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6 Harsh Ways to Become a Successful Indie Publisher

In my last article, I wrote about the 6 harsh truths of the indie comics publisher.

Basically, they are:

  • Good reviews don’t help sales.
  • Ads don’t help sales.
  • It doesn’t matter that you’re good.
  • People will refuse to read you for free.
  • Fans don’t care about previews
  • Talking about your comic book makes people want to not buy it.

Harsh, right? But true.

And most of the people who have commented on it on Facebook and Tweeter seemed to have had the same experience.

At the end of that article I promised there was a way to become successful and to get people to appreciate your comics and to buy them.

I also shared with you some of the stats that I’ve experienced after making the change, the surge in followers, traffic, sales, and word of mouth.

So. Here are the 6 harsh ways to become a more successful indie comic book publisher:


All the other rules are positive, a ‘Do This’. This one’s a ‘Don’t Do This’.

I cannot stress enough the negative effect you have on your audience when you try and sell your books. You automatically become invisible.

Everyone tries to sell their books. When you do it, you become invisible, a part of the crowd. People automatically put you in a box in their minds where they think you’re just like everyone else and with a ‘bamf’, you’re not in their field of vision anymore.

The same goes for telling people that your stuff is good. ‘Bamf’! You’re gone!

The same goes for showing your great art! Everyone shows their great art. ‘Bamf!’ You’re as invisible as everyone else!

So: Stop telling people where to buy your books, that they should buy your books, that your books are good, and stop teasing fans with previews.


Find your niche. Find the thing you do that no one else does better, the one thing that makes your comic or comics special.

This one’s a tough one.

Most indies create comics that are some kind of variation of existing stuff. So they don’t own a niche, they’re a carbon copy of someone who is better and bigger thant hem.

Even if that’s not what you do, it should still be very hard for you, who knows you have something special, to accurately define what that special thing is.

But you have to, because others won’t do it for you.

Find that. Stress that. Have your website be about that. Talk to your fans about that. Post about that. (Not about how cool you are, but about the thing that only you do.)

And slowly (very slowly) people will realize that if they want THAT, they have to come to you first. They’ll realize that anyone else who is doing THAT is copying from you. They’ll trust you that you have THAT. And when they do, they’ll start buying. And they’ll talk to their friends about you, too.

I’ll give you an example of what not to do. And I’m sure it’s going to get me in a lot of trouble. As far as I can see, there isn’t a way possible to succeed as an indie doing a superhero/ine comic. You know why? Because Marvel and DC have a monopoly on those.

They did so many awesome things with it (and bad stuff, too, but a lot of awesome stuff as well), that there is nothing you can do that can make you overshadow them in their field.

But if you do THAT, that THAT that makes you special, then you’re the one who has the monopoly.* You’re the one that can’t be competed with and can’t be overshadowed. You’re the one that everyone will say is being copied (once you’re successful enough that others want to copy you).

(* Come on, you gotta be impressed. The first sentence in the last paragraph had the word ‘that’ 4 times in a row and was still grammatically sound.)


The fans are more important than you. Get that into your head.

They’re more important than your art. They’re more important than your story. They’re more important than your content.

Whatever it is you start doing now, do for them. Don’t boast that you do it for them, just do it.

If you build something for them, something that helps them, something that benefits their comic book experience or their social experience or anything in their lives, they will get it and they will slowly flock to you.

Selling you stuff? That’s what you do for you. Find what you can do for them, and they’ll reciprocate.


Don’t just sit there, waiting for your fans to find you.

Don’t just sit in a booth in a con and wait for the 3 people who would love your stuff of the haphazard 100 that stop to look to find you.

So: You are the only one who does THAT (whatever it is). Who would be the people who would love that THAT that you do so well? Find where they hang out, find who they are, define them so that you can find them. And start talking to them (not selling to them). And start doing things for them. Concentrate on THAT as well as on improving their experience.

Your name will grow. Word of mouth will grow. And you’ll have found your core audience.


This is where most indies fall even when all they do is wrong.

Indie artists (by which I also mean writers, since writing is an art) like to do their art and when they’re done with it, they’re done. That’s how I used to be for 20 years.

We’re usually not social, hate to mingle, hate to sell, hate to put ourselves out there every day, and hate the rejection that comes with selling.

We also hate doing marketing or any kind of work that isn’t our art.

But we have to. Because no one will do it for us.

No one. And if you don’t sell, and don’t work for a juggernaut that has a big brand name already, then it ain’t enough to have built it. If you build it and don’t market it – they won’t come.

Work on Rules #1-#4 every. Freaking. Day.

Now here’s the even harder part of this. You’re an artist/writer. You don’t know how to sell, right? You don’t know how to talk to people so that they’ll click more on the links to your posts, so that they’ll comment more, so that they’ll recommend to their friends.

So. Take every day as a day in which you can learn this.

Chances are you have Twitter. If so, click on this link ( but change ‘USERNAME’ to your Twitter username. That link will show you how many people saw your tweets, how many clicked on links, and how many engaged in general.

Set it up as a daily task: Each day of the week find a way to get more people to retweet/favorite/click/see your tweets than the day before. Force yourself to do something different every day.

It’s okay to fail. Because, among the failures, you’ll find surprise gems. You’ll discover how to talk to people in a way that engages them, that interests them, that gets them interested in you.

Use every single day to find how to speak better to your fans.


Okay. Now that you’ve followed rules #1 – #5, it’s okay to sell.

Sell rarely. For every 15 posts you post, one can be about selling your stuff.

For every 100 tweets you write, one can be about how awesome your stuff is.

Why? Because now people trust you that you’re not there to just sell, sell, sell.

Now people know that you’re in it for them, that you’re different from the rest, and that you have THAT that no one else has.

Got it?


Okay. Last one. I should say that I’m the one who created the Indie Power Initiative, but I don’t get anything different from it than what anyone else who joins gets. (In fact, I get more hard work.)

This is the gist of it: It’s one website where all its members (only indie comics companies) can post about their comic books, releases, and previews. The thing is that all new posts are tweeted about by all the members. So if the Initiative has 100 members and each one has an average of 1,500 followers, every article about your comic book reaches 100 X 1,500 = 150,000 followers.

The Indie Power Initiative is basically a big megaphone. So whether you follow my advice (as suggested above) or not, you get to ‘borrow’ the followers of all the other members and you reach a much wider audience.

Want more info about that? Go here:


In Conclusion

So. There is a magic formula, but it’s not a magic spell. You don’t just cross your arms, blink, and make it all better.

It’s damn hard work. You have to redefine yourself. You have to change what you do. You have to go against your own instincts of telling people how great your stuff is. And you have to stick to it for a long while as you bring small results that will eventually snowball to great results.

You have to work hard at this every day. And you can never ever stop, even if you’re successful.

Now. What are you standing here for? Go do it!



Want to give me your opinion of these rules? Want to share your own rules? Want to tell me why I’m wrong? Use the comments below to be heard!