Marc Alan Fishman: The Science of Selling


If there’s one thing Unshaven Comics has been celebrated for by our peers, our fans, and our nemeses alike, it’s our ABC mentality. “Always. Be. Closing.” Alec Baldwin barked at us through gritted teeth. And boy howdy did that lesson stick. Since our second-ever convention appearance, my cohorts and I have adopted the mentality that while we love what we do, that we can’t do it unless our convention appearances end lucratively. Hence, we operate adhering to the science of the sale.

In less poetic terms, that means that every possible decision / choice we’ve made — from the products offered, to the pitch, the bundles we offer, straight through to the question we ask to close business — has been scrutinized to the Nth degree. It’s been a while since I’ve unpacked these bags for you, my adoring fans, so let’s dump all the dirty laundry on the floor, shall we?

When it comes to our products, the answer became notoriously simple given trial and error. Our first book was an educational graphic novel. Suffice to say we got mild interest, and a lot of back-patting from teachers and rare fans who really like the idea of seeing how far a comic could travel away from tights and fights.

Our next book was R-Rated horror. Then R-Rated superheroes. Both of those books were better sellers for us. But… then… book 4 was The Samurnauts, a title built with sell-ability in mind. Tongue-in-cheek pastiche to the tropes we loved growing up, nestled in a warm chocolatey shell of all-age fun. And the sales and response we saw to that? Well, the rest (they say) is history. Put plainly: for Unshaven Comics, our path to maximum return drives straight down the line towards the largest audience possible.

I’ve droned on and on about our pitch in the past. Feel free to read up on it here. The short and dirty version for those with less time: we keep it simple, stupid. In less than 22 seconds (with an additional eight seconds added afterwards for jazz hands/spirit fingers) we’re able to distill the essence of our comic book series to any passerby. We talk about the big picture feelings the book evokes, we share the artwork and hooks of the story, as well as detail the specific nature of our deal. You get 36 pages of story for just five bucks. And if you get it here at the show today, all three creators will happily sign your copy. And with that – jazz hands. Make no bones about it. We’ve crafted literally every word of that pitch a thousand times over. And we’ve likely answered every possible retort to it dozens (if not hundreds) of times.

I’ve also perhaps droned a bit before about our magical closing question. Those last few words uttered that have turned more faces of unsure-ness into alleviated buyers. We used to ask “So, what do you think?” More often than not, it would end with the potential buyer now bending our ears off on their 30 second critique of literally any number of sundry points they needed to make about our book. And while it did close sales for us, it wasn’t until it hit me to ask Kyle to be a bit more direct. “So, would you like to give it a try?” Boom. Sales. That simple shift in our line of questioning helps address the elephant in the artist alley. At the end of the day, yes, we all love comics and pop culture. But we are the business and you are the customer. If we’ve earned your business by presenting you with a product you find to be priced appropriately and contains written and visual content you find pleasing, then let’s do business. Otherwise? We happy accept “No thanks!” as your answer, and allow you to continue on your merry way. It’s not rude. It’s how we keep the lights on in the studio.

So let’s say now you dig that pitch, and find our price point to be fair. Well, let’s gladly upsell you! Unshaven Comics has cultivated a masters degree in the bundle sale. How? Easy! By tossing as many extra freebies onto a deal to make our customer happy. We always travel with collectible stickers, and poster prints (occasionally adding in some buttons as well). We’ve no qualms about losing a bit of profit off our bottom line if it turns a single book purchase into four. Soon to be five. And for those fans who are so sold on the books without the extra bric-a-brak? Well, we go ahead and still shower them in swag because it’s good karma. When new customers see the passion we have for our series, giving them that little extra thank you in the form of stickers and a poster is just a way we pay it forward.

And with that, you have the science to the sale. Our products attract a large swatch of convention goers. Our artwork and storylines are aesthetically pleasing. Our pitch is tight, and to the point. Our price is fair. Our upsell is ludicrously so. Each convention day sees us pitch to hundreds of potential fans. And typically we’ll see hundreds of books be moved. It’s through the hard work, hypothesis, analysis, and Immortal Kung Fu Monkeys do we see the success. And we’ll see you on the convention floor soon!

So, I have to ask…

Can I tell you about my comic book?