Peel Art Gallery, Museum, and Archive is hosting an exhibit dedicated to graphic story telling. The gallery has an awesome collection of original pages from True Patriot which is a comic anthology focused around Canadian stories and superheroes. To go along with the exhibit PAMA organized a couple of panels and workshops about the comic industry. I was asked to run a panel on independent comic self publishing. I gathered a jolly crew of fellow self-publishers and we spoke to a crowd intent on independently creating comics. David Bishop, Jason Loo, Sanya Anwar, and I split the panel into four categories: inception, creation, production, and marketing.
In this first segment we discussed how a creator gets their ideas. It was interesting to note that creators can’t create in a bubble: everything we talked about was inspired by something else. Sanya’s book 1001 is inspired by the old story of Prince Ali Baba, and Jason’s webcomic is an expansion on the Star Wars universe. All the panelists made it clear that it is important for a creator to consume everything they possibly can so they can learn as much as possible. As strictly a writer I’ve always been told that I should be reading 24/7. While I think that is true, I feel that it’s a little misguided in that the scope is too narrow. As a creator you should be consuming 24/7. Not just reading, not just looking at art, but consume everything you enjoy, and sometimes things you don’t in various. This way you’ll be a well-rounded creator with a fresh perspective for any medium.
The next portion focused on techniques people use to get the work done. It all boiled down to, “Just do it!” The panel agreed that creators often get caught up in their own head and don’t actually get anything done. World building is great and thinking up every single detail can be beneficial, but there reaches a point where thinking about it simply won’t do. David explained to us how he had a very specific time for creating. He wakes up super early before work and makes comics for an hour or two. Everyone’s process is different but the most important thing to remember is that if you’re not doing it, it’s not getting done.
The most technical portion of the panel was when we talked about production. When getting things printed it’s very important to understand what technical terms like “bleed” and “CMYK” are before you begin (FYI: Bleed is the area around a page that will be cut off, and CMYK is a method of blending colours. Computer screens use RGB and printers use CMYK, this creates a slight difference in colour from screen to paper). Different printing houses were discussed as well, major recommendations were given to Toronto’s Guerrilla Printing
and Houston’s LithoNinja
. Printing comics can get pretty expensive so it’s important to find a printer that has prices that fit your budget.
Finally we discussed how to market our books. In comics we’re lucky because we have such a great support group of comic conventions that allow us to meet people interested in comics and picking up our books. Cons are the lifeblood of an indie creator and should be used to their full potential. At a con you can create a lifelong fan and repeat customers. From there, thanks in part to social media, you can connect with them and build the relationship. In the comic industry we’re also lucky that a sizable portion of our audience are digital natives (i.e. people born during the internet age, so they are completely comfortable with digital reading). The internet is an extremely useful tool in connecting with fans all across the world and should be used effectively and consistently. Personally marketing is my personal favourite part of the comic game because it allows me to meet the people who are reading my book and ask them what they think. I love hearing what people think and seeing how they react to the book and if they have an feedback that’s even better. Our book grows through feedback.
The self publishing panel held at the lovely PAMA building was informative for all. The panelists and myself stayed after for a couple of hours to answer people’s questions. I met a ton of cool people in Brampton who are longing to do amazing things. To me that’s the most important part of any city: people with ideas. I like to think that the self publishing panel inspired some of those people to go out and get things done. I know seeing people so excited inspired me to continue doing cool things and getting my work done.