Tuesday, January 5, 2010

ICBW: The Debrief

First off, we would like to thank everyone who helped make Indy Comic Book Week as successful as it was. We've had some positive feedback so far and in general people really seemed to have liked the event. Enough to maybe make it an annual thing. Thanks to the creators who put out books and pimped us on blogs, twitter, and facebook; you guys really gave us a strong spread of books to present to retailers and fans. You guys really blew up the twitter and blogverse with ICBW. Huge words of Thanks to the retailers who took the risk and carried our books on their shelves. This event could not have happened if it wasn't for you guys taking in so many books. And thanks to the fans for coming out and supporting independent books; this is the age of self-publication and you guys showed us that it's a viable part of the industry. This would include thanks to the bloggers and podcasters who had us on to talk about ICBW. And finally special thanks at Ka-Blam, ComiXpress, Haven Distrubution, and Tony Shenton for giving us the support and means we needed to really make this happen. So to everyone, bravo and thank you!

Secondly, we at Space-Gun Studios have something we call the "Debrief". We usually do this after every convention at dinner where we go over what worked and didn't work at the show. And for ICBW, we would like to include all of you in this conversation. Points of conversation are usually this:
  • What worked (why did it work and how to expand on that)
  • What didn't work (why didn't it work, can it be fixed or should it be ditched)
  • Ideas for next time
We would like to hear your honest opinions. If you are reading this post, we want to hear from you. We may not be able to respond to each person/point but we promise to read everything that comes in. And we do mean honest, good and bad. You can respond to this post publicly or email us privately (indycomicbookweek [at] gmail.com).


  1. A few folks have said that they'd love to see this become an annual event, regardless of whether Diamond has another skip week or not. Now, that might take some restructuring of the concept -- the idea might have to be "sold" to retailers a little differently -- but if you guys DO choose to do it again, you'll have an incredible amount of support. I hope you think about it.

    For me, there wasn't really anything that "didn't work", but there were a couple of things that I thought people should be more mindful of in the future:
    1. Give the retailers some incentive! I know you all already know this, but it bears repeating: put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself, "What would I want to be getting out of this, if I were a retailer?" I'm NOT saying that you should be giving away all your books for free -- you certainly COULD, but at a certain point the comic becomes too much of a money pit to do things like that -- I'm saying, give them a hefty discount or some nice free schwag or offer them free ad space in your books or whatever. Give them a reason to want to help promote your book that nobody's ever heard of before!

    That said, I should note that the retailers this year have been OVERWHELMINGLY supportive. They've just been awesome, really. The ones I spoke with were, for the most part, even more excited about the event than I. Of the over 50 stores I contacted, 42 said "Yes" immediately, a handful didn't get back to me, and only THREE said "No." Of the three who said no, only TWO lived up to the stereotype of the Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons. The vast, VAST majority of retailers have been nothing short of incredible.

    2. Advertise, advertise, advertise! As has already been said, Twitter and Facebook and just general word of mouth helped ICBW spread like wildfire. But you can always do more. We could buy banner ads on heavily-trafficked sites, or an ad in Wizard or whatever -- those would be things that I, and I imagine many other creators, would be willing to chip in for.

    --Adam O. Pruett
    Publisher, Small Press Comics


  3. I loved that the event was something that made me solidify a deadline for my first book - I got my feet wet and was happy overall with the result. It is up to each participant to keep the fire burning and the ICBW gave us a rallying cry which was very effective on our end.

    If this is to become an annual event we need to assess the steps needed to keep the event alive in the minds of retailers and others thru the year. That's easy.

    It would probably be good to form a volunteer network per city to do kind of a comic shop crawl for the next event - put bodies and not just copies into retail stores willing to participate. Leverage the social networks into doing something in person.

    I think this should be an annual event - perhaps even a quarterly one - as that seems to be sort of a magic number for those of us with day jobs to come out with books.

    This is going to sound silly - but maybe we need our own "Oprah" - something akin to Oprah's book club that just takes the awareness of ICBW to another level.

    There was a huge learning curve for me with this event - but I think it should continue.

    Thanks guys.

  4. I'm late to respond, but I think ICBW went very well. I'm crossing my fingers that there is a next year, so we can do things a bit bigger for our own book and I can spread the word to more stores here in Maryland. Advertisement on Comixpress and Ka-Blam would be a plus, also think about promotional stuff at the Small Press Expo. I'm certain most people that participated this year will be holding tables at SPX in 2010. Now is the time to spread the word, if you guys do make this annual, we the publishers can advertise at conventions like SPX all year (even at Baltimore Comic Con, which is run by Diamond but...screw that!). I'm really excited about this and I think the grass roots nature of it will allow it to spread like wildfire.
    -Troy (www.bamncan.com)

  5. I would, naturally, like to see this become an annual event. As much as waiting to see if Diamond will have another "skip week", I think have a firm date set for all future versions is the best way to go - that way we're not all dependent on Diamond's schedule.

    To respond to Adam's comment, I think some kind of incentive to retailers is a great way to go. Offer them ad space online and in some of the books that will be available, and I think it could go a long way.

  6. For me, ICBW 2009 was a great success! I found it interesting that overwhelmingly, my primary support came from New York and Texas (to everyone located in these states - thank you!). I also found it interesting that zero support came from Canada (which is where I'm located). That was unfortunate, and something I'd like to rectify next go-round.

    What worked is a "strength in numbers" approach to getting the word out, and generating some hype for each-other. It was a brilliant idea to capitalize on Diamonds "no ship" week. I think this ICBW event was a good excuse for retailers to give us a shot and support our work.

    What didn't work for me was the smaller orders were lucky to break even after the cost of shipping (I was shipping across the boarder so it was pricey). And many of those orders were on commission, so it'll be interesting to see if I'm able to re-coup any of that cost. But the goal was to get the books on new shelves, so regardless the objective was acheived. The solution of course would have been to let Haven Distro handle the distribution - though this time around everything was too "down to the wire" that shipping them that way may have taken too long. If we do this again, it'd be useful to contact the stores earlier, and have the books shipped to Haven in advance.

    For next time, I think we need a way to centralize contact information, and create an online "catalog" to make it easier for stores to place an order. When I spoke to store owners the first week of December, this was their main comment. Perhaps if everyone were to work directly with Haven, this process could be even more streamlined. Another thing stores asked for was some way to preview the book. I had an interactive version of my comic at http://www.ultraist.net so they could see what they were getting. The last thing I was asked for was promotional material, so moving forward, that is something that should be ready to go in advance.

    Finally it would be great to build up more media hype. There were a few great interviews I noticed on some comic news sites, but I was kinda surprised there wasn't more. If we do this again, we'll have to get the war drums beating sooner, and louder.

    But like I said above, for me ICBW 2009 was a great success, so thanks to everyone that helped make it happen. I really hope we can do it again for 2010.

    Mike Kitchen.
    Ultraist Studios.


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