- Posted by Johanna on March 27, 2008 at 10:50 pm
- Category: LinkBlogging
Wesley Green runs new webcomic and print publisher Ambrosia Publishing. Recently, he announced the launch of Indy Comic News, a site that is attempting to be an online clearing house for information about independent comic publishers and creators by offering them
… the opportunity to effectively market their projects to fans, retailers, bloggers, and comic news writers. This is done by providing them the opportunity to post their press releases and announcements, add downloadable previews of their projects to the Download This! section, [and] have the pre-order information for their projects easily available for readers and retailers to check out…
I spoke with him via email regarding his goals for the site and how he measures success. Then I go on to share my opinions about the future of the site.
What does your site provide that other sites don’t?
The focus of Indy Comic News is promoting independent comics and graphic novels. That is done by offering indy publishers, creators involved in indy comics and graphic novels, and self-publishers different ways of marketing their products.
One of the biggest gripes of anyone trying to promote their new indy book is getting the various comic news sites to post their press releases. With Indy Comic News, just about anyone involved in indy comics, whether that be as a publisher, creator, store owner, etc., can have an account created for them by sending me an email requesting an account (firstname.lastname@example.org) which gives them the ability to post their press release to the site. Instructions are provided to them on how to do this so it is just a matter of them taking the time to do it.
Some of the other marketing tools available on the site include the Pre-Ordering Comics page where indy publishers and creators can have their titles listed which are available for pre-ordering. Their listing would include more information than what Diamond allows in their Preview catalog and this includes more images to give the customer — and this includes indy-friendly retailers — a better idea of what the title is about. I also plan on making each month’s Pre-Ordering page available as a downloadable file, which I would post on the CBIA forum so that interested retailers could download it and get a, hopefully, clearer and more informative picture of the indy titles available for pre-ordering that month.
Another marketing tool is the Banner Trading page. This service is aimed at publishers, self-publishers, creators, bloggers, comic retailers, and comic- and graphic novel-related sites who are interested in “trading” banners. Trading banners is just as it sounds: two parties would essentially swap banners (the deal to trade banners would be conducted by the two parties — not ICN) so that their individual banners would appear on the other party’s web site or blog, linking to the other’s web site. This will give those who participate the possibility to potentially have their banner on numerous web sites and/or blogs visited by people who make up their target market. Doing this could increase their sales, expose their titles and company to hundreds or possibly thousands of people, and vice versa.
How many publishers are actively participating right now?
There are roughly ten publishers who have a free account with the site, and around five self-publishers and creators who have accounts. I’ve sent out emails to various indy publishers — big and small — explaining what the site is and inviting them to check the site out.
It strikes me that this could be a valuable resource if enough companies participate to make it a true central clearing point. But there’s a resistance to putting the effort in until that magic number, whatever it is, is reached. Yet if everyone holds back, you’ll never hit that threshold. Is that an accurate assessment?
Very much so. I knew going in the site would be a hard sell, so to speak. It is one of those situations where I think most people are taking a “wait-and-see” approach. And it isn’t like I could advertise Indy Comic News on a site like Newsrama or Comic Book Resources. So word-of-mouth is very important to ICN actually working.
Like you said, I totally agree that the site could become a valuable tool — but only if people use it. The more publishers and creators who get involved and start using it, the more other publishers and creators will use it. I think a publisher using the site like AdHouse is, for example, gives it more credence and might prompt more publishers and creators to sign-up for a free account. This would also lead to more visitors / potential customers coming to the site, leading to a lot more pre-orders and purchases for titles being promoted on the site.
What are you doing to get past that threshold, to encourage companies to participate, beyond simply making the site available?
Like I mentioned earlier, my hands are a bit tied when it comes to promoting the site on other sites. I am considering asking people who do use the site to possibly include an ICN graphic on their site or blog that would link back to the ICN site to help bring more traffic to it. Plus, I imagine this interview will help a lot as well. I’ve also posted on various forums regarding the site which has helped bring more attention to the site. While attention is great, it’s people actually creating accounts and using the site which will determine if the site is successful or not.
Regarding encouraging companies to participate, it’s like that old saying, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink”. Being a publisher myself, I think I put together a site which can only help publishers, creators, and others get the word out about their titles. But it does take some time and effort to use it effectively. Plus, some services are not free but that’s because those are services in which I have to do the work. But I priced them fairly cheaply (no more than $5, I believe) so that people would be encouraged to try them, at least. Not everyone has $300 to $800 to spend on a banner for one month on a site.
I am treating it as a business. With that said, I do hope to make some kind of income from the services offered but I also like to help people. I know it’s hard as hell to be an independent publisher. You often feel like you’re beating your head against the wall when you’re trying to get any kind of attention for your company’s titles when it seems all you read about on the comic news sites are stories about major crossovers which promise to change EVERYTHING or this hero and that villain being a Skrull, for example. So I am hoping that Indy Comic News gives those people like me a place to effectively market their titles to fans, retailers, and people interested in indy comics and graphic novels alike.
How long do you keep plugging at it if you don’t see continued growth/readership? Conversely, how do you define it a success?
I plan on giving it a couple of years before determining what to do. If the number of users hasn’t increased significantly within that time, then I think that would be a good indicator of the site not being worth the time and money to keep it going.
As for defining whether it’s a success, I could look at it from a financial standpoint (Is it making enough money to pay for itself?, for example), and I could also look at it as being successful if it helps people market their titles effectively. To me — and this is going to sound sappy but it’s true — but if the site helped someone make even one sale that they wouldn’t have made otherwise, then I would consider it a “success”.
Johanna again. I want to thank Wesley for his time answering these questions and wish him the best of luck with this project. Unfortunately, I don’t have the hope he does for the site catching on. As one of the bloggers he’s targeting, my opinion is that the site doesn’t yet offer me anything I’m not getting elsewhere. If it really did consolidate much more information, it would be valuable — but that would take a lot of legwork on Wesley’s part, encouraging the right, high-visibility publishers to participate, or maybe even doing the work for them for himself until the value of the site is demonstrated. And I get the impression that he intends it to be less work than that.
As for “I can’t advertise on certain sites” — I think most sites will accept money for ad placement, and those you mention aren’t likely to consider ICN competition. They have different audiences… and that’s the most important hurdle.
Publishers want their material on big, established sites because those sites already have lots of readers. A new site provides value for publishers only if plenty of retailers and press and customers read the site. Those readers are already going to the other sites and have been given no reason to add another. In my opinion, there needs to be a lot more proactive content-building, or the site is going to gather cobwebs, or be a lot of people yelling into an empty room.
If the problem is really getting the attention of people who visit other, more established, more popular sites, then I would suggest alternative solutions, mainly based around education. Teach indy publishers how to write a press release that sites want to run, and how to determine what qualifies as news (“my book is now available” ain’t it). Talk about how to cross-market an indy comic to a superhero fan (or whether one even should). Or how to stand out in an over-saturated market. Build word of mouth. Fundamentally, quality comics gather their own attention.