How to Sell a Robot

February 29, 2016 — Leave a comment

imageI understand if the words Self and Pity start to come together in your head, as you’re reading this. That isn’t my intention but I’m just letting you know it could happen. Self and Awareness too hopefully!

Here is what I’ve discovered about promoting and selling a digital product: It’s not easy. Particularly if you’re from a World of Print.

When I first self-published back in the mid-nineties it was a very different landscape. Print was the only option, of course. And getting your publication in front of people’s eyeballs took legwork; attending comic cons (such as they were back then in the UK), linking in with like-minded groups to network (like the internet without the inter), advertising in comic journals, sending your work for review in fanzines and getting your comic on the shelves either with Diamond or through face-to-face contact.

Sounds like a real hassle doesn’t it? Surely it’s better now, Flicko? Afterall an international network is only a binary ride away, millions of potential readers teetering on the edge of their screens. Comics digitised and accessed by anyone in a matter of seconds. No need for the ancient practice of stamped address envelopes and queueing in the Post Office!

Hey, it even cuts out the need to actually meet someone, avoiding those awkward conversations and sitting behind a trestle table self-consciously mumbling into your sketchbook in a futile attempt at self-promotion. A lot easier! Or is it?

Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s simply that I don’t really understand how to sufficiently ‘work the system’ in promoting my artwork amongst a crowded swimming pool of screaming caps-locked voices, virtual belly flops and attention-seeking inflatables. Maybe I just understand print better.

But it is hard (or impossible) to place a download on a coffee table for a random chum to casually pick up and flick through. The experience for creator and consumer to meet and chat online is not as warm or connecting as a face looking into another (possibly eye-avoiding) human face. Holding something tangible and solid, emanating a waft of freshly printed paper, is a lot easier to shove into a passerby’s hand than its electronic cousin.

Bits n’ bytes are great, don’t get me wrong, Ms Hynde, I just suspect we’re still learning how it works (for ‘we’ read ‘me’). It seems so much more diametrically different to print than I ever initially anticipated.

Of course it’s amazing to be able to send my comic round the world in the blink of a click, and the array of platforms that send my doodles and scrawls spinning across the globe to alien shores is mind-blowing, but… particularly for small press, something is lost when the opportunity for two humans to share a moment of sequential pleasure no longer takes place, or the gentle joy in picking up an unknown collection of pages reveals unexpected delights within a few flicks of 100gsm. Even the simple sales patter of talking about your lovingly crafted tale doesn’t have the same effect when transposed to a staccato computer exchange.

The present and future may be digital, and my intention isn’t to smash the spinning jenny, but I wonder if the increase of comic cons of various sizes is testament to this full-circle desire in today’s reader: to meet and talk and smell the comics and their creators.

Nostalgia? It must be if I’m reminiscing about the odour of comic artists! No offence, I’ll let you decide. Smiley face.

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