So, I'd decided that I was essentially going to self-publish Comic Book Fanthropology. The upsides include lower start-up costs (via POD), more control over the look and feel of the book, as well as not requiring large print runs that end up killing a bunch of trees unnecessarily. The downsides include having to do all of the work myself, including any and all marketing. Here are my thoughts (currently) on some of the various marketing efforts that are possible, and how I might be using them (or not) in conjunction with my book.
Distribution: One of the reasons for going with Lulu as my POD service is that they have agreements with some of the major online book retailers like Amazon and B&N. The odds of me getting into any brick-n-mortars are pretty slim, even within the smaller comics community, if my work can be found while someone happens to be browsing Amazon anyway, that gives me a huge additional reach than just trying to sell from my site here.
Print Advertising: I don't think my book will appeal to the vast majority of comic book readers. I'm fully cognizant of just how niche a market I'm looking at. So I think broad advertising in comics and magazines would be a waste of money. However, there are a few niche magazines that I think cater to a not-dissimilar mindset to my own, and might be worth pursuing. Once my book is actually available, I'll be investigating options with some of the TwoMorrows titles. I'm hoping, too, that because I'm a regular columnist for Jack Kirby Collector, I might get some kind of price discount.
Online Advertising: Again, I don't think my book will appeal to a very wide audience, so I think any broad-based advertising services would be a waste of money. Obviously, I'll plug the book here but beyond that, I think advertising would be limited. Maybe a handful of specific sites, but probably only after the book is out for a little while.
Online Presence: Naturally, I created a web site specifically for the book: ComicBookFanthropology.com. Minimal cost and effort, and it's already getting some traction in search engines. Beginning on November 27, I will be serializing the entire book through small installments every Monday, Wednesday and Friday which I hope will A) draw more traffic/attention to the site, and B) give people a good taste of whether or not it's something they want to purchase. I've touted the benefits of "giving it away" in order to gain readers, and this will be a way of putting my money where my mouth is. I'm willing to bet that the people who read the entire book online and don't buy a copy is outweighed by the people who read some of it and then decide to buy a copy.
Reviewers: I did send out a few initial preview copies to get some basic feedback while I was still writing the book. (That's where David's quote from yesterday came from.) I'll be sending out some other versions of the final final iteration as well to a number of the higher profile bloggers/reviewers in comicdom. That doesn't guarantee good reviews, of course -- for that matter, it doesn't guarantee a review at all -- but the more exposure I get through that, the more people will have their attention given to the book. There IS the potential "danger" that the review copies are poorly received, but I'd like to think that I've done a better job than that. As a complete long shot, I might send a copy to Stephen Colbert.
Mailings: Since this is coming out during the holiday season, I'll also be sending out some Christmahanakwanzaka cards plugging the book. I'm not sure exactly who will be getting these -- probably most limited by a function of cost -- but they'll definitely be targeted to some extent at least. I'm also trying to nail down the timing of when to send these out.
Local Promotions: This is something I have considered, but it wouldn't be a very good experience for anyone in most cases. The POD model would mean that there wouldn't be books on hand for purchase, and trying to send people to the website would yield pretty limited results. If I were to do a signing or reading or something at an LCS, they'd need to buy a number of copies first to try to sell as a third-party retailer. Which doesn't strike me as likely. That said, if a retailer DOES want to buy a bunch of copies in advance, I'd be willing to come out for a signing or something.
The 'Sean Kleefeld Brand': A lot of my book's sales, I think, will ultimately rest of the 'Sean Kleefeld Brand.' That is, I think more people will buy it because they're familiar with me and my work than people who are just interested in the subject. I've certainly received more encouragement/feedback along the "hey, that's so cool that someone I know is writing a book" lines than "wow, what a great subject that ought to be discussed more often." What I'm hoping will happen, as a result of that, is that those people who buy the book because I wrote it will be pleased enough to tell their friends, who then go ahead and buy the book for themselves.
Ultimately, the book is largely going to be a personal referendum on my education. Did the various English and writing classes I took in high school in college sink in? Did I learn anything about page layout and book design with my Bachelor's in graphic design? Will my MBA in marketing let me sell more than a dozen copies of this?
So, like, no pressure, then...
Have I mentioned lately: eep!