pick a piece of memorable fiction that matches your book’s genre, and potentially style or mood. Present your X meets Y statement as such that your pitchee knows you’re not speaking on the quality of your piece, so much as the headspace you’re aiming for. In other words, don’t say “It’s like Star Wars Meets Titanic, because it’s just. That. Epic.”
3. People want story first, not characters.
Even if your book follows a single solitary soul for twenty some-odd pages, as a potential buyer I can’t be sold on a character in 30 seconds. Why? Because your characters are likely dimensional. They have depth, nuance, and shades of grey. A person can’t easily be quantified in a single sentence. But your story can. As I’ve been building here: you have limited real estate of ear-time with your would-be-fan. What will make them by your book is not how witty the banter may be… it’ll be the hook of the story. Just because your book stars Robo-Jesus doesn’t mean I instantly want it – it’s how Robo-Jesus fights a horde of rabid leprechauns that sells me on the issue quickest.
4. Leave room to breathe.
Ain’t I a stinker? Here I am building you up for what must feel like a drag race to a sale, and now I’m telling you to slow down! I’m not evil, trust me. Here’s the thing. 30 seconds is actually longer than you think. If you’ve followed along this far, you have a good idea what Unshaven Comics likes to do: We hop in, and tell our audience what our book is about, and end right on the hook. And then we breathe. We look the fan in the eye, and see that they absorb what we’ve said. Some folks will immediately have questions. Some will snicker with a “oh, really? Now what?” Others will ask where the line for Gene Ha starts. In any event, we build a nice pregnant pause into the pitch to force the customer to interact with us. Why? Because while we are trying to sell them, we’re not trying to be the late Billy Mays. It’s not a scream-a-thon until you beg for money… it’s actually a conversation.
5. But what am I actually buying?
Brass tacks: After you’ve dropped the setup and the hook. After you’ve compared your book to common fiction they know. After you’ve maybe answered a quick question about the art. It’s time to close the sale. In case you’re not familiar – and if you’re not, shame on you – watch Alec Baldwin tell you how it’s done. Always. Be. Closing. The key to finishing strong, is to cut to the chase. Tell your interested party what they’re holding in their hands. How many pages is it? Is it color? How much does it cost? And then, as awkward as it may be, you have to then ask them if they’d like to give it a try. No arm wrenching necessary; just a polite notification that yes, you are indeed a business, and what you’re attempting here is to keep that business open. Your fan won’t mind the hustle, if you don’t mind the humility.
6. Don’t forget the upsell, or the closer.
When you’ve reached step 5, you have a sale or a runner. If they are willing to purchase, it literally loses you nothing to offer an upsell. For Unshaven Comics? It’s typically a free sticker, button, or poster, with purchase of another book. So, yes, for the cost of two comics (one of which you’ve now told yourself is worth purchasing) you now get something potentially cool totally free. Yessir, that’s an upsell. Or, perhaps you have someone on the fence. They like the idea, but… hey, it is five bucks. So, now, you need a closer. Offer to sign the book. Or eat the cost on a button, sticker, or poster. At the end of the day, issues moved are issues moved. And everything you should be doing on a cold sale is try to move that book.
Alrighty everyone. Seem simple enough? It’s not. Like I’d said above: it took us five years, and what I could figure as being literally 3,000+ pitches to get where we’re at. But don’t be discouraged. Remember that at a convention you’re in your element. The people walking that floor are there to be wowed. It’s your chance to wow them. Keep it short, keep it uncomplicated, be witty where you can. Be upfront about your price, and be ready to upsell if you can. And last but not least? Know that the worst a fan will ever say to you ultimately is ‘no’. So… if I haven’t ask you yet, stranger…
Can I tell you about my comic book?