Tuesdays are pretty special to me. They go by too fast, too. I mean, I wait all week long, just to have a chance to spend some time with you, and before you know it, our time is over. Can’t we make Tuesday stretch over 48 hours or so?
Anyway, I want to talk about something that you’re all going to have to come to terms with, whether you realize it or not. I’m talking about your mindset. The basic question to answer is this: are you a consumer posing as a creator, or are you a creator who wants to give things to consumers?
Let’s explore the Bolts & Nuts of that, and see if we can’t see what your mindset is, and what you can do to change it [if it needs changing].
As a creator, the world has to be broken into two segments: consumers, and content creators. Content creators are those who, for whatever reason, feel the need to create something that other people can enjoy and/or learn from. Content creators are all around us: every news site you visit, every time you go to the movies, turn on your television, read a book or magazine—all of that content is created by someone with the intent of it being consumed by someone.
Okay, let’s get a little closer to home. You come to this site every week to hear the writers spout off on one subject or another. All of the writers here are content creators, and we’re wanting you to consume what we’ve created, in the hopes that you’ll then go out and create your own content for consumption.
Consumers? Consumers consume. They go out and they buy stuff that we create, or they read for free what we give away.
Consumers are difficult, to say the least. The overwhelming majority of them don’t know what they want until we tell them. Then, there’s the very vocal minority that know what they want, and do their best to shape what the rest of the majority wants, in order to fit the needs and whims of the few. (Steven, did you just call the majority of the population sheep?) [Yes. The majority of the population are “sheeple.” This isn’t just in comics. This is in everything. Look around and see: political lobbyists, special interest groups, single individuals that take it upon themselves to try and change the world, or who change the world because of a wrong done to them. Sheeple aren’t difficult to find. I’m one, in a way, and so are you.]
The vocal minority will do everything in their power to get what they want. What they want is power over the content creator to provide the content that they want to read. Never mind what the creator wants to provide—that has no bearing on the conversation. They want what they want, and the creator has to do their best to resist the urge to give in to the minority and serve both themselves and the silent majority.
It just gets extremely tough, because the creator doesn’t know what the silent majority wants. [Hence, “silent majority.”] They should just create, and let the chips fall where they may.
Then comes the problem. [You knew it was coming, right?] (I was waiting for it.)
Content creators are also consumers, and most often, part of the silent majority.
What does this mean?
This means that, as a creator, you have an opinion as to how you want your content disseminated, and are often in a position to make sure it gets done the way you want it to. You look at the market, you see what’s being done, and say, “I’m going to do it differently.” Sometimes, “differently” means shooting yourself in the foot. And if you haven’t guessed, shooting yourself in the foot is not a good thing.
There are some extremely uncomfortable realities that, as a creator, you need to understand:
· The comic book market is dominated by two companies—Marvel and DC. Without these two companies, everything else crumbles.
· Comic book shops buy from these two companies first. This is how their shop makes money. Everything else is a secondary consideration. Image? Secondary. Boom!? Secondary. Dark Horse? (Secondary?) [Exactly. Secondary.]
· As yet, there is no money in digital comics. Graphic.ly just got out of the storefront business, leaving comiXology as the digital equivalent of Diamond.
· The direct market is dominated by Diamond. Most comic shops won’t carry a book that isn’t carried by Diamond. The larger the shop, the lower the possibility that it will carry your independently created comic.
· Diamond is in business to make money. If your book is not of quality, they will not carry it for distribution. And make no mistake, Diamond watches the market, they watch comics, and the reps, even though they have their own tastes, know what they’re talking about. If they passed, it means they can’t make money off your book.
· Webcomics are a dime a dozen, and it takes a lot to not only create one, but maintain it in obscurity long enough for it to gain an audience and for the creator to start making money from it.
See that? That’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you’ve read that and understood it, you would see that your options are extremely limited.
With limited options of getting your book seen, why are you doing things to make sure your book continues to wallow in obscurity? (No I’m not! There are just certain things I think I can achieve by doing things my way, that’s all.) Yes, I know. And “your way” will make it harder for your book to catch on and break even, if not make a profit.
You’ve spent a lot of time and money in getting Pen-Man off the ground. If you’ve listened to me, this is what you’ve done: you’ve done a lot of prep work in getting the script ready to be written while saving your money; after you’ve written the script, you hired an editor to help you get it polished and ready for the creative team; you’ve hired a creative team within your means so that you can bring a new book into the world. Now what? Remember that creating comics is expensive in both time and money. Ever see the movie The Money Pit? Tom Hanks and Shelly Long pour tons of money into this house with hilarious results.
Comics is a money pit, and you’re going to have to work long and hard in order to make your investment back. Why make it harder on yourself than absolutely necessary? Why not give your creation every opportunity to thrive, even if it means doing something you normally wouldn’t do?
What you’re doing is letting your silent majority consumerist opinion influence your content creator stance. Extremely often, the two do not mesh. It’s a dog with two bones, and you’re going to be forced to make a choice.
As a content creator, it is your job not to just create content, but to give that content the best chance possible of being consumed. That means you have to do everything in your power to give the content the widest dissemination possible. As a content creator, that is your job. Never forget that.
Your silent majority consumerist opinion can and should be informing your content creative mind, but it shouldn’t be skewing it in such a way that it hampers your ability to sell or give away your content. And that happens all too often.
Take a look at Mark Millar. He’s a shill, selling himself as his brand so that he can sell his comics. He knows that people want to be entertained, and want to be entertained well. It works for him. Why? Because he’s telling quality stories, and they sell in droves. The silent majority has spoken with their wallets, and that has led Millar’s stories to be made into movies.
Do you have to be a shill? No, not at all. But it doesn’t hurt. Not as long as you have a quality product backing you up.
Don’t throw money and time away. Give your content every opportunity to thrive. Step outside of the box your consumer mind has put your creator mind into. Take every avenue, every possibility, every opportunity to get your work in front of people.
You’re a content creator. It’s time for you to start thinking like one.
No homework this week. Enjoy the break.
Category: Bolts & Nuts