Unless we’re talking about the Batman, Superman, or Green Lantern logo, the idea of having apparel for a comic book or graphic novel – especially up-and-comers and indies that are just finding their audience – might not seem worth the time. But there are some unexpected ways that having an apparel shop can hugely benefit comic book creators and artists online as well as offline. Here are a few clever ways that will show you how to market your comic book with an online shop.
The Basics: What’s the point of having an apparel shop for a comic book?
When it comes to Artist Shops, we’ve been amazed at how many comic book artists and creators have jumped at the chance to open a Shop. And what’s more, comic book-based Shops like Archie Comics and Wicked + Divine have done exceptionally well with sales. Graphic novels (and comics) and graphic tees go together quite well, and people dig them. But knowing how to market your comic book in clever ways is the key. Here are a few basic benefits to having an online shop for your comic book.
PRINT TEES TO SELL AT CONS
If you have a booth at a con, you’re gonna wanna have some swag to sell alongside your comics and art. Offering some unique apparel at your booth is a great way to attract even more attention and sales. And printing tees to sell won’t break the bank, either (which is a very real concern after dropping money on a con booth – they ain’t cheap!) Remember, you can order from your own Shop at the base fee!
PRINT TEES FOR YOUR CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN
If you’re trying to get your comic book off the ground, print designs as giveaways for your Kickstarter, Indiegogo, etc. And when you get a million backers, order from your Artist Shop and you won’t have to pay any extra for things like printing designs with multiple colors, plus did I mention you only pay base fee?
MAKE THEM COSPLAY-friendly
Make your shop a little meta: fill it with tees and apparel that characters in your comic wear, or that feature symbols that are seen in the comic. It makes the t-shirt a little less promote-y and can even pass as subtle cosplay.
PRINT DESIGNS ON MORE THAN JUST TEES
You can’t go wrong with a good tee, but people can get picky about tees. And running out of sizes at a con is always a bummer. Try offering some designs on zip pouches, art prints (ideal and crucial to sell your comic art!), and tote bags.
The examples: Unique ways comic book artists are using their Artist Shop
Opening an online apparel shop is already a pretty unique way of promoting your comic, but there are dozens of ways to make your designs and your comic book, characters, and story stand out. When it comes to knowing how to market your comic book with an online shop, one of the best things to do is to look at what’s been working for some of the prominent artists and creators in the industry who have successful Artist Shops:
MAKe YOUR PRODUCTS ‘INTERACTIVE’ WITH THE COMIC
Example: “Wicked + Divine“
I mentioned that you can make your products almost cosplay-ish when you offer designs that are worn by characters in the comic. And the Wicked + Divine Artist Shop does exactly that! They offer a mix of designs from the comic book’s title logo, to a fictional band tee reppin’ a popstar Goddess in the comic, to super meta tees that were pulled right off of characters in the story.
Featuring your designs on your characters is also a great way to promote your apparel and comic in a super creative way. Character concept artist David Ardinaryas Lojaya does this with his Artist Shop, drawing characters wearing apparel from his Shop and posting the images on social media (see below).
PROMOTE YOUR PERSONAL ART AS WELL AS ART FROM THE COMIC
Alexis Ziritt sells designs in his Artist Shop based on the comic he illustrates, Space Riders, but also sells designs that promote his unique art style first. And Dustin Nguyen’s apparel designs feature art from his comic Descender that both current readers and potential readers will find rad, but also has quite a bit of art that’s separate from the comic.
OFFER MORE SUBTLE DESIGNS THAT WILL PEAK CURIOSITY
While you should have some designs featuring a cool cover image of the comic or your comic’s logo, etc., I’m a firm believer in selling designs on tees that are a little more vague (individual characters, symbols from the comic, etc.) Think of it this way: Bethesda Studios selling a t-shirt that says FALLOUT 4 across the chest v.s a vintage-looking t-shirt with a pip-boy on it (pip-boys are from Fallout 4). One is kind of a logo ad for the game, the other is something you have to know something about the game to understand. And if you don’t, it just looks like a cool shirt.
The Shutter Artist Shop is full of designs and characters that are straight from the comic without blatantly saying “SHUTTER COMIC” anywhere in the design. And Cliff Chiang’s Papergirls Artist Shop ranges from designs that feature more subtle Papergirls references (above image on the left), to Papergirls issue covers (above image on the right) that feature the title.
FEATURE VARIOUS ARTISTS’ WORK IN YOUR SHOP
Example: “Archie Comics“
If you have various artists illustrating your comic, ask if you can include some of their designs in your online store (and probably offer some commission for each sale). You can then ask them to promote the design across their own social media and channels, spreading the word even quicker. Plus, it mixes up the shop a little bit. The Archie Comics Shop features classic Archie art as well as art by illustrators Annie Wu and Fiona Staples, just to name a few.
Example: Zen Pencils* (above)
You can get creative and take some lifestyle shots of your apparel and products, then create a style guide, gift guide, lookbook, or just announcement post! These are super sharable on social media and make for great content to post on your comic’s website or your blog (which you should have!!)
*I know, I know: he’s a comic artist, not comic book artist!
Knowing how to market your comic, graphic novel, or comic art takes some trial and error. But having an online shop to go along with it is a tactic that classic titles like Archie and newer – but increasingly popular – titles like Wicked + Divine are using as a clever way to supplement as well as market their comic. Give it a shot for yours!
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We’re an artist community built on the power of helping each other succeed — if you’re reading this and have tips of your own to share as far as how to market your comic book with an online shop, please let us know in the comments! Thank you!
Illustrations done by the amazing Katie Lukes