business

AUTHENTICITY

People ask me all time how I’m able to build such a strong connection with my audience. Is it because I have so much content, or because I launch multiple books at a time books so quickly, or because I've been doing this for the better part of a decade so I knew people. The answer is yes, yes, and yes.

But more, it's because people think I am authentic. I speak what I mean, I am not afraid to show my flaws, I geek out on stuff, and I'm not a perfect little package.

People like people that are true to themselves. Even if not everybody likes you, that's okay. You're not here to please everybody. You're here to find a group of like-minded people that share your vision.

When people start out they are so scared of showing themselves are fragile, or new, or flawed. But that's what people like about you.

That's what makes you unique. That's how you will find your audience. Not my audience, mind you. There may be some overlap of people who like my stuff and yours, but we'll also have people that like my stuff and hate yours, or love yours and hate mine.

And that's okay. There's 400 million+ people in this country and 6 billion+ in the world. There's room for both of us to be authentic and find people that share our minds.

But you have to put yourself out there. That's the hardest thing in the world to do. Open up to strangers.If you can, though, the results can be magic.

Make sure to check out freekickstartercourse.com too in order to start your journey on the right foot.

THINGS I WISH I ONLY KNEW WHEN PLANNING MY CAREER

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.

3%

This article came out last month, claiming you can't make sales through Facebook. i disagree. I checked out the author's books, and let's just say they aren't my cup of tea. The book he references only has 42 likes on Facebook, and doesn't seem to have much activity at all.

On top of that it doesn't look like he as a Facebook page at all. He's definitely not trying to find, build, or engage with his audience...which is what Facebook is built for.

So he's talking about strictly using Facebook's LEAST effective advertising method, Promoting a website. I HATE using Facebook to promote a website. I think it's incredibly INEFFECTIVE to use Facebook that way.

He doesn't talk at all about promoting likes, which I have seen as very effective, nor promoting a post, which is also pretty effective.

Additionally, the MOST effective way to target a Facebook ad is through a lookalike audience, which you can't do if you have 42 page likes.

One thing he says is true though, people want free content. In fact statistically, only 3% of the audience you give something to for free will consider paying for it.

3%.

Which means in order to make $600, you need an audience of 20,000. In order to make $6,000, you need an audience of 200,000, and to make $60,000 you need an audience of 2,000,000.

We're a long way off from that.

In another statistic I've heard, only 20% of the people that like your Facebook page are real fans. So you have to immediately cut 80% of your Facebook fans away who like your page to see who you're really targeting.

It's a very depressing statistic. Both are.

I think that's a little ridiculous, honestly. You should be able to cut that down if you have GREAT CONTENT, which is also something this guy doesn't talk about.

His content might just be crappy, so nobody will buy it. I don't know

It might be Facebook sure, but it might be other things.

People complain that they can't reach their audience with Facebook, and while it is sad we no longer live in a utopia where marketing is free, they are a business and they have to make money.

And even if it is wrong, the truth of it is that's the way it is. You have to advertise a product in order to get people to buy, or come up with work-arounds to the system.

The long and short of it is this, Facebook is a tool, just like all the other tools, for marketing. If you don't use your tool effectively then you will not have good results.

You have to build a relationship with your audience, and there's fre better way to talk about who you are than Facebook.

If you don't use that, though, you're gonna have a bad time.

Interesting Kickstarter Facts

Interesting Kickstarter stats time. We're about to enter our last week, which is crucial. However, the stats from our first three weeks are equally important and can hopefully help your planning. We currently sit @ $5964. Week 1 we raised $3983. Week 2 we raised $1330 Week 3 we raised $651.

I cheat on week 3. I gave it 9 days, instead of 7, because it was super depressing on week 3.

For those stat nerd like me, that means we had a 67% dropoff week 1 to week 2 and another 49% dropoff week 2 to week 3.

It also means we RAISED 67% of our funds in week 1, 22% in week 2, and 11% week 3.

I've only seen stats with the final week included, which is generally very high. I wonder if this tracks with anybody else's stats.

Don't Bite the Hand that Feeds You

Over the weekend Fantastic four bombed and its director Josh Trank said some stupid stuff. Really stupid.

Especially for a director that got a massive windfall from Fox to direct the project.

And let's not discount that when we talk about him being an "artist" sticking up for his craft.

Trank was paid an exorbinent  amount of money to direct Fantastic Four.

From the company he just slammed.

For creating a product that lost them tens of millions.

That's ballsy. I mean, it's ballsy if you ever want to work again, at least with that studio, if not the industry at large.

Here's the thing.

You'll have a bomb in your career. Maybe it will be an indie bomb, or maybe a publishing house bomb, or maybe a studio bomb.

It WILL happen.

Something you love will fail. Probably something you hate will succeed too. But more importantly, something you sank tons of effort into will die a slow death.

And you'll be pissed. You'll want to blame people. You'll want to bite the hand that fed you, because it's obviously their fault it happened. They gave you bad notes. They made you change things. They are evil.

But they also paid you to do a job. They also insulated you from issues. They also marketed the project (possibly) and put their name on the project to give it life. Their fans looked over, and bought the project.

And they can pay you again. They can forgive you, if they like you. They can give you another shot. And if they won't somebody else probably will. Because bombs happen.

But if you're a dick about it, that all changes. Nobody wants to work with a dick who bites that hand that feeds them. Especially when your project bombs.

If it's super successful they have to deal with you. You make them money. But when you stop making money for them, they'll cut you real fast.

If you're nice, on the other hand, people will keep feeding you, because they like having you around. They WANT to support you, even if they don't like your work. They like YOU, and that's what is important.

So don't be a dick about it, even in failure. Because it's in failure that true character emerges.

How to Stay Positive

The world is tough for everybody. Nobody has an easy go of it. But we as writers are one of few that chose to take our lot in life and make it exponentially more miserable due the constant worry, rejection, and disappointment that comes with being an entrepreneur. Here are a couple of strategies I use to stay positive. It's not easy for me. I'm not a positive person. Perhaps I should rename this, how to keep going, instead of how to stay positive.

1 - Savor the little victories. Whether it's a good review from a friend, or a positive note from a possible agent, or selling a book at a con, or breaking even for the first time after a decade of writing, there are little victories. All of those little victories will add up over time.

2 - Don't forget how far you've come. Whenever I'm with my friends I always and we start complaining, I always say "Yeah, but if we told us from two years ago this would be where we'd be now, they would flip out". You are probably doing better than you think you are, and certainly better than you were two years ago.

3 - Understand you are never where you want to be. No matter where you climb, you will want the next rung. It's just who we are. First we want to finish a book. Then we want an agent. Then we want a publisher. Then we want a release. Then we want a best seller. Then we want a book deal for the next one. Then we want to make enough to quit our job. Then we want speaking engagements. It never ends.

4 - Get out of the house. Look, who doesn't love their house. Nothing is better than walking around in underoos and not needing to impress anybody. But connections are important. And being outside is important. Taking a break from worrying is important. Breaking up the routine is important.

5 - Never stick with something that makes you miserable. I'm also big on never sticking with something that makes you miserable. I know not everybody is in the position to quit a shitty job, or move to a new town, or leave their crappy relationship, but if you even have a plan to do so it will help. Life is short and we only have one go around, so being miserable is even worse. It took almost a decade of building and struggling to form Wannabe Press, but there was always a plan. And even the plan made it all bearable.

Hope it helps!

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT TO WORK ON THINGS YOU CARE ABOUT

One of my goals for 2016 is to only work on projects, with people, and for companies that I believe in fully.I know that's not possible for everybody. Heck, it's not even been possible for me historically.However, in the past couple of months I've been able to devote myself almost fully to causes, projects, initiatives, and business opportunities that I fully believe in and want realized.

These are things I not only want to get out into the world but think NEED to get out into the world. Before this year, I've worked on projects, for businesses, and sold products that I couldn't give two shits about, honestly.

I sold widgets and widgets were widgets. One widget wasn't measurably better than the other. I moved from selling shitty widgets to okay widgets to great widgets, but in the end a widget was a widget. Now, that's not the case. Now I really, really care about everything I'm doing, and I can see the difference in my life. Not just in my productivity, and certainly not my income, but also in my general mood.

I'm not saying you should start your own company, or quit your job to work for a non-profit. I am saying that the idea of doing what you love is real...and it's really important.

What I am saying is there are calculated risks you could take to live a better life. Maybe not something that makes you richer financially, but something that makes you a richer person. Something that makes you not groan when Monday comes around. Maybe there are companies you can work for that share your values better than your current one, or something you can do on the side that can build into your life's work. Maybe it's just getting out of a shitty relationship (sexual or friendship) and aligning yourself with people that see the world the way you see the world. I know friends found that when they've switched companies. They loved what they did, and liked where they used to work, but their new companies allowed them to flourish.

I never understood that until recently.

I have been a bitter, anger, mean-spirited person most of my life. I've worked on it a lot in the past few years, with varying success. Now that I'm embracing the idea of doing what you love with who you love, damn if my personality isn't 100% different.

Damn if I can't see the good in people. Damn if I can't end my day feeling good about myself.

It didn't happen overnight. It doesn't happen overnight. And every day I worry that it could all collapse under the sheer weight of what I'm trying to do.

Make sure to check out www.freekickstartercourse.com to get your journey off on the right foot.

HOW DO YOU BUILD AUTHORITY IN A SPACE DOMINATED BY BIG BRANDS?

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?

It’s easy.

Kickstarter.

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.

Is it Okay to Alter a Logo for Commercial Use?

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.

 

But I hate talking to people! It fills me with anxiety.

'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.

Making Money Making Comics, my strategy

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.

KICKSTARTER 

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.

BOOK STORES

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.

CONVENTIONS

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.

ONLINE ADVERTISING 

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.

What it's really like leaving a job you love and starting a business

What it's really like to leave a job you love and start a business on your own:

All day thinking "Am I sure I made the right move?" All day asking "Karen, are you sure I made the right move?"

Every "yes" is met by a "no" in my mind's eye.

No. You've done this 5 times before and 5 times you've failed. Why would the 6th be any different?

No. You don't have the gumption. You don't have the skill. You don't have a product people want. You didn't think this through. You didn't plan this out. You don't have clients. You don't have a market. You don't have a business plan.

This is the worst idea ever.

"Am I sure I made the right move?" Yes. "Karen, are you sure I made the right move?" Yes.

Yet the cycle continues.