International Collaboration with Ryan K. Lindsay

Not long ago, I had the pleasure of chatting with Ryan K. Lindsay about his perspective on collaboration. It's a great interview in which we dig into not only the art of collaboration, but his own experience as a comic book creator building his career from his home in Australia.

You can stream or download the audio episode below.

I've recorded interviews with creators before, but always turned them into written posts. I'm thinking about finally putting together a Creator At Large podcast (with better audio quality - had some mic issues)... is this something you'd like to hear?

Let me know over on Twitter (@JeremyMelloul).

And while you're at it, Ryan has a Kickstarter that's live at the moment. It's for a comic book called "Stain the Seas Scarlet," that he's making with Alex Cormack.

Check out the campaign now!

 

You're Doing it Wrong

There are more ways than ever to build a career in comics. But you - yes you - you’re doing it wrong.

At least, that’s what you’re telling yourself by always looking for the “one right answer” to build a career in comics or the next hack that’s going to make everything easy.

Unfortunately, building a career in comics is never easy. If you can accept this then you stand a chance of accomplishing your goals in this industry - whatever they are.

But if you don’t, you’re likely to subject yourself to a vicious cycle of doubt and inaction that will be your biggest impediment to reaching any kind of success.

Of course, there are useful resources (sites like this one, for example) along the way, that can help you avoid mistakes. They can teach you lessons to apply to your own career, but ultimately we all walk our own path in building a career.

That’s easy to forget, when building a career can be so difficult.

Even I struggle with this. Clearly, as you can see from this site, I’m a proponent for self-publishing. And I’ve taken that to heart in my own creative projects. But I’m not against working with publishers. In fact, if you’re like most creators, it makes sense to work with publishers along the way.

They can help you avoid all the other work that comes with self-publishing, provide an editor, give you the validation of having a logo on your book, and allow you to reach audiences you might have difficulty reaching on your own.

I think, for most of us, the answer lies in some combination of the two. And figuring out which road to walk is far less important than just continuing to put one foot in front of another.

Don’t get caught up staring at the map of the career you’re planning in your head. Make great work, and try to be conscious of the decisions you make along the way. When you encouter a challenge reach out to your fellow creators or search through sites like these to get the information you need to make an informed choice when it’s actually time to make that choice.

All my projects have gotten a lot easier to manage as soon as I stopped looking down the road and turned my attention to the work at hand.

Creating Comics Is Not Enough

For a long time creators could expect publishers to take on the burden of marketing their comics. Today, that’s no longer the case.

Not only are more creators striking out independently and finding that they need to learn how to better sell their comics & build an audience, even traditional publishers rely on the promotional efforts their creators make.

The creators that accept this truth will grow their audiences, create more stable careers for themselves, and enjoy greater freedom to work on whatever projects they want to - not just projects that “sell.”

Those that refuse to accept this and are determined to remain creators, only, will likely see their audiences dwindle and struggle to keep up or progress their careers in the face of this change.

It’s a recurring theme on this site that, as a creator, the work doesn’t stop when the comic ends. In fact, it’s only just starting. We’re all in this to make comics, first and foremost. But if you want to keep making comics and tell the stories you want to tell, rather than the stories others are willing to let you tell you need to be willing to market yourself.

But I understand why you might be hesitant.

Some people, especially artists, see marketing as skeevy. For a long time “sales” was a dirty word and, in some artistic circles, it remains that way.

This manifests in particular at conventions, where creators are hesitant to sell their work, hoping that it’s enough to just show up.

But it’s not.

“If you build it, they will come” is not a busines strategy, it’s wishful thinking. It’s fine to operate like that if you’re a hobyist, but if you’re a professional, or aiming to be one, you can’t afford that mindset.

Instead, you need to realize, that you won’t sell anything if you don’t ask people to buy. Tell them how to support you - back my Kickstarter, pledge to my Patreon, buy my book. You’ll get a lot of “no’s” but that’s something to get used to - we all get “no’s.” Even Saga and Walking Dead get a ton of “no’s.”

But if you let the fear of rejection keep you from even asking, you run the risk of never hearing “yes,” either.

Besides, marketing isn’t an imposition onto your potential reader. In asking your reader to buy your book, you’re not asking them to do you a favor. Instead, you’re giving them an opportunity to buy a book they’ll love.

That’s the mentality you need to have. That’s the mentality you should have if you really believe in your work.

Without it, you’re putting your career in the hands of other people - and nobody will ever be as invested in the success of your books, as you are.

That’s what makes you uniquely suited to market your comics. And if you don’t know the first thing about marketing, don’t worry. I’m here to teach you.

The Other Half of Making Comics

If a creator makes a comic, but nobody ever reads it, have they really made a comic?

The easy answer is yes, but most of us who are making comics want to be able to keep making comics. In order to reach that reality your comics need to sell. And, right or wrong, in today’s market creators are more frequently responsible for carrying that burden.

If you’ve created a great comic, but you haven’t created a great way to sell it, you have a bad business - no matter how good the story or art.

This might be a hard pill to swallow. And it’s not a responsibility most creators want or are willing to take on. However, if you learn to navigate the other half of making comics - the business responsibilities (especially sales & marketing) - you’ll reap the benefits.

If you decide to strike it independently, you can own your success. And if you instead prefer to work with publishers, you’ll always know what you’re getting into and be able to supplement their efforts as you like. Besides, as I mentioned, even when working with publishers the burden of selling and marketing your creator-owned work often lies on you.

It’s not enough to just make your comic available. You need to consider the ways your distribution strategy affects the release of your comic.

That’s what this topic is all about. The ins and outs of sales and distribution - from conventions, to working with retailers (both comic shops & bookstores), and to all the opportunities available to you online.