No One Knows What They're Doing!

By | Monday, July 01, 2013 Leave a Comment
If you haven't seen this, the Periscope Studio folks hold sort-of regular lectures for their interns on various aspects of cartooning. The most recent was from Erika Moen on the subject of self-promotion. Moen spends about a half hour talking about conventions and another half hour about the internet.

I found her takes on these topics interesting on a few levels. The convention booth setup thoughts were of interest because I was just talking about that not very long ago. And, not quite ironically, I included the Strip Search episode in which Moen and her competitors are challenged on the subject of booth setup! In her lecture, she does go beyond booth setup, but I find it interesting that she makes little mention of backdrop material. She does say that she likes to make herself the focal point and have posters, etc. lead people's eyes towards her, but she doesn't mention anything above eye level, which seems to me rather important as I detailed before.

She talks about a number of other aspects of being at a con that I've heard before in varying capacities and venues. Good to hear all that coalesced together in one place. She had a few ideas I hadn't really considered before, too, which is great.

Moen's talk about the internet is interesting to me, too, because... well, that's kind of my bailiwick. I do web stuff for a living, plus all this business with blogging and internet columns and the whole thing, so it's something I should be something of an expert on. Here again, Moen brings a lot of thoughts and advice that I've heard from various people over the years, and distills it all down to about 30 minutes. There's decidedly less here that I didn't already know/consider, but as I said, this is my thing, so I didn't expect anything really new.

That said, the thing that struck me most about the whole piece was that it has a big, honkin' "this is what works for me" caveat on it. Not only does Moen expressly say that several times, but since the lecture occurs in Periscope Studio itself, several other PS members chime in on various topics and ideas. Not only chime in with additional thoughts and examples, but chime in with flatly contradictory material! Not in a, "No, Erika's got it all wrong" kind of way, but in a very friendly, "You know, here's what works for me" kind of way.

And in a lot (if not all) of the cases, the differences are necessary. A long-form serial narrative versus a one-tier gag strip. The speed of the artist's drawing ability. The type of audience they're cultivating. And a million other variables, only some of which get explicitly mentioned. And while there are a lot of "guidelines" for all this stuff, they are by no means hard and fast rules. Each comic, by its nature, is a unique and individual piece of creativity* and thus requires a unique and individual method of marketing.

All of which means that no matter what advice anybody else gives on how to handle conventions, or booth setup, or how to Tweet, or what should be on the website, or whatever -- even the stuff that everybody swears up and down on a stack of Bibles over -- if that doesn't work for a specific creator, then it doesn't work for that specific creator. No one else knows a comic like the person working on it, and it's utlimately their decision on whether or not any given piece of advice should be followed.

You can try to make the next Penny Arcade or Oatmeal or whatever, but even if you can precisely mimic their style and humor and branding, or maybe even improve on it, they werre there first and launched in a different environment with a different set of circumstances. And no one else knows what exactly you're doing right here, right now. No one else knows exactly what circumstances you're working in. You can try to do it by the numbers, but recall the words of Patrick McGoohan: "I am not a number! I am a free man!"

* If it's not, then you seriously need to reconsider it! What value is creating and presenting any work of art if you're not trying to say something that hasn't already been said? Replicating someone else's work can be very useful for your own education and edification, but why would anyone care about your comic if you're just trying to duplcate somebody else's work?
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