Earlier this week, almost out of nowhere, comic creators Ron Marz, Steve Niles and Jimmy Palmiotti came up with a concept called Skype Hype. And only a few days after coming up with the idea, they’ve already trialled and tested it, in what could be a bold move forward in how comics are marketed to retailers and fans alike.
The idea of Skype Hype is rather simple: using their webcam, creators make a beamed-in ‘appearance’ at any comic book store which invites them. This means the creator can talk to fans in-store and promote their new books, and it also provides an added incentive for people to come down to their LCS rather than buy online. If a success, this could then presumably lead to other in-store events – like writing/artistic masterclasses, or pre-signed comics being sent across specially for Skype Hype retailers.
Skype Hype was trialled only yesterday by Niles, who called in on two stores – Escape Pod Comics and Neptune Comics – to discuss the just-released Breath of Bones: Tales of the Golem #3. And whilst there are still some things which need to be ironed out, it seemed to be a decent success. I spoke separately to Palmiotti, Marz and Niles about Skype Hype, how it started, and where it could lead.
Steve: Where did Skype Hype begin?
Steve Niles: This started on Twitter with Jimmy (who dubbed it Skype Hype), Ron and I talking, quickly joined by retailers like Escape Pod Comics – with whom I’m doing my first Skype Hype session.
Jimmy Palmiotti: I was tweeting that it’s hard to do all the shows that are out there and be able to get all my work in on time.
Steve Niles: Conventions usually pay basic costs, travel and hotel – but everything else the creator pays for. For those who don’t sell at cons it’s always a total loss – a worthwhile one – but a loss nonetheless. Usually a con means 3-4 days away from work too.
Jimmy Palmiotti: Conventions are a huge commitment because of time and traveling, and then you do a show with big lines and the time between yourself and a fan is limited. For me, the main function of conventions, beyond autographs, are to meet and talk to the retailers and fans. That interaction is the most fun I can have at a show.
Steve Niles: Cons and store appearances are the best way obviously, but not many stores can afford to fly creators in and put them up in hotels.
Steve: So Skype Hype is designed to boost fan interaction in places you may not otherwise travel to, due to cost and time?
Ron Marz: A creator can reach lot of different locations, even on the same day, without ever leaving their office or studio. We can interact with fans, and hopefully generate buzz and sales on books, without the time and expense of travelling to a convention or signing. We can have creators from different countries, who are working on the same book, in the same “place” at the same time.
Jimmy Palmiotti: This way we can get around, talk from home and create a connection with as many people as possible.
Steve Niles: We have this technology that allows us all to connect, so why not use it? I’ve done comic tours and I can tell you they are rough. Rough on creators, on retailers, on everybody. With a Skype appearance we can be there anytime. We can do 3 stores a day, if this thing works.
Steve: How does this compare to a convention experience?
Jimmy Palmiotti: Not everyone can afford to go to shows, not everyone lives near a convention and not everyone has off weekends to do the cons. This is simple and affordable for retailer and fans alike and creates events driving people into local shops.
Ron Marz: Obviously this in no way replaces a face-to-face interaction, which I still think is a really important aspect to our business. But this is a supplement that’s easy to do, and doesn’t greatly impact everyone’s work schedule.
Steve Niles: Retailers can use it to help sell comics by the creators Skyping in. For fans to have access like this could be amazing fun for asking questions about current projects or comics in general. The possibilities are kind of endless.
Steve: How do you see this developing? Could this almost become a ticketed event?
Steve Niles: No, I can’t see us ever doing that. One of the things I love about comics is the easy access fans and creators have to each other. Charging to see someone on a screen seems a bit crass to me.
Now – signed books are another thing [the idea that retailers could order in pre-signed comics to sync up with creator appearances]. Everybody wins. Ron has been talking about this a lot, and I think we’re coming up with ways to do it.
Ron Marz: I think we’d love to have this become something bigger, and we’ve actually reached out to somebody for help in trying to organize this into more of a real thing. Ideally, we’d have a lot of creators and lot of retailers participating every week.
Steve: Steve, you participated in two sessions on Wednesday. How did they go?
Steve Niles: It went really well. Each place had slight connection issues, so we may try Google Hangout next. Overall I was struck by how relaxed the whole thing was. Everybody talked, everybody asked questions, and the hour flew by at both.
Steve: What are the next stages for developing Skype Hype as a system retailers and creators can use?
Steve Niles: This is something we’ve all talked about and tested various ways. I know Joe Hill did something like this promoting his new novel. Myself, Matt Miner and Brett Gurewitz all used Google Hangout to attend the Black Mask panel at SDCC this year – and it went surprisingly well.
Ron Marz: We need some infrastructure and logistical support in order to move it beyond random retailers reaching out to random creators. Not that there’s anything wrong with that approach, but I think we can do more good with an organized outreach. Once there’s some kind of structure up and running, I think it again allows creators to devote more time to creating comics.
Steve Niles: Ron and Jimmy are talking about organizing so we may have a hub where we can all be contacted.
Jimmy Palmiotti: We are talking to someone now that will get this together with a schedule. Until then I will be doing a couple to test drive the idea.
Ron Marz: It’s piecemeal right now, and even that’s a good step, but I’d like to take it to the next step.
Steve: Until we reach that stage, how can retailers get in contact if they’d like to arrange an appearance?
Ron Marz: A few stores have already been on touch, and we should be able to work out schedules for those. I’m ready and willing. The easiest ways to reach me are Twitter (@ronmarz) and the contact page on my website: http://ronmarz.com/contact/
Jimmy Palmiotti: My twitter is @jpalmiotti. Facebook works, and even at Paperfilms.com works for now. When we get it together, it will be easier.
Steve Niles: I have my website steveniles.com. Retailers can contact me through there, Twitter, or Facebook.