“Sorry, kid. It’s a tough business to break into.”
With those curt words roughly ten years ago in response to my asking for advice, an editor at a popular publishing company reinforced my knowledge about something that I already knew was like trying to knock down a bowling pin with a wet noodle – getting into the comic book industry.
I could have given it all up, packed up whatever creativity I had at the time into a mental box, and just suppressed a lifelong desire from there on in.
That was a decade ago, though, and a lot has changed in those ten years. There was a time when publishing a comic book meant one of a handful of things – being that rare percentage that made it through the cracks and got hired at a comic company, to publish yourself in the Small Press arena, which oftentimes meant a lot of time spent at a local copy center printing out your latest issue and then taking them home to fold and staple, or dropping a very large amount of cash for the average Joe to get a single issue of your work printed professionally, and usually with a minimum order that meant plenty of leftovers.
The walls came tumbling down, however, with the advent of digital comics.
When my collaborator on Holidaze and I pitched our series to a few smaller publishing companies, unsuccessfully, it was the realm of digital comics that made it possible to bring it to life in all its full-color glory. Sure, we may not have landed a gig writing us checks to create, but we both agreed that that was never why we were doing it in the first place. The publishers we pitched to may not have believed in our book (if they had read it, which I’m still not sure of), but we believed in it and we knew that out there in the world of comic readers, there were bound to be other people who had a similar sense of humor, would get it, and would enjoy it.
You know what? We were right.
And with the help of the digital distribution company, Graphicly, we were able to take our series about the adult lives of all our favorite holiday characters and bring it to life for a viewing audience. We may have been setting up the chairs, but now there was the opportunity for anyone with an iPad, a Nook, a Kindle, an iPhone or Android, etc., to pull up a stool at the bar with us and laugh about Santa’s ‘lushiness,’ St. Patty’s hygiene issues, Cupid’s attachment hang-ups, or Dracula’s insecurities.
I’ve met a lot of writers and artists in varying mediums who have a hard time with rejection, who have convinced themselves that if other people aren’t paying them to do their art, they aren’t a real writer or a real artist. I’m sure there will be some who will fight me on this one, but I don’t think that’s true. Any artist, any writer, is a creator because they are creating something, and now there are opportunities to have total control over it while you do so. Is the person who creates a sculpture any less of a sculptor because his is displayed in his backyard while someone else does theirs as a commission? Is the person who writes poetry any less a writer than the one who gets paid to write a magazine article? Creators create.
There was a point where we didn’t quite know what to do. Here we had a great, funny, and very enjoyable series that just had nowhere to go without a pile of cash to print ourselves. Then, along came this platform that allowed a creator to pay a very modest fee and distribute their book across all the digital platforms you could ask for. One flat fee, with no future fees taken out other than by the arena you sell through (iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.). The rest is yours.
And now, thanks to initiatives like Comixology Submit, we’re working on expanding that reach even further.
We’re not getting rich, but that was never the intention. It was about getting all the creations of our minds to paper, or to screen, as it were, and sharing it with the world. We have a way of doing that now that we wouldn’t have ten years ago. The books are getting a good response, the next issue comes out this fall, and these two lifelong comic fans who have had the dream to create flowing through their bloodstream since they were kids are finally doing what they love – creating comics. No major company necessary.
The third issue of Holidaze, “How Dracula Got His Groove Back” is scheduled to be released this Fall.