Today we talked to John Dover, who a fantastic professional trumpet player and writer. We talked to him about his origins in music, in working sales to build his business chops, and in expanding his brand into writing. You can check his out at
If you’re not building your community, you’re wasting your time.
I’m not here to discount content creation.
Heck, I am a content creator.
That’s the thing I do.
I’ve been creating content for over a decade. And for most of that time I was creating that content for an audience of about 5 people.
Creating content is ESSENTIAL.
The only reason I’m anywhere now is because I have an incredible amount of content. Stellar content. The kind of content most people would kill for, and I can churn it out at incredible volumes.
However, it was only in the last couple of years, when I developed the confidence to talk about by work, and believe it had value, that my career took off.
It was only after I found a community of like minded people that pushed me to be better, and liked my work, and wanted to see more of it, that I became successful.
Which is why I’m telling you this: Build your community now. Build it from day 1. Let it shape what kind of stories you tell and have your stories shape your community.
Don’t wait until you have 10 years of content and hope that your audience will like it all. That’s a recipe for disaster.
I’m very lucky. Even though I write across all genres I somehow have a voice that speaks to the rebellious spirit in us all, and that crosses everything I do.
But most people aren’t that lucky. Most people need a genre. All people need to find people that share their vision.
If you wait until you’ve created tons of content to find those people, you might be creating content that they don’t want, or content that multiple audiences want, and that fractures you. You don’t want to be fractured. You want to focus all your energy on one huge community.
Look, part of building a community is coming up with incredible content constantly. That’s part and parcel. But the community is the thing that’s going to your career.
The good news is that your community want you to find it. Trust me. The right community wants you. They don’t care if you suck now, as long as you’re willing to grow. Heck, the right community can boost your career forward, and when they see you succeeding they’ll root you on.
But you have to find them. Strip it all down. The only thing that matters, really, is serving your community. If you can do that, you’ll be successful. If you don’t have a community…then you’ll struggle.
And who wants to struggle.
We did another live event! This time at Long Beach Comic Expo! We had a great time at the show, and I came back with the froggiest of throats. However, I muscled through to show you exactly why live events are so important, and I talked to a bunch of amazing creators.
Today we talked to Cat Ranson about living in New Zealand, in a small town, and still making a living as an artist. I think this is fascinating as somebody that living in Los Angeles and has access to much more opportunity on the surface. We talked to Cat a lot about that, but also about devaluing yourself as an artist, creating a brand, and kickstarter...my favorite topic.
You can check out Cat on facebook @ Cat Ranson or Deviant Art @ Sunktokeca. Also, don't forget to check out our Kickstarter for My Father Didn't Kill Himself. If you want more info about Kickstarter, head to www.kickstarteruniversity.com and check out our courses. Or if you want some cool comics, check out www.wannabepress.com
It's a question we get asked all the time. Are we profitable? And since we just finished our taxes this is a great time to tackle it.
Sometimes I think people ask too much, but I'm glad people are talking about it, so on the other hand I'm flattered. I mean it's a valid question. We are a small press. We put out a lot of books, so are we? Unfortunately, both for us and for whomever asked, it's not just a simple yes no question. There's a lot of ins, outs, and what have yous. So I tackle both the simple answer to the question, and the much more complex answer. On top of that, I flip it back to YOU and tell you how you can use everything I've learned to help you, and what it means for your career.
This week...honestly not much happened with the Kickstarter. We've been really trying to focus on what works and cut out what doesn't work. You'll be surprised what doesn't work for us, even though it worked well on the last two campaigns we ran. Additionally, we talk about how important it is to just have focus, because if you know what works you can drive all your attention to it.
Today is the soft official launch of Kickstarter University, a project I've been working on since late last year. It's a big one, our biggest launch to date, and I have big plans. However, I am today filled with dread, so I take to the air to talk about it, about KU, about why we did it, and about why I'm filled with fear today instead of excitement.
I loved this episode. Les has been working as a professional artist since 1992, and he's seen everything. He's been and still is a comic book artist, 3d modeler, storyboard artist and more. He's been punched in the gut by this business more times than he can count, and come out stronger on the other side.
This week we hit 100 backers! That's a huge thing for me b/c 100 backers is sort of the mark of a successful campaign. Once you get to 200+ backers we're talking mega successful, but 100 backers is a great benchmark. After we talk about that, then we talk about the mission for Wannabe Press, and why companies should be vertically instead of horizontally delineated.
This is a new experiment for The Business of Art. I'm part of a networking group called Comic Book Sunday, which is a fantastic place to meet creators, artists, writers, directors, producers, and people making a living in the business of art. So I thought it would be a good idea to talk with some of them and get their best advice on how to turn your art into a business.
Historically, I have done very well at cons. We've increased our sales every con we've ever been to, and every year our revenue exceeds that of the previous year, mostly from cons. That being said, most people hate cons. I thrive on them. I love meeting the fans, selling the fans, and making deals. Of course I'm a salesman by trade (and a right good one at that) and a business owner by blood, so it comes a little easier to me than it does to other people. But anybody can sell, they just need the tricks. I'm not going to overload you right now, but here are a couple of tricks you can employ RIGHT NOW to make you sell better at whatever convention you attend next. BEWARE, some of this flies in the face of what you've been told your whole life.
1 - ENTHUSIASM. WHERE IS YOURS? I know you're passionate about your product, otherwise you wouldn't have driven for hours, paid a booth cost, and outlaid so much money in order to get to a con. So why aren't you showing that enthusiasm to your customers? At least 60% of booths look like they would rather me die than buy. They don't smile. They don't engage. They just let the product speak for itself. Boo on that.
2 - PEOPLE WANT TO BUY FROM VENDORS THEY LIKE. At the end of the day, I can buy a button, sticker, or cool plush toy from any number of vendors. There are a half dozen that sell what you brought, so why would I buy from you? Because I like you. I can't tell you how many sales I've made just because I made a connection.
3 - BUNDLE. This is what flies in the face of what you've been told about not lowering prices or giving deals until the last day. Screw that. You know your profit margins and you have a willing, interested client in front of you. If somebody is tipping over the edge, make it worth their while by throwing in something with their purchase. I usually throw in a copy of my book Paradise as an incentive. If it kicks somebody over the edge, I made more than enough to justify the loss in profit. Everybody wants to know they got a good deal.
4 - DON'T LET THEM LEAVE. Here's the key. If somebody leaves your booth, they aren't going to come back. They will find something else they like and buy that. There is very little chance they will swim back upstream just to see you. You have to do whatever it takes, within reason, to make them buy from you and at LEAST leave an impression. Make they join a mailing list or something.
5 - ENGAGE WITH PEOPLE WALKING BY. The people walking through your area are perfect consumers. They want what you are selling. Why are you letting them pass without saying hello? Engage them, ask questions, seem interested in their lives. These are just a couple tips from me to you. By using them you will increase sales because you'll have more quality foot traffic asking about your product. Hope it helps. Make sure to check out freekickstartercourse.com too in order to start your journey on the right foot.
There is a time and a place for paid advertisements. You are going to draw a lot more eyeballs onto your work with some good paid advertising that you ever will with free advertising. That's not to say that free advertising isn't worth it though. It's absolutely worth the time, energy and growth you can see over time with your comic. It just won't happen all at once. You'll get a little trickle. There are a few ways to make advertising work FOR you in the best ways possible. There are some things you should be doing for free even if you pay for advertising. These are the best I've found.
1. Engage with your Facebook friends and twitter followers (and Instagram, and Pinterest, and Google+ too). The #1 way to build a loyal following is engagement, and the best way to deal with engagement with people. It's the #1 stat Facebook uses when they determine who sees your posts. And the best way to build engagement is to talk to your friends on facebook and twitter. Like their photos, retweet their stuff, actually, you know, give a shit and show it. Then, when you post something, they will like it too and you'll build a little community online just for you. Important: Please don't pretend to give a shit. Actually give a shit.
2. Tweet at people on Twitter that you don't know. When you see something cool online, tweet at the person that's sharing it and try to engage in a discussion. Again, it's important to actually give a shit or two about what's going on. Nobody likes a liar.
3. Find a famous person in your niche and like their followers. It's a way to introduce yourself to those followers, who already like somebody else doing what you do. Maybe they will follow you back, maybe they won't. But hopefully they remember you. Only do this with 20-100 people a day though.
4. Post free ads on Project Wonderful. It's actually wonderful. I hate giving up this secret because if more people know about it, less promotion sites will be free. But I love giving it up, because it will help you gain more web traffic, and I want you to succeed! Basically, you can create and bid on all sorts of advertising on project wonderful, including sites that have free advertising. It's a bidding system so you'll be outbid a lot, and you can only keep free bids up for 2 days, but it's a great way to build your brand for free.
Man. I feel like I barely scraped the surface of free promotion. I could go on and on forever. Maybe later.
Make sure to check out freekickstartercourse.com too in order to start your journey on the right foot.
You toiled for years to break through all your terrible ideas and found your amazing one...the one everybody is going to need… …and yet nobody’s buying it. Why?
It’s because nobody knows you exist!
New product creators always think that the world is going to open for them when their product is launched; that they can build a website and put their beautiful product on it, then people will come for sure.
But it doesn’t work that way. It never works that way. Because everybody’s got a great product. Microsoft, Amazon, 3M, and every other company has a great product too.
Those big companies are going to get their attention. They’re going to get their publicity. They have divisions of their company devoted to just building buzz. There’s very little room left to cover your project, especially if there’s no urgency. There’s just too much clutter. So how can you cut through the clutter when you don’t have a marketing budget, don’t have a dedicated staff and don’t have name recognition? How do you differentiate yourself from the pack?
The best way to show that you have a great product is to put it on Kickstarter and prove that it’s great. Just by being on the platform gives you amazing visibility IMMEDIATELY.
It’s the single best way to build brand visibility and cut through the clutter that people see every day. But it can’t end there. Now you’ve got a platform. Now you’ve got a landing page. Now you’ve got instant credibility.
Even in a world where there are thousands of Kickstarters running at the same time, just the fact you are on the platform separates you from the millions of projects that aren’t.
Make sure to check out freekickstartercourse.com too in order to start your journey on the right foot.
Banksy says you can do it. Shepard Fairey prefers using celebrities. In fact most graffiti artists are all about altering logos and commercial to make a statement. Richard Prince may be the king of this, as seen in his now infamous instagram art show where prints sold for $90,000 a piece (though he's been doing it for years).
There is a technical reading of the law that makes a case if you alter something 30% or 50% or even 5% and you are good to go.
And these readings may be correct. They may be technically correct at least, which is the best form of correct.
If you used the Disney logo, altered it, and made your own logo from it, there is a decent chance you can win a lawsuit against Disney.
But there is a 100% chance they will sue. Especially with Trademarks, they HAVE to sue to retain it.
And even if you're right, morally, legally, ethically... you still have to come up with the money to fight a lawsuit from a company that has roughly infinity dollars.
This is the question people don't ask themselves enough, especially when they are starting out and building their brand. Is it worth the agonizing stress and financial ruin that will come with being sued by Disney, or is it worth it to change to another company, or create a new product and avoid it all together?
Maybe it's worth it to you. I don't know. I can't answer that. Just know, that it's certainly something you will have to deal with, especially if you build your brand around a doctored logo from another company's brand.
'm back from SDCC today, but I'm still on a con high so it's another con themed blog. This time about getting over the anxiety of talking to people.
First, I know. People are the worst. They have big fangs, and horns, and they breath fire...wait, that's dragons. And dragons are the best.
All kidding aside, I know that talking to people at cons, especially when there are sooo many people, can be incredibly frustrating and harrowing. I personally only have a couple of good hours a day in me to talk with people before it gets too taxing and I need a break.
And I really like talking to people. So I can only imagine what a shy, introvert must think. However, when we are at cons we MUST talk to people. We must engage them. It's the only way to drive sales.
Even if you have the cutest, most adorable content at your booth, engaging with the people will get you to sell more, or upsell into bigger products. It will drive revenue.
So here are some tips on talking to people.
1 - RECOGNIZE PEOPLE ARE NOT MONSTERS. I know this sounds silly, but we often make people more intimidating than they really are. These are people at shows that are there to have a good time. If they are walking by your booth the have a conscious desire to look at the thing you are buying. Plus...they are generally very nice.
2 - SAY HELLO AND ENGAGE IN SMALL TALK. One of the corniest lines I get away with all the time is "What's your favorite thing you saw so far?" It works because I really do want to know. We're stuck behind a stupid booth all day, and in the very small amount of time I get to check out stuff, I want to know what to spend my time seeing. You can't just engage and disconnect. You have to show legit interest in what they have to say.
3 - SHOW PASSION AS YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU DO. If you engage in small talk, it will inevitably lead to them asking "So what do you do?" This is your time to shine. You have to muster all your energy and not just tell them the thing you do, you have to tell it to them with passion. This is they thing you devote every minute of your free time to doing. It's why you're at the con. Give them a reason to love it as much as you do, and they are more likely to buy.
If you can do all of that, you're going to have much better interactions with your fans. You will sell more, you will get more people onto your mailing list, and most importantly you will have more fun.
And fun is the most important driving factor to sales. If you love what you do, if people can see the passion in your eyes, if they believe in you, they will like you, and you will like them, and it will be a much better environment for everybody.
here's a LOT of doom and gloom in the comics business, specifically about making money. Specifically about not making money. There are a couple good articles about making money too. You can find two of my favorites here and here.
Even the positive articles are not very positive, while the negative articles make you want to slit your own wrists.
And it's true. Making money in creativity is hard. People think creativity is cheap, that books are overpriced, and there is a glut of good content out there.
I've worked in lots of industries and the creative ones have never been profitable. I've owned two production companies and a photography studio before Wannabe Press, and they failed spectacularly...though we did get a web series out of BNS Media Group.
It's a hard make money with such low margins and relatively small customer base. In my opinion, only a fool would try to make sense out of it.
Enter a fool.
That being said, I have a plan. A plan is all you can hope for in a business like this. It involves crowdfunding, web comics, ninjas, and haikus...those less of the last two.
Here's my plan.
RELEASE ALL MY BOOKS AS WEB COMICS
Everything that I plan on releasing in print will first come out as a web comic to build an audience.
SAME DAY PRINT AND WEB
When the web comic launches (or soon after) we put the completed arc online for everybody to buy. So many people don't want to read web comics until they are done, so we're going to have that ability to give them what they want if they choose to pay for it, either through ebook or print.
For more ambitious projects we will turn to Kickstarter, building on our audience for Ichabod (and hopefully Katrina) to make something amazing, bold, and big.
We have a couple of book stores that are warm to us right now, but we need more. I'm going to use my extensive sales training to cold call book stores, combine that with Barnes and Noble and other retailers to get these books into as many hands as possible.
This is the #1 way we sell books. They only happen a few times a year, but I do more business at cons then I do online by a factor of 10 (except for Kickstarter). We're going to expand our reach from SOCAL to the west region (Phoenix, Seattle, Denver) and then to the country (DC, NYC, Chicago) to hit the biggest cons in the country with wonderful books.
Once the full platform is launched, we're going to put advertising on as many sites as we can afford to build the audience for all the books. There will be cross promotion of everything and there should be something for everybody.
The goal is for Wannabe Press to be a destination for highly curated content that is available on both the web and in print.
We only have space for 6 total books: 1 running every day and 5 more to run once a week. It's an ambitious goal, I know. It's a crazy goal I'm sure, but it's a goal that is attainable in the short term to make and keep this company in the black.
The craziest thing about my writing life is how insignificant every day seems. There aren't startling revelations, or juicy secrets, or late nights, or missed birthdays, or bare knuckle boxing matches with my publisher, or all-night coke binges to hit deadline. I work, get home, write, eat dinner, spend time with my wife, and go to bed before 10pm; every night.
There is really nothing worth writing home about at all about my "career". It's boring. It's routine. It's stable.
My "career" is built on putting in 1,000 words a day, or five pages a day, or one issue a day, every day; every single day.
My "career" is built on the idea that there is nothing worse that putting a goose egg on the board and not writing anything for a day. That's it, plain and simple.
And yet, doing that (nearly) every day since 2010 (and really back to dark days of 2006 when terrible writing abounded), I've produced 2 fully realized graphic novels, one published book, and three more novels set for editing.
All from taking small bites every day. Sure there are 10,000 word days in there, and cram sessions, and days when I wrote nothing, but they are rare. Mostly it's just small gains every day over a long time.
Most days it's a slog. Most days feel worthless. Most days I want to give up.
Glad I didn't. Because looking back on it, I'm amazed at how much I accomplished one small bite at a time. Onward!
We all hit it. Whether it's in our job. In our personal life. Or even with being creative. We hit a wall that doesn't allow us to continue -- or so we think. The wall is hard. It's the thing that runners say they get around mile 15-17 of a marathon. It's that moment when you're body gives out, and you want to give up, because it's too hard.
And you have a choice. You can either believe your body, and hit that wall, and not continue. Or you can push through it.
Because on the other side of that wall is a second wind. It's a revived spirit. And it's finishing that race.
I came to this a few months ago, when I stared at the screen and just couldn't go on. I was 45k into my first book of the year. I was tired. My mind was weak. I just wanted to go home and go to bed.
Except that I was at home on the couch. So it wouldn't have been very hard to accomplish that.
But instead, I kept my keys on the keyboard. I kept watching youtube, answering emails, checking blogs, and reading facebook. But every so often I would keep going back and looking at the screen. And eventually, my fingers started typing.
It didn't have to be good. And it didn't have to make that much sense. It just had to keep writing through it.
And I passed 50k that day. And I kept going. Because I pushed through and kept going
This is one of the hardest problems anybody faces, because no matter how successful you are there's always a next step. It's literally never ending. That's why some of the most successful people are also the most miserable. First it's how to finish a script, then how to get representation, followed by how to get another to read/buy your damn thing, then how do you make the thing... into infinity.
Let me start by showing you the levels of career success:
- FINISH ONE SCRIPT. Just doing that is a HUGE accomplishment.
- NOT SUCKING COMPLETELY. See yesterday's post for more on this.
- HAVING A CATALOG OF SCRIPTS YOU AREN'T EMBARRASSED TO SHOW PEOPLE. This is at least 2-3 scripts. Because anybody who reads your stuff and likes it will immediately ask what else you've got to make sure you're not a one trick pony.
- GAINING REPRESENTATION. Manager, Agent, Lawyer, Drunk Homeless Man screaming your praises, whatever. Having one person like your stuff enough to stake their reputation on showing it to people is a huge step.
- OPTIONING A PROJECT. Optioning is basically allowing somebody to shop your project around without paying you a lot -- or anything at all in most cases.
- SIGNING A PURCHASE/PUBLISHING AGREEMENT. Not having something produced or published, just the agreement. These deals often never lead to anything if my career is any indication.
- HAVING A PROJECT PRODUCED/PUBLISHED. Bam DOOZLE! It happened. Your thing is out in the mainsteam. You would think this is the end result, right? WRONG!
- HAVING YOUR PROJECT BE SUCCESSFUL. Actually having your project be successful HAS to be the end result, right? Oh how little you know.
- BEING HIRED FOR ANOTHER PROJECT.
- REPEAT STEP 5-9 OVER AND OVER. FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.
- Realize that very few people in the world ever get to where you are. Even if people you know are more successful, so many, many people failed and couldn't even get to step one that by you even getting there you should throw yourself a party. And every step you are above step one means even LESS people got there.
- Don't judge yourself by your peers. That's NBA Syndrome. They are bitter @ making 800k a year because they can't afford two Bentleys, but that's only because everybody around them is making more than they are. It happens in every industry. If you're any good at your job, you should have people that are better than you which keep pushing you forward and people worse you're trying to pull up to your level.
- Remember that no matter where you are on that path people are envious of your success. People, even if you're at number one, are jealous and impressed you could finish that script. Just don't let it go to your head. Remember, you probably still suck right now.
- Take stock of where you were at this exact date last year. I do this all the time. Every day seems like a slog, but if you put it into perspective in 1-5 year increments it's very easy to see how far you've progressed. And if you haven't progressed, GET ON THAT!!!!
- Make a plan for where you are going in the next year, but only expect to accomplish 33% of your goals. And even though it's corny to say batting 33% will get you in the hall of fame in baseball, you can bet life is way harder than baseball. So if you hit 33% in life, you're doing incredible.
- Set realistic goals. Please don't say you're going to publish two books in a year if you've never even written one before. Even somebody like me who's been at this a long time would be hard pressed to publish two books in a year. Every year my goals become more realistic and my life gets happier because of it. Every year I write a three part resolution. PART ONE is looking at my last year's resolutions and how I did, PART TWO is looking at what I did right, and PART THREE is what I intend to accomplish this year. THIS YEAR, write two books, finally publish something in WIDE print run release, set up stuff to be published in 2015, and attend a con as an exhibitor. That's it. Very realistic.