We live in the age of the Geek. As little as 20 years ago people who worked with computers, or played video games , or read comic books past the age of 18 were mocked, ridiculed and marginalized by the greater populous. Today everyone is free to discover subcultures that in the past would have been inaccessible to them. Comics have become more and more accepted in society as a valid form of art and literature. In spite of all this, the sales of comics in general continue to decline. We as comic book enthusiasts are a dying breed in a world where we should be thriving.
The question seems to come up often: How do we bring new people into the comics world? What I think about is how I as a reader can share my love of comics with others. How can I be a good spokesman for the comics I love and get people who aren't your typical fans of the medium interested? People say that you need to know your audience. More often than not the general public thinks comics are for kids, and mostly about super heroes. How do we show people this isn’t the case and get them interested?
I already have personal factors working against me when trying to convince someone to try reading comics. I'm a full time IT professional, I.E. "The Computer Guy" which is frankly a strike against me. When the conversation begins I'm already working from a deficit. Sales people will tell you to know your customer, know what they like, know what they want and sell them your product based on that. This is how I approach sharing comic books with potential new readers.
The people who usually end up asking me about the comics I read are friends, family and co-workers. People I know well and already have an idea what they might like. My friend Sophia is a prime example. Sophia is an avid reader, on average reading 2 or 3 novels a week. She had never read a comic book, graphic novel, etc. before we became friends. Each Wednesday when I would come from the shop to work she would see me and began to ask me questions about them. Like most typical non-comics readers she assumed comic books were all super-hero comics written for kids. I know Sophia well enough to know she doesn't care about super-hero books, she and she isn't a science fiction reader. I knew that she liked to read romance, fantasy and mystery novels, so when she began to ask me about the comics I was buying I immediately began to think of what titles fit best with the books that she read on a regular basis.
I ended up giving her two series to read to start out with, one being my first 5 trades of The Walking Dead and Blankets by Craig Thompson. After a couple of weeks she told me that she had read both books and loved both of them. We had a long discussion about each book, what we liked about them, what we didn’t and what else there was out there like these. That was the start of her new found love of comics. These days Sophia is reading 10 regular series a month and we have frequent discussions about the comics we're reading. Knowing the person I was selling my "product" to helped to get them interested in books they might never have discovered, and created another fan of comics.
What I have learned about sharing my love of comics with people is this:
- Don't be pushy, no one wants to do something they feel is being forced on them. I'm passionate about comic books, but I have learned to dial back the enthusiasm to be able to talk with someone about why I love comics and what they might like about them too.
- Show your love of comics without shame or fear. If you go to work after buying your books for the week, carry them in, read them in public on your breaks. Lead by example. People's natural curiosity will bring them to you if you show your passion for comics publicly.
- Have a mental list of your "go to favorites". A variety of books you love and would recommend to people depending on their interests. Remember, that trade, stack of issues, or graphic novel you loan to someone will most likely determine if you have made a new fan of comics, or turned someone off of them forever.
How do you share comics with people? How have you learned to show what’s great about comics to people who have never read them before? What mistakes have you made in the past and what did you learn from that? It’s up to all of us, the community of comic book fans, to bring people into this wonderful world we have discovered. The more people we have to enjoy comics with the better it is for all of us, so be the best salesfan you can!