What’s up guys! I’ll be appearing at the Creator Owned Expo in Ft. Lauderdale, FL this year! Check it out:
What’s up guys! I’ll be appearing at the Creator Owned Expo in Ft. Lauderdale, FL this year! Check it out:
One of my favorite things about going to conventions is getting to talk to fellow artists and people in the industry. I love going to an artist’s table and have them perk up and talk to me, tell me about their projects and techniques, and what they’re excited about. That’s pretty much the best thing ever, and it’s something that makes me a lot more inclined to buy art from them, and come back to see them at subsequent conventions. The thing is, I’m not the only one.
I can’t stress enough how important is to engage the people who show an interest in your art. So often I go and see amazing hart at someone’s booth and they’re so buried in their art that they can barely interact with me. Now, believe me, sometimes I know it’s hard to get con commission done fast and still talk to your customers, and also that some of us are artistic types because we’re not the super gregarious, outgoing types. It’s something that we’ve got to manage in some way or another.
One of the things that I’ve had to adjust is what I offer at cons. I used to offer full color one characters done at cons. Can’t do that anymore! It takes several hours to pencil, ink, and color a drawing that I could squeeze four or maybe five pencils sketches. It’s also a lot easier to step away from a pencil drawing and talk to people and get back to it after I’ve talked to whoever is looking. If someone wants full color or extensive commissions get your money, get their contact info and get it to them the week after the con. That way, you can stay free to engage, and still take the larger projects.
It’s a lot more difficult to overcome shyness, though. I’m shy as hell, but I’ve worked for a really long time to get past that and I’m often confused for someone who isn’t an anti-social crank. HAH! Jokes on them! Trying to engage with someone who you’ve never met before is daunting, especially if they’re complimenting you on your art (damn them!). The tendency to get crazy embarrassed and give a shy smile and a “Thank you” and go back to the picture you’re trying desperately to hide in is overwhelming sometimes. I know, I still do it sometimes too. That’s where I rely on my friends and booth buddies to hop in with the save, “He’s gotta get that commission out in the next thirty minutes. If you like his stuff, grab a print…” etc. There’s a very good reason why you’ve got two passes and two chairs at your table. Everyone needs help.
Remember, you passion is contagious. If you engage your customers and really engage them, they’ll want to take your stuff home, they’ll take a card, and they’ll remember you. Sometimes, you don’t have to be the one they buy from at the con, you have to be the one they remember later. Try and be memorable!
I know you guys are gonna do awesome! Can’t wait to see you on the con circuit next year.
This is the last of the Art of Indie Art series, and admittedly this one is the most focused toward comic book creators. That being said, many of the points that I make in this one will apply to indie artists in general as well, so read on!
Big Dog Processes, Small Dog Budget
I think one of the most commonplace things that I see when I’m wondering through artist alleys at cons are comics and art that hasn’t been proofed or reviewed in some way. I’ve picked up comics that have not been proof-read (“There over their!”, “What’s wrong with yu?”), art that hasn’t been looked over by another set of eyes, print jobs that are grainy (300 dpi or better for printing, guys!) or have lines through it like you were running out of ink, and bad ink/color jobs that really just needed a second eye on it (missing the “X” for a black fill, coloring in eyes with flesh tone, etc). These seem like nit-picky little things, but they’re yet another gap between us and the big boys.
Stop and think about the process that the big boys go through – and bear in mind that this is a scaled down, simplified version. For a comic, the script is written, sent to editors to clean up and make any changes, then it goes to pencils, those pencils are generally reviewed (even if only at the thumbnail level) before being sent to the inkers. Once it’s inked, the lines are reviewed again and cleaned up if necessary, then sent to the colorist who colors and corrects as needed based on their own feed back. The letterist does their work, the comic is proofed and any final corrections are made, then it’s sent to print. Finally, once the comic is printed, it’s spot checked there again to ensure that the print out looks good. Same deal with any pinups or posters that go out, sans the script bit. Meanwhile, a lot of Indies are tossing out everything without anyone giving it a second look.
Well, sure. Indies don’t have staffs. We don’t have proof readers and artistic directors and editors to insure that we do things right. So we can’t do it. We’re just crap out of luck and have to settle for not being as good. Right?
You have friends. You have family. You have coworkers. It never hurts to ask, let me tell you. I’ve gotten some of the best feedback on scripts and art in the past from people who aren’t even remotely connected to the industry. Have a couple people read your scripts, grammar, spelling, anything. Have people look over your art and tell you if they see anything funky. But run through the same process, check each step and have someone with a fresh set of eyes check it too.
Now there’s an important step in there: YOU check each step. Write a script. Draw/Ink/Color a picture. Take a day off and then go back. Look it over with fresher eyes, and fix anything that is wrong. Then hand it to the person who’s helping you to do the same. Give them the best product you can, and then let them find the last nitpicks you missed. Too many people seem to forget to check their own work and hand off garbage to friends and family which makes it a chore to read through instead of reading something that’s already polished with some rough edges. Always remember: Present you best. Only you should see the coal, smash it real good so it’s already a diamond.
Another important thing to do is to surround yourself with trusted friends within the industry. I don’t know what I’d do without gents like Stephen Wittmaak or James Whynot, as well as folks like Derec Donovan or Mike DeBalfo. They’re people that I trust to give me valid feed back, and to point out not only issues on a particular pic but also point out when they send trends in my art that I need to beef up on. I know that I can count on them to help, and you’ve got friends like that, too. You’re probably already showing some of their stuff. Get them involved, get their feed back. It’s better than gold. Just remember to return the favor whenever you can.
This is where gold is made, guys. It may seem mundane. It may seem like a waste of time. But it will help you to maintain consistency, it will help you to deliver higher quality stuff, and it will help you become a better artist or writer. This is where the quality lies, guys!
In closing this series out, remember to be ambassadors. Remember to put your best foot forward in your presentation, your quality, your personality. Do your best to be a shining example of what an indie creator is. The onus is on all of us to do better than we have. To be more than what we’ve been. We’ve got the Oomph to do it. So let’s do it!
Thanks for listening, guys! Talk to you soon!
Sorry I’m a day late posting this one, guys! Time got away from me last night. Last time, we discussed what it meant to be an Indie Artist, we talked about what it meant to be an ambassador of Indie projects, and how important it was to put your best foot forward. It’s important to put your best foot forward in the right areas as well. If you’re doing amazingly well in areas X,Y, and Z, but areas A, B, and C are what you’re being judged on, it doesn’t really do you any good. Today I’m going to go over what I’ve observed from my time attending cons as a guest and as an artist, and while being active in the community that makes the thrive. This isn’t a definitive list by any means, but it’s what I’ve found to be the top five most important things.
I’m going to approach this from what I consider most important to the least important, though remember, this is the top of a longer list. Least important here is still pretty damn important.
You’re on a con floor surrounded by anywhere from eight-hundred to ten-thousand people, depending on the con. You’re surrounded by at least fifteen other artists and creators. Not to mention all the cosplayers on the floor, the special panels, celebrity guests, publishers, toy guys, collectables vendors. You name it, it’s there. And everybody is screaming for the same thing you are: People’s attention.
If you’re sitting in a booth with some pictures on a plain, uncovered convention center table then you’re not doing business unless you’re the Leonardo Di Vinci of the modern age. People are passing you by for flashy banners and slick print outs, price tags all over everything in clear view. Fun fact: Some people won’t even engage you if your prices aren’t in clear site. Your hemorrhaging sales. HEMORRHAGING.
And it’s even WORSE online! Between sites like Etsy, DeviantArt, et all you’re like a tiny fish in a pond full of sharks. If you’re not making every effort to measure up, you’re falling short.
Con displays cost money. Websites cost money. That’s rough, ESPECIALLY when you’re first starting out, but here’s the deal: Good presentation is the first step to bring in customers who will give you that money back for your products. You’ll have your initial investment paid off before you know it, and be able to expand from there.
That last part was key, by the way: Expand from there. Don’t go and drop a thousand dollars on a con display and be in the red for months. Drop a hundred on a table cover (with your name or logo on it if you can swing it), some slick prints, and some cheap easels to display your favorites. If you sell your prints for, say, $20 each, you’ll have that made back in five prints. Once you do that, put aside the next bit of money you make for more prints, then a banner, or something else you can add to really make your display stand out in a crowd.
Same thing goes with websites. With things like http://weebly.com and http://wix.com that are free, or offer a free option, there’s really no reason to not make something nice. Yes, they’re stock sites. Yes, they might look like someone else’s site, but its for free and it gets you in the door. Set up a store online with http://etsy.com or with http://storeenvy.com and start selling there, buy a domain (they’re cheap!) and make it work! If you’re already adept at making websites, then have at it, but look at competitors’ sites and make sure you’re keeping up with the Joneses.
Learn SEO (Search Engine Optimization). It sounds all fancy and technical, but it’s really not. It’s easy, and a lot of free website builders include tools to make it easier. It’s the equivalent of posting a giant neon-billboard online to bring people to your site. More people you have following your site, your Facebook page (Make a PAGE, don’t use your personal account!), your twitter, your Instagram, and whatever else, the more people you’ll have recognizing you at cons and wanting to check out your work in person. The more people looking, the more people buying! It all works out!
But getting folks to your booth isn’t the only part; next is keeping them there. What do I mean by this? Am I asking you to be the next Greg Capullo? No. I’m not. You have your own distinct style and your own progression level to contend with. What I’m saying is that you need to be putting out the best quality art you can put out, even if it’s stick figures with witty one liners. Make those the best damn stick figures out there. And as you improve, get rid of your old stuff. Either stop selling it all together (I prefer that option, personally) or stick it all in a bargain bin for 5 bucks a piece.
Make sure that what you’re selling is nice, as well. Prints that look like they came out of your grandmothers inkjet (sorry, Nana) when it was almost out of ink aren’t going to sell for 20 dollars. Go to Kinkos or whatever your favorite print shop is and have them run off ten of each of your prints. Pick affordable sizes. Don’t be afraid to offer smaller, photo sized prints as well! A lot of places have photo printers that will print off 4×6 images for less than a buck! That’s way affordable. AND it looks good, and you’re giving your customer something that’s worth buying. Key chains, buttons, prints: There’s plenty of vendors out there now that offer affordable, nice looking goods to hand to your vendors. And don’t be afraid to invest a little bit in something cool and free, like mini print or even a collector card. Just make sure it’s something good!
Honestly, I think I could devote an entire blog just to this. (Note to self: Devote entire blog to this later). Personality is key. In my last blog entry I mentioned that you had to engage potential customers when they approached your booth, and that if you can’t do that get someone who can. I meant that! I don’t care if it’s your girlfriend, your wife, a friend, or even your mom! If you are a major introvert and can’t ready and openly engage people as when they start looking at your stuff, you will not be successful. Smile, greet, ask folks what they like. Don’t be afraid of your customers, they’re the best friends ever at cons! Even if you do have a friend doing most of the extrovert leg work, make eye contact and smile. I know it’s hard! But you gotta! And if they ask you a question, you have to answer. Just be friendly and tell them their answer then, “I’m sorry, but I’m super swamped with commissions right now! <insert friends name here> can help you with anything you need!”
So, so, SO important, guys! Remember this one!
You’re not charging too much (unless you are). Something that I fell prey to – and a lot of other artists have admitted to falling prey to – is the idea that your art isn’t worth paying for. I think to some extent we’re all capable of self-evaluation. We’re probably harder on ourselves than most, but learning to cut ourselves a break is awesome. All artists are not created equal. Your art won’t command the same as a thirty year veteran of the comic book industry, but look around at other artists in your vein. Both artists that have more practice in than you, and artists that are still working up to the level you’ve reached. Find a nice medium price range in there and set it. Set it solidly, and don’t let people haggle. If they don’t want to pay you a fair price for your art, they can move on. I can promise you, you’ll be surprised what people are willing to pay. Remember that when you look at your art and you internally rage fit out because it’s so horrible and so flawed, you’re seeing things that most people won’t. You’re seeing “That ear is off! The perspective is one! What the hell is that texture I made! Why does that look like play-doh? Where is gravity with those boobs!” while the people who are looking at your art are saying “Wow! What a cool drawing!”
Try and think about your art as an hourly, too. How many ours did you dedicate to a task? Let’s say you dedicated 15 hours to a commission for someone, and you got 25 bucks for the commission. Congrats, you’re making $1.67 an hour. Does that seem fair to you? That’s not even minimum wage! If you’re looking to make a living doing this, that isn’t fair. At minimum wage you’re looking at over 100 bucks for the same pic. Seems a little more reasonable now, doesn’t it? Now consider how uncommon artists for hire are compared to other professions. At minimum, I’d say you’re worth ten dollars an hour.
I stopped and broke down my hours for one of my last commissions and was sort of disappointed in myself. I spent at least two hours on comps for the customer, another three on pencils, three on inks, and probably four or five on colors (this was an 11×17 big ole commission). Twelve hours minimum, and I charged 60 for it. Sounds expensive, doesn’t it. STILL not minimum wage! I undersold myself! Don’t be afraid to ask what you’re worth!
Advertising is one of the simplest things you can do, but it sounds like the hardest. There’s a million ways to do it with the internet. You can start by reading up on SEO marketing. Pick some keywords, update your site regularly (use a system like Wordpress or something similar so you can do blog posts) with content that has the key word in it as much as possible. Add meta tags to your site, and start trying to get links made back to your site (Facebook shares are awesome!). Make a Facebook page for your creative ventures and post often (daily if you can). Start a twitter, a tumblr, an instagram. Make your artistic endeavors interesting, not just to you, but to everyone. Have fun with it! Get business cards, layout fliers (most cons have a nice general table for fliers, etc), post on Facebook Event pages for cons your attending with links back to your website. Let people know you’re going to be places, and more importantly try and get them EXCITED that you’re going to be there.
The point is: Get yourself out there. Advertise your art, your appearances, your store; anything you can do to get your name and your product out there, do it! I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: If you’re going to look at this like a business, you HAVE to treat it as one! Have faith in yourself, and make it happen!
Remember to make yourself stand out in the crowd, give folks quality items that make them want to approach, approach your customers when they approach you, charge what you should be charging, and get your name out there! Keep your standards high, and we’ll make this community of ours something to really be proud of!
One last thing before I go, because it’s fun. In my scrounging around for various and sundry bits for this blog post, I found this and thought it was fun and very, very true! http://virtualcara.tumblr.com/post/50919885990/10-tips-for-winning-at-artists-alley-con-season
See you on Friday to talk about getting Big Dog Process at a Small Dog Price!
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!