A fan on our Twitter page asked for an “honest, detailed account of the financial/emotional/time liabilities involved” in creating indie comics.
You ask, I answer!
The Financial Cost
Here’s the bottom line: You cannot expect to publish an indie comic book, out of the blue, and succeed financially. It doesn’t matter that your book is God’s gift to comic books. It doesn’t even matter that everybody who reads it likes it.
It’s just not going to happen, because comics fans are very wary of new things.
So, unless you are a known name or have a known name working for you, unless you have a known brand you’re working on or for, expect to sink money into your comic until it succeeds.
You’re going to have to work on building communities of fans across the world from scratch:
- You’ll have to find people across the world willing to pick up a comic they’ve never heard of.
- Of those, you’ll have to find people who love it so much they’ll evangelize the comic.
- You can’t let your evangelists run dry with inactivity. You have to find ways to keep them interested and active.
- You have to keep producing new issues to prove you can sustain quality, to give the fans more of what they like, to have new things to talk about, and to show that you’re a serious publisher worthy of attention.
- You’l probably do all that on various social networks. So you have to know how Twitter is different from Facebook, how that’s different from Tumblr or Reddit or what have you. You’ll actually have to do some reserach to discover how best to phrase things in each of these to get the best results.
- You have to make your comic books secondary in the conversation. If you sell, sell, sell, no one will buy. You have to build trust. You have to trust that if people trust you, they will eventually buy (but not now).
Only when you reach a community big enough will you be able to break even.
By that time, at least a year would have passed, if not two or three or four. And you’ve paid for the new issues and everyone’s hard work during all that time.
Which brings us to the next issue:
The Time Cost
The least above of things you need to do is so great! You need to do those on a daily basis!
You probably have keep on working in a ‘real job’ while you’re doing this. You probably have to keep on writing or doing art or editing future issues of your comic books, which is another time-consuming job.
You’re basically doing three full-time jobs that are not earning you money, while having to support yourself with your ‘real’ full-time job.
Which brings us to the next issue:
The Emotional Cost
Look at the huge list of stuff you have to do above. And I haven’t mentioned sending your comics for reviews, trying to get blog/press coverage, or going to cons.
Do you understand what it takes? Do you think you have that?
What’s the emotional toll? Well, I can only answer for myself, of course.
I’ve been writing for more than twenty years. My first play was shown in a festival 23 years ago. My first story was published 20 years ago. My first book was published 13 years ago. My first script was commissioned 10 years ago.
During all that time, I strived on the one hand to create true art. And at the same time, I went out of my way to create things that couldn’t be marketed in any way.
If I published one SF book for adults, the next one was for teenagers. If a drama I’d written appeared on the stage, the next one would be a comedy for children. So fans that that I gathered in one project would be lost in the other.
I did this over and over and over again, in many different ways, for more than twenty years.
I’ve been on the fringe for for over 20 years, and I kept putting myself there as I created art.
But now I’ve figured out how not to do that, while keeping my artistic integrity.
I’ve created New Worlds Comics as a place for me, and others, to have artistic integrity while doing things right.
So here I am. And emotional cost, time cost, and financial cost – I’m just not going to stop doing it. Stopping is not an option. I get up every day and I do this.
And I’m not. Going. To stop.
What about you? Please share with us in the comments!