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B&N Week 69: Creator or Consumer Mindset?

| April 17, 2012 | 7 Comments

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.

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Category: Bolts & Nuts

About the Author ()

Steven is an editor/writer with such credits as Fallen Justice, the award nominated The Standard, and Bullet Time under his belt, as well as work published by DC Comics. Between he and his wife, there are 10 kids (!), so there is a lot of creativity all around him. Steven is also the editor in chief and co-creator of ComixTribe, whose mission statement is Creators Helping Creators Make Better Comics. If you're looking for editing, contact him at stevedforbes@gmail.com for rate inquiries.

Comments (7)

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  1. Egypt Urnash says:

    This is even more fun when you are the SOLE creator because NOBODY ELSE DRAWS THE WAY YOU WANT IT TO LOOK.

    Especially when a project that’s been sitting in the back of your mind for fifteen years rears its head and says “Here is my perfect beginning, and an ending that ties all your loose ideas for me into the theme”. I need to clone myself.

    And find someone to do the promotion for me. Somehow. Because there’s just not enough hours in the day.

    • Tyler James says:

      Part of the reason we chose the name “Tribe” in ComixTribe, is that you can really go a lot farther and accomplish more in concert with others. DIY comics is great, and remarkable work can be done all on your own. At the same time, very few (I can’t name one) of the most successful works were conceived, produced, marketed, and distributed by a single individual.

  2. Jules Rivera says:

    I’m not sure I understand what the article means by “letting your silent majority opinion influence your creative direction” and why it’s bad. Does that mean letting your own consumer tastes affect the kind of content you put out too much? And how exactly do we avoid that? Do we listen to the vocal minority and let them drive the bus?

    “Give your content every opportunity to thrive” is a really vague piece of advice. Please elaborate.

    • Questions! I love ’em!

      Now, to me, the question and the statement are linked. One leads directly to the other.

      Let’s take first things first, if we can.

      I’m not sure I understand what the article means by “letting your silent majority opinion influence your creative direction” and why it’s bad. Does that mean letting your own consumer tastes affect the kind of content you put out too much? And how exactly do we avoid that? Do we listen to the vocal minority and let them drive the bus?

      Everyone has a certain way they buy things (like comics), and certain tastes of what they think of how things are marketed. They think only of how THEY are affected by a certain way things are marketed and sold, instead of how the customer at large takes it. Most of the buying public has little conscious opinion of how and why they buy things. Some things that could be taken as offensive could be run of the mill for the majority–or they don’t think of it as offensive until they’re told to (sheeple). But yes, your own consumer tastes should not overly affect the content you put out, nor the way you put it out there.

      How do you avoid that? With much difficulty, trial and error, and looking at yourself, what you buy, why you bought it, why other people bought it, and how it makes and made you feel. It is NOT easy. There is no simple answer to this, because everyone is different. I’m not much for the vocal minority, personally, because I think they drive way too many buses as it is.

      “Give your content every opportunity to thrive” is a really vague piece of advice. Please elaborate.

      Simple: do everything possible to get your work seen. If you’ve created a comic that was slated for print, see how it does as a webcomic. Give it away, get people interested, and if they want to buy it, give them that option, too. Go digital. There are companies out there that will do the conversion for nothing. Graphic.ly is gone, comiXology is out for the small presser, but iVerse is still there. There should be others, like Oxicomics. There’s also The Illustrated Section, which will list your books for a price, but you keep all the proceeds from there.

      There are tons of opportunities. The creator just has to do the research.

      Does that answer your question(s)?

  3. eli ivory says:

    I think everyone wants to be a creator deep down. Pulling that out and putting it in some medium is the tough part. An idea is one thing but making it a reality is a whole different thing. The market is subjective, we see that there are the same genres expressed over and over. The consumer has a ton of things to choose from, but if something inspires them then they will want to check it out. Good article.

  4. Chris Navel says:

    The Illustrated Section is going down soon. I demand that someone rescues it because it’s a great alternative. Does this sentiment make me a vocal minority?

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