CREATORS FRONT FOR DIVERSITY IN COMICS

Comic creators, and aspiring comic creators, Eric Powell of THE GOON fame lays it all out for you…

You know, I’ve been telling all my friends and colleagues this stuff for years. I get asked the question a lot… DJ, why didn’t you take your quick 15 minutes of “Hero By Night” fame and go run and try to work for Marvel or DC? Or Why don’t you just self publish it on your own?

The message in that video really strikes home my feelings on the whole matter. But here’s another element… even if you DO decide to publish  your own comics, the numbers Eric states in the video are 1000% accurate. You will likely end up spending your own money and not making ANY when you self publish a comic through the direct market system. I’ve been saying this for years in my own goofy publications like YIRMUMAH… That whole comic book industry market is BROKEN. I make more money drawing a comic strip twice a week for a ukulele company than I would if I were to self publish through the direct market comic book industry system. It’s just plain DUMB. All of the shitty numbers Eric states are the direct result of the broken system.

You should do it because you love it…

DUH! Yeah, of course you draw comics because you love it… but you’ll love it even more when it’s paying your mortgage or feeding your kids. When it’s a REAL profession and not some pipe dreamy hobby you do at your kitchen table after you work a 9-5 or ruin your personal life with it. So while it’s AWESOME to encourage creators to make their own creations and diversify comics… how do they make money doing this?

Indy Creators… here’s the formula for how you make money without losing your asses.

Here’s the formula. Stick to it, it’s simple.

#1 Launch a webcomic of your project or graphic novel. Start building an audience online immediately.(Check out the buzz Doug Tenapel has made for his new RATFIST comic) – Need help launching a webcomic? Check out the COMICPRESS plugin for WordPress. (which ratfist is also using) Or hire or consult someone like me to help you launch or host it.

#2 Don’t launch it if you’re only going to put up a page a week. It waters down this formula and kills it. ONLY launch if you plan on at least a Mon-Wed-Fri , or 5 days a week update schedule. If you’re a real man, try 7 days a week then take small breaks between issues.

#3 Once you’re rolling, build a solid mailing list. Use something free like mailchimp.com if you want. Don’t just see this as a “newsletter” – offer something to your fans like a special “weekend page” only available to the subcribers. DON’T spam them.

#4 PROMOTE AS MUCH AS YOU CAN – without being a spamming turd, promote your project on twitter, facebook and other social media. If you can afford it, I highly suggest popping a couple dollars into Facebook ads which I’ve seen a great ROI on. When you’re promoting your niche or genre, try to target people who give a shit or will enjoy what you’re producing. You don’t want to be pimping a romance comic over in a Super Hero news site, blog or forum. — Just like working out, take 20-30 minutes every day to do some sort of promotion even if it’s just directly contacting people or reaching out one-on-one in social media and networking.

#5 Collect enough for your first book or print edition, then make the offer direct. If you’re just starting out you can use a POD like comixpress.com – Sell your first print issue for $5 flat (it includes shipping in the USA) – If you do your math right you will be left with $2 profit per issue. For those wanting cheaper and quicker, offer a digital edition on your own. SEE HERE for that article. – An even better way to go is to save up for a BIGGER book that you can sell for more. Do a two week preorder period to determine if you should use a legit printer or a POD service.

Those are the BASICS to get “comic book minded” people over into comics. There are of course OTHER things you can mix in with your projects to make some serious coin that I’ve detailed in my coaching ebook.

Don’t believe YOU can do it? Listen… at the height of it’s popularity and when I was going full steam doing simple dick and fart jokes and pop culture humor, I was pulled in $6000+ in one month with my Yirmumah webcomic and I pretty much NEVER did conventions or had to hustle around. Sure the days were REALLY long and it was a lot of hard work. I did all of that with a mixture of online advertising, direct merch sales, original art commissions and more. I know that if I could do it with dick and fart jokes and mediocre cartooning, there’s plenty of geniuses out there (and bigger names) who could do even better if you just apply yourself.

WHAT IF YOUR PROJECT SIMPLY SUCKS?

It could happen. You could think you have the greatest idea ever and then you get ZERO feedback, or people tell you it’s crap. Don’t let slow traffic or pageviews deter you when you’re first starting out. Think of it like a workout plan. If you stick to the plan and you don’t see the results right away, don’t quit and go eat a gallon of icecream. If you don’t stick to the plan, you’ll never see the results. I can’t imagine the number of creators who quit right before something was about to break for them. I’m sure it happens all the time.

What if some readers want to read an entire issue in one chunk instead?

Great point. I have an answer… I too would prefer to read an issue in one sitting. But doing that as a release schedule online wouldn’t be too smart because you pretty much unload your ammunition. Think of it this way… every time you update your site, especially using tags and cool descriptions of what’s going on on the page, it shoots out into the internet and draws attention and new outside readers in from all over…. Bottom line, you’ll grow an audience faster with consistent updates as often as you possibly can

. – Now here’s where you appease the people who want it in one sitting… they can wait!

Think about it… If you’ve been doing a comic for 6 months and have 3 full “issues” completed and a new reader comes along, they’re going to be able to read 3 full issues all at once. For the people who want to wait to read an entire issue all at once, this would be a great time to get them on a mailing list where you will send an alert to those folks when all of the pages of that issue are available to read. :)

WHEN TO GIVE IT UP?

Consider putting out a “mini-series” or the equivalant of a mini-series pages. If you go the M-W-F update schedule, that’s only a measely 12 pages a month. That means ONE of your “issues” could easily stretch out over two months. If you did a 4 issue mini series, you could stretch that out over 8 months. Keep in mind, you can’t just put it on autopilot and hope people show up. You should be spending at least 30 minutes a day promoting your work or interacting with fans on your site. The more often you update and use great SEO methods, the more traffic, the more readers the better. What’s the worst that can happen? You spend 4 months busting out a 4-issue mini series and pop it on it’s own website. When it’s done, it’s still there for you to show off for your own licensing or publishing portfolio and you move on to the next project.

Stop being lazy. Stop making excuses.

If you followed that method… you could easily be able to launch 2 projects a year at the least, and 3 if you’re a total badass juggernaut.

If you as an independent creator can’t finish a 24 page comic in 2 months (one issue can cover two months of a webcomic!) – you might want to reconsider your goal or making comics as a serious “career” – If you’re producing badass pages that take forever to draw or paint, hell, cut your output it in half. Just remember there are dudes in “webcomics” making a living pretty much drawing stick figures.

Good luck.

Seriously… go publish some friggin comics.

9 Comments

  1. Nice info. something im going to start trying out. thanks man

    Reply
  2. Great article! I just have one concern. I took a survey of some fans on our facebook page and the general consensus was that they would rather read the whole issue over the one page a day format. What are your thoughts on why one way is better than the other?

    Reply
  3. Hey Matt, good point. I have an answer… I too would prefer to read an issue in one sitting. But doing that as a release schedule online wouldn’t be too smart because you pretty much unload your ammunition. Think of it this way… every time you update your site, especially using tags and cool descriptions of what’s going on on the page, it shoots out into the internet and draws attention and new outside readers in from all over…. Bottom line, you’ll grow an audience a bit faster with consistent and often updates. – Now here’s where you appease the people who want it in one sitting… they can wait!

    Think about it… If you’ve been doing a comic for 6 months and have 3 full “issues” completed and a new reader comes along, they’re going to be able to read 3 full issues all at once. For the people who want to wait to read an entire issue all at once, this would be a great time to get them on a mailing list where you will send an alert to those folks when all of the pages of that issue are available to read. :)

    Reply
    • Thanks for the reply and the info! I’m definitely going to be checking this site on a regular basis.

      Reply
  4. D.J.

    Thank you for the article. I’m a little confused on #2 “Don’t launch it if you’re only going to put up a page a week. It waters down this formula and kills it.”

    What is the “formula” and what is “killed” I would love to know more. I am working with a writer and with our full time jobs we might be able to eek out two pages a week not three. Since we cannot keep a three page a week schedule should we not bother to try?

    Thanks.

    Reply
    • @Brian – this message is directed at people who people who are VERY serious about producing indy comics or are already doing so but don’t know how to monetize online. If your team can’t put out 3 pages a week, that’s not much of a team. Even with a full time job many (including myself in the past) were able to produce pages consistently, sure, maybe not a page a day, but if you can’t do at least 3 a week… well then just consider it a side hobby, not a way to earn money, get your project completed then worry about the web stuff later.

      The FORMULA is for making money with your work. The “killing” means you’re killing the momentum of this formula as a whole. That being to build regular readers and then sell books or merch to them. Weekly won’t cut the mustard in that regard.

      Reply
  5. This is some great info. I do believe that the state of the industry is taking the fast track to crap town. I however dnt do comics but I luv to read them. It’s time to bring forth a new creative army of talent and bring the industry to a new level of excitement and grow with the times of a larger diversity of readers and enthusiasts. I wish more people would realize its time for a new lineup of charicters, whether it be superheros or non-superheros. I may not be the best person to comment but I know what I like and comics still based out of 70′s characters is not the way the future of this industry needs to be. I thank you for reading this post. I believe in your words and wish the independent artist good will on their endeavors and hope the industry changes for the greater cause.

    Reply
  6. Re Schedule.
    I have found a formula that seems to work well with traditional comics as a webcomic. I publish my webcomic The POrtland Express weekly in 4 page chapters. This allows me to break each issue into 5 seperate chunks and still tell one continous story. I have been able to build up a fairly large following doing this and am now looking at publishing 88 page graphic novels each containing 4 issues of the webcomic.

    Reply
  7. I’m with you on most of these points, but I disagree that weekly is a no-go. A more frequent update frequency is definitely preferable, but I can think of more than a few webcomics that built an audience with weekly (or even SEMI-weekly). Our own DREAMLESS (http://dreamless.keenspot.com) graphic novel, that was one page per week and it had a big readership viewing tons of ads. And when it ended, we sold a ton of books to those readers.

    If all you can do is weekly, do weekly. It lessens your chances of success, but it doesn’t kill them outright.

    Reply

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