It’s con season in the comics world, which means that someone has to captivate attendees into panels, signings, parties, and other events. I’ve done it, and it’s not easy.
But there’s hope. Here is some advice.
Create an online home for the event.
It can be a new website, a new page on an existing website, a Facebook event page, or all three. All of your publicity for the event should direct people to this home, and all of your news about the event should be there. It should also include your contact information for the press and other curious souls.
Tell the world about your event as soon as you know that you’re going to do it.
If you can announce guest speakers, giveaways, or any other attraction, do it; if you know the time, date, venue, and other details, say so. But even if you don’t, get the news out anyway. Start soaking your event into the brains of journalists and con-goers.
Include your contact information and the URL of the event’s online home.
Get to the point.
You can find lots of online advice about formatting press releases, ads, and other announcements, so you don’t need it from me. But whatever you write, keep it short. Readers turn away if you use an ocean of words to present a puddle of news.
For instance, don’t lard your releases with hype like “Company X is proud to announce the biggest news in comics since the invention of the panel!!! You’re not ready for this, people! You think you are? Really? I don’t believe you! But okay, if you insist, brace yourselves, suck in your gut, think happy thoughts, and here we go …” Only Stan Lee can get away with that stuff.
Instead, begin announcements with the top news — say, the addition of a new speaker to a comic-con panel discussion. Follow up with context: information about the speaker, the panel, the convention, and so on. Add any other news that you may have. Finish with your contact information and the event’s URL.
For extra shortness, change passive voice to active, delete adjectives and adverbs, and use the substitutions that I wrote about here and here.
Blocks of type are dull; photos and drawings attract the eye. Every time you announce a person important to your event — say, a speaker on a convention panel discussion — include a photo. If you can’t get a photo, use other art, like a drawing of a character associated with the speaker.
Use lots of white space. A cluttered page, online or on paper, pushes eyes away.
Use an easily readable font against a contrasting color, and don’t set your font smaller than twelve points. No one wants to squint at your announcements.
In addition to your event’s online home, put your announcements into every venue you can. For instance:
Social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google Plus, you know the sites.
Comics news media. The Beat, CBR, Newsarama, Bleeding Cool, ComicBook.com, Comics Continuum, The Comics Journal, Comics Bulletin, Fanboy Planet — you can find these and other comics news sites on Google and Alexa. Each news site has information on how to submit press releases and tips. Don’t forget about podcasts such as Comic Book Club, The Comic Book Podcast, iFanboy’s podcasts, and Comic Geek Speak, or video channels including Variant Comics, NerdSync, WatchMojo, and Comic Drake.
Comics forums, discussion boards, and groups. Plenty of sites have forums, and some sites, like The Comic Book Forum, are nothing but forums. Even some sites that don’t specialize in comics have forums, like Reddit’s Print Comics and Webcomics subreddit. Beware, though: board members shun flacks who contribute nothing but publicity blasts. Join in conversations and become a friendly part of the community long before you announce your event so that when you tell the community about it, everyone will listen.
Local news media. Your event’s at a con, and the con’s in a community. Contact the nearest and biggest newspapers, TV news shows, radio news producers, online news sites, and other media. Include college and university news organizations; students can account for a huge slice of con attendees. Ditto for servicepeople if the con is near a military base; every base offers news for people in uniform and their families.
Local retailers. Comics retailers and their customers may want to be part of your event. Use the Comic Shop Locator Service to find the shops. Look into the Comics Professional Retail Organization and Comic Book Industry Alliance, too.
People participating in the event. You may think that the speakers on your panel or artists doing a signing at your booth don’t want to receive your press releases about the event, since they already know about it. But they may want to send the news to their contacts, colleagues, and friends, and you want them to. Encourage them to post the news on their websites, social media pages and other places. If you hear that con attendees plan to go to your event, ask them to post the news as well — and to invite their friends.
Everyone you know. Announce your event to everyone who could possibly show up. In addition to email and social media, use Eventbrite or Evite, especially if you’re throwing a party. Put a link to your event’s online home in the signature of every email that you send to anyone, even if he or she can’t possibly get to the con; your event may be in New York and your invalid mom may be in L.A., but Mom may know people in New York who’d want to see you.
When you add something to the event, spread the news.
If you add a speaker to a panel discussion, an extra half-hour to a signing schedule, or a door prize to a party, let the world know. Each addition may build excitement and anticipation.
Next: Publicizing the event at the convention.