3 Questions to Answer When Building a New Publishing Line
by Tyler James
Five years ago, if you told me I’d be publishing children’s books, I would have laughed in your face.
But if you also told me that the children’s book line would quickly grow to over six-figures in sales annually, I’d stop laughing.
And then I’d ask, “How the hell did you do it?”
Last week, Eisner-nominated writer Jason Ciaramella, artist Greg Murphy and I launched the 4th Kickstarter campaign for the C is for Cthulhu brand of Lovecraft-themed books and products, published by ComixTribe.
Our previous three campaigns, all successful, combined for over $120,000.00 on Kickstarter, supported by more than 2,800 backers.
Though we had high hopes for this latest campaign for a new book Sweet Dreams Cthulhu, a Lovecraftian bedtime story, even we were amazed that it has surpassed our previous campaign funding record in just 8 days.
The endurance and continued success of the C is for Cthulhu brand, as well as our ability to continue to grow and expand it to new heights, has caused me to reflect on a few of the things that we did right.
I’m sharing this article in hopes that other aspiring publishers and brand builders can follow in our footsteps.
Three Important Questions to Ask Before Launching Your Publishing Line
What follows are three important question you should ask yourself before launching a new publishing line.
And if your line is already underway, but maybe it hasn’t quite taken off yet, stop what you’re doing and answer these questions now.
Questions 1: Who exactly do you want to entertain? (The more specific, the better!)
To be perfectly honest, prior to launching the C is for Cthulhu brand with Jason and Greg, I had never read anything by H.P. Lovecraft and couldn’t even pronounce Cthulhu.
Jason, on the other hand, was a huge horror fan, and knew that there would be a market for a Lovecraft-themed alphabet book for all-ages, especially one that was exceptionally well-done.
While 99% of parents out there are like me and can’t pronounce Cthulhu, the 1% that can still leaves a market of hundreds of thousands of potential customers for us to sell to.
And what we’ve discovered about the Lovecraft/horror geek parents market is that they are, as Russell Brunson describes in his excellent new book Expert Secret, “irrationally passionate” about cool books and products when they find them.
And because of that, they share them with the 2-3 other Lovecraft fans that they know.
Who share it with their friends, and so on.
Now, before you dismiss the rest of the advice I have because you’re thinking, “Well, sure, you’re just building upon an existing brand (Lovecraft) so of course you were successful,” a few things…
First, no question about it, it’s easier to build on top of something that already has an existing fan base.
That was true for Robert Kirkman with zombies, it was true for Stan Lee with superheros, and it was true for Walt Disney with animated cartoons.
Second, while it’s true that Lovecraft stuff in particular does well on platforms like Kickstarter, simply throwing cthulhu in your campaign is no guarantee for success.
(I can point to about a dozen campaigns that failed this year with that strategy.)
The key is to plant your seed in already fertile soil and grow something new, different, and remarkable.
And that’s what’s the C is for Cthulhu line has turned out to be.
Question 2: How will you consistently reach that market?
Once you’ve found clarity on who it is you want to entertain, it’s your job to go out and find them and put your book in front of them.
If you’re waiting for your market to find you, you’ll be disappointed.
Because even though word of mouth from your existing fans and excitement and energy pumped up during a big Kickstarter campaign is important, to build an enduring brand, you need to have a plan for the other 92% of the year when you don’t have a Kickstarter going.
Our strategy outside of Kickstarter launches has been stupid simple.
But it’s also a strategy that’s involved doing two things that many young publishers are 100% dead set against doing:
- Giving away the product for free.
- Spending money on advertising.
Virtually every single day since that first successful Kickstarter has launched, we’ve given away free copies of the original C is for Cthulhu: The Lovecraft Alphabet Book in exchange for an email address.
To date, the book has been downloaded more than 22,000 times.
What’s powered that has been an absolute commitment day in and day out to advertising on the Facebook platform.
This single advertisement, for example, has been running for months and reached over 100,000 people:
Most new publishing lines are reluctant to give their books away for free (even digitally) and don’t have the stomach to commit to advertising.
And I get that.
But I also know that a big part of the reason…
- Our Facebook page has over 25,000 fans…
- We sell books every single day on Amazon and on our CisforCthulhu.com online store…
- We’ve made deals with multiple international publishers for foreign translation rights for our books…
- Every single Kickstarter launch is bigger than the last…
…is because we’ve never stopped trying to grow our audience.
We get our books in front of new potential fans every single day.
Question 3: How can you get a quick win, and then stack your launches?
Now, once you’ve identified the market you’re going to entertain and found a way to get in front of them (preferably every single day, rain or shine) the next thing to do is to launch.
Kickstarter, in 2017 is the #1 platform in the world for creatives of all types, but especially comic creators, children’s book publishers, writers, and artists.
On the ComixLaunch podcast, for over 90 episodes, I’ve shared the mindset, strategies and tactics that work on the platform.
But the platform is always evolving, so I recently put together a brand new guide including 7 innovative strategies creators have used this year to get funded.
So, getting that first launch under your belt and making it successful is key.
And that’s what we did with the C is for Cthulhu Board Book Kickstarter.
But what many publishers make the mistake of doing is making their next launch for a completely different book or project… when 99% of your potential audience still hasn’t read that first book yet!
Instead, stack it.
Our second Kickstarter was for a C is for Cthulhu plush toy…
But we sold hundreds more copies of the original board book during that campaign…
And we also sold hundreds more copies on Amazon that month because of increased awareness for the brand during that launch..
And our third Kickstarter was for a C is for Cthulhu Coloring Book…
You guessed it, we sold hundreds more copies of the original board book and hundreds more plush toys during that launch as well.
And the coolest part?
Because we had an audience and we communicated with that audience regularly, we knew our launches were going to be successful before they began…
Because we were just making products that our audience told us they wanted.
And so, here we are, 10 days into our latest launch for SWEET DREAMS CTHULHU, and we’re already thinking ahead to the next one.
So, there you have it… three questions you need good answers to find success:
- Who do you want to entertain? (Be specific!)
- How will you reach them? (Every single day!)
- What will you launch first and then how will you stack? (And then stack again!)
The clearer your answers to those questions, the more successful your publishing line will be.
P.S. Interested in Kickstarter? Don’t forget to grab the New Free Strategy Guide – The Top Kickstarter Strategies of 2017.
Tyler James shares the lessons he’s learned managing ten successful Kickstarter projects supported by 6,000+ backers and raising more than $280,000.00 in funding on the weekly ComixLaunch podcast. Tyler is the writer of Kickstarter-funded comics and graphic novels including (The Red Ten, Oxymoron, Epic), and the co-creator and publisher of ComixTribe, an internationally distributed comic, graphic novel publishing company. He also runs the C is for Cthulhu Lovecraft-themed children’s book imprint that was successfully launched on Kickstarter and whose latest book SWEET DREAMS CTHULHU is on Kickstarter right now!
Tyler has also designed and produced award-winning learning games for companies like National Geographic and McGraw-Hill. He has an M.Ed in technology, innovation and education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.