Monday, November 17, 2008

JUST DO IT the conclusion

Here is the final part of the "Just Do It" article I prepared after returning home from SPX in the fall of 2006. I hope you enjoy, and for the first two parts you can go here and here or just look below on the blogroll.

Friday, the first day of the Expo, arrived and we got set up early. I was wicked nervous (as we say in Maine) with no idea what the response to our book might be. I felt it was good. I knew the art was great. But after the previous year, I couldn't dare get my hopes up.

When it was all said and done, we sold six times as many book as we had in Chicago, and moved half as many again through trades and in package deals we offered readers. We didn't quite pay for our table, but considering the Expo ran roughly a day and a half compared to Wizard World's three days, this was definitely a success for us, which I believe can be attributed to the different crowd attracted by SPX. There were a larger percentage of females and a wider age range for those attending SPX as compared to those at Wizard World. This helped us a bit, but I think the most telling aspect about the Expo crowd is that they were – at least those with which I spoke – far more interested in stories and the possibilities of the medium rather than looking for something full of gaudy splash pages.

When given a chance by attendees to speak with them about our book, many seemed interested and about half of them picked one up. This excitement about comics and about telling unique stories was also evident in the creators I spoke with over the course of the weekend. This was true of the heavyweights present – Paul Pope, Rick Veitch, and Scott Morse among them – as well as many of the self publishers like Justin J. Fox, Michael LaRiccia, G. B. Tran, and Alex Cahill. These, and others, were anxious about their books and very willing to talk comics and storytelling with fans and fellow creators alike. This was my first time attending SPX, and I wonder now why I passed it up all these years. The atmosphere was electric and although we didn't necessarily set the world on fire with our book, we definitely had a great show.


So, what have we learned thus far from our experiences self-publishing? Some are rudimentary and may appear obvious to many reading, but as somebody once said, "Sometimes you can't see the trees for the forest." I will list what I have taken away from my times exhibiting at Wizard World and at SPX.

First, the obvious:

  • Put a cover price on your book. Really. Although you might think otherwise, according to Brian Hibbs who runs Comix Experience in San Francisco, this is one of the major oversights made by new self-publishers.
  • Put credits on all the stories. Again, this should be obvious, but when working on an anthology rather than a single issue this is something that could get overlooked, and did in our second issue.
  • Have a back up plan. If someone doesn't come through, whoever that may be, have something to fall back upon, otherwise your 48-page book could lose 20 pages before heading off to the printer.

The Not So Obvious:

  • When beginning, start small. Rather than your magnum opus – which Dan and I both attempted to serialize with our first issue – write self-contained stories. As a self-publisher there's no guarantee of a second issue. Give your readers a complete experience and make them come back for more.
  • Know your audience. We thought our audience was in Chicago and we were wrong. We believed our audience was at SPX and, thankfully, our assumption was proven correct this year. Now, if we gave them as good a product as we believe it to be they may be back next year.
  • Know what your book is about. If you can't answer that simple question, then why should anybody be expected to buy your book?
  • Big Banners or Posters Don't Work. Unless you're a "destination" publisher like Top Shelf or Fantagraphics, these aren't going to help you. People walking the aisles all have their heads down to see what books are available. Save your money and focus your display on the table surface. Spread your books out for people to leaf through and bullet point your pricing along the table next to your books. This is the best way for your work to get noticed.
  • Write/Draw/Create for yourself. There is little chance for most of us to ever make money as self-publishers. So you need to create stories that you enjoy. Because if you don't find any joy in the creation there's little chance anyone else will enjoy reading it. But, if your art comes from the heart, the quality will be of a higher level and your chances of success that much better. And in the end, at least you will have a book that will bring a smile to your face years later.

I hope you learned a little something from this article and anybody reading this that has thoughts of making their own comics, I would tell you to go out and do it. There's nothing that feels any better than holding something you've created in your hands. So, go out and make great comics, and have fun doing it. Good Luck!

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