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Guerrilla Marketing

GUERRILLA MARKETING
How To Make A Name For Yourself With Not Very Much Money At All
© Warren Ellis; 2001, publicado originalmente en WarrenEllis.com

I got a lot of mail asking me for advice on how to obtain and maintain that all-important profile for your work and your book.

I’ll preface this by saying that if you’re going to self-publish you should really be sensibly capitalized, and that includes having money to buy advertising.

However, I am aware that your passion for the work can easily outstrip your business sense. And in that situation, you find yourself now with a comic of yours listed in PREVIEWS and a name that no-one knows. This doesn’t just apply to self-publishers – people working for other people’s money are in the same boat, and need to consider the same action. Guerrilla Marketing.

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1) Be aware that you already possess the best available tool. Net access.

I’ve killed for the Net when I was starting out. Remember; on the Net, all things are equal. Online, my organ is as big as Rupert Murdoch’s. Warrenellis.com takes up exactly as much real estate as Disney.com. Intelligent use of the Net will do wonders for you.

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2) Get yourself a website.

There are places that will sell you a domain name cheap. There are places that’ll sell you hosting cheap. Look around. Odds are you’ll be able to find yourself a bargain within a day or two of beginning your search. You don’t need e-commerce bells and whistles just yet (and if you do, go for a site that’s low-upkeep on your end). The first goal is visibility, either for you or for your book. In the modern guerrilla marketing model, this may be your biggest single marketing expense.

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3) Begin building your press list.

That starts with discovering the addresses of every comics-related publication currently extant. Wherever possible, you want the names of news editors and review editors, too. You may well be able to achieve a lot of this on the Net. When I was a lad, you had to go to your local comics shop with pen and paper and copy them out of magazines’ indicia. These days, I can do my comics-press-based press releases via email alone. This also, of course, requires that you learn how to write a professional-looking press release. Which is easy. Just find a pro press release somewhere on the Net and copy its format. You can tell the pro ones because they end with either ### or -30- .

This job continues by looking through a decently stocked news vendor’s racks, as well as those of a comics store that also carries science fiction or horror magazines. Odds are that the content of your work might appeal to specialty interests. So you want to write down the titles and addresses of those magazines, too, and identify the relevant editors. And, you know, dig deep. If it’s on a shelf, then some fucker reads it, and that very same fucker might also fancy trying a comic that reflects their personal interest, even if that is chicken-strangling.

Be aware of how easy it is to get ink in some places. Here’s something you never see comics people taking advantage of, something I begged DC Comics to do (because I didn’t have time to do it myself at the time, damnit) and failed in. LOCUS is the major publishing-news magazine for the science fiction community. It gets far and wide, does LOCUS. And all they do is summarize press releases. They even have a section listing which writers have turned in which book manuscripts to which publishers. If you’re writing a science fiction miniseries for a publisher, then fuck it – fax or email LOCUS with a press release stating that Joe Bloggs has turned in all three parts of the serialized graphic novel GUTBUSTER to DC Vertigo, a division of AOL Time-Warner, for publication this winter.

Get ink. Get your name printed.

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4) Build the website.

The website is your floating press kit and the webbing in which you entrap readers with fat little wallets. Get an image of yourself on it – if it’s a caricature, make certain it’s not some retarded little doodle by your brain-damaged cousin (or a cartoon of you by Steve Pugh involving rabbits), and if it’s a photo, make damn sure you look attractive in it. If you’re lucky, people will take it off the website to use in articles and the like. It’s your badge. Make sure you can live with it. (In this regard – never let WIZARD run your photo session. Trust me. And please, for Christ’s sake, keep your fingers crossed in re: the photo shoot I just did for ROLLING STONE.)

Get your work on the site. Get stuff on there that people can read, and, if at all possible, stuff that people can look at. Get stuff on there that makes people stay a while. Clean simple design – because no-one knows who you are. If you were Neil Gaiman, people might hang around for endless graphics to load and Flash files to unreel. But you’re not, and people won’t have tolerance for a five-minute wait to find out who you are and why the hell they should bother with your site. My website has usually been text-driven through its many incarnations – and now you know why.

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5) First release.

You’ve got your book done, and it’s on the schedule. You need to let people know you’re out there. You’ve followed the magazines and you’ve got a sense of their schedules – when you need to send them stuff to get that stuff mentioned in the necessary timeframe. Now, here’s a secret – comics magazines love you. No, really. They have to fill column inches. To do that, they need news and material. You have that. They don’t. Therefore, they love you. Magazines like COMICS INTERNATIONAL will especially love you if you’ve got clean black-and-white art from your book to go with your press release. Because nobody loves pages and pages of unbroken text. They need art to break up pages. Give them good art, you’ve just doubled your chances of getting some ink out of them. And what does that cost you? Photocopy money, some stamps and an envelope with a card back. Guerrilla marketing costs pennies. Brian Bendis got noticed by Hollywood after performing a mail out of stuff that cost him no more than forty bloody dollars. You just have to think of it.

The online news magazines like Newsarama and CBR’s own Comic Wire should be fed, but remember that everyone online feeds these guys. Outlets like COMIC SHOP NEWS get starved for content in comparison. Be complete.

By now, you’ve gotten access to a scanner, to get art on your website. Same website you’ve sluglined your press release with, on the off chance that magazines give the URL with the article. So when you also send your press releases by email, you mention that you’ve got emailable art files available, also downloadable from the website. Keep pointing people back at the website.

Go to Usenet and announce your work, using the prefix [HYPE] in your post’s title heading. Look for ways to direct attention to your site on the various web message boards (where basic HYPE messages tend to be less welcome). Watch your website’s hit rate and referrals history, and discover what works. And as awareness slowly rises…

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6) Time to start playing harder.

What professional comics people do you think would like your work? Find them. Most of them will be online. Ask them if they’d be prepared to look at your finished lettered photocopied work – because it’s on the schedule but not yet printed – with an eye to providing a quote. Then get it sent to them. And once you get the quotes, get them on the website, put them in email and posts, and put them in your PREVIEWS solicits text and on the book. Note; the more famous people from outside comics you get to give you quotes, the better you’re doing. And you can find them, too. Actors have production companies, and production companies are ways to track actors down, because they keep offices there. Here’s a free couple; Nicolas Cage owns Saturn Films, and Patrick Stewart co-directs Flying Freehold Productions. Patrick likes FROM HELL and TRANSMET. Nicolas Cage is reportedly a big comics fan, and his assistants went down to a signing in LA to get Darick to autograph some TRANSMETs for him.

In the first instance, it’s a letter or and email, being nice, explaining the situation, asking for help, asking what the correct protocol is if you’ve inadvertently breached it, whatever.

In the death; get the quotes. Get the words from credible people that suggest, to the great unwashed, that you are worth risking a couple of bucks on.

Because that’s the trick, in getting noticed both by publishers and buyers. You create the sense that if someone else has dared to risk a few dollars on you, then they can safely risk a few dollars on you.