The “Small Product Lab” was a 10day challenge to make and release a small product and put it for sale on gumroad.com. There were sushi recipes, how to podcast tutorials, templates and more.
“Over 2100 people went through or are currently going through the challenge. Of the 820 who were part of the inaugural contest (more on that below), 70 launched products on Wednesday, June 24th (the deadline). Yes. It’s legitimately and incredible hard to produce a product in such a short time.”-gumroad
I just want to say I’m thrilled to win, and quite surprised. I found out about the challenge by way of knowing about Gumroad via buying Kyle Webster’s art brushes there for Photoshop and I toyed with selling digital comics via gumroad as well but lacked the time to follow through with all my other commitments. I get the Gumroad email newsletters and this came in and I actually encouraged my girlfriend (Ally Monroe!) to write something up. I entered to challenge myself but to help her get started with this sort of informational product biz online. So I told her I’d help with her graphics if she wrote the copy to her deal. She wound up coming up with a GREAT automatic budgeting system for busy creators like us who also have full time jobs and busy lives. (btw her system is called BUDGET AUTOPILOT and it’s brilliant. Get it. Do it!)
My product itself was done much quicker than hers, seeing as how I decided to pretty much deliver something I already use almost daily. A great digital Photoshop template specifically configured for those who draw comics. It’s something I’ve built up slowly as I actually worked. I cleaned it up a bit and at one time I was actually overthinking it a bit, wanting to PACK it full of awesome! Like I wanted more color swatch sets specifically for comics, more brushes, etc…. it was Ally who suggested I put the brakes on and not overthink it. It’s the SMALL product challenge for a reason. So I spent the time cleaning things up and making the message pretty clear and then targeting my specific nice audience to tell them about this.
Now, in my case, I was SUPER NICHE. Not only is it for people who draw comics. It’s for people who draw digitally or want to. You have to have Photoshop. You have to have a graphics tablet. The price tag of $5 is a no brainer. There are seriously other templates out there now selling for $30 and $50 that are just generally basic files. I feel that price is a bit out of the target market… comic artists are generally poor! Believe me, I know!
Here are my initial launch notes (drawn in my trusty Field Notes!) :
I guess if there’s one “secret” or clue, it would be that everyone knows something that someone else needs or wants to know. In my case? I know about drawing comics and drawing them this way and I know other artists ask me about Photoshop and think it’s still super expensive. (it’s only 9.99 a month for the single program at Adobe Creative Cloud, do it!) – In Ally’s case, she knows that the budget system she put in place for us worked wonders for our busy lives, so she did that. I don’t suggest just making something up because you heard it sells well. It has to come from an authentic place. Sure, there ARE people selling a lot of stuff they don’t really care about on the internet…. that’s them. Don’t let that be you. Be real! It’s awesomer that way.
And secret two is… transparency+community. Since I joined this with a group of people who were in a closed Facebook group, there was a lot of sharing and encouragement for each other. Lots of people helping lots of people. I wish I would have had time to take more part in the daylight activities but I have a day job first and foremost. I was still able to do what i could to check in on lunch for the twitter chats, and scour through in the evenings. When I started to get some data, I shared a screenshot of my account hoping that others would follow suit or maybe we could gleam something or learn something from the data.
In my case, my niche is very small and generally very poor (artists), like I said. But to me, it’s really not about making tons of money. I can make a little on a little product. It’s a product I believe in and I know is well worth 5 bucks. If you’re going to pursue this further, keep thinking small. Because a little on one small product is fine. Start building more small products as you go. I’m going to guess you can scale that somehow. Right now I have ONE small product. But what if I had TEN? We’ll see… I have a lot of comics to draw first!
In closing I just want to say HUGE thanks to Gumroad & everyone in the Facebook Group. Also Kyle Webster and his brushes which made me hear of Gumroad in the first place. My girlfriend Ally Monroe who is amazing and smart and I can’t wait to share the prizes with you so we can make new stuff together!
Comic Creators who may have stumbled on this post… I was also inspired to begin a new newsletter via my Gumroad page where I will share tips and resources I find for comic creators and self publishers. You can follow me and sign up for updates at http://gumroad.com/djcoffman/follow
That’s all from me! BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD!
This is my project for the Gumroad Small Product Lab challenge, wherein you produce and launch a product in just 10 days! It launches on Wednesday June 24th but can be pre-ordered now at https://gumroad.com/l/comictoolkit#
Like the graphic says, it includes my personal 11×17 comic page template for Photoshop which is packed with layer groups and layers you can turn off and on to see my notes. You can customize the overall layout adding your logo to make it your own branding, and it’s printable if you want to print it out on traditional drawing board for finishing. I prefer to do all of my comic drawing in one Photoshop file, utlizing layers groups. Roughs, pencils, inks, colors and any other major step gets it’s own grouping so that everything is organized. There’s even a built in perspective path tool and extra composition guides.
As an added bonus, I included 6 of my custom comic brushes that I created and personally use in all of my freelance work. Check out the link for more.
This isn’t for complete beginners. Some basic knowledge of Photoshop and a graphics tablet to draw on are required. For the launch special it’s a special price of only $5 for the kit.
So, I’m creating a new small product to launch of Gumroad as part of their #SmallProductLab Challenge. It will be a “Digital Comics Drawing Toolkit for Photoshop” which will include my 11×17 master template a bunch of other stuff. (you can actually get a free sneak peek if you sign up for my art tips newsletter) That’s launching June 24th.
It occurred to me that I talk with many creators who believe Photoshop still costs $600+ to get started. Or they illegally pirate the software and run the risk of jail and fines. UGH! So I actually sent this tip out via my newsletter just now, but wanted to post it here as an example of the type of information I will share on the newsletter if you want to signup.
How I use Adobe Creative Cloud for making my comics & more
Hey everyone! So I’m working on my new toolkit for Photoshop (June 24th!) and I was thinking about the people who may not have Photoshop or think it’s unattainably expensive. It certainly used to be. Now they have “Creative Cloud” and offer individual or the entire suite for a monthly fee, as low as 9.99 to start for Photoshop.
Now, this is NOT a paid endorsement of any kind for Adobe. I just talk to so many artists who still believe they have to spend hundreds of dollars or illegally pirate old versions (not a good idea!!!) When you can have all the new hotness for a a small monthly fee. I wanted to share the link with the pricing plans for you: https://creative.adobe.com/plans
The thing I personally love most about Adobe’s Creative Cloud is the great file syncing and libraries. So say I’m drawing a page here on the iMac, and I save it, it syncs to the cloud and then POOF! Automagically it’s over on the SurfacePro or my other computer if I want to work on something there. Also the libraries sync as well. So If I use Adobe Shape on my phone, it will create vectors and pop them into my library in all Adobe programs. That’s rad.
Are you worried you know nothing (Jon Snow) about Photoshop or Illustrator? Don’t. There are TONS of free resources and video tutorials on Adobe’s site. In fact, I’ve been wanting to teach myself Adobe Muse. It’s a drag and drop website maker, no code required! (Supposedly!)
That’s enough from me today! I need to get to work on some art and my toolkit. If you have any questions about Creative Cloud or how I use it, feel free to reply and I’ll get back to you. – DJC
If you want more tips like this one, see here.
Here’s a quick process art of Spider-Man (Miles Morales). I’m playing around with a new master template in Photoshop. I keep the pencil layer pretty rough and loose if I know I’m inking my own work. These days “inking” is pretty much the process we’d use back in the day for super tight penciling anyways.
Shout out to KyleBrush.com (Kyle Webster) – On the coloring I used busted out his new build up marker set which mimics Copics or Prismacolor art. Very fun to use, and very affordable if you draw digitally.
First up, I always enjoy the drive up to New York City. I enjoy the city too, as an artist there’s so much to take in visually, it’s pretty damn awesome. I also find myself thinking “Wow, no wonder this is where comics were born.” in the sense that you can just look around an imagine these epic things taking place up in the sky, or smashing through buildings. NYC is escapism at it’s finest hour. In another life, I would have moved there in a heartbeat if given the opportunity to do so.
I decided to go pretty last minute after a tweet I saw a few weeks back from CB Cebulski about Marvel possibly looking at work there, plus there were a ton of our favorite creators and my old colleagues there too, PLUS we love New York. It just seemed like a no brainer road trip to do what we love.
As an artist seeking work at Marvel it’s also nice to have a feel for what’s coming and read everything going on. So I wanted to get the scoop on what was up with Marvel and hints to what was coming soon. That way if you do get the call, you can jump right in and have an idea of what’s up.
So the Marvel Panel…
God bless those guys and girl for being patient with the mic situations, apparently the speakers were all wonky, and then there was a neighboring panel next door to contend with…. wait, “next door” is too kind. It was behind a neighboring curtain which seemed an odd setup for these “theaters” for paneling. A minor inconvenience as the mighty Marvel panel moved on with top Marvel creators Charles Soule, Brian Bendis, Marguerite Bennett, all dropping knowledge and appreciation on fans. Also of note, moderator Rickey Purdin, who is pretty new at Marvel, did a great job of leading the panel and keeping it fun for the audience.
The biggest thing I took away from that panel was that these people friggin care about the stuff they are making and a lot of thought and planning goes into this. Not some willy nilly “reboot” some news sites were on about. As I’ve been away from comics for some time, it’s a refreshing thing to step back into.
New ideas and characters are being published, and stories are progressing forward instead of rebooted again and again. I was also impressed with the idea of Cosplay photo cover editions, as it seems like a way for Marvel to say, THANKS FOR DRESSING UP & LOVING US SO MUCH. I’ve heard some creators complain about cosplayers at shows “not having money” or being in the way, but when I see cosplay I just kinda smile and think… WOW MAN. Those fans are super passionate. This will probably increase the amount of cosplay now, but maybe it will make people work on EPIC costumes and not just putting a shirt over their head. (but hey, black mask Daredevil outfits get a pass)
Oh, and for Star Wars fans like me… there’s going to be a mother fraggin LANDO CALRISSIAN comic! I like the way Charles Soule said the character would be written as a bad gambler always chasing the next big bet to cover the last fail. Excited for that. Alex Maleev draws an awesome Lando!
Business of Comics panel
The business of comics panel was headed up by writer Alex de Campi (the writer of wrongs) and she had some good info for beginning creators about bad contracts and things to avoid. I wish I would have had panels like this at the comic cons I grew up with, but sadly for years nobody wanted to talk about these types of things for fear of being blackballed or whatever. I’ve signed a few bad contracts in my day, but I feel like I’m all the wiser now for it, and it totally makes me appreciate everything they have to say. It’s truth. Listen! One thing I wanted to share for fellow creator friends, if anyone was in any trouble with rights, or “fuckery” from companies as Alex called it, there are lawyers who will rep you for like $25 bucks. See www.calawyersforthearts.org for details. There was also a nice page rate graphic I’ll have to dig up. I get a lot of aspiring creators asking me about that stuff.
On a personal note…
It was great to run into old friends in comics. People genuinely happy to see me and that I was back at this. I’ve been away for a bit and out of the hustle and flow. Running into Bendis randomly, who embraced me with a big hug when he realized it was me (I look completely different now) and humbling had words about my art, it meant a lot to hear. Bonus: I was able to pull Ally out of Jason Latour’s line to say SEE, I told you I knew that guy. Bonus bonus side note… Ally was in line for Latour and I guess fans in line were grumbling about “wow all those people are waiting in line to see Bendis and he’s right there…” and then I come bumbling along and wave her over to meet my old friend. Sorry suckers! BOOM BOOM STUDIOS FAN FOR LIFE. Seriously though, I left the show feeling very humble, grateful and inspired. This is such a small industry, knowing that it is one where people ultimately take care of each other, makes me proud to play a part in it.
At some point Ally says…. “Dude, it’s like people just thought you were gone and didn’t know where you went.” And I was gone. But now here I am again.
The 3 rules….
I’d like to end this entry with the 3 rules of show business…