In my time delving into the Indie Comics and Artist arena, I’ve heard discussions over why Indie projects are or are not good. It ranges from the art, to the writing, to the paper that the comics are printed on. People nitpick fonts, or color choices, or the way word bubbles are formed. They critique the inking technique (or the lack of inks) or the way the panels are laid out. People nitpick every little thing, but the bottom line is: It’s all of the above.
I’m far from a shining example of success, I’ll admit this. But I’m spending this year working on getting my game plan together and consolidating advice and information I get for my own game plan, as well as my own thoughts and opinions based on experience and observation. And I want to share it with you guys so you’ve got it too.
There’s every reason in the world why comics from the big wigs (Marvel, DC, Image, etc) should outshine the indies comics, and the big name artists fade the little guys into the shadows. From offset printing to multi-million dollar advertising campaigns, Indies have a hard act to follow to get a fair share of the lime light. Over the next week, I’ll be posting up my thoughts on Indie art and how to do it better. Today, we’re going to talk about being responsible:
The Responsibility of Being Indie
We are all ambassadors. Every single one of us has the potential to be the first indie creator that our audience may see. Whether we’re writers, illustrators, sculptors, painters, all of us stand to be the first-impression of what it means to be independent. We’re already off center stage because we’re not able to afford massive advertising campaigns or ten-feet tall full color booth displays, so when we get a chance to shine, we have to shine.
There’s nothing that irks me more than to hear someone at a con say “Oh, it’s just an indie comic” or “They’re not anyone special” regarding an artist. That tells me what they’ve seen and experienced already: Sub par products with sub par standards. “You’re being harsh, Aaron. We’re just indie creators!” No, I’m not. Do I expect you to have massive booths with the slickest and shiniest prints and booth-babes slinking off of every corner? Absolutely not! But if you want to be taken seriously, take yourself seriously!
Too often I see people with bare topped tables, nothing more than a simple print out of their name, not addressing the people that do stop to look at what they’re doing. This isn’t the time to be anti-social, this is the time to get out your extrovert hat and wear it loud and proud, and if you can’t do that, get someone who can! Get a cover for your table, get a banner if you can, if not, get a nice print out for your name with some art and maybe rates for commission on it. Get business cards! And when you make money from this, save it, use it to keep improving. Improve your tools, improve your display, improve your booth. If you’re complaining about not making enough money, then you’re obviously looking at this as a business venture, but are you treating it like one?
Make sure that you’re presenting your best work. It doesn’t have to be the most amazing work ever in the history of art, but it does need to be your best. If you’ve improved vastly since your current set of prints, make new prints! If your name tag/banner has old art that doesn’t look good by your current standards anymore, replace it with a new one ASAP! If you’ve done a few comics books and the first few are rough, keep them around, but showcase the good ones that you’re proud of. Show people that your worth checking out, and encourage them to check out your fellow artists as well.
Most importantly of all: Don’t get discouraged. You attitude will carry through in how you are interacting with people. If you’re discouraged, unhappy, frustrated, or just plain mad your visitors will smell it from a mile away. Don’t complain about the con, don’t complain about your fellow artists, don’t complain about the con goers. Don’t make fun, tease, or bicker. You may hate the loud mouthed son of a mother next to you, and the con might be the worst run piece of garbage you’ve ever encountered. That one fellow in the My Little Pony onesie might be the funniest thing you’ve seen in sixteen years, but remember this one simple rule: Don’t be a dick. I know it sounds like I’m joking, but I’m taking a somewhat light-hearted tone to tell you something very serious. Bad attitudes, rudeness, or just plain mean attitude is the quickest way to lose customers, fans, and business. No matter how hard you’re trying to be quiet, someone is hearing you, I promise. Keep it to yourself. Share bad experiences with a close knit few friends who can understand, and not just commiserate but also offer ways to improve results in the future.
Lastly, but certainly not least: Listen to feed back from your customers, even if it’s things said in passing. “I was on my way to xyz booth and I saw you,” What did XYZ booth have that was so appealing? “I almost missed you sitting here,” What can you do to be more of a presence on the floor. “I saw you on (insert social media here),” Post there more, offer deals or discounts, do anything to get their attention. Learn from every experience (especially the bad ones) and you’ll find yourself improving all the time.
Remember to be an ambassador for the Indie community. Strive to put your best foot forward in everything you do. Let’s all shoot to never here the word “Indie” said with disdane again. Let’s work hard to hear “Ooh! Where’s the Indie section?” The only way we can do that is to improve ourselves and push to be better. This is what I’m striving for. I’m currently off the con circuit until 2015 so I can get my displays ready and prints up and ready to go, because I’m going to be practicing what I preach. I hope you guys will too
Part two, we’ll be talking about What’s Important. See you Wednesday!