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13
Jan

Handling Rejection and Finding Your Comic’s Target Audience

It is easy to get upset when someone rejects your work or leaves you a negative comment. We artists can take criticism personally because art is such a deeply emotional form of expression.

rejection

There is a secret to all of this. SURPRISE! Everyone gets rejected.

Think of any celebrity. Madonna, Lady Gaga, and Audrey Hepburn are all famous. They have also suffered more rejection than you could possibly imagine. The reason they are so famous is because they got through it. The trick to being successful is to get through your first few thousand rejections. Don’t let it make you stop!

In art school they used to say that every artist has 1000 bad drawings to get out before they can start making good drawings. I say that every career has over 2000 rejections that they have to walk through before they find their audience.

There was a fandom around the pet rock. It was a rock. Yes, a ROCK. There certainly is a fandom for your comic. You can find it if you keep going.

Rejection Analysis, Your Target Audience, and You:

When you hear some negative feedback about your work, the first thing to so is look at it from a neutral perspective. Is there any validity to it? If yes, note this and use it to make your work better.

There are two types of people on the planet. There are people who are your target demographic and people who are not. Negative comments are often being said by people who never would like your comic in the first place.

It helps to think about who your target audience is. How old are they? What do they like? If you do a comic about why being a Dallas Cowboys fan in the best thing ever, don’t be surprised if a Pittsburgh Steelers fan hates you. This is good hate. You are doing your job properly.

Awhile back some random guy said that my comic had nothing interesting to offer at all. That is no surprise because he was a fan of comics that were about guys and gaming. My comic is about a girl and it is definitely not a gaming comic. Of course this person wasn’t interested in my work. It is not for him. Gamers read my comic because I am a huge nerd, but not gamers who are only into gaming jokes and nothing else. I just don’t post jokes about games every day, that’s all.

Consider the source of your criticism.

You need to plow through the people who are not your target audience and find the target audience that is yours.

Haters Rock:

I have to tell you that haters give great links! The best promotional linkage for my work has been done by people who were telling others why they hated it because they went the extra mile to describe it. People clicked to see what the deal was, and I got new fans in the process.

Rejection is a growth process like any other. It’s necessary, inevitable, and sometimes even helpful. Think about it intelligently and don’t let it get you down.


06
Jan

Your Friends and Peers Might Not Be Your Fans, but that is OK:

ohwell

I think that a positive attitude is so very important when it comes to cultivating a successful webcomic. Having a positive attitude comes from understanding when there are things that you cannot change and working around them rather than hitting them in the face with a tunafish.

For example – I was on a panel several years ago with another webcomic artist who was totally angry that her friends were not reading her comic. She stated that if she found that a friend of hers hadn’t read her comic in awhile she ceased being friends with them because in her opinion they had abandoned her. She then expressed anger that Penny Arcade didn’t reply to her email when she asked them to post a link to her comic.

She went on to spit hateful fire and venom about this so loudly that the entire audience was turned off because of her negativity. It backfired, and I haven’t seen her since on the convention circuit.

Your friends and other comics in the scene are not necessarily your target audience. I am friends with people who never read comics. They know that I draw a comic, but they just don’t enjoy reading any sort of comic.

This is OK.

As far as the big comics go – most of us veterans know each other and respect each other very much, but we just don’t have time to read everyone else’s comic all the time.

This is also OK.

No one but me is obligated to read or promote my work. I really appreciate it when people read me and post links to my comic, but I consider it to be a bonus.

A relaxed attitude is a must if you don’t want to scare people off. Not everyone is your fan. They might still be your friend. This is all OK. It’s physically impossible to be universally liked. Accept this and move forward. A positive attitude is so very important when it comes to being a brand that people feel comfortable around. Forcing people to do things they don’t want to do never works, anyway.

While you are busy being nice, you are creating real connections through friends in the scene who are more likely to be able to help you when you need it. Just remember to help them if you can in the process to get a combo bonus of comics fun!


20
Nov

Brain Tricks: Organizing Your Week with Sliding Days

boot

The key to not overloading yourself when you have a tough schedule is as simple as tricking your brain. I work an office job during the day and then come home and professionally work on my art and comics. Clearly coffee is required!

If you get behind, your brain will shut down, you will get depressed, and start procrastinating. I avoid this by planning flexibility into my week and not putting too much pressure on myself to do specific things on any one particular day.

- First, I decide what I realistically want to get done this week.

- Then I designate after work days for work and fun.

I cannot stress to you how important it is for you to plan fun into your day and week. Moving from an office job into more work in the same day is tough. You will not be able to do it every day for very long without chewing your arm off like a squirrel.

Daily Fun:

Examples of daily fun for me can be sketching during your dayjob’s break or going to get a fancy Starbucks drink.

At this point you are probably groaning at how un-fun that sounds, but I can assure you that you have to be able to dedicate a good part of your life to your business if you want it to work. Some days, Starbucks and a sketch is all you get, but because you are so great at planning and time management, your output keeps going and you can do awesome things later. For example, like affording that trip to Disney World or those $300 boots.

I speak from experience. Nothing is handed to you, but the rewards can be great.

Sliding Days:

I work full time and I have a 2.5 hour round trip commute. All of my art stuff is done at home after work.

I have a loose guideline of work/nonwork days that I follow to get the acceptable minimum amount of work done, but I often exceed it because I am not always in a state of panic with this method.

- Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday: At least 2 days from this group are work days. One is a fun shopping/errand day. If I feel too tired on Monday, I will just work on Tuesday and Wednesday, or work extra long on one of those days if I can’t work on 2 days.

- Thursday and Friday: Thursday is almost always a work day. Friday almost always is not because I am too tired and I have a vocal lesson after work that day. (I sing too! Yay!)

- Saturday: I have learned that I rarely will work much on Saturday, so that is always a fun day unless there is a convention coming up. Even then, I tend to take my fun days seriously, so I probably won’t be working on Saturday even then. I need my one day to go out and have an adventure or I will go nuts. This is the day I can go to NYC, the zoo, an amusement park, or something else. Often I just take a 4 hour nap because I’m so drained.

NAPS = SERIOUS BUSINESS!

- Sunday: Sunday varies. Sometimes I work, sometimes I go to the supermarket and buy the 5 frozen lunches (Oh joy…) that I will be eating that week plus snacks. Sometimes there is a nap involved.

In this way I can shift around the days that I work and still get everything done without feeling like I have to do X on a particular day. Artists know that if your mind doesn’t want you to do X today, you’d better be able to switch to Y because no amount of coffee will get X to come out. This is why I always have my Index Cards of Doom on hand to redirect me to the next highest priority if I experience a brain freeze.

The second I stopped planning hard tasks on each day was the second I was able to do more work that was better. I hope this can help you as well.


20
Nov

How to Stay Organized and Motivated: Index Cards of Doom

fried

They don’t teach business or workflow in art school, so unfortunately a lot of creative people find themselves wanting to hide in their studio. I’m here to give you the power back to take control of your creative business and your motivation.
 
The human mind reacts very well to writing. I learned Japanese by writing, so after having yet another useless try and using technology to organize my life, I figured why not swallow my pride and go back to basics? What I found was that not only was it a better method for me, but it helped me stay motivated. I use index cards. A quick glance at an index card told me exactly what to do and prevented any time wasting. Now I will share my method with you.
 
The Method:
 
All of my To Dos are kept on a deck of index cards fastened together by a binder clip.

Card 1:
 
The top index card has 3 columns: Now, Waiting, and Goals.
 
Now:
 
Now has things that I need to do the next time I sit in front of my desktop computer. This could be a new piece of art for a promo campaign, the next Stupid and Insane Defenders Against Chaos comic, writing a tutorial, or something as simple as answering an email.

Things that can be done in a few seconds or minutes get done first and immediately. Deadline items (like the next comic) get done before freeform art because the comic must happen above all.
 
Waiting:
 
Waiting is for things I can’t work on now because I need something from someone else. I check this column daily and and ping the people I am collaborating with periodically. Often this is handled in weekly review sessions or by just asking the person how things are going.
 
Goals:
 
Goals are big things. This could be attending a convention, a website or book launch, or something like “increase website traffic by 10,000″.
 
Card 2:
 
The second card is my shopping list. We are talking about things like milk, Count Chocula cereal,  or a new pair of shoes. I also keep errands like going to the tailor or returning something.
 
Card 3:
 
The third card has notes about the Stupid and Insane universe. I forget things I’ve written…like the fact that William eats brain trees and that I need to bring back the evil unnamed girl from the “Descent into the Deathside” story arc.
 
My sketchbook contains My Annoying Life ideas, since those come to me randomly. Sometimes I sketch them on post-its and stick them inside the book.
 
All other cards are used for spontaneous notes. As I check tasks off of the first 3 cards, the tasks are rewritten on new cards. Similarly, the spontaneous notes are integrated in this way. When I rewrite stuff out my mind is re-engaging with the priorities, so I almost never forget about a task. My index cards are my life. I feel I control my life in this way, so motivation comes naturally. The second I started doing this, I forgot about any depressive feelings and was able to focus on goals and the steps that make up those goals.
 
If you find yourself lost, unfocused, and depressed this might be a good thing to try. I think you will find that when difficult things are broken down into smaller steps that you can physically see – everything starts falling into place. The best part is that by utilizing your goals column, you can actually see your progress. Seeing your progress is so very important because you will be able to see what you have done when you are having a bad day. This is your motivation to keep going!

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