Tag Archives: diversity

The Secret Revealed

So, this article got everybody in a tizzy:

Comics: You’ve Got Your Diversity, So Why Don’t You Buy Them?

It’s an old chestnut, to be sure. Hell, I’ve written at least five articles on this subject alone. Still, as Diversity has become the number one topic in the comic book industry (yes, more prevalent than Batman Vs. Superman and Captain America: Civil War).

Wakandan Push Back
300 K in advanced sales… Marketing, beeyotch!

The “Corporate Two” will make a big initial bruhahah about a “diverse” project, but not follow up after the first issue’s release (i.e. DC’s handling of David Walker’s run on Cyborg). In fact, if you know your A-list properties have that built-in audience that’s carrying your line, how about spending less time marketing the obvious and spend a little more money, and attention, on your “struggling” or “off-beat” properties.

Diversity is more than just the color of your character… It’s also the tastes of the reading public.

Now, back to the independent portion. Say it with me one more time with feeling, people…

You build your audience one customer at a time.

This is where conventions and social media come into play. This is where you need a plan… Marketing 101. From my experience, this is the real work.

Although time intensive, creating the book is the easy part in making comics… Because it’s fun to create. As an Indie, keep in mind that you are not going to sell DC or Marvel numbers… You don’t have to. You don’t have the same overhead that those companies do.

Bounce-Know-Your-Place
Chuck Collins’ Bounce built its fanbase one comic at a time… Now collected in its first print volume…

In addition, trying to do a monthly comic when that is not your main job is kind of not the way to go nowadays since the only brick and mortar distributor, Diamond, is not really checking for Indies. You’re better off either doing a webcomic to build your audience and then create a trade when you have enough material, or creating an original graphic novel (OGN).

This model has way more shelf life than a 32-page book and easier to sell to parents or people looking for something new. In fact, new fans aren’t checking for “floppies.” The new reader, I’ve found, prefers the trade or OGN because of the fact that there is a complete story to read rather than buying one issue and waiting 30 – 60 days for the next installment.

“Floppies” only work on the old guard of fandom as part of our culture involves collectability. The new fan, because of the emergence of digital, doesn’t have the same mindset. So, when creating and marketing your property, think of the fan yet to be than the fan that was… Does that make sense?

 

DC Trinity
Started from the bottom, now we here…

The thing I have to remind myself is that it took over 80 years for DC to become DC and, like, over 60 years for Marvel to become Marvel. We’re babies in this game, and it’s a long game; it’s a marathon, really. The build is slow, but as long as you move forward, not backward, you continue to gain that traction you’re looking for.

This answer is really simple: make product that meets or exceeds the standard of your average DC, Marvel, Dark Horse or Image comic.

Now, what is the standard? Look at any comic book on the stands at your local comic book store… That’s the standard. Batman is the standard. Power Man and Iron Fist is the standard. Lumberjanes is the standard. Saga is the standard, you feel me? Flat out, your product has to… has to… Stand toe to toe with those books (art, story, lettering, package design, etc.) and others because they are your competition.

You don’t have to spend 4 -6 grand a month in advertising… As an Indie, one simply does not have that kind of money. And, in all honesty, if you create a product that meets, or exceeds, the standard of acceptable industry quality, it will sell.

IndieBlackComix
What do these books have in common? They all meet the standard…

But, when it comes to pushing your books, that’s where being a salesman comes into play. Honestly, the market has always been saturated with good product. Today is no different. And, there is always room for more.

It’s really not that hard to sell your book as long as you feel your book is worth selling. If you believe that your book is unique, if you believe that your concept is strong, if you create the book that you want to read and feel is missing in the landscape, you will be able to sell that book.

So, where’s the best place to meet and sell to your potential audience? Conventions… With the exception of San Diego. You ain’t gonna sell jack at San Diego, but you will be able to sell at C2E2, M.E.C.C.A. Con, ECBACC, DragonCon, Onyxcon, etc. Make a plan of attack for whatever convention, or conventions, you are able to attend and execute that plan. Be engaging to your potential audience. Be courteous. Stand at your booth as opposed to sitting down. Smile. Shake hands and kiss babies. All of this seems basic, but it’s true. If you don’t have the dollars, you need to put in the time.

2016_ECBACC_Promo_Flyer
One of the many conventions where you have an audience that may be interested in your product…

Straight up, I don’t have to do a hard sell at conventions for my books. That’s because I produce work that meets, and hopefully, exceeds the standards of the comic book product.

What I have to do is get people to stop and look when they walk by my table, which I’m able to do because I’m able to engage people. I use humor and shared experiences to create a sense of comfort and break the ice with the customer. Then, after introducing the book to the consumer, I let the book do its job to draw the viewer in.

I apply that same philosophy online. That’s why I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. That’s why, in part, I write this blog.

At the end of the day, there is no secret formula to success… Unless, you were rich to begin with. Even then, it doesn’t exist. Everyone’s story of getting to a modicum of success is unique to them. Make a plan of success that is unique to you. This is how it’s done. This is what you have to do.

Flat out, you are not going to get huge sales right away. Those days of the 90s are long gone. Fact is if you’re looking at comics to get paid quickly, you need to find another hustle. First and foremost, you’ve got to make your book for the love. Passion begets passion. Attention to quality begets more eyes looking at your product. Tenacity and consistency begets trust. All of these plus interaction with the buying public begets your audience… You feel me?

John_Henry_New_Frontier
Keep grinding…

At the end of the day, this game is not a sprint… it’s a marathon.

http://www.griotenterprises.com

Change Is A Contact Sport

My favorite artifact from the past few weeks...
My favorite artifact from the past few weeks…

Well, this has been an exciting few weeks in the world of comics and comic-cons.

Two weeks ago, I had the extreme pleasure of attending the first ever Brown and Black Comix Expo, Sol-Con, on the campus of Ohio State University. Despite the fact that my skin was slightly smoldering from standing on enemy ground (I graduated from the University of Michigan), It was a transformative event… Let me amend that statement… It reminded me of what comic-cons used to be.

What do I mean? Well, before the “star” system and culture created by the late Wizard Magazine, comic-cons used to be a place where not only fans met their favorite comic creators and could bond with like minds over shared interests, comic book creators could bond with each other, share ideas, develop alliances and develop friendships. There was very little hierarchy. It didn’t matter which company you worked for. It didn’t matter if you were working with Marvel, DC, or one of the independents. Were you a creator? Cool. Let’s interact.

I love this book... LOVE IT...
I love this book… LOVE IT…

This vibe was evident at Sol-Con. Here we were, African American and Latino creators, side-by-side, plying our wares, sharing our stories, mixing it up with a diverse crowd of students, fans and educators…

…And left our egos at the door.

We shared the same space with the legendary Xaime Hernandez, creator of the seminal Love and Rockets. David Walker and I finally met face to face after knowing, and writing, about each other for at least 10 years (BTW, I got the Power Man / Iron Fist news over drinks that Friday and he swore me to secrecy). I was able to kick it with my sister Ashley Woods and here her manifesto on bringing the sensuality to her work and not giving two fudges about it (go on, girl). I reconnected with my man Eric Battle and finally met the illustrious Tim Fielder (can’t wait for that Horsemen piece!). I was able to meet the fantastic creator J. Gonzo and cop his awesome book La Mano del Destino… I could go on forever about how great that convention was…

Yes... YYYYAAAASSSS!
Yes… YYYYAAAASSSS!

We were truly nerds of color, proud and unabashed in our culture, influences and knowledge. We were mixing and matching conversations ranging in topics from Blaxploitation films to the greatness of Robert Rodriguez to 80s pop music to Robin’s green swimming trunks.

In short, we were becoming comrades. We were becoming friends. We were expanding our tribe.

Side note: I’m extremely proud to say that The Horsemen and 4 Pages | 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape will be used as textbooks for an upcoming OSU class focusing on race and representation in comics.

Hence, you could appreciate my saltiness at not being able to attend the New York Comic-Conthis past weekend. I wanted to keep the love going. But, I stayed abreast of everything that my fellow creators of color were doing that weekend, and extremely happy with the coverage that the con received. In fact, I did a little mental squeal of happiness when MSNBC did a story on comic book diversity and some of my colleagues were a part of that piece. You can check it out right here:

http://www.msnbc.com/melissa-harris-perry/watch/reflecting-on-inclusiveness-at-ny-comic-con-542561859800

So, here’s another article about diversity in comics coming hot off the heels of NYCC 2015:

http://fusion.net/story/215451/superheroes-of-color-not-storm/

At this point, shouldn’t we all agree that articles like this only scratch the extreme surface of diversity in comics? Can we all agree that we should demand more of certain so-called “comic journalists” to go deeper with their research concerning not only characters of color, but creators of color as well?

Ambrose Chase... One of the coolest characters no one is talking about...
Ambrose Chase… One of the coolest characters no one is talking about…

Let’s start with the basics: Spawn, Shadowhawk, Steel, T.R.I.B.E., Brotherman, the entire Milestone line; pretty much every comic fan from 1993 on knows about these characters. Now, let’s go a little deeper: how about Jakita Wagner and Ambrose Chase (Planetary), Martha Washington, Quantum, Shadowman, Jackson King (Stormwatch, The Monarchy), Blackjack, Dhalua and Tesla Strong, Purge, Chocolate Thunder… The list goes and on. Now, let’s get to the 21st century. How about Destiny Ajaye (Genius), Midnight Tiger, Will Power, Watson and Holmes, Lucius Hammer, Concrete Park

You see where I’m going.

Can we all agree that comic books are way, way more than just the “Corporate Two”? Can we agree not to celebrate these cursory articles about diversity, but instead challenge them to go further?

It’s 2015… We deserve more… And, we should demand it…

Creating for others to acknowledge and support you (i.e. the “mainstream audience”) is a waste of time. Stay in your lane, be unapologetic in your approach, make sure what you represent is of the utmost quality and you will find audience… Later for waiting for the “Corporate Two”…

The “mainstream” only comes… Only comes… after you have established a track record of production and garnered a fan base on your own. Even then, it only wants a pre-packaged sanitized, or easily exploitable, version of what one has produced. The “mainstream” has never… Never taken the lead on anything. It’s up to creators to bring cats in, kicking and screaming if need be, to the land of “Act Right.”

Ashley Woods is about to blow up... On her terms...
Ashley Woods is about to blow up… On her terms…

Cons like Sol-Con prove my statement. It is because of the independent spirit of creators like David Walker and Xamie Hernandez and Ashley Woods that they have spotlight on them right now. The mainstream didn’t make them a success. The independent market did. Diversity has always been a part of the independent comic book game. The mainstream is just now seeing the profitability of making the comic book world reflect the world we live in.

BTW, we have not arrived. There is no time to be resting on any perceived laurels. This is just the beginning and the comic book game is only going to get more interesting and more colorful.

I’ve stated this before. Folks can’t be spectators. Change is a contact sport.

Yo, you can now pick up The Horsemen: Divine Intervention and The Horsemen: The Book of Olorun at comiXology. Yep, now we’re everywhere… No excuses…

http://www.griotenterprises.com