On Business: Popular or Passionate?

By | Monday, December 28, 2015 Leave a Comment
Before Marvel Comics was Marvel Comics, it was a low-end publisher of knock-off material. Martin Goodman's business plan was basically to see what was selling well, and then make as many knock-off versions of the same thing before readers moved on to something else. Although he had been doing that for decades before, that's basically where the Fantastic Four came from. "Hey, this Justice League thing is selling really well! We should get on that right away! Stan, gimme a superhero team!"

That's not at all an uncommon practice still today. Marvel started doing superhero movies really well, and we've got a glut of superhero and comic book movies now. They started spinning them all together in one great big "Marvel Cinematic Universe" and people are trying to copy that model. Variant covers, line-wide event-driven stories, universe reboots... anything that does well, inside of comics and out, gets noticed and copied. Usually ad naseum.

Some players do it better than others, but there are two general approaches to this. One: do it as fast and as cheap as possible. Two: do it as big and as loud as possible.

Now, I bring this up because most creators simply do not have the resources to do big and loud. At least not at the level they'd need to. The Walking Dead started in 2003, and soon picked up steam. The zombie genre started seeing more prominence in comics, movies, TV shows and you can't swing an undead cat without hitting a zombie cosplayer at a convention any more. But the only ones that really register are the larger scale ones, like Ash vs Evil Dead. Even though half the creators in any given Artists' Alley are doing zombie related material, you don't know what those are. Those creators just don't have the volume.

So the trick, at that scale, is to do them fast and cheap. Get on board as soon as possible, and jump off as soon as you start being overtaken by the guys doing it louder and bigger.

The problem, though, with that approach is that you're always chasing the quick buck, and you never know what's coming next. Maybe Westerns will become popular again. Maybe dystopian thrillers. Maybe retellings of ancient Chinese legends. Whatever it might be, you have to know enough about them to get something out in the market quickly before the people who are more expert in that subject/genre do something. It's do-able, as far as go-to-market plan is concerned, but it requires a constant and ongoing survey of the entire market. Which sounds ridiculously exhausting to me.

A better approach might be to focus on what you're really passionate about. If that coincides with something popular, that's fantastic, but if not... well, you're still probably going to get exhausted (this time by trying to promote your work to an audience that's less primed for it) but at least you'll love what you're working on.
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