On Business: Some Basic Rules

By | Monday, June 01, 2015 1 comment
I've bought more than a few comics over the years that were... not great. Ones that I knew were not great when I bought them. Ones where the art looked sub-par, and the creator(s) pitching me the comic from across a rented table didn't make the story sound all that good either.

But, you know, I get that not every artist is going to be able to draw like Bryan Hitch right out of the gate. And I'm sure that Neil Gaiman's earliest stories could use more than a little polish. And I know that comics is a hard business. An astoundingly hard business. An incredibly, amazingly, profoundly hard business. So if a creator's got a good hustle, is clearly passionate about what they're doing, and it's not something I've seen tried a million times before (Listen, do we really need another straight, white, male superhero? Marvel and DC really have done that ad nauseum, and I'd wager that your version -- no matter how inspired you think it is -- is not actually covering any new ground), I'll try to help out if/where I can.

What surprises me, though, is when creators -- even these new folks who are clearly trying to make their own comic for the very first time -- make some seemingly mind-bogglingly even-rookies-should-know-these mistakes. Let's cover a few of them...
  1. Credits -- Include the names of everyone who worked on the book. I just looked at two entirely different comics I picked up back at C2E2 where no one was creditted at all anywhere in the book. You want to use a pseudonum or something to protect your identity, that's fine, but put something in the book!
  2. URL -- If you list a website in your book -- and you absolutely should! -- make sure it works. Yeah, I get that there can be technical glitches that can cause sites to come down unexpectedly and you might not want to keep old sites up indefinitely but, again, I found multiple books that only came out a few months ago that A) used bad web addresses or B) used none at all.
  3. Website -- It's fairly easy to get a decent looking website these days even if you're not a designer or programmer. It's even fairly easy to set up an online shop. But I'm not encouraged to buy something if your website A) doesn't cite credits anywhere (see Rule #1), B) has links to pages that were set up in a template but you never bothered to fill in with actual content, or C) provides zero manner in which to contact you. Again, problems I found from recent purchases.
  4. Timing -- I know you're excited about your book and you think it's going to be the next Walking Dead. And I know you've read up about world-building and transmedia and marketing. But if this is your first book, you really don't need all that yet. Just work on the comic itself for now. You work on all those angles right at the start, you'll have a lot of extra shit lying around when your comic doesn't take off right away. I've got a goodie tote bag here with a promo comic, a white paper explaining a huge backstory, a button, five wrist bands, and a poster. But their Kickstarter for a $100,000+ animation project raised less than $10,000. It may eventually be awesome, but you're doing too much, too soon, guys!
  5. Tabling -- Also, recalling where I saw some of these folks on the convention floor, I might suggest you probably paid WAAAAY too much for a booth, given your skill-set and level of notoriety. I don't know exactly what any of you were actually charged, of course, but I'm betting a table in Artist Alley would have been cheaper and you would've been more likely to make a profit. Or at least break even. I mean, if you see creators like Scott Snyder and Gail Simone -- who are currently popular and have lines of people waiting for autographs -- if you see them with just an Artist Alley table, what makes you think your book is going to move so many copies that it warrants a full booth?
Like I said, I've bought a lot of books to help struggling creators out. It's a tough market, and I want their voices to be heard. But if you're not even able to get some of these fundamentals down, I definitely won't bother trying to help again.
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Ania said...

Sound advice, sir!