Wednesday, January 26, 2005

If you build it, they don't always come

In this week's "Permanent Damage," Steven Grant has some interesting thoughts about how publishers launch and market new titles:
... You'd think, after a few decades in the business, comics companies would have a better grasp on how to launch titles. Not that the readership makes it easy. But (not to pick on Dan Jolley or suggest anything about the book, it just happens to fit the thesis) why take a book like BLOODHOUND and simply dump it onto the market? On the surface -- and that's as far as most people who go with anything -- it wouldn't appear to be a particularly salable property, at least not without some marketing muscle behind it. Neither writer nor artist have big followings (that I'm aware of, and, again, that's no reflection on their skills if they don't), DC has tried and failed with the basic concept - a non-superhero hunting superbeings - before at least once with a pretty decent book (CHASE), and it sits merely on the cusp of superhero comics when the direct sales market has skewed strongly toward superheroes since its inception. But it got the standard half-push: a splash for the first issue involving internet interviews and a little in-house promotion, and then DC cast its bread upon the waters, with predictable results. Not that DC's the only company that does such things; the anomaly is the company that doesn't. A friend in magazine marketing refers to this as the "Field Of Dreams" approach, after the slogan in the Kevin Costner film of the same name where he erects a baseball field in an Iowa cornfield on the promise from apparently God that "build it and they will come." Anyone paying attention noticed the people who marketed the movie didn't follow their own advice. It was promoted and promoted and promoted -- as the feelgood film of that year, with an "inspirational" message that also happens to be a fairytale. For the comics market, a Biblical equivalent might be more appropriate: cast your bread upon the waters and it will return to you.