Here’s what I’ve been doing in my spare time this past summer…
It looks like a mess, but when you put it all together, and get it printed into a slick looking sales brochure, it folds neatly into a kit that syndicate sales teams use to pitch a comic strip.
The Sales Brochure: What’s In It?
A sales brochure is a high-quality printed package consisting of many parts. That sounds boring but the kit is a ton of fun to read, and is filled with all kinds of cartoon art. Everything about the brochure is meant to be eye catching and promising: a card stock folder with front and back cover designs, character pages, a cartoonist profile and — here’s the most important part — 24 daily strip samples, and 8 Sunday strip samples.
This last part is what a potential client will look closely at when considering the strip for their newspaper, journal, or online site. It’s these samples more than anything else that will tell the client what he or she could expect from the comic.
Putting It All Together
Over the years, Tina’s Groove has seen three sales brochures (including this latest), and although the process hasn’t changed much, the strip itself has, and so it’s been a different experience for me each time.
Putting together a sales brochure begins with a conversation between the cartoonist and the syndicate editor. What’s discussed ranges anywhere from the gist of the comic to who reads it, and why an editor of a newspaper would want to include it on their comics page. At this stage everything that is fundamental about the strip is dissected, and examined. (If it’s a brand new strip, this process is pretty much straight forward in that the main objective of the brochure is to introduce the strip, launch it, and try to get the strip into as many markets as possible. If it’s a strip that’s been around for a few years, like Tina’s Groove, then the discussion involves what significant changes the strip has gone through that may draw fresh attention to it from clients.)
Brainstorming On the Front Cover Of The Brochure
This was the fun part (at least for me!). Following several discussions, the editor asks the cartoonist to go to the drawing board and — with everything that’s been discussed in mind — brainstorm on the brochure’s cover idea. Now I know I’ve said that the sample strips inside the brochure are what’s going to determine whether a client likes a comic or not, but the cover of the folder is hugely important because it will impress upon the client his/her initial reaction to the strip. First impressions are tremendously important, and what goes on the cover is just as vital as the sample strips themselves. Nobody wants a crappy, ill-conceived cover, least of all the sales person who has to pull it out of her attache case and use it to pitch the comic. So with that in mind, the cover image must do three things:
1) capture the essence of the strip and what it’s about with as few words as possible (or even better, no words at all).
2) hook the viewer’s interest in seeing more, and
3) be visually eye-catching and fun to look at
For me (and I’m sure for many cartoonists) this part was hard — it’s not easy to come up with one snapshot image that has to communicate so many things. I pulled out my hair for a few mornings, and then showed my editor 3 or 4 rough ideas, and he chose one. I had a blast drawing it:
A fundamental feature of my strip is that its main character Tina is an island of sanity in the midst of madness. This drawing, I believe, gets to the heart of that. It also tells the viewer that they can expect a certain degree of wackiness in the world of Tina’s Groove.
The Contents of The Folder
Following the cover, drawings and concepts for the rest of the brochure (inside flaps, and back cover) go through the same process.
There is a lot of discussion at each stage, where the cartoonist brainstorms, and submits rough ideas to the editor. The editor discusses the sketches and ideas with the head of the syndicate’s sales team whose input is essential. How essential, you ask? They’re the folks out in the field selling your stuff, and having chit-chats with the very people who are in a position to run your strip, and they’re the topic of part two of this article on how comic strips are sold…. so stay tuned for the second part of this post tomorrow!
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