To me, the hardest thing about making comics is the business part. It seems that a lot of the time, creative minded people aren’t focused on business. I can say that from experience. When I started out, I envisioned all the bases I had to cover. Well, almost all of them. I thought about the creative process, but I didn’t think about the money behind it all, and the decisions you have to make in regards to profit. Now, before I get too far, let me make it clear that I am not a real businessman. I mostly don’t understand all of that. So this will sort of be a reflection of my experience so far, as well as the importance of thinking with both sides of your brain.
As I said, when I got started, I thought I had it all covered. But I soon learned that I would have to add one more hat to my collection: that of a business man. When you are creative, you have a tendency to dream about the stars, with little means of getting to them. This is not a bad thing, I think dreaming is important. But once you get off the ground, you really have to know what’s going on. You have to manage money, contracts, and you have to make some tough calls. That means deciding who you can and can’t work with (even if they’re friends). It can be tough sometimes. I know there have been times that I’ve had to refuse the help of some people close to me because it simply wouldn’t work out. These decisions are not personal, but they are made in the much more factually based part of the creative industry. I hate making decisions like this, as I am not a confrontational person. But part of making your own way means finding that ability to speak up for yourself.
I can’t help myself right now, I’m really back on a Planet of the Apes kick.
Anyway, it’s all pretty strange to me. Taking care of business also means kind of being a boss. And I don’t say that lightly, I’d hate to be anyone’s boss. Poor them. But when you are trying to run things, and you’re working with multiple people, you have to act like you’re in charge. I have to check in with people (but I’ve been pretty lucky with that, as they are good at staying on top of the work). And since I hire artists for longer stories, I have to manage funds, and find the right price for me. When I was a young lad (of 23) staring to make comics, it all seemed like magic, like everything would get done because I wanted it to! But really, it’s a balancing act. You’ve got to manage your own creativity, money, artists, a website, and find yourself ways to actually sell your book. I’m tired just thinking about it.
But, as I said before, it’s incredibly important to manage this side of things. And not only do I think so, but so does anyone I’ve ever read talk about making comics. There might come a day when I don’t have to worry about this, and some bigger force can just hire me to create, but until then, I’m crunching numbers!
When I printed my books for the first time, I had no conception of how much they would cost. Of course, I had worked in retail before, but it had never dawned on me that I would have to set a price in order to make profit. I think it’s because when I sold stuff in retail, it was never my stuff. So it seemed strange. And boy did I have a problem actually asking for money for something I made. Especially from people I know. However, I think this is a normal reaction for an artist or writer, or any creative person. We are somewhat conditioned to think that the things we peruse aren’t necessarily a career. Luckily, I am very supported. People want to buy my books. They want to read my stories. In fact, some people have bought everything I’ve put out, and man am I grateful for that. But, I think another aspect of the business thing is to over come that feeling of uncomfortably. That is not to say that I like asking people I know for money, but I have begun to put aside that feeling that I’m just some hobbyist. Besides, I still appreciate every dollar I get, and I let people know that.
Which, I suppose, is a good bridge to another business topic: customer service. I don’t like customer service. I have a hard time talking to people most of the time. But that all changes when I’m behind a table. And not like an act. No, I found out that I really like talking to people at cons. Good thing, too, because customer service is vital to the small press folk. And when I say customer service, in this situation I really just mean being approachable, looking interested. This may sound like common sense, but still, it seems like a sound business principle. Better interaction means more potential sales. And I don’t say that in a calculating way, but if you don’t look like you want to be there, people won’t even want to come up to your table. Then you’ll walk away with nothing!
As I read this, I come to the conclusion that I’m rambling a bit. But, like I said, I’m not a real savvy business person. I know the basics, but I will probably never feel comfortable in the position. I am first and foremost a creative person. So even as I gain business experience, it’ll always be far behind my need to create. I guess it comes down to learning by doing. Or by having someone who can help you with all the business stuff. Actually, there’s a good book about this called How to Self Publish Comics, Not Just Create Them by Josh Blaylock. I own a copy and I recommend that you give it a read or two. Lots of good pointers. See how I waited til the end to tell you about that, so you’d have to read all of these words? Ha! Oldest trick on the blog.
If you’re looking to get into comics, but don’t know how to deal with the business stuff, don’t worry too much. Yes, you should read up on it, and have some idea, but I think that’s part of the learning experience. Don’t ignore this aspect of comics forever and hope for the best. Just come up with a plan. See what works, learn from reading, and from your mistakes. And, most importantly, buy my comics.
1 thought on “The Business of Comics”
As always, crisp, informative, and worth the time. Never thought I would be learning stuff from kids half my age, but I am. I don’t have any great ideas to contribute, except my own personal mantra: “You must sell as hard as you write” Thanks, Jeff Wilson