When you write a comic, it doesn’t feel real until it’s in the hands of some readers.
The most real of this – usually, though maybe erroneously – is when the comic is available in comic shops across the world because a publisher picked it up and distributed it. This, for me, has always been when a comic really feels like it made it, it’s the highest form of success I can describe.
But it’s a hard one to attain. There are only so many comic publishers, so many successful pitches, and even then sometimes a comic tanks. The times I’ve had comics out with a publisher, I’ve gotten 4-figure sales, but never have I crossed into 5-figure territory [except when I wrote that My Little Pony one-shot, and I hit something ludicrous like 32k copies sold, but that isn’t really *my* success to speak of, is it?]. So going with publishers is good, the numbers of readers/buyers goes up, and while that’s difficult to attain, I’ve managed it a few times.
COVID. Now there’s this word, and what it’s meant to comics. The central comic distributor closed down for a minute, comic shops felt the heat, and while things are “back on track” at present, many places are still doing their best to advocate for social distancing or staying home unless necessary and I can’t help but feel that might impact comic sales and outreach a little. I know I’m going to get my pull list sent to me by my local, Impact Comics, but some people might just be missing out and numbers might be affected, though I hope not.
On my end, I’ve been lucky to have some writing gigs that I’ve been able to continue on with through COVID, and we’ll see what they look like and yield on the other side of this mess [if there is another side to it all]. Alongside this, or maybe beneath or all around it, I’ve had the smaller scale of comic creation.
Usually, selling at comic conventions is the small scale stuff, you physically place your comic into someone’s hand, you chat with them, it’s a personal transaction. I’ve never sold 4-figures worth of a comic at a convention, but I’ve had just as much of a high from the success just by selling 50. Putting a comic up on Kickstarter might not get me 6,000 backers, but it gives me 500 people I can hold as an engaged audience through updates and extra stuff I can deliver to them. Recently, I’ve had strong sales through my online shop front at ownaindi, and that’s been a great way to send stories and pages out into the world.
When a publisher handles the sales of your book, you don’t tape a single box, you don’t shelve any of the book, so the numbers are up but it’s impersonal. Through Kickstarter, cons, or an online store, the numbers are way down but you get a name to every sale. You can see follow up when they read it, or they catch your personalised message. It’s a deeper connection, and there’s something to be said for that, even if it is much harder work.
This past week I boxed up scores of copies of SHE Vol. 1 to send around Australia, and all the while I was selling copies of SKYSCRAPER online and sending them out, too. It was a great feeling, it made me feel invigorated to make comics some more, and that’s the energy you need to go into your office late at night and peck away at these strange stories.
While I’ve always yearned for the validation and success of a big audience, COVID has shown me the bright side of a smaller audience with a deeper connection. If you’ve been a backer or a buyer in one of those more intimate settings, thank you. Each package I send out gives me the strength to keep making more. I hope to send you the next one in the mail.