Ethereal: A Case Study

By Mike Wheeler

Ethereal is a company that comes to mind when searching for an example of what a true publishing company should look like. Dustin Brunell is the head of Ethereal and has done a fantastic job in cultivating an audience that appears to follow every move he makes. He treats his artists and writers with professionalism and courtesy, pays them promptly, and has fantastic customer service. To my knowledge, you don’t see any customer complaints. He is open and receptive to everyone who reaches out, and you can see his passion for his product and his drive to put out top-notch material. Ethereal is only a 3-year-old company, yet 24 books are expected to come out just in 2023, according to Mr. Brunell in his YouTube interview with PopAnimeComics. Ethereal specializes in adult content comics, mostly anthropomorphic.

I believe the following points have brought this company a lot of success. I’d like to highlight the strategies, in particular, which I have admired coming out of Ethereal.

  • Craft a Dedicated Audience
    Dustin has mastered this. I’ve observed, over quite some time, the expansion of the Ethereal Facebook group—public for anyone to view and dedicated to everything Ethereal. It has 11.2k members and is always flourishing. Remember, this publishing company is ONLY 3 years old. The Facebook group keeps me highly informed of any progress, shows me all of their upcoming covers, and has a community feel. One of the first things that comes to mind when I think about Ethereal is this very active, very engaged group. Even Ethereal artists are in there, engaging with the community, and you can find many happy reviews, which builds trust with their audience.
  • Social Media Enthusiasm
    Apart from the Facebook group, while I was Facebook friends with Dustin, I noticed his constant enthusiastic posts on my feed from his personal account. He would always have team meetings and live streams about upcoming news. I remember artists would be on in the background, drawing live, while he spoke. I really enjoyed that content, and he was probably the most engaged publisher I’ve ever seen online.
  • Convention Appearances
    When talking with others about how they discovered Ethereal, I immediately came across a personal account of meeting Dustin in the convention scene, accompanied by an artist at his table. There’s also a banner right at the top of his Facebook group promoting which show he will be at next. Comic cons are lively communities full of engaged, enthusiastic readers—an ideal place to market yourself and make sales. It’s no surprise Dustin attends conventions.
  • Content Beyond Comics
    In Ethereal’s Facebook group, April Reyna, the company’s Art Director and an artist herself, promotes a “Kinktober” art commission special, specifically for the month of October. The ability to create content beyond just comics is a skill, and they do it well. I’ve also seen oversized prints, original artwork, and, of course, live streams as part of the content fans can consume when researching Ethereal. Giving your customers a variety of products, including variant covers (again, which Ethereal does very well), is important to appeal to many different interests and keeps fans excited and engaged.
  • Sell Direct Online
    Every Ethereal book went through Kickstarter initially, according to Dustin’s interview with Nerd Team 30. Dustin previously had an interest in working with Diamond but “couldn’t agree on prices,” and found a model that worked, which included cutting out the “distribution middle-man.” (Source: Nerd Team 30 Interview). Ethereal sells its issues on their website (ethereal-comics.com) and also in their Facebook group, in addition to their Kickstarter campaigns.

In conclusion, selling comics is an uphill battle in a crowded market, but cultivating your own passionate audience, like Ethereal has, alleviates reliance on mainstream publishers and distribution channels. It allows you to connect directly with the comic fans most likely to love your work. By consistently engaging followers across multiple platforms, you can build lasting readership and sales over time. With your audience at your back, the possibilities for success are limitless.

At the time of this publication, we reached out to Ethereal via Dustin Brunell for comment. Mr. Brunell, unfortunately, declined to comment for reasons unknown, and he has since blocked us on social media. Therefore, we do not have any interaction with him at this point. We wish him and his company well, and we are grateful to live in a country that provides the First Amendment and freedom of the press.

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