So here’s what I screwed up when launching Miranda Mercury last year…
Know this is something I’ve been threatening to write for a while now, but some recent developments with the book make this the right time to start seriously considering the upcoming re-launch. Since Archaia only released that first issue, we have a little more flexibility in how we want to handle the promotion and marketing. There’s a real opportunity to essentially start from scratch, and it doesn’t make any sense to do that if we don’t take a fairly uncompromising view of how we approached it last time. If Miranda Mercury never stops moving, then how can we in ensuring that she stands a chance in this relatively hostile marketplace? Yes, the word “relatively” implies that I’m being facetious, but you likely figured that already.
The biggest mistake we ultimately made led to most of the rest, and that’s simply that we weren’t nearly prepared enough when the debut issue was solicited. Having never launched a creator-owned book before, I really underestimated how tight that pre-ordering window actually is, and how crucial it is in establishing a baseline. Unless you’re terribly fortunate, there is a great chance that the sales numbers for that first issue will be the highest you see for the entire mini-series. So obviously, starting off as high as possible is very important, assuming you have any real interest in releasing a trade, which is the lifeline of any independent comic. And yeah, I knew all this, as does anyone that’s knowledgeable about the biz, but I didn’t account for how quickly this is all determined. Really there are two weeks between the time your book appears in Previews, and initial retailer orders come in. Two weeks that’ll decide the initial success of your series.
The campaign should really start a little before the book even shows up in the catalog, because obviously, that’s no time at all to seriously get the word out about your book. Which would make a dedicated website, coordinated interviews and previews, advance reviews, ordering coupons, online ads, etc. literally indispensable. Is there a stronger word than indispensable? But everything should be organized and ready so you can come out of the gate hard and fast, and then sustain that momentum over the life of your series. I think out of all that stuff I listed, the only thing we had going for us in the ordering window was an online preview. Which was great, but here’s how online previews tend to work, even with me, who clearly knows better.
If there’s a book I’m on the fence about, which doesn’t happen very often, as I’m pretty decisive about upcoming purchases even three months out, then I’ll check out any and all online previews that post. Only two problems with that---the first being that the majority of stuff that comes online has done so after the initial pre-ordering window, and the second that even if it did, I hate pre-ordering comics. I’ve been very fortunate over the years to regularly attend shops that were run by smart, business-savvy people that didn’t break out into hives when turning to the back half of Previews. Folks motivated by more than a desire to read comics for free and project than own personal view of the comics industry onto unwitting subjects. But, from what I’ve heard, places like this actually exist and a lack of nearby competition keeps them running. Which is a shame to address on another day.
So instead of hearing about a book and making a mental note to pick it up once it drops, some people are doing the same, but with a pretty good idea that there’s no chance in hell that their shop actually ordered the book. It seems safer to just pretend that no one will order the book unless specifically provoked, and to do that you need to have previews, interviews, reviews, and other resources readily available in a helpful timeframe. Cause we probably heard from like two-dozen folks following the book’s release that their stores either didn’t have it, or had never heard of it. Which is understandable for a lot of reasons, but unfortunately, I think most of those were our own fault.
But since I’m currently laid off, I’m using most of the time getting Miranda’s business in order so we don’t get as overwhelmed as before. Only one more script needs to be done for the first volume, I’m putting together the plots for the next arc, and working on this little action list in the months leading up to the re-launch of The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury…if that’s the title we continue to use anyway. Told you there had been some recent developments. But here we go, things to do in the order of relative importance…
Revamp the website again.
First version we put up used a ton of Flash and the initial traffic numbers told us that a ton of people shy away from such things. What went up in its place was essentially a placeholder that could be modified a little further down the road, but unfortunately, there was a publisher hiatus coming down the road. But again, we’ll just gut it and start over again, and make it the appropriate hub for everything that has anything to do with Miranda Mercury. My personal site has a very clean, easy navigation system that I’ll likely be adopting.
Distribute advance copies.
We were very particular about who got their hands on preview copies of the book, as we figured there’d be so few copies in circulation anyway that we should try to make sure the majority of them were actually purchased. Hell, my boy was able to read a bootleg copy of our first issue while he was overseas and didn’t have regular access to his books. And really…I never imagined that ours would be a book people would bother scanning and posting. Even with that in mind though, we’ll be a little less concerned on that front, and more with getting the word out as aggressively as possible. If you reviewed the first issue online, there’s a good chance you’re on our list to get full copies of the next issue and possibly even some ones after that.
Previews, interviews and then more previews.
By the time the book returns to Previews, we should have roughly five issues’ worth of material to show off, which should be nice to work with after dragging that same opening sequence around from site to site. Especially since a website always enjoys a little exclusive love in their features, and with a large amount of work “in the can,” we should be able to ensure everybody has a decent and distinctive mix of covers, pages, and info. Again, all of this will be funneled through the website and another initiative I’ll be getting to shortly.
Ordering coupons always.
Attached to as much of the preview material as humanly possible as if that two week initial ordering window equates to oxygen for the book which actually is pretty much true once you think about it.
Bite the bullet and be social.
I hate all social networking sites pretty much equally. Yes, it seems silly for someone who’s been writing an internet column for seven years to allege that he’s somewhat antisocial and finds the whole thing slightly intrusive, but I’ve been fighting my friends about this for years. At long last, it seems I’m going to be losing the argument, as ensuring that my projects (and myself really) have a sustainable web presence is probably more important than making sure people from high school and college can’t find me online. They probably only want to say hello anyway. But yeah, we’ll see how we can get this working and reaching people that aren’t being properly covered by the main site or this very column.
Probably a bunch of stuff I’m missing here, but this’ll be getting more and more refined as I really start digging in. Also jacking an idea from Dan DiDio, and going to start running questions at the end of some of these columns that I promise will only be used for good. First one is a huge one---what is the biggest barrier between you and independent comics? Is it a shrinking budget, an uncooperative retailer, general lateness, general apathy, etc.? Answers down below please. Back soon, and thanks.Ambidextrous 298: I Watched the Watchmen Ambidextrous 288: On Deck, or, What to Do With Free Time