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B&N Week 85: Become A Better Creator–Business

| August 7, 2012

We have another Tuesday upon us! That means it’s time for more Bolts & Nuts!

This week, we continue with our talks about becoming a better creator. This time, it’s all about business.

I know some of you would rather talk about the actual creation of comics all day long. Talking theory and about what does and does not work all the live-long day. I will be the first to say that I enjoy it mightily, myself, but it takes a lot to bring a comic from an idea in your head to a book you see on the shelves.

If you’re going to do it yourself [and some of you have to], then you have to have something that most creators starting out don’t have: a business plan.

This isn’t something as formal as something you’d hand to a bank in order to ask for a business loan, but it is more of a plan of action for yourself, along with timeframes, that action can be taken on and monitored.

It’s like this, folks: if you don’t plan to succeed, then you’ve already planned for failure. It isn’t just about, “Oh, I have a great idea for a book/strip, and I know just what to do with it!” That idea has to be nurtured, brought to life, pitched to other creators, and so on and so forth until it gets to the shelf.

All of that—all of it—needs a plan. And not just one plan, either. The overall plan will need to have plans within it, and some of those may need plans within that.

The best, easiest thing to do is to do a lot of breaking down of the plans and assign timeframes for each part. The breakdown is something that should be able to be easily checked off, so that you can gauge your progress as you continue your journey from idea to shelf.

There are hard parts. (There always are.) The hardest part is breaking down the plan as far as possible, followed by assigning a reasonable timetable and sticking to it.

The biggest mistake you can make is to think that this process is going to be simple. You have to account for everything, and if you think you have, then you haven’t done enough research.

Yes, if you paid a team to work full time on your book, you can have a book done in 30 days. But, really, the physical creation of the book is the easy part. You can easily think to spend six months of time going from concept to shelf for the initial issue, and that’s if you have a team working on the book full time. It will be longer if you don’t have a dedicated team.

If you’re going to go through the trouble of creating a comic, then you have to treat it like the business that it is. Even though it should be fun, you have to take it seriously. That’s the only way to ensure success.

In treating this as a business, there are a few things you have to concentrate on.

Writers: You have to concentrate on artwork. You have to learn to know what you’re looking at. You can’t just take the first pretty face you see. Excessive crosshatching and backgrounds that look lush and gorgeous can hide all manner of bad storytelling, quirks of anatomy, vanishing points that don’t line up, and more. You want to help yourself? Learn not just to look at art, but to also see it.

Artists: I know it sucks, but you have to learn to interpret a script. That means reading. (Why do I feel an insult coming on?) Artists, if you don’t know the difference between to, too, and two, or its and it’s, or when to use then and than, or how and when to use a comma, then you need to go back to school and learn. I know it seems unimportant, but there’s a new crop of writers coming through who don’t know these things. They don’t know how to spell, they don’t know how to tell a story with words, and they call themselves writers. Bad spelling and grammar, with even worse stories. You have to learn to know what you’re reading. Skimming the surface will not work.

Everyone: Eventually, you will be offered a contract for work. You’ll either seek out a publisher to work under, or a publisher will seek you out. They will offer you a contract. Always remember you have room to negotiate. See what they offer, see what you want, and see if there is any way you can come to terms with the offer set before you. If there is, you’re good. If there isn’t, there’s the ultimate bargaining chip: walking away.

Another thing: business decisions need to be made dispassionately. Your heart has set you on this path, but your mind needs to be clear about what it is you want, and the steps needed to get there. If you know what is best for the story from a business standpoint, don’t let your heart make decisions that could hurt it.

One last thing about business, and then I’ll let you go.

Learn to put it away and go out and enjoy your life some. (But…BUT! You said that making comics involves sacrifice!) I did. That I did. But you sacrifice too much, and you may end up starting to hate the thing you love.

You have to take some time off from comics. Think of it as a vacation. Or, even better, only work on comics for a few hours each day. If it’s the weekend, work it as a regular job: nine to five, with a rest break, a lunch break, and another rest break, and then calling it quits for the day. No emails, no phone calls, no one more line of script or line of art. Back away from the chalupa.

If you treat comics as a business, that means you’re treating it with respect. And you have to treat it with respect. If you treat it with the respect it deserves, then you should be able to navigate it well and go further than you think you can.

Study comics. Study the business of comics. Learn lessons from the past so that you can make informed decisions for your future. Learn your lessons well, because you have everything to gain, and everything to lose if you don’t.

Homework: Learn the business of comics. It’s all around you. Respect the business of comics. Plan, so that you may succeed.

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Category: Bolts & Nuts, Columns

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.

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