As the comics industry adapts to changes in marketing, creators have to spend more nad more time on business functions. Some are trying to find help doing that and iover in the UK, Tara Ferguson is aiming to be the one who they can turn to. She’s launched her very own freelance marketing company, named, clearly enough, Comics Marketing, with a logo designed by Emma Price.
Her background includes stints at Big Bang Comics in Dublin and on Titan Comics’ marketing team, gving her a wide ranging knowledge of how the industry works. “Being a creator in comics is not the dream job a lot of people are led to believe, there is much more work involved than just writing and drawing and I have found a lot of people are not as prepared for this when the break in. For creator-owned projects, the time and effort that needs to be dedicated to the PR and marketing of a title is often underestimated. There are people who are just not built for the act of selling themselves and what they create, and there are those who genuinely do not have the time to balance the work load it involves while also creating. That is where I step in and help,” she said in a statement.
Ferguson’s services include working with retailers during ordering periods, getting feedback from them, organizing signings and exclusives, and in general giving advice on how to manage in today’s marketplace.
She comes endorsed by Kieron Gillen of Wicked + Divine fame. “Good marketing in comics is more important than ever. Having a talented and experienced professional in your corner can make all the difference.”
She’s just launched her business this weekend at the Portsmouth Comic Con, but will also be at NYCC. We reached out to her for a few questions about her business and THE business.
THE BEAT: When did you get the idea for Comics Marketing?
FERGUSON: Making the jump into freelance marketing for comics is something I had been considering for a while. I’ve worked both in comics retail and publishing so I have an understanding of both sides. Having discussed the idea with friends in the industry over the last few months who work in retail, publishing, and also creators, I felt that now was the time to do it.
THE BEAT: Why do you think the comics industry needs marketing consultants?
FERGUSON: The amount of #1s in Previews each month has never been so high, and because of this good marketing is more important that it ever had been. Retailers and customers having a better, more informed understanding of what is hitting the shelves will result in easier ordering and higher sales.
THE BEAT: What kind of creators would benefit from this?
FERGUSON: There are plenty of reasons that creators may look at investing in marketing help. When breaking into the industry, especially when aiming for creator-owned projects, you jump in under the impression that you’re going to be a writer or an artist or a colourist etc, but then the realisation hits that you are also going to be your own project and marketing manager on top of this.
That’s a lot more work than sitting at your desk typing or drawing all day, and for a lot of people it’s not ideal. When it comes to the marketing, for many the act of self promotion and selling is just not something that they are comfortable with. You could be the next major writer/artist to break into the industry big leagues but if the idea of calling up retailers to convince them why you and your title are worth investing in is too daunting for you to attempt then you are not helping yourself or your career. On the other side however perhaps you are a creator who is fine with doing these things but your career is growing and you have less and less time to dedicate to successfully marketing your projects. In these situations creators can now outsource this to someone like myself which can ease their workload and stress levels.
THE BEAT: It seems like a strange time in the comics industry with so many people coming and going and sales up one minute and down the next. It feels like we’re on the edge of some big change? Any thoughts on this?
FERGUSON: Heavy question. I’ve been working in the comics industry my entire adult life, both in comics retail, and for a big publisher. Having first hand experience and knowledge from both sides of the fence highlighted to me exactly how big that fence has grown over the years. I feel like there’s a disconnect happening between what the publishers want vs what the retailers want vs what the industry needs. Now I’m not saying that everyone is at odds with everyone else, not completely. Some publishers are so close to being bang on, and that reflects in sales, but some are so far removed from what the retailers and public call for that it is causing a drain on the industry and that is where we begin to crumble. Ignorance in regards to your market is dangerous, we are a very small industry in the grand scheme of things. I’m summarising immensely here because I could rant about this for daaaaays, trust me.
We are definitely on the verge of a massive change, but I can’t see yet what it will be. I can’t even guess on if it will be a good change or a bad one, but all I know for sure is that so long as we have good people still in the industry and fighting for stability then comics will always be here.
Tara is contactable through firstname.lastname@example.org and will be
attending Portsmouth Comic Con in the UK this coming weekend, and New York Comic Con this October.