(I'm using very broad strokes here, there is a lot that needs to be fixed but if we can address this first problem, the others might just fall into place.)
MAKE good books and the fans will find you. ADVERTISE those good books and more fans will find you. Use a better DISTRIBUTION network and NEW FANS will DISCOVER YOU! We need new fans in the industry. We need a better distribution network; comic shops are wonderful because they bend over backward to sell YOUR book. They've kept the industry alive all these years, but there are so many places that don't have shops.
If the kids don't know what a comic book is, then they won't look for it.
I first "discovered" comics in a bodega* in the Bronx. I bought a few and later became a fan. Now to get all the books I liked, I had to go to 3 or 4 little magazine shops to get them. That was when I discovered a comic book shop. All of my books in one place?!?! Plus so many new ones: marvel, DC and indie books like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Mage: The Hero Discovered, Grendel, Elfquest, and much more. I learned there was more than Marvel and DC, and yet that was easy for me because I live in New York and back then a lot of shops were around.
Comics need to be Discovered again. They need to be in supermarkets, candy shops, ice-cream shops, big box stores, anywhere parents take their kids!
Don’t believe me? Think of this: we all (mostly) remember our first comic book (Batman, 1977) or the first comic we bought with our own money (Superman 1982), and, for some, when and where we were when the collecting bug hit. (7th-grade history class New Rochelle New York 1983 Marvel Team-Up # 144 & 145) However, many of us did not discover comics in a comic book store. We found them by accident or through friends or family. Nowadays kids are discovering them on YouTube or as giveaways at big movie premieres. Once you get the kids in it's great because they aren't discovering a new world, they are discovering a multiverse.
So share your story with us. When did you first discover comics?
*Bodega: A Hispanic/Spanish/Latin mini-mart, kind of like a 7-11, but usually smaller and more like a liquor store atmosphere. The commonly used term on the east coast, especially in the New York City region, where you will find many of these. The word came from the actual Spanish word for "grocery store" - la bodega.