For years the world of creating comics was, largely, a gated community. Anybody who wanted in had to be approved by the gatekeeper - the editors that made up the staff of the various comics companies.
Since then, the internet opened up the kind of reach that previous traditional models could only dream of - reach that an individual could attain independently, without the help of a publisher. And places like Kickstarter and Patreon gave these individuals a way to finance their efforts.
And as a result, today, these gatekeepers are gone. But, after all of this, a new gatekeeper has taken the place of this old guard.
You are that gatekeeper.
How You're Holding Yourself Back
You are still waiting to be picked by an editor, even though you can publish your own comics. You're waiting to be picked by Diamond or uninterested retailers, even though you can reach readers without their help.
You are refusing to pick yourself.
You're refusing to give yourself the chance to succeed on your terms and instead you're giving the powerless gatekeepers back their power.
Because you're afraid.
The Common Fear of Comic Creators
You're afraid of embarrassing yourself. Of revealing that you're not good enough to be a creator. By waiting until someone else makes the choice, you're hiding in the shadows.
It's really easy to criticize a difficult market when retailers won't buy your book, even though it's really because its amateurish.
Or to call a publisher stupid because they didn't choose to publish your work because they didn't think it was good enough.
But when you put yourself out there, there's nowhere to hide. There's nobody else to blame. There's just you.
If your book doesn't sell, you can't blame the market's tendencies, you can only blame your ability to market.
If your book isn't good, you can't blame a publisher's taste, you can only blame your own creative ability.
And I get that this is scary.
But, is it really scarier than deluding yourself that your dream career is only out of reach because of someone else, when you had the power the whole time? Is it scarier than spending your life waiting to be chosen when you could just choose yourself?
Hiding in the shadows might be safer, but you'll never make it where you want to go if you don't journey through the harsh light of putting your work out there.
And there's no better way to grow than picking yourself.
The Myth of Being "Good Enough"
Some of you don't think you're "good enough" to be a creator until you've been picked. Until somebody else has stamped you with a mark of approval that you can comfort yourself with.
But that's a lie. Nobody deserves to tell their story any more or less than anyone else.
When you have a story you need to tell, you're already "good enough."
Good enough to put your work out there and let someone read it. And even if the story you tell is complete crap - which it probably will be - that doesn't change the fact that you were "good enough" and that you were right not to wait.
Because when you put that story out there you'll know exactly how good your comic was.
You'll realize it sucked when people tell you so - or, worse, - when you hear nothing back at all.
And then you'll have a choice. Blame the people you're trying to tell your story, to. Or, work. Work to get better and stop blaming elements outside of control. Refuse to point a finger at retailers, publishers, or your readers, and just tell a better story the next time around.
And then do it again. And again. And eventually, a reader whose read what you've written will tell you they enjoyed what you wrote. And then someone will share your story with a friend because it affected them. And then you'll have an audience, following you, waiting to see what you make next.
And, eventually, a publisher will come knocking and tell you that they think you're "good enough" to be published.
And you'll be able to say, "I know."
Because you didn't wait for their approval. Because you have the proof in front of you, in the form of readers who already read your stories, buy your books, and wait for your next work.
Why We Tell Stories
This isn't about ignoring publishers. I think there are many great publishers. It's about realizing that being published is not the finish line.
And it's not about ignoring retailers. There are many fantastic retailers. It's about realizing that getting in a store is not the finish line.
The finish line is having your comic read. A story isn't told until there's someone to listen.
Traditional distribution and publishing are just a few of the tools available to you to help you get there.
And when you realize that they're not the only tools available, you can employ them much more effectively.
You can focus on getting into stores after you have an audience, when you're likely to sell more copies there. You can focus on building a relationship with a publisher, after you've shown your worth elsewhere, when you're much more likely to get a better deal.
And it's more beneficial for everyone. Retailers get a proven title. Publishers get a proven talent. Both get a creator with an audience they can count on.
You free yourself from the notion that you need somebody else to tell you when you're free to go after your dream.