2018 is freaking me out in all sorts of ways
Because I'm changing my business model completely...again.
I'll no longer be doing 30-40 shows. It will be at most 20, and more like 6-10.
I have no Kickstarters planned until September. Even that one is nebulous.
I have no new comic launches planned all year.
The only launches I have planned are a course and 3-6 novels.
I've never launched a novel successfully without using Kickstarter. Even then they were barely a success and definitely not sustainable for the long term.
This time I'm launching on Amazon.
If you followed my Sell Your Soul debacle, then you know that my last launch, while my most successful Amazon launch ever, didn't come close to covering costs.
In fact, it's the only book I've ever made that's not profitable.
The transition from comic book writer to novelist is one that has rarely been accomplished successfully, especially in the indie space. Yet, I'm trying to do it.
Hell, there are only 1,100 authors on all of Amazon making over six figures like I did this year with comics.
Additionally, I've never launched a course successfully before, ever. My first course cost me $5,000 and returned...$0.
This one cost me way less, but it's the basis of my income plan for next year. I plan on launching it 2-3 times this year, and hopefully clearing $5,000-$10,000 each time.
Two things I've literally never done well, and they are going to be the basis for my business in 2018, as I'm fading shows out over the year and doing fewer Kickstarters then I've done since 2015.
2017 was a breakout year b/c I continued and refined what worked from 2014-2016. stacking wins on top of each other.
It was a no-brainer that a monster anthology and a fantasy monster hunting graphic novel should do well with my audience.
Hell, they begged me for it.
Nobody is begging me for three Katrina novels. People want more Katrina, but they aren't falling over themselves for novels based on her.
I mean the two books I launched on Kickstarter this year weren't guaranteed successes, but I was confident they wouldn't be an abject failure.
I don't have the same confidence this year.
I didn't think we would do $50,000+, but I thought we could at least pay for costs.
Additionally, with success at shows in 2016, it made sense to scale up shows in 2017 to have more success, and that also worked.
What I'm doing next year...has never worked for me.
Next year is completely unexplored territory, and I'm relying on two unknown quantities to carry my business completely next year, with shows supplementing instead of leading.
Yikes. Every business bone in my body is calling me an idiot with a shitty plan the closer we get to the new year.
This could be a disaster, like 2016. I barely got out of that one alive.
Why am I doing it?
Because revenue does not mean profit, and even though I made more money than I ever have before, my costs are just...astronomical.
Having inventory is nice, but I have not found a good way to scale it. I've interviewed dozens of partners of all types, and none of them have closed.
Most of them weren't good fits, as I'm looking to integrate into an existing company's ecosystem. Some were, but nothing has materialized, yet.
This has been the biggest sadness this year, as I expected after raising almost $100,000 on Kickstarter so far, and Wannabe Press being a very well reputed brand with strong sales, that some existing comics company would want me for a distribution partner.
Without a partner, it's hard to scale beyond me and still remain a creator. If I went to scale, I would have to take out loans, and hire staff, and focus on publishing instead of creating, which I'm not willing to do.
It's impossible to do both well when you reach a certain point.
My health is also poor and I can't keep traveling to shows every weekend without collapsing.
Third, Kickstarter is amazing for a month, but it's not sustainable over the course of a year. You get a huge nut at once and then it trickles out over time. Kickstarter is great to cover a production budget, but you need a lot of other streams to make a business work, which is where scale comes in.
Fourth, comics are incredibly expensive to make. Because of the cost, I can't do more than one every 1-2 years, while I can write 6 novels a year with the same money.
Even with hitting $25,000 for Pixie Dust, I will only clear $1,000-$2,000 at the end of the day, with 1,500 copies in inventory for later.
Again, that inventory's nice, but it means traveling or finding a distributor, and I don't do enough products a year to be attractive to a good distributor. Honestly, distribution is the thing that has killed me this year. It's weighed on me like an elephant on my chest.
Right now I have $130,000 of inventory in my garage, so I can always scale up shows if necessary or if a distribution partner comes calling, but I can't just run a new Kickstarter to liquidate inventory.
Fifth, shows are expensive. Tables are going up and with travel costs I have a huge nut to make back just to break even.
I also hate being away from my family for that long. It wears on me every time, and they can't travel with me.
I love shows, but my body is weary and broken.
Additionally, going to every show for a couple years is amazing and life-changing, but after a couple of years you meet all the regulars, and seeing them at 20+ shows a year doesn't mean they buy more, which makes shows less profitable over time.
You end up seeing the same people every week, and the conversation is awesome, but if they already bought your whole table...what's left to have them buy.
I had that conversation hundreds of times this year, which means expanding to new markets constantly, being away for longer and longer stretches, or finding something else that works.
I've also become more popular than the Wannabe Press brand. I thought that people would turn to the brand, but instead, they turn to me, which was unexpected, and a treat, and I've gotten much better at online audience building.
Mostly, I'm tired. I hit 100 shows over the past three years, and when I show I show HARD.
I've tried to show softer, with less effort, and it just doesn't work for me.
I've studied everything I can about online business, marketing, and sales over the past two years, and I know the tactics I need to employ, but I've never actually done it.
I am not confident at all and am pretty sure this will all blow up in my face.
This has been my Sunday rant.
tl:dr: I'm scared.