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A Friday Rant: The Perplexing Non Publicity for many British Comic Publications

Egmont Publishing Managing Director Cally Poplak

Egmont Publishing Managing Director Cally Poplak

The latest issue of InPublishing, a magazine covering all aspects of newspaper, magazine and digital publishing – available free to those working in publishing – and which publishes all its features, free to view, online – has just interviewed Egmont Publishing‘s Managing Director Cally Poplak.

Cally began her career as an editor, working with household names like Michael Morpurgo, Lemony Snicket, William Nicholson and Julia Donaldson. Now MD of Egmont Publishing, she sits on the Board of Egmont International and is a publisher with a passion for publishing what children of all ages love – from favourite characters to classic brands, award-winning fiction and picture books to inspirational non-fiction, entertaining magazines to ground-breaking apps.

 The interview is wide-ranging, outlining Egmont’s history (although neglecting to note it no longer owns 2000AD, even though it gets a mention) and its current publishing slate, which includes both licensed magazines and its own titles. There’s interesting insights from Cally on things such as cover mounts, digital publishing, parental guidance and more.
Egmont’s UK range currently includes Lego Star Wars, Angry Birds and Barbie – plus its own titles, such as TOXIC. We Love Pop launched four years ago and features celebrities such as Justin Bieber and the blogger Zoella, music news and make-up tips. The Disney Frozen magazine launched last year with an impressive debut ABC of just over 91,000 and titles such as Thomas & Friends, Disney & Me andTOXIC have been growing at between four and 10 per cent a year.

Cally feels the planet’s newest arrivals – the company’s target audience – are not digital natives, but print. Guided by anxious parents and drawn in by its tactile qualities, kids spend their early years enjoying traditional media and the children’s market is thriving, although as Cally feels if they could just increase purchase frequency a smidgen, it would be doing even better.

Well, not wishing to knock their obvious success without it, but perhaps if Egmont actually published press information about their titles in some comprehensive manner, including covers, then their potential readers might know they were “out there”. Given that almost every title they publish is also poly-bagged, so you can’t leaf through it at the news stand, some online previews might be an idea, too?

Of course, they’re not the only comics publisher with a haphazard approach to online marketing to their consumers, with some reliant more on the welcome intervention by a title’s editor to get the word out about new issues to fans and the comics press.

I’m not alone in being a bit critical of the haphazard, random publicity many publishers give their comics. The same print edition of Inpublishing carries a feature by international editorial consultant Alan Geere spotlighting six pre-school magazine titles, including Egmont’s Disney and Me and Thomas Express, with comments on them from a panel of children. Apart from Peppa Pig, none of them come off well in terms of their online presence (some magazines don’t have a web site, or one woefully out of date).

If the publishers aren’t even reaching their comic’s fans through a web site or dedicated social media, how are comics sites expected to cover their titles?

Obviously, I’m sure they email subscribers with news, but those of us covering the industry won’t see that kind of activity. Regularly promoting new issues of a licensed comic is also dependent on support and a fast turnaround of approvals on press copy from the licensors, and some are truly awful at giving that kind of support.

I’m aware the number of web sites regularly covering British comic releases is small, and we’re all doing it alongside busy day jobs, and all of use are pretty much drowning in information kindly supplied by enthusiastic creators anxious for coverage of their small press title or project*. But when you have dedicated supporters of British comics like Lew Stringer apparently working out, solely thanks to a title’s in-issue advertising what a publisher’s upcoming plans are (the major revamp coming up for Panini’s licensed Marvel titles for example), then you’re in trouble (although I should also note that someone appears to have given the Panini UK comics web site a deserved kick up the backside since I last looked at it, because at least its new comics listing is now, thankfully, up to date).

Kudos, then, to the publishers and marketing folk who are actively reaching beyond their subscriber base to promote their comics on a regular basis – especially DC Thomson (Commando in particular), Rebellion (2000AD, in particular) and the team at Titan Comics (although more on your UK publications would be great).

As for others – well, I’m sorry, but to be honest in terms of trying to gain new readers, there are folk in the British independent comic publishing who put you to shame…

* Apologies once again to those of you who have sent us stuff and not seen it covered. It’s not for a lack of wanting to covering, it;’s for a lack of time. If you;d like to write for downthetubes, please do drop us a line!

About John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative" who is currently working as a freelance editor for TITAN COMICS, as Creative Consultant on the new DAN DARE audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the LAKES INTERNATIONAL COMIC ART FESTIVAL and LANCASTER COMICS DAY. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 25 years, starting out at Marvel UK, where he edited a number of the Genesis 1992 books with Paul Neary, including DEATH'S HEAD II and WARHEADS. At Marvel he wrote strips for THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS, THUNDERCATS, DOCTOR WHO and co-created SHADOW RIDERS with Brian Williamson and Ross Dearsley. His numerous credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines, where he was Managing Editor. He also edited STRIP Magazine and worked as an editor on several audio comics for ROK Comics, including TEAM M.O.B.I.L.E. and THE BEATLES STORY. He has written comics for Marvel UK, Judge Dredd Megazine, Lucky Bag Comic, CGL (an Italian publisher), STRIP Magazine and ROK Comics; and edited some of Titan's British comics collections including Dan Dare and Charley's War. Most recently he is writing CRUCIBLE as a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and DEATH DUTY and SKOW DOGS with Dave Hailwood for the digital comic 100% Biodegradable.
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