Business Breath

16 Jul

The current uncertainty in the world of comics always has me at a constant state of anxiousness to some extent.  Listen, it’s no surprise and it’s something that I’m dealing with daily – the industry model has changed.  And it doesn’t look like it’s going back to its old self anytime soon.  Now, this isn’t really a surprise to anyone.  Of course the days of kids reading their favorite comics in the newspaper are gone and replaced with the YouTube video of a dog eating a turd.  Everything is changing.  Yada-dada-dada – I’ve written about all this before.  So instead of whining about it, I thought I’d write about what I’m doing about it.

I used to think the course of my work would be that I produce it and my syndicate would do the rest.  Market it, distribute it, books, etc.  Get the sucker out there as much as possible.  Well, I can’t get everything I wish for.  Listen, that’s not happening.  At least I don’t foresee it happening with me, or anyone else new, anytime soon.

The old dogs like Garfield, Charlie Brown and Blondie?  Of course they’ll still get that star treatment.  They are the standards these days that are set.  And it’s not really set by the syndicate.  It’s the editors at newspapers – they’re afraid of change.  So, any new cartoon would be change.  And god forbid they would lose a reader because of that.  (I hear the die-hard Blondie fans carry a shotgun and will shoot at any newsboy that tries to deliver a newspaper without that feature in it.)

So, again – as I’ve written about before – my feature, Break of Day, will wallow in the cesspool of your computer screen and in the Tampa Bay area without much expansion.  (Yes, I’m in one newspaper.  A BIG newspaper though.  In fact, the most popular one around here for adults and young people.  So, you see, a feature can be still noticed by people and can be more relevant than a YouTube video.  Random strangers, when asked around here, often know my work very well when you bring up Break of Day.  And I’m not saying this to sound cocky, but I have quite the fan base here.  Just being honest.  A lot of the rest of the nation/world doesn’t have a strong newspaper following like here in Tampa Bay where the TBT is read daily by hundreds of thousands.  I’m lucky in that regard.  Okay, enough said about that.  You get my drift.)

The funny thing is, at a moment in time when newspapers need the most change to become relevant again, they’re still refusing to budge.  So, the same old comics keep appearing abolishing the potential for anything new, hence creating a vicious cycle of same-old-same-old.  Time to step up your business model, newspapers.

But hey, I’m not even going to go into a rant about that.  Newspapers will have to sort this thing out.  In the meantime though, my syndicate and just about other one out there probably won’t be marketing anything new except for the familiar stuff.

So, that leaves me to be the businessman of my operations.  And I’m no businessman.

That being said, how do I know I’m no businessman?  It wasn’t instilled on me as a child.  I didn’t grow up in a home where I was told everyday, “You’re no businessman!  You’ll never be when you grow up.”

I figured, just like riding a bike, I’m going to have to learn a few things if my work is going to eke out a living. I guess I’m starting without training wheels as well because I’ve been diving into things quite quickly.

I wanted to share kinda what I’m doing to help rid me of dependency on syndicates or anyone.  It’s a ‘Do-It-Yourself’ world now. I gotta become that dreaded businessman (without a suit, of course).

Break of Day is relevant.  That I know.  So, as a businessman (see how I call myself that now), I think – I mean, I know I have a good product.  But, the norm for material like mine has typically been the newspapers.  Where do I take it now?

I’ve got several things that I’m working on developing.  A book, is one area.  Of course, books are another changing specimen.  There are E-Books and regular books.  If you’re like me, and good comic book or book with illustrations is by far better in print.  However, to the crowd that likes reading on a screen (which might be you, because you’re doing that right now considering this is a blog) I’m thinking an E-Book collection is in the near future.

Books are all fine-and-dandy, but you can have the best book in the world, but if it’s not marketed right, it’s pointless.

Here’s where I’m trying to get creative.

My guess is, when I put out a book, I do have several resources to help push it.  I’ve actually got a comfy gig over there at GoComics, and I think they can at least announce it.  On top of that, there are other outlets (I do know local media) that can lead to sales.  I’m starting to do live presentations for my Cartoon Your Pets this summer.  A fan of that might be a fan of a book.  And walla!  I might get a sale.  What it boils down to (if it wasn’t obvious) is I’d like to start marketing and selling books.  So, I’m working on that.

And speaking of Cartoon Your Pets, that’s actually going pretty well.  Could be better, but also, I haven’t started marketing it that much yet.  So, without doing so, I’m pretty impressed.

Of course, it wasn’t the normal path I would have taken (you know, drawing peoples pets) but I’m glad I have.  I’ve already donated quite a bit of money to three different shelters (20% of sales is donated) and the interest is rapidly growing.  The funny thing is a lot of my sales are from out of state and not around here.  So, I can’t wait for my live events this month and throughout the next several months.  I’m guessing another peak in interest and I hope I can keep up.

Another revenue source in the works is an iPad app – and maybe another E-book – with my partner in crime, Tommy Blaze.  We have some things in the works (possibly) with an animation company and other goodies.  We’ve been working together on a project that he writes and I illustrate called Knocking On Heavens Door.  Four years now we’ve been piecing it together.  We self-published a collection of the work several years ago and it was successful, but again, we found the handling, shipping and marketing a bit challenging, so we’re looking at newer, more modern ways of distribution.  Time will tell.  I talked to Tommy several days ago and we’re both talking new business, so stay tuned.

And hmm….iPad app?  That might be another cool feature for Break of Day sometime soon.  Of course, I need to learn about piecing that together, but again, I’m really working on by business stuff here, so bear with me.  I can see a fun game on the app though kind of like Angry Birds but Angry Cartoonist.  It’s just pitching ideas to editors and getting nothing in response.  Fun, huh?

Also, I have greeting cards out.  Right now, I have birthday, bachelorette and Christmas ones on the shelves.  I get paid quarterly through two different card companies, so it will be interesting to see how they do.  My commission is from sales.  I’m guessing my holiday cards are probably selling pretty slowly right now.

With all this, I’d also like to take the show on the road.  Presentations would be fun.  I’m starting slowly with these, but I do have several lined up.  One is in front of a bunch of high school kids, so hopefully they’re brutally honest with me and I can get a feel for how I do.  Public speaking is a bit nerve racking at first.  I’ve had hits and misses with it.  In high school, I was horrible at it.  College I was good.  When it comes to toast, or random/unplanned things, I tended buckle under pressure and didn’t do so hot.  I guess I have to prepare things.  Anyway, this is something else I’m hoping to practice and do more of.

The thought of Tommy and I doing an ‘On the Road’ thing might be something in the future?  We never discussed it, but he’s a comedian on the road constantly.  Could actually make for a really entertaining live show if I could figure out something entertaining for ME to do (I’m not exactly a comedian and watching me draw is – well – boring).

So, you see, who needs the old business model?  Of course, it would be easier if someone else handled everything (a syndicate) but I’m starting to really realize that might not ever happen.  I always mention I can’t wait for ‘business to pick back up’ in terms of syndicated comics, but I’m not too convinced it will.  I try to be optimistic, and I am, but I can’t just wait around here twiddling my thumbs.

Recently, I’ve been emailing a lot of editors and professional cartoonist to get their two-cents of what the future of cartooning is.  And we’re all kind of on the same page, unfortunately.  It ain’t the same is what it boils down to.  And it will probably never be the same.  Bleak is an understatement.

Bad as that is, there is a silver lining if you work hard.  Get a little creative, you know.  That’s why I’ve got Cartoon Your Pets, my work with Tommy and my own gig with Break of Day.  Add up a handful of revenue streams and – penny by penny – one might be in business.

I’ve got a ways to go.  Trust me.  But, that little anxiousness sometimes turns into excitement when a project hits in a good way.

So, instead of wanting to smack newspaper editors upside the head and yell, “What are you thinking, you morons!  Throw some new comics in there!  Attract a newer audience!  Look….just LOOK at how successful the TBT is in my area!  It’s fresh!  You guys are idiots!  CHANGE!” I find myself quietly smiling at running the show myself.  It’s not easy, and it wont be, but hey – can’t blame a guy for trying.


2 Responses to “Business Breath”

  1. bearmancartoons July 17, 2012 at 6:07 am #

    I have tons of ideas for apps but no know how.

    • w101njf July 17, 2012 at 6:26 am #

      Me neither. I’m slowly dipping my toes into all of this. I don’t even own an Apple yet!

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