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Monday, April 13, 2009

Writing for Comic Books, Part 9: Advertising Your Comic Book in Magazines

This is a topic I intended to write about earlier. I discovered I knew less than I thought I'd known about the subject so postponed this column until I could do some research. What I'm going to be writing about today is just how I would approach print ads if I were publishing a comic book. Print ads were the only source of publicity back when I was "in the business."

Previews is published monthly by Diamond Comics Distributors and it lists everything that Diamond carries. Absolutely everything. If Diamond solicits orders for your comic book, it will appear in Previews, though it may be little more than a title, brief description of the book and the price. Comic book retailers use the magazine to place their orders with Diamond. The products ordered are expected to ship two months later, meaning the April issue of lists products shipping in June. Retailers aren't the only ones who read the magazine. Comic book fans can buy the latest issue of Previews and learn all about up coming releases. Put another way, any advertisement you place in Previews will be seen by every comic book retailer and their best customers. At the absolute least, you should work with Diamond to make sure their listing for your comic book is as striking as possible. If you can swing a full page ad to run near your listing, all the better. The pages in Previews are very large, so it's possible to reproduce pages from your comic book along with advertising text and graphics in a single page ad.

Wizard is an independently produced comic book magazine. At the absolute least, you should send them a press release concerning your comic book. Send a PDF of your first issue to the editorial staff along with the press release. Magazines regularly devote space to covering new comics and new publishers, so simply by sending the PDF you might get some free publicity. Of course, you'll also want to find out how much it costs to run print ads in Wizard.

The Comics Buyers Guide is the longest running comic book publication. It used to be a weekly newspaper about all things comic book related but has since changed to a monthly magazine. The CGB should be approached in the same manner as Wizard. I suspect ad space will be less expensive in the CBG than most of the other magazines. I always found the CBG quite easy to approach and work with back when I was writing comic books. (It doesn't hurt that the late editor of the magazine, Don Thompson, wrote some of the most favorable reviews of my work.)

Next, there's The Comics Journal. Before choosing to advertise in this magazine, I'd strongly recommend picking up an issue and also checking out the comic books published by Fantagraphics Books, the magazine's publishers. The Comics Journal does not approach comic books the same way the other magazines do. Unless there's been a major shift in attitudes in the last few years, they're not exactly into superheroes or most of the books from the big publishers. If your comic book is more in line with the books published by Fantagraphics, I'd say it would be well worth your while to approach The Comics Journal with news releases and for advertising. Otherwise, I think you'd be wasting your promotional efforts on an audience that isn't looking for what you're publishing.

Last, but definitely not least, there's Comic Shop News, which is published weekly, is so inexpensive many retailers give copies to customers and is aimed at producing that impulse buy right in the store. Further more, their website lists full color ads for as low as $79. With a weekly circulation of around 60,000 copies, CSN is likely to be your second best bet for print advertising after Previews (and maybe first if ad space in Previews is out of your budget). Each issue is no more than a dozen pages, so don't expect any kind of reviews from the magazine. However, they do have a news website where more coverage may be found, so there's no reason not to send news releases and a PDF of your book.

Note: While I recommend sending PDFs and the like to the magazines, you should always contact the magazine to find out whether they'll accept attachments before you actually send any. Not only is it good netiquette, the magazine staff will appreciate your professionalism.

There may be more comic book magazines out there than the five I've listed. If so, they're keeping a very low profile on the web. A quick trip to a good comic book store to scan the magazine shelves is a good idea. You never know what you'll find. You might even have a chance to speak to store owner. If so, ask where he (comic book store owners are almost always male) gets his comic book news and what kind of promotional material would catch his eye.

As always, post any questions you have in the comments section. I'm also still interested in ideas for further columns.
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