PR: What Not to Do: Pushing Balloon Babes on Me
Between conventions and email, lately I’ve been given the push sell by a couple of different guys. The one thing they had in common was that they were trying to get me to try comics that were being promoted primarily with images of balloon-busted, barely clothed “female” grotesqueries. (I’m talking here about Jim Balent-level caricature, not just the standard Witchblade-style exposure.)
They have every right to plaster their covers and promotional material with these helium hussies, of course, and in a way, it’s helpful to see these ridiculous images featured so prominently, because it makes it easy for me to turn them down quickly. Anyone selling that kind of project isn’t doing the kind of comics I want to read. I reject those pitches out of hand, since the material is clearly not aimed at readers like me.
Why I’m talking about it now is that, in both cases, I got pushback. These guys (and they are always guys) bemoan how quick I am to misjudge (in their opinion) their projects. Their female characters are strong, they say, and they only use such exaggerated pictures because they sell so much better than anything else.
I’m sure they do. There are still enough adolescent (in mind if not in body) males buying comics that that kind of pitch will get a certain amount of attention. But if I put a naked man on the cover of my “serious” novel, you’re going to jump to certain conclusions about who the audience is likely to be. And you’d be justified in doing so — packaging is chosen to send those kinds of messages. If you put one of those “couldn’t exist in nature because her breasts are larger than her head” girls on the cover of your comic, I don’t care what’s inside it. I’m going to be too distracted and annoyed by your marketing to go any further. It’s not “prejudice”, as one affronted publisher put it — it’s being selective about what I’m willing to read and promote to my readers.
In my case, it is right to judge a book by its cover. Either that cover accurately represents the contents — in which case, yuck, I’m not interested in that kind of badly drawn crap — or it doesn’t, in which case you’re engaging in false advertising and I don’t want to reward that. I know it’s tough to get attention in comics, where most new projects are ignored, but there are many better ways to catch the eye. They involve more hard work than taking the low road of pitching to the groin, though.