PR: What Not to Do: Announcing Non-News

Many publishers have glommed onto the fact that if you send out enough press releases, some sites will run them, and you will get easy coverage. Unfortunately, the result is that some companies send out PR announcing complete non-news. For example:

Masterpiece Comics places original series, Fireblast , with
industry leader, Diamond Comics Distributors, Inc.

Masterpiece Comics announced today that its full-color, ongoing series, Fireblast, will be carried and distributed in the English-language world market by Diamond Comics Distributors, Inc., the world’s largest comic book distributor. The title, which originally appeared as an on-line comic, will launch in print in November of this year. Diamond will begin listing Fireblast in September in Previews, the industry standard order catalogue used by retailers and individual consumers alike.

“This is a huge step forward for a young company like ours,” says Ace Masters, owner and publisher of Masterpiece Comics, a division of the independent entertainment company Rebel Dawn Creative Forces, based in Glendale, AZ. “It gives us greater credibility and gives us a shot at playing the game at a whole new level.”

Credibility that you’ve just destroyed by trying to make “we got listed in Previews” newsworthy. That’s not news, that’s just the most basic step to printing and selling comics. Although there was talk about Diamond cutting publishers a while back, it’s not very hard at all to get a new book listed there. What matters is what you do once you’re in there, like getting promotional material out to retailers and end customers.

Simply being in the catalog isn’t enough, because there are way too many pages full of generic-looking comics that think “if we’re listed, they will order us.” And based on their website, this is one of those generic-looking comics. Nothing stands out, nothing seems interesting or creative.

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30 Responses to “PR: What Not to Do: Announcing Non-News”

  1. Ed Sizemore Says:

    Johanna, for a moment I thought that was a fake press release. The names “Masterpiece Comics”, “Ace Masters”, and “Rebel Dawn Creative Forces” all sounded like names from a bad comedy skit about comics.

  2. Jesse McCann Says:

    You’re right, Johanna, that is a silly way to get attention. I hope any retailer reading this orders lots of my KRYPTO THE SUPERDOG #1 to show their indignation at the ploy.

  3. Paul Sizer Says:

    Hey wait a minute Jesse, was that a clever ploy in itself to get people to order your book instead of checking out other books in Previews, like the LITTLE WHITE MOUSE OMNIBUS and the award nominated MOPED ARMY? I am shocked at your ruse!

  4. Jason Rodriguez Says:

    This is huge news – congrats to Masterpiece Comics. I look forward to their follow-up PRs, “Masterpiece Comics Prints with Brenner” and “Masterpiece Comics Buys Advertising Space on CBR”.

  5. Augie De Blieck Jr. Says:

    Yeah, but that banner ad on CBR will actually be SEEN — unlike the one inch of column space they’ll get in a back corner of PREVIEWS. ;-)

  6. James Taylor Says:

    Sounds to me like sour grapes from some small minded people who couldn’t create a rumor, never mind a web or print based comic. Ace’s name is truly that, something I can relate to somewhat, having a moniker of a famous celebrity. As to what he decides to call his publishing arm, whether it be Masterpiece Comics, or Straight to Trash Comics, (which they don’t appear to be), is also his own decision. All I can surmise from your small comments and snide asides is… consider the source. As a free thinking individual, I’ll give Ace and his work a looksee and consideration, before I make judgements.

  7. Jason Rodriguez Says:

    For Immediate Release: James Taylor Will Give Masterpiece Comics a Looksee

    The thing is, James, saying nothing about Ace and his books – being picked up by Diamond isn’t something you’d normally send a PR out over. At least wait until it solicits, this way you can include the order number. This PR does nothing, honestly, and makes it so future PRs (with the order #) could get ignored by news sites.

  8. Jason Rodriguez Says:

    By the way, is this you?

  9. James Taylor Says:

    Jason, yes it is me. However I’m not responding as a participant or proponent of Masterpiece, merely as a reader of the above statements. Though I don’t profess to know what or how something should be PR’d. (I’m not in the PR dept, I just draw pictures in comics), my comments were more pointed towards the slights about Ace, or the name he chooses for his books. As to PR, what I know about that, could fit in a thimble. Just sounds to me like a new publisher, who’s happy to be getting his work included in Diamond. And there’s nothing wrong with that, in my own opinion.

  10. Ed Cunard Says:

    James,

    Jesse, Paul and Jason already have comics (and well-received comics, at that) in print. The reaction is, as Jason points out, to the very poor PR. One shouldn’t send out press releases that say little more than “hey, we’re happy to be here.”

    However, it’s rather disingenuous to discuss the publisher and the line from the supposedly impartial view of a reader who stumbled across snide comics when you are actually involved with the company.

  11. Ed Cunard Says:

    Er, snide comments.

  12. Oni-Press FAN! Says:

    I think some people forget how much of an accomplishment it is to be print, and be accepting by Diamonds… while maybe it should’ve waiting until they had an order number, I remember being that excited when my first comic was being picked up… don’t be so harsh! They’re excited!

  13. James Taylor Says:

    Ed, actually, I do work for several different publishers, so it’s not as if I’m aligned solely with Ace or his publications. My statement still stands as to the snide asides. I’d say the same for most anyone.

    As to the comments by Oni, I would agree wholeheartedly.

  14. Paul Sizer Says:

    James, a few comments in the spirit of helpfulness:

    I think Johanna’s original comments were well placed, being that not approching news sources (online or traditional) informed and respectfully is seen as a newbie gaffe, and does hurt the perception of the person releasing these “news items”. People like Johanna slog through a TON of news and releases to provide the content that they do. I respect the hell out of that work, and have worked for years to build up good relationships with all the news sources I send my own company’s releases to. I make sure they have solid info, plenty of links and cross references, and something honest adn heartfelt to set them apart from the usual hype that journalists must wade through. A non-newsworthy press release will look like a padded resume to an experienced journalist, and like Jason remarked, may affect the reading of future releases from the company.

    I also wanted to comment on your statement of ” Though I don’t profess to know what or how something should be PR’d. (I’m not in the PR dept, I just draw pictures in comics)”, I’d make the suggestion to KNOW about how the comic world PR’s stuff. If you’re an independent artist, it would be to your advantage to be aware of how the machine works, even if you don’t deal with it day in and day out. I draw the pictures too, but I also do the press releases, place the orders, write the books and do the balance sheets with Diamond every month for my sales, so while those aspects don’t dominate all of my time, I do know about them and how they work. For a small publisher, having everyone up on the business of comics will make you all that more adaptable, rather that having a stable of artist’s who claim ignorance then aren’t able to ask hard questions if things go wrong in a company.

    When I published with other publishers (Caliber Comics, Blue Line Pro) I knew everything they did in regards to my books, exactly how much money my books were or weren’t making, and how they were being promoted. It’s too tough of a market to just go along for the ride. Being as smart as possible on as many aspects of the business of the comics market will increase your company’s potential for survival.

    I hope Masterpiece Comics does have success with it’s books; the indy market is always in need of infusions of new talent and blood. Going into the game with all wheels spinning will ensure the potential for success of Masterpiece, so please accept the comments above in the spirit they’re given, learn from them and come back firing on all cylinders next round.

    Good Luck,
    Paul Sizer

  15. James Taylor Says:

    Paul, now that was constructive, and helpful. That, I can’t (and won’t) disagree with.

    Also, my comment about not knowing PR, was more in the regards of what publishers can and should do. I think I do a pretty decent job of representing myself as an artist, but there’s always room for learning new tricks and techniques in that aspect. But promoting a book (from what I do understand) is a whole different kettle of fish. And I don’t profess to know that realm whatsoever!

    But again, your comments Paul, helpful, and clearly spoken. For that I say thank you.

  16. Oni-Press FAN! Says:

    To Paul Sizer.

    Interesting that I have kept up with this thread… but I want to say something.

    You said that Masterpiece Comics should accept the comments in the spirit they were given.

    However the spirit they were given was a negative, mocking spirit. The original poster did nothing to help Masterpiece, but rather used them as a punching bag to laugh at, and then invited others to do so. Now, Masterpiece Comics’ press releases will be taken less seriously, and perhaps this thread has HURT this company’s future success.

    I understand that this is a business, but in all honesty, I’ve always thought of independant and small press comic books as a family of sorts, and bashing someone does nothing to support the family. It would’ve been nice if, instead of publicly humiliating a new company, she would’ve emailed back and said “Hey, write back when you have an order number, or something of more signifigance to report”. That WOULD’VE helped the company… who by the way, after looking at their website, has some interesting titles, even if the presentation is a bit generic.

    That’s why I said originally that some people forget what it’s like to be published for the first time, and even more so, know that their comic is going to be carried by DIAMOND, which to me, is no small feat. Plenty of comic company’s I know should and would be very proud of that accomplishment.

    I only hope that everyone continues to help each other, and that no one looks down at Masterpiece or other similar companies for this press release. Just because their PR department made one little mistake does not mean the quality of book is bad

    And besides… look out, but we’ve been discussing this company for two days now. I bet I won’t be the only one looking for their book!

  17. Johanna Says:

    In my lenghty reviewing career, others have tried the “if you can’t say something nice…” gambit on me before. (They often turn out to be business partners or family members of those harshly criticized.) The fact is, even if I did agree that we’re all part of team comics (I don’t), refusing to be honest doesn’t do the “family” any good. There is way too much crap out there. I want there to be less of it so the many good books/artists/companies are easier to find and everyone’s better off.

    If someone does something I think stupid, I call them on it. Others are welcome to agree (and thus I’ve achieved my mission of entertaining and educating my readers), or they can disagree and talk about why, as this comment thread has done.

    I’m not here to help Masterpiece or any other individual company. Hopefully, though, other new and wannabe publishers will see that making boneheaded moves will get you laughed at and learn to do better.

  18. Oni-Press FAN! Says:

    Johanna,

    I respect that. It’s not your responsibility to help anyone… but that sort of reminds me of a comic book in itself.

    It’s never a heroe’s responsibility to help anyone, not even Spider-Man’s. It’s their ABILITY to do this, that drives them to do the right thing.

    Sorry for the extremely corny reference here, but a Hero could leave a child burning in a building, and watch him die, and hope that the children learn not to play with fire that way… however, as we learned growing up reading comic books, we know that the greatest heroes are the ones that do just the opposite; they run in and try to help, despite the fact that this kid is running deeper and deeper into the building, perhaps splashing gasoline along the way. (hey its an analogy, work with me)

    To me, you didn’t just watch Masterpiece Comics burn, you grabbed other people on the street and asked them to point and laugh with you as the flames shot out of the top of the building.

    However, I digress. After reading your column, it turns out you don’t even like Superhero comics, (I do to a point), but I assume you understand the connection I was trying to make.

    You had the chance, the ability to stop the fire, instead, you fanned the flames… and for what? A laugh? A lesson to others?

    Who knows?

  19. Johanna Says:

    Interesting that my expressing dedication to a higher principle — to improve comics by weeding out the weak and poor quality — makes you call me NOT a hero. But then, I see Masterpiece Comics as one of the villains to be defeated, not some defenseless kid in the burning building.

    The fact is, my making fun of them will draw more attention than my advising them will, both from them and from the general audience. No matter who the “hero” or “villain” is, people love to watch the flames. My responsibility is to my audience, not to some random new publisher.

    I do like superhero comics, by the way, but only good ones, which are rare. High quality of any genre always is.

  20. Oni-Press FAN! Says:

    Wow. Even harsher. You see Masterpiece Comics as a villain to be defeated?

    From what I know you’ve ever even read of their comics?

    You are assuming a lot from a poorly timed and designed press release.

    And that, unfortunatley, is really the enemy here.

  21. Ed Sizemore Says:

    Oni Fan,

    I disagree that Johanna’s original post was mean spirited. I think she called a company on making a big deal out of a non-event. Any truly negative spirit to the post came from my commment. I think your reading my own dark humor back into Johanna’s post. Johanna’s post didn’t inspire my remarks, me being a ‘jerk’ lead me to post what I did.

  22. Johanna Says:

    Well, it’s your metaphor, and I don’t think it applies very well, but in the scenario you proposed, anyone that settles for mediocrity and expects attention and praise for doing the bare minimum would be more a villain than a hero or a victim, yes.

  23. Jesse McCann Says:

    This is why I often quote Platus:
    “Si quid dictum est per jocum,
    Non aequum est id te serio praevortier.”

    To be fair, I hope everyone will take a look at Masterpiece Comics when they make it to a comic shop near you in November … which, by the way, is when KRYPTO THE SUPERDOG #3 will be on sale, too!

    And James, loved FIRE & RAIN! Sorry about your hair, though.

  24. Johanna Says:

    Jesse, using Google, I get “If anything is spoken in jest, it is not fair to turn it to earnest.” Correct?

  25. Jason Rodriguez Says:

    I thought this thread was dead.

    This is really pointless, it seems, but here’s how I see it. Anyone can make a comic. There are a lot of folks that do it for the love — hand stapling mini-comics and dropping them off at the local shops or leaving them at local bars (which is something I still love to do). The moment you try to go through Diamond is the moment you decide to be competitive — which essentially means getting into Diamond is the bare minimum you need to do to be at the point where press releases sent to comic sites become relevant. It’s like throwing yourself a party after your first day at college when all you really did was register for classes, bought some used books, and smoked some dope after English 101.

    And as far as that ridiculous Hero analogy goes, Johanna, like the rest of us who have a passion for this industry, really want comic companies to start succeeding and that means that they need to stop making stupid decisions and start acting like a business. Your analogy can also be applied to a pharmaceutical company that leaves a couple of side-effects off of their new depression medication. Like death. And instead of saying how they made a mistake, we’re all supposed to shine a happy light on it (hey, they were probably gonna kill themselves anyway!) or ignore it simply because they produced the bare minimum, a pill, albeit a bad one.

    Companies don’t need to be “Saved”. They need to be smart, find their demo, and supply that demo with a product efficiently and better than anyone else targeting said demo. Or they’re not going to make it.

  26. Oni-Press FAN! Says:

    They don’t need to be saved…

    But, it would be nice if we helped before we laughed.

    That’s my only point.

  27. Jesse McCann Says:

    Right, Johanna. My modern-day, behind-the-keyboard version of this might be, “Just because someone is joking, it doesn’t mean they are joking at your expense.” Sometimes people just like to joke around.

  28. Jesse McCann Says:

    I guess I should add– I’m talking about myself. I was just joking around, not joking at Masterpiece’s expense.

  29. Press Release How-Tos » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] We’re in the Previews catalog [...]

  30. PR: What Not to Do: New Technology Is No Longer News » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] is the modern-day version of the press release that used to say “hey! I’m distributed by Diamond (just like thousands of other comics).” It’s a basic business decision, not news. [...]

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