On Business: Monetizing Your Work

By | Monday, September 18, 2017 Leave a Comment
There are two parts to being a professional comics creator. The first part, as implied by the "creator" aspect, is to actually create comics. Seems obvious enough, right? The second part, as implied by the "professional" aspect, is to make money from comics. After all, that's really what distinguishes an amateur from a professional -- an amateur, by definition, does not get paid for their work. So to be a professional comics creator, you need to figure out how to create comics AND get paid for them.

Most creators, I think, focus on the creation side of things. In many respects, this makes sense. You have to learn how to create something before you can get paid for it, after all. Furthermore, a lot of creators create because they love to do it; so it makes sense that they'd want to spend time practicing and learning how to do it better. There's also an argument to be made that if you do something well enough, the money side of things sort of takes care of itself. (That's false more often than true, but it's a nice thought if you don't want to deal with the money side.)

But the "professional" side needs to happen too. Whether that's figuring out how to market and sell your own independent book, or how to read a contract from Marvel or DC, or just filing your taxes, it's a significant aspect to making comics professionally.

I have a Bachelor's degree in graphic design and a Master's degree in business. I've been working in marketing for most of the past quarter century. So ostensibly I know a bit of what I'm talking about.

And yet I'll be damned if I do!

There are comics out there that I think are fantastic, and the creator is doing all the "right" things in marketing/promoting their work, and it just doesn't seem to spark anyone's interest. There are others that I don't think are very good and don't seem to be marketed well, but people seem to just keep throwing money at them! And of course, there's all sorts of variations in between.

Which suggests to me that either comics run by different "rules" than anything else that's ever been marketed, or I don't know what the hell I'm talking about. Given that I've never been able to make any money off my comics work, I tend to think the latter.

So, my best advice to aspiring comic professionals is to not listen to what I have to say and instead find someone who's doing what you think is a good job. Then don't just try to copy them, but ask them what they're doing and why.
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