Last weekend YI SOON SHIN claimed yet another victory on the frontlines of Comicpalooza 2017, where the series sold out at its 55th convention appearance– mere minutes before the end of the show on Sunday afternoon!
Defying the odds yet again, I got bitch slapped by a nasty allergy attack coupled with a nasty case of con crud, which I’m only now recovering from. It wasn’t easy fighting back my fatigue while dripping snot from my nose and pitching customers all weekend. And if I sold books to you that weekend–don’t worry! I had lots of hand sanitizer and I used nearly all of it!
To overcome the odds set against you when scaling the seemingly impenetrable mountain known as independent comics you need to understand the true circumstances of what you are up against in every battle. That is the first step to attaining victory.
To deny reality is foolish. If you don’t deal with it, it will deal with you.
Rather than give you a playback of how my last convention went, I decided it was time to switch things up. Today I want to share some ideas with you on how to confront your inner demons, beat the fucking shit out of them, and win the battle!
PERCEPTION IS EVERYTHING
Last week, I got a message from a fellow independent creator who was very overwhelmed. He had spent a lot of money putting his book together and couldn’t sell a single copy–even though he published it over a year ago!
Many people advised him to give his book away for free in order to gain more exposure and he got fed up! He spent a lot of time and money making a book that he felt was satisfactory to him and no one was buying it!
To make matters worse, he didn’t have any more money to spend on promoting his book because everything he had went towards producing it. Sound familiar?
Sadly, this is the reality for many independent comic book creators. Contrary to popular belief, working in comics is not the fantasy that most people think it is.
If you get a freelance job for a publisher, you’re doing what you’re told to do. However, these days, in order to get that freelance job, you need to first prove that you know what you’re doing, and a one sheet resume most likely won’t cut it, which is why many creators have turned to independent comics.
On the bright side, your work and comprehension of every aspect of this business will serve you better than any resume. Naturally, you learn by doing. But be prepared that whatever freedoms you have as an independent are not as flexible when you work for a publisher. At this point, you still need to be creative but in a way that suits your client.
If you’re doing it yourself, well then not only do you have to be creative but then you have to handle every other aspect of getting your book out there–and be creative with that too!
Self-publishing in today’s market is absolutely brutal if you’re an independent creator! Unless you have connections that can get your book into comic shops all over the world (consistently), you’re pretty much on your own.
That being said, I believe that the main reason my friend’s book wasn’t selling was that aside from him posting about it on Facebook a couple of times, no one really knew about it. I suggested that he reach out to his local comic shop and setup a signing or an event to premier his book and that he reach out to a few reviewers and send them PDFs of his book to review.
This gets him in front of people with his book on hand and doesn’t require him to spend anymore money until he recoups some of it through sales.
It is so important that your book has a face. People aren’t just buying your work. They are buying you. And not just you–the best part about you! Your work! The masterpiece that you’ve poured all of your energy into!
I also noticed that in his Facebook posts, he ranted a lot about why his books weren’t selling. Social media has made it very easy for us to express ourselves. We use it as a platform to vent and that can be dangerous. Now venting is important, but it should be done around people you know you can trust and who care about you.
So try to keep your face on social media positive! Especially, around people who might buy your book.
Could you imagine if Stan Lee griped about how he wished more SPIDER-MAN books would sell publicly? Remember, he introduced Spidey in a title that was cancelled. Imagine if he released AMAZING FANTASY #15 and said–
“Despite my brilliant writing, AMAZING FANTASY got cancelled when I finally took a chance to do something great with it.” –Said Stan Lee never.
Don’t think it wasn’t lost on him that the book was shit canned when he revealed his most beloved creation. He had no idea at the time that SPIDER-MAN would become what it is today.
You don’t always have to feel positive but you should always have a smile on your face when it comes to promoting you and your work.
NO ROUND ABOUT WAY
I told that same friend that his financial struggle was only beginning. If you’re in comics to make a quick buck, then you’re in the wrong business. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make money. You just need to be very patient and very persistent. You can’t ever give up and believe me there will be many times when you’ll believe that this is your only option!
When I was in Houston last weekend, I went out to dinner with a couple of customers for some delicious Korean food.
I had just spent the entire day slinging comics. As I mentioned earlier, my allergies were flaring up and despite taking Claritin, it wasn’t really helping. I still felt like shit. I was sweating. I was tired. I just wanted to go back to my shitty hotel room and sleep.
Of course I didn’t say that out loud. At one point, my customer suggested that there had to be an easier way of selling books. He wasn’t the first to suggest this. Over the years, many people have prompted me to look into a better solution of selling books rather than traveling to all these conventions with a thousand books and hand selling every one of them!
There was a point in time when you could have done this. Back in the day when comics sold millions of copies per order and cost a fraction of what they do now. Sadly, that’s no longer the case.
Comics aren’t cheap and making them sure as hell ain’t either.
Believe me, I would so much rather sit at home and get a massive order for all of my books so that all I have to do is ship them out to stores and let someone else deal with selling them. It would free up so much time for me!
I realized long ago that if I want my book to sell then I need to get out there and sell it because no one else is going to do that work for me. If the day comes that someone orders one million copies of my book and manages to distribute every last copy, believe me I will jump at the opportunity right away!
But until that happens, this is my reality. Conventions are my method of distribution and they’ve given me the rare opportunity to meet and greet the majority of my customers. I consider myself blessed to have that sort of connection to my readership. It’s truly a very rare thing.
There is no round about way to sell your work. There is no easy answer. No matter what your path is on this journey, it will be challenging because if it were easy, then it wouldn’t be worth fighting so hard for and everyone would be doing it!
IGNORE THE NAY SAYERS
The other day I saw a post on Facebook that said something along the lines of, “If no one hates you, is jealous of you, etc. then you haven’t done anything worthwhile and you need to get on top of that shit pronto.”
That’s a pretty basic and extreme way of putting it but there is truth to it. Don’t think that there aren’t people out there who hate me, hate my work, and wish me nothing but the very worst because of how well I continue to perform at conventions.
It comes with the territory.
When I come across people like this I can tell instantly that they are wishing bad fortune on me. They serve as a very important lesson to me not to be the same way and even if there were such a person that I felt this way about, not to be so stupidly obvious in front of them.
There will be plenty of people who will tell you are aren’t good enough and that you still have a ways to go before achieving your goals in comics. These people don’t know any more than you do about what will happen tomorrow. They are just going on what they see and what they feel–in the moment!
During Comicpalooza, a customer of mine had picked up some books with his friend. They asked me how to go about making their own comic. They said that they had a bunch of ideas that they were bouncing around but it was all still very rough.
As they shared their ideas with me I looked at both of them and said that the most important advice I could give them at this very moment was to stick by each other and to share their ideas exclusively with one another while they determine a way to pitch their story in a clear, quick and concise manner.
I told them that the journey ahead would be difficult and that they were lucky to have each other for creative and emotional support.
It takes a lot to say that you want to work in a field that is only hiring established creators in a volatile marketplace. If you believe you can succeed in comics, then you need to ignore all the naysayers and surround yourself with people who can provide you with experience and allow you to sharpen your creative skills.
If you get a lot of No’s, figure out what it takes to get people to say Yes. Modify your strategy and make it happen. Whether you’re in a positive or negative state of mind, remember that in comics–nothing is impossible! SUSPEND YOUR DISBELIEF!
This week, YI SOON SHIN will be returning to battle to break 65,000 copies sold at Phoenix Comic-Con where we’ll bringing 1250 comics and graphic novels to sell! I can’t wait to see you there!
ONWARD TO VICTORY!
Edited by David Anthony Kraft