03 June 2009

Step 5: Trying to sell the damn thing!

So this is where I find myself today, a few months after my so called ‘soft’ launch on Facebook in February, with the tough task of trying to sell books to people who don’t seem to be getting it yet, how cool and awesome graphic novels are and how it has the potential to reinvigorate reading for a large amount of people who have long since lost interest, or who find it difficult to read but still wish to do so.

But also for people who do read, I think graphic novels offers a wonderful opportunity to gain a fresh perspective on what reading can be, and that a good graphic novel still provides the essentials of good fiction: a gripping story with engaging characters that gets you all excited and chatty.

Of all the advice I’ve researched about the requirements for creating exposure for one’s book, the thing that gets mentioned most often is the need to have some sort of web presence, a face to represent your book on the internet. And for me that meant having a website.

And this is where I had to channel MacGyver again (see Step 4), because not only did my budget allow for absolutely no wiggle room to pay a web designer to create my website, I didn’t want this to be just any ordinary book website with the typical book synopsis, author bio and cover shot. I wanted the website to be a total immersive experience into the world of the book, which meant creating unique content exclusive to the website that revolved around the universe the book is set in, all conceived in the style of a news website, and all created by myself.

Which meant becoming nothing less than a hands-on control freak.

The thing about me is that at heart I’m so much of an artist, and up to that point I’ve been so absorbed in artistic considerations and concerns that I didn’t really have the desire to get to grips with technology. I’m not a Luddite, and indeed in the past I got excited by all things tech, but I’ve recently realised that I don’t really want to get too deeply involved in technology than is really necessary to advance my art.

But having no choice in the matter, I decided to teach myself to create a website from the ground up, which meant a lot of back and forth and trial and error and throwing my hands up in the air with the inner workings of html and css. And so together with my previously established skills in creating graphics, I went about creating a whole website from scratch. (hand-coded the damn thing from Notepad for goodness sake!)

But having a website by no means guarantees that you’re going to create awareness for your book, because now there are also such things as Facebook (which both I and Project H is on), Twitter (my life is not that interesting) and MySpace (forget it, my eyes hurt just thinking about that site!)

And even if you’ve exhausted yourself getting all that sorted, it still doesn’t mean people are even going to care about your book let alone buy one, which I have painfully discovered. Not only is there such a lot of stuff out there vying for people’s valued eyeballs, we’re dealing with a graphic novel here, something that is unfamiliar to people, and you know how people like stuff they know, which is why the Brad Pitts and the Hollywoods will always make billions and your Slumdog Millionaires just have to settle for, well, a measly million. (Maybe should’ve called it Slumdog Billionaire)

Promise, no sour grapes there, it’s just the way of the world, right? Yep.

Of course, one of the key factors in creating awareness is media exposure, and considering that having a no-string budget meant advertising was totally out of the question, the only other option for me was free publicity via reviews and interviews, which entailed sending out a bunch of press releases to a bunch of editors and crossing all fingers and toes hoping that they’ll be kind enough to respond to little old me.

Because as a first time graphic novelist you’re at the mercy of fussy editors who in their infinite knowledge decides that people don’t really want to hear about graphic novels, not until the overseas media taps on their window and tells them it’s okay. I tip my hat to those forward thinking editors and gatekeepers (hi Mike) who actually keep their eye on interesting overseas developments like graphic novels and are excited by innovation and want to expose audiences to things that are off the beaten track.

And to prove my point about the apparent lack of local interest, I had to send my book halfway across the world to score my first review on the US website Ain’t It Cool News. If there’s any South Africans reading this who wish to move graphic novels forward in this country, can I ask that you try and get as many people to read this review as possible so that we can perhaps start getting people to realise that if someone from overseas has enjoyed it, maybe they will too. What a concept, hey?!

Here’s the link to the review: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/41194#4

I have also since scored myself two radio interviews, which I think went quite well, but neither of which really resulted in any kind of significant traffic to my website. So the revolution continues to expose graphic novels to the masses and blow this thing wide open. Who’s with me?


  1. Sounds like a proper mission, you do have my respect! I found the novel on Kalahari, I will get it with my next order from them.

  2. I appreciate the respect Rowan, thanks. It's nice to know that at least somebody is reading this. And if you do get the book and finish it, I would like to hear what you thought. Peace.