Today kicks of the two day Success in Comics seminar in Las Vegas organized by Tundra creator Chad Carpenter and marketing guru Bill Kellogg. The two were also the first speakers each telling how they grew Tundra to produce a living outside of syndication.
Chad talked about the first dozen years were he started the strip and pitched it to the Anchorage Daily News and started building a local following that allowed him to begin selling his first book collection. He used a print broker to get the book published and distributed, but quickly learned to make the most off of each book, he had to sell it himself so he started attending fairs, and markets with lots of traffic and sold the books directly to the public along with other merchandise. He still does about 100 “shows” a year where he sits in his booth talking and selling his calendars, books and t-shirts. Within his first year of doing the strip for the Anchorage paper, his first book collection and starting to shows he was able to turn his work into a livable wage.
Bill came along in 2005. He was selling and distributing tourist merchandise and felt that Tundra could grow much bigger and he approached Chad and pitched a road trip to the west coast and see if he couldn’t sell the strip outside of Alaska. The trip yielded one paper. Bill spoke about the need to tailor the pitch to each editor, and that he found that trying to get appointments with editors didn’t work so well, that drop-ins were more successful. He also found that the number of papers the feature is in can be more impressive than the actual name of the paper. He tries to sell as much to smaller papers (or weeklies) as bigger papers and uses those numbers to help promote the strip to future editors. Bill also talked about using newsletters with fans to help spread Tundra’s fame and then urge fans to contact their papers and tell the editors about Tundra.