5 Things I’ve Learned From My Tween Son About Marketing Comics

By Maura Malfatto Elia, April 23 201

There is a fast-growing market for comics in the US and a lot of experimenting is happening here. Figures from Diamond Comic Distributors, the largest distributor for comics in North America, show revenues for the month of February 2015, up 22% vs. same month of the previous year.

So, what is changing in the way comics (and Manga) are marketed? What are the hottest trends in marketing for indie and self publishers?

I have asked an expert. My 11 y.o. son, a geek, a Minecraft devotee’ and a comics fanatic. I have been shadowing him and he taught me 5 memorable lessons.

These are the 5 takeaways.

1. COMICS ARE FOR VISUAL LEARNERS, RELUCTANT READERS AND…ESL STUDENTS!

Teachers know this. A visual learner and a reluctant reader is more comfortable reading comics than other genres. My son, being both, plus being an ESL (English as a Second Language) student, found this genre the better fit. He moved to America two years ago, without knowing a word of English and he was required to read books for school. With his reading level, he was only able to read picture books, which is not cool for a 4th grader! Luckily, his passion for comics and graphic novels rescued him from the Choo-Choo-Train and bears books. One takeaway: the school library market should not be neglected when marketing comics, considering that about 4,350,000 ESL students attend American public schools.

2. TO REACH YOUNG READERS, PICK THE RIGHT PLATFORM

About 60% of comic readers say they started reading comics by the age of 9, which is exactly the age when my son started. So, if you want to engage your young audience, be aware that my son uses You Tube for everything. And he is not alone: among tweens (teens aged 12–17), YouTube plays the biggest part as social media and searching tool, followed by Facebook and Instagram. But if you want to target girls, a new and fast-growing audience in comics, use Instagram: most of its users for this demographic are girls aged 8–12.

3. DIGITAL COMIC BOOKS? NO, THANKS

No matter how appealing the augmented reality is, how sophisticated the apps to read comics on digital devices are, comic readers want to read them on paper and ink. What about the common trend of bundling the printed and digital version of comics? My son just reminded me that he would not read the digital version, even if free. “It is not the same” is the definitive answer. He cannot do without the turning of pages, his collection carefully displayed on bookshelves. Comic book publishers would do well to limit digital content development to marketing.

4. MARKET LIKE A VIDEO GAMER

If my son knows of anything new in the videogame market, it is because he learned it from a YouTuber. These guys are gurus and the real movers in marketing today for tweens and younger audiences. Moreover, video games and comic books address the same audience. So, hire influential You Tubers in the videogame world and have them promote your comics. Who said that the final goal should only be improving the sales for the print book? Revenues can come from selling merchandising, movies, cartoons and everything that can turn comics into a brand.

5. SUBSCRIBE TO CUSTOMIZE

Buying print books, even on Amazon, is expensive in the long run. If you add the fact that videogame generation is immune to the concept of paying for apps or for what is on line, it means that every penny you want your reader to spend needs to be well thought. The best lesson I’ve learned from my son about the subscription model? “I would pay only if I could customize. Like in Minecraft. If I could change the story board, invent new characters, add features and maybe print it out, then yes, I would pay.” Publishers, take note!

Marketing Comics for Tweens, Social Media Platforms, 3 Takeaway. By Maura Malfatto Elia
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