Creating Sparks Part 4: Selling yourself
I was in high school at the time that the internet was really coming to prominence. I remember sitting in Economics listening to my teacher make the less than radical prediction that the internet would change the way businesses work. It would give small businesses a whole new potential customer base and give businesses a global market to play with.
The same applies to comics, the internet has given small press creators a whole new avenue to showcase their talents. Whether you sell comics directly from your own website (such as GrayHaven does) or market your talents by offering great free content via webcomics (for some exceptional ones check out GrayHaven regular Donal Delays ‘Daring Adventures’, Jason Snyder and Michael Sumislaski‘s ‘Horntoad Sam‘, Nathan Lee James ‘Moonlight Motel‘ & John Clerkin and Ann Harrison’s ‘Bunsen Bunnies‘) it’s now easier than ever to get your work out there if you have a desire to make comics.
The internet has also opened up the door to crowd funding like Kickstarter, Patreon, Indigogo and many more to creators who have the desire or the talent but perhaps not the resources to bring their product to market. Making comic is expensive and you will undoubtedly lose more than you gain but like I said to a fellow writer many years ago ‘if you’re in comics to make money you’re probably in the wrong game’.
When Sparks was released I already had established a few connections through GrayHaven and from my previous solo outing in ‘Living With Death’. I’ve never been to fond of convincing people to buy something from me but no matter what job you do, sales will have some aspect of it, even if you don’t realize it. It’s important in comics to push yourself out there because especially when it comes to super small press work with characters that no one care about but YOU then you’re hardly going to get people banging at your door to buy a copy.
I’ve been to conventions both big and small, some great while others weren’t so great. In both instances I saw small press people sitting watching literally hundreds of potential customers pass them by. Meanwhile I see others who have what my wife would refer to as ‘the gift of the gab’ which means they can draw the attention of people and get people to buy their product. It all depends on your personality of course but tables at conventions (big or small) are pricey and it’s a hard truth that you have to fight hard for every sale.
I won’t say I’m particularly good at it either, I’ve been behind that table and looking at people with an expression likely shared by deer’s moments before an encounter with a car. It takes me a while to get going but like I say, I know no one will come to me so I have to do it. Even top tier creators fight hard to make sure their books are brought to people’s attention. Space in comic shops is precious and creators will want to make sure their books get a spot.
So when Sparks was a released I took advantage of the connections I had and started e-mailing people. I had previously garnered a lot of positive press online and locally for ‘Living With Death’ so it was a little easier. Much to my surprise, people had enjoyed ‘Living With Death’ quite a bit more so were easier to convince to check out ‘Sparks’.
It wasn’t all easy of course. To get reviews you have to supply free copies and like ‘Living With Death’ there were review sites that said they would take the time to look at ‘Sparks’, were given a free copy and I never heard from them again. It’s to be expected because much like space in a comic shop, space on a website can be precious. You’re going to get more hits (and more revenue) talking about the latest Marvel or DC ‘event’ rather than a review of a small press comic. I can only assume the people that I didn’t hear back from didn’t care for the work.
I did get quite a few favorable reviews though thankfully. My efforts paid off as I believe as of this writing both Living With Death and Sparks are the most reviewed books that GrayHaven has produced. This is what happens when you make a little bit of a nuisance of yourself I suppose but like I say, people won’t come to you.
It also meant that Kell Smith got a little bit of a spotlight too. People last week could probably tell I’m a big fan of Kell’s and I want to see her get the success that her talent warrants. Every time I get into a working arrangement with someone on a book I am always eager to share other opportunities I spot for their creative expansion.
People bought the book and seemed to enjoy it. The moment I had worked 12 years for had come to pass. Hearing people’s reactions to the last page of Sparks is often a priceless moment and one I find incredibly gratifying.
Making comics is hard, it can be pricey and it’s something that I have more than once (or a hundred times) considered throwing the towel in on. I’ve lost friends, had people steal money from me, break promises and say things about me that aren’t true. It’s a messy world, even at a level where not many people know who you are.
Moments like the one I described above however make it all worth it. Even if one person read Sparks and demanded more, it means more to me than anything else. Now the book is out of course the journey doesn’t end. You think about what’s on the horizon and doing better than you’ve done before.
It’s easy to make a comic when people don’t expect anything of you. Try doing it when people expect it to be good. That’s the challenge myself and Kell face now and I can’t wait.
Next: I’m headed on honeymoon for a few weeks. When I come back I’ll be talking to Brett about what’s coming up. I’ll be talking women in comics, female characters, the rise of indie comics, Living With Death, editing, some of my GrayHaven shorts and more. Hope to see you all when I get back.
Got any comments, suggestions or questions? Let me know! Also follow me on Twitter @glenn_matchett