I'm a rambler... always have been and probably always will be... Give me a place to write something and I will most likely give in and do it. ;) I've been thinking a lot about this small press thing recently and why it's actually a good place to be a lot of the time. I'm sure a lot of people in the small press world have dreams of some day making it into a large publisher and are even saving some of their "A" ideas for said trip to the big leagues... I've heard stories of people not putting their best foot forward in writing, in art, etc, all because it's "small press". Now, I have to ask, why is that? If you consider every book circulating the world with your name on it as a printed resume, every PDF an electronic one, every web comic a posted job board, why would you NOT put your best out there? Ideas are a dime a dozen, it's what you do with them that matters. If you use your "A" game today, people are more likely to notice when they get their hands on the final product and ask you what's next.
With Faction, for example, it was never a "B" idea. I had other ideas I was focusing on primarily when I was mulling over whether or not to take part in Small Press Idol, but I would never label any of my ideas as second rate. Worst case, if I have an idea that just pops in my head, by the time a script gets in front of an artist, there has been so much behind the scenes brainstorming, world building, character development, etc, that I can answer just about any question someone throws at me.
Another problem with throwing second rate books out there is that it only helps to perpetuate the idea that small press is second rate entertainment. If you look at my music collection, you'll see everything from albums made in a garage to something overproduced to the point that it's almost comical. Comparison? DIY may mean you have limited means to get something done, but it doesn't mean what you put forward should have any less thought than something you're turning in for a submission to a big name or those dust covered scripts you won't share with anyone because you're waiting until you "make it" to show them to some hot shot editor. Forget it, get the good stuff out, save the second stringers for when you've had time to think more about them.
One thing I noticed with Small Press Idol this year is that a LOT of people took it very seriously.... Some may not have taken promotion seriously (I'll get back to that), but I could really tell people tried with their entries... Maybe a couple of exceptions, but that's always going to happen. I could argue that everyone passionately believed in their ideas and thought they were marketable to some degree... Some were most likely self-conscious, have self-defeatist attitudes, etc, but I think that always happens. Did the best projects make it to round 4? Did the best project win? I'd argue no. Don't take that the wrong way, I think 4 great projects made it to Round 4, but a combination of self-consciousness and lack of marketing skills caused some projects deserving of further development to flounder and fail in rounds 2 and 3, which is a bummer. I'm not knocking on my nor any other project in the competition, just commenting that a combination of self-confidence and marketing could have helped a few projects to become real contenders and take the prize. Could have been a real slugfest!
Now for my rant on marketing.... I've heard people all over the web comment about comic book sales, the economy, yadda yadda yadda.... Do I think that the economy is an issue? Absolutely... What it doesn't mean is that comic books fail because of the economy. Comic books fail because people don't try. Before you get angry with the comment and say something like, "I've been doing this for X years and this worked and that worked," remember... just because it worked yesterday, doesn't mean it will work today. We're in a world of cell phones, wireless computers, internet shopping, and short attention spans. If you can't grab someone's attention using those mediums, you're not going to get sales. Your target audience is out there for ANY book, no matter the quality (note comments above, you should not be putting out crap). The challenge, by definition, is not to market except to your demographic... find out who your demographic is (pre-teen video game junkies, ex-cons, or recovering RPGers for example), market to them, where they live and breathe online and on the stands... Then and only then will you get the sales you deserve... You could also use my approach... carpet bomb... Law of averages, if you cover everywhere, you're likely to hit some people! See where the hits are coming from and focus there, cultivate, and grow....
The most important thing I can't stress enough is no matter how good you may think your idea is.... no matter how good it may be... If YOU don't put yourself out there, let people see it, ask people to look at it, ask people to buy it, they're not going to magically discover it on their own and purchase it. That's self-defeatist. Do we want to go out and spend our time marketing a lot? Well... no (I don't mind so much) we want to create! But we also want food on the tables and if no one is buying our products, eventually the novelty is going to ware off, no?
Blogs, Small Press, SPI, and Rambling...
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