Making a Living at this...

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PerryDS
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Post by PerryDS » Wed Aug 13, 2008 8:46 am

It appears consistent across the board with the comic book business. Generate a living by other means, and slide in the time to work on your personal project when ever possible. I'm lucky enough to have developed a strong client base in the local econony that keeps my small design, interactive media and illustration business moving along well. At the same time, I think it's been almost a year and a half, maybe two years that I have been poking away at my graphic novel.

I just put up a Blog at www.ellyfrankenstein.com that will force me to continually post details along the way.

But in my mind, I think you have to treat it like a business project and consistently find ways to package your ideas and earn a living at it. There are examples of success in doing comics, it's a matter of determining what are the required ingredients and mixing them to achieve the desired results.

I tend to poke around different Blogs and read a lot a books on the topic to see if I can gather answers ...

One thing that I keep in the back of my mind, is to shoot high ... stay positive ... and don't expect anything to happen overnight.

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Nick
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Post by Nick » Wed Aug 13, 2008 1:37 pm

I'm a Concept artist in the video games industry and I've been doing this for 3 years. It's a great way of doing what you love whilst getting a stable wage which depending on your needs can be a real plus....personally i have a veracious art book addiction that needs seeing to.

I echo the sentiments of this thread about continuing to push yourself, and getting your work out there. You get to a certain level in your development where you realise the biggest difference between you and the next guy is not so much the skill, but those that say they can do something and those who actually go out and DO IT. The former are armchair artists; it's better to be the one who gets out there and does it and people will recognise you for it.
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William Ward
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Post by William Ward » Wed Aug 13, 2008 6:59 pm

I work as an Orientation and Mobility Specialist ( http://www.acvrep.org/Orientation_Mobility.htm ) and I am not close to making a living writing comics.

Honestly, with printing costs I am currently just working towards getting to a place in which I can come close to breaking even, but my goal is just to get people to see the projects I work on without going broke.

PerryDS
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Post by PerryDS » Thu Aug 14, 2008 7:18 am

From what I have observed, much of the success is in actually producing something. It is a daunting task, some 200 pages perhaps, to pull a insightful story together.

I try not to commit my existence on it, but because of the personal belief that my efforts have value to an audience at large, I am committed to seeing it through. Part of putting up the Blog, and documenting business goals, is that it prepares me for what I will need to do to make it happen, and provide an outlet to build an audience. I have a name of a local marketing rep who lines up book signings and has contacts in a large book distribution chain.

Will see if it will come to fruition, but I'm shooting for early in the new year to commit four months entirely to building the book. Until then, while I'm working on service work, I continue to develop characters and gather story and gather story details.

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jdalton
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Post by jdalton » Thu Aug 14, 2008 3:24 pm

I'm lucky, I guess, that I like my day job too much to ever quit it (I'm a teacher, if currently only a substitute teacher). I spend so much time on the comics that I can't hardly wait until I'm actually earning some money from them, it would help with the constantly being broke, but I expect even then that it will always be a challenge trying to manage two careers at once. Every year I get a little bit closer to that goal, but I can't expect anything to happen overnight. It's a long process.
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Michel Gagne
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Post by Michel Gagne » Fri Aug 15, 2008 11:55 am

Interesting comments from everybody. It got me thinking.

I do comics because I love doing them. For me it's a hobby. If I'd start doing it as a pro, it would probably ruin the experience.

Beside, I love my day jobs (doing art and animation in the comfort of my home studio) and I love working on 5 or 6 projects simultaneously. I'm glad some of them are paying the bills. :D
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Blom
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Post by Blom » Sun Aug 17, 2008 3:04 am

In Norway (a country that is similar to US in a lot of ways) we have a comics industry that is like this:
The weekly Donald Duck & Co magazine sell about 100 000-120 000 copies (last time I heard the numbers, it may have gone some down from that). I have heard that it is more copies than it is in the US. And it is not a strange thing, here in Norway every food shop, kiosk, petrol station is selling comics.
The next two magazines is Norwegian made by mostly Norwegian artists.
The first one is Pondus http://pondus.no/ , it sell about 75 000 copies every month. And it`s creator Frode Øverli earns GOOD,(his comic is in nearly every newspaper and in his own comic monthly magazine and books)
The next one is Nemi http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nemi_(comic_strip), and I think it sell about 45000 copies every month. Also in every newspaper.

Then you got about 5-10 people who earns a full living like other paid jobs of making comics. They start out in one of the monthly magazines and when they have build up a fame for there comic, and then when time is right they get a monthly magazine by them self.

Nearly all who makes a living of comics in Norway is making strip comics, and nearly non makes graphic novels. But every year for the last 5-10 years it has been more popular and we see more books coming out.

I myself am working with database/computer stuff and making websites, and I am also working with illustration when a job come my way. I am going to focus my creativity on children book illustrating and storytelling.
Tor Harald Blom

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thedeafguy
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Post by thedeafguy » Mon Aug 25, 2008 4:58 pm

I'm a sous-chef by day and a hooker by night and artist by morning.

PerryDS
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Post by PerryDS » Tue Aug 26, 2008 10:54 am

My perceived issues relating to making a reasonable return of efforts ...

Distribution - I don't think specialty comic shops are the best route to getting books out. Online has some potential. Book store should improve exposure, but you have to get in and have good presence. I found Amulet in limited quantities, usually one or two copies in some of the large big box bookstores here in Canada. I had to search for it. Although, the Bone series has a whole bookshelf with big displays.

Audience - Kids and adults consume at various quantities. Is books directed to kids have bigger potential? At least here in North America?

Location - There is a much broader audience in alternate countries outside North America. Do they tend to read more?

Quantity - There are a ton of novels available, some do extremely well, but I suspect many collect dust on shelves. Since there are very few well developed graphic novels on store shelves, it's hard to determine potential success.

Tokyo pop seems to be the dominant product in book stores, but they all pretty well cater to the same audience. I'm not sure if this overwhelming presence tends to bury other graphic novels that are vying for the same audience. Good thing is that they all look the same, no brand appeal outside their determined market.

I think there needs to be a better effort in marketing unique graphic novel products. Branding, I think could make a difference.

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jdalton
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Post by jdalton » Sat Aug 30, 2008 5:40 pm

My humble opinion-
PerryDS wrote:Distribution - I don't think specialty comic shops are the best route to getting books out.
Yes and no. They're not the place to make blockbuster profits since only a small number of comics readers visit them, but they are important as a place to find a wider selection of titles- if your title isn't a blockbuster, comics shops might be your best bet to be seen. At least, good comics shops. Not all of them are good.
Audience - Kids and adults consume at various quantities. Is books directed to kids have bigger potential? At least here in North America?
My guess would be that there are fewer artists trying to get into the kids comics market, so the competition might be easier, but if you're not a children's writer you'd be shooting yourself in the foot trying to get published in a genre where you can't do your best work.
Location - There is a much broader audience in alternate countries outside North America. Do they tend to read more?
Yes, but the more comics a country reads the more they usually produce- and the stiffer the competition to get into the industry. I wouldn't bother submitting anything to Japanese or Korean publishers unless you really, really know your stuff.
Quantity - There are a ton of novels available, some do extremely well, but I suspect many collect dust on shelves. Since there are very few well developed graphic novels on store shelves, it's hard to determine potential success.
As it would be in any creative industry. All you can do is your best work and hope it catches on.
Tokyo pop seems to be the dominant product in book stores...
Depends on the bookstore. Most of what Tokyopop prints are actually reprints of Japanese books anyways, which would require you to have been massively successful in Japan before they'll look at you. They do print some original books, but given their recent business reputation, I'd personally stay away from Tokyopop. At least for the time being.
I think there needs to be a better effort in marketing unique graphic novel products. Branding, I think could make a difference.
Many things are improving for comics, but a big one on my wish list is an alternative to distributing through Diamond. Diamond doesn't like small publishers and they have the comics shop market tied up in a neat little bow.
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PerryDS
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the biz

Post by PerryDS » Mon Sep 01, 2008 10:53 am

It's great to hear someone else's perspective on the market. My observations are limited since there are very few who hope to create for the market independently, but the more info that goes around the better we all can become at contributing to a sustainable industry.

Other option with distribution may be through traditional book publishers. Scholastic seems to be active in the graphic novel industry. There may be others that have interest in the potential of the industry.

In all ... with anything ... if you produce something great that there will always be an audience out there. Always the big challenge is getting it out there and retaining a reasonable interest in your efforts.

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matthewart
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Post by matthewart » Thu Sep 18, 2008 2:59 pm

I found this all very fansinating. I love hearing from people at all levels of they're comic making careers.

My career kinda goes like this... hope it gives some perspective. (sorry it got a little long. And misspelled knowing me)

I've been working fulltime as a concept artist (and occasionally writing) for video games for about ten years. I love it!!! and I can make a good living and support my family while practicing my craft and honing my skills every day. While doing my "day job" I've always put as much time as I could toward my dream jobs of comic books and picture books. Mostly this meant giving up video games and tv. (but not entirely of course :)
Recently two years ago I got to illustrate 3 Narnia books. This was enough money to quit video games and focused on picture books and comics for two whole years! Its been great.
Now with Narnia done... I'm back to work full time day job as a concept artist (and occasionally writer) for video games. I also have a 6 picture book deal with Harper Collins. The picture books are on a schedual that is one a year. So its not quite a livable wage... but I'm so happy to be writing and drawing picture books... My hope is they will do well and five years from now... who knows.
so...these days... mortgage, health care(thats a big one), kid costs and all that is taken care of with Video Game Concept work... my Picture book carreer is just started. I've been lucky enough to get some comic book work in anthologies. I love doing them. I havn't made any money from them really... but the two Snow Cap comics in Flight got Harper Collins to ask me to make a picture book based on those characters. Yahoo! I'm working on that now. Won't be out till 2010 (seems like a loooong time). In between feedback on Snow Cap is when I plug away at my graphic novel that is just barely barely barely coming together.
I greatly admire Kazu and Kean and Michel and Jake Parker and Jeff Smith .... ect. ect. ect. The fine folks on this board and all my heroes growing up... Whenever I felt/feel tired ... just looking at they're stuff got me energized. I feel like there never is enough time but its now my habbit to draw whenever I can. And somehow things are getting finished (except my website, and the things that are not getting finished:) I think it really is about putting your head down drawing and drawing and drawing.

Thats my two bits. I think a thread like this is important. I wish I knew more about the money realities of doing this when I was starting out... Although... maybe its better I didn't :) Buuut believe in yourself and your talent. Keep putting mileage on that pencil. I've seen so many people work hard and succeed. I want the same for you.

"We drive cause we are driven." ~Racer X
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celeste
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Post by celeste » Thu Sep 18, 2008 6:13 pm

Man, I'm jealous of people who're making a living at all, let alone doing it with comics. I love drawing. I love comics. I love cartoons, video games and children's books. I want more than anything to tell stories with my artwork. But I work at a children's museum, where I play with kids, tell people to spit out their gum, and stare into space for long periods of time. I'm also an intern in the office there, I do a lot of illustrations for the brochures and fliers and what-have-you. Unfortunately I only get paid for the non-intern stuff. So, I get paid to stare into space but not to draw pictures. Even more unfortunately, the drawing takes up a lot of time I used to spend staring so now I make even LESS money. Someday that will change! But not today. Tomorrow's not looking so good, either.

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