By Michele Brittany, a West Coast Bleeding Cool Correspondent
I think just about every comic book aficionado at one point or another entertains the "what if" thought of writing a story, illustrating it, and having it published by one of the big two in the business. The spark usually smolders. It can be difficult to network with the people who can open the right doors in the industry, and sometimes it is due to self-doubt. However at a recent Long Beach Comic Expo, indie creators in the audience were told that they 100% had the ability to create their own comic.
Fanboy Comics Managing Editor Barbra Dillon hosted the Indie Creators, Unite! A Guide to Self-Publishing panel and was joined by indie creators Yehudi Mercado (Pantalones, TX, Buffalo Speedway), Siike Donnelly (Monomyth, Solestar), Daniel Corey (Red City, Moriarty), Gavin Hignight (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles [TV], The Concrete World), and Bryant Dillon (Identity Thief, Something Animal). Each panelist had a wealth of knowledge to share that audience goers could take away with them and apply in their own indie projects.
Master Your Time
Self-publishing is not a get rich quick scheme. In a show of hands, all but one panelist still held a day job that paid the bills. So, if a person is working a full time "pay the bills" kind of job, leaving nights and weekends for creating, how does one organize their free time productively? Mercado said to "set goals and milestones and budget time," a theme that resonated with the other panelists. Corey works with a creative team and said to "establish a schedule for yourself and your team since it's like running a business." Efficient use of time is key. For example, to be more efficient with his time, Hignight changed his commuting habits. Instead of sitting in traffic, he hung out at a local coffee shop and wrote for a block of time, then headed home later. He got writing done and avoided the stop-and-go traffic of Los Angeles.
Adjust Your Attitude
Bryant Dillon said it was "a matter of attitude," and explained a person can get inspiration by remembering past successes. Donnelly agreed. There are bad days and a person just has to "work through the challenging days." It was also helpful to have a support system of friends and colleagues to help with bad patches when it seemed like the preverbal candle is burning at both ends. However, hard work and long hours can and do pay off.
Make Your Opportunities
Where are opportunities for the indie creator? Beyond publishing with DC and Marvel, there are other avenues to publishing. One method is self-publishing. The burden of expense rests with you, but so does the rights. There are companies looking to partner and help indie creators with their project. Corey works with Image where the company has publishing rights, but Corey retains all other rights. And, there are digital options such as Comixology. Creators that utilize digital format can cut down costs (print) and make their project accessible to more people. And, Hignight suggested to not be afraid to give away some materials in order to hook readers to your other projects.
An audience member asked for advice about hiring an artist for his writer project and whether he should economize when hiring an artist. According to Hignight, "if you can draw and write a compelling story, you are unbeatable," so he asked the audience who could write and draw. Only a few raised their hands. Highnight experiences a tough challenge when looking for an artist and he has gone to Craig's List. There's deviantART and there are publishers that will assist writers find illustrators, such as OSSM Comics said Donnelly.
Choose Your Business Model Wisely
There are many choices out there when starting a business. Incorporate? Partnership? Sole proprietor? It's crucial the model chosen for one's business. Bryant Dillon cautioned how important the choice is. His first business venture was a learning lesson and an expensive one. Corey and his wife decided that a partnership was the best for them. Hignight uses contract agreements for managing his business endeavors. In any case, it pays to research your options and chose the option that is best for you.
Covet Your Rights
Why would indie creators want to self-publish? For Corey, holding onto the rights has allowed him to establish his own brand, in this case, his company DangerKatt. And holding onto the proprietary rights, especially if the story gets optioned for a film or television show for instance, can be lucrative. However, even if those options don't come in, self-publishing is still a method for getting noticed by the larger publishing companies.
Following the tips above are no guarantee for success of your own indie project, but for these five panelists, it has. If you take only one thing away, take the advice of Bryant Dillon, who told the audience at the end of panel hour: "Don't wait to create!"
Panel photographs were taken by Michele Brittany.
Michele Brittany is an independent popular culture scholar and semi-professional photographer currently editing an upcoming anthology on the influence of James Bond on popular culture. She regularly posts reviews and analysis on the spy/espionage genre on her blog, Spyfi & Superspies.