We can't look back. We have to be sharks, who can't look back because they have no necks. Trust me on this. I did the research. I actually love where I sit right now, minus a few hundred thousand page views a day. We have a great audience, amazing comics, and a real community feel. But it took a long time for this to happen. It took many starts and stops, many thousands of dollars pissed away that I won't ever recover, oodles of failed businesses, abandoned projects and neglected ones galore, and a distinct lack of planning in building my personal, and business goals. So in the first part of an ongoing series, if I knew then what I knew now what would I do different to plan my career:
1 - Focus on a niche and genre. My writing has always been all over the place, which has been beneficial to me as a jack of all trades, but for a long time I was a master of none. Writing everything helped me figure out my voice, how to write, why I write, and what I wanted to do. I recommend doing a little of everything when you start, but when I focused on my professional career I should have picked a lane and became a master of it. Why?
- Finding a building fans is very hard, and they are unlikely to follow you across genres and mediums.
- Companies want to see a lot of work in a specific category in order to hire you. If they like one of your scripts they'll ask "what else do you have like this?" If you've got nothing except something in a wholly different genre and tone, that's a problem.
2 - Start small to grow your fan base. Once I settled on my niche and genre, I would start cranking out small projects and submitting them online, posting them to my website, and doing everything I could to prove I was a good writer in that genre. People are much more likely to read a few page short story or comic book from an unknown than a 400 page opus. I thought short stories and one offs were a waste of my time. I was wrong.
3 - Start a newsletter immediately. I would have started growing my mailing list from the moment I started. I wonder sometimes how many tens of thousands of potential fans I lost in my life because I didn't get their email address.
4 - Examine my audience and my "competitors" critically from the beginning. It took a long time for me to go to cons and examine what other writers were doing, and more importantly WHY they were doing it. It's so important to see what they are doing, how they are selling, and why they chose to write the project they did. Right now, I have a glut of content that I've created over the years. It's in every genre and medium. I've got children's books, middle grade mystery, sci-fi, horror, etc. Had I known then what I know now, I would have made sure everything pointed in one direction, so that all my fans would want to buy everything I put out, instead of growing multiple audience bases simultaneously.
When you do that, something has to fall by the wayside. It's a sad part of life, but it's a true one. You can't focus on all the things all the time, and in building this comic book company, my other projects fell by the wayside. I still love them, but it's too hard to promote everything at once.
If I could do it all again, I would fix that by planning better. Make sure to check out freekickstartercourse.com too in order to start your journey on the right foot.