On Business: There's Your Problem!

By | Monday, May 09, 2016 Leave a Comment
If you've read my pieces here on the business of comics -- or any my webcomics pieces in various venues -- for any length of time, you've probably seen me talk about how working in comics isn't just about creating comics. It's selling and marketing and social media this host of other things that aren't directly about making comics. Naturally, not everyone is going to be equally adept at all things, so the trick is to play to your strengths as much as possible, and bring in whatever help you can for your weaknesses.

But that requires three things. First, you need to know what you want to do in a broad sense. Second, you need to know yourself well enough to know which portion(s) you'd need assistance with. Third, you need to know/find people who can do those things. The second and third pieces seem pretty obvious, I think, but let's look at that first bit: know what you want to do.

"What do you mean, Sean? I want to do comics!"

Well, yes, but along what path? Where do you want to end up within comics? Is your goal to draw The Amazing Spider-Man or is that just in service of becoming an editor or even publisher? What do you want to say/do with your comics and is that something that can be done within an existing structure, or would that have to be something you create from scratch?

Many years ago, I wanted to write a book about comic book fans. My desire didn't go much further than that. I wasn't out to become some fandom expert, or sell a million copies of this book, or anything like that. All I wanted was to be able to say I wrote this book. I eventually got around to writing it, did a little shopping it around at publishers, and ultimately just published it myself just to have it out in the world. You can now go on Amazon and buy Comic Book Fanthropology. Yay, me!

But since then I've mostly just putzed along without much of a plan. That's not to say I haven't done anything, but my work hasn't been very focused. At least not in terms of my "career" in comics.

Which goes back to that question: where do you want to end up within comics? If you haven't addressed that question, if you haven't given thought to where you want to be, you can still make progress but not go anywhere.

Think about this. At many gyms, they provide a free consultation after you sign up. You meet with a trainer or fitness expert, and they walk you through a general workout to assess your current fitness level. And one of the questions they inevitably ask is: what are your fitness goals? Are you trying to lose weight? Build muscle? Improve your endurance? Are you training for a race? What exercises they might recommend are going to be different depending on what your goals are. What you need to do train for a race is different than what you need to do to bench press 250 pounds which is different than what you need to do to lose your stomach flab. There might be some overlap in individual exercises, but they're going to be different routines with each set of goals.

The same thing with comics. If your goal is to draw Spider-Man, that requires a different set of efforts than if you want to tell an amazing comics story about a kid who loses their uncle. If your goal is to do a comic that's so awesome it wins an Eisner, that's a different set of efforts than trying to make a living off a webcomic. That's not to say these are all mutually exclusive, but they don't overlap completely either. Just like those exercises.

There's nothing wrong with just striving towards general improvement without regard to where that takes your career, but that approach does make it more difficult to determine if you are indeed making progress if you don't have a final goal to measure that progress against.
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