Saturday, 15 October 2016

Creator Spotlight: G.M.B Chomichuk

I first met G.M.B Chomichuk at the C4 comic con in Winnipeg in 2014. He was wandering around before the show started, checking out some of the other tables and talking with folks he knew and those he didn't. I'm not sure what brought him to my table but he introduced himself and we chatted briefly about my books. Behind me and to one side was a local comics podcast (The Last Panel Podcast, as a matter of fact) who started talking with him just as we were wrapping up our conversation, asking if he'd be interested in taking part in one of their shows. 

It was then that I got the first taste of what Mr. Chomichuk is like, or Greg as I've come to know him. The thing that drives him is creating art/comics. He lives and breathes it. Not only that, he loves to see others create and wants them to embrace that passion and for it to be acknowledged. At this point I had spoken to him for a total of MAYBE three minutes and he pauses his conversation with the podcaster and says "who you SHOULD be talking to is Andrew here, a local guy making some pretty cool-looking comic books."

Here was this guy I literally JUST MET promoting my books to someone else. He's being asked to take part in something and immediately he changes it into making it inclusive for a complete stranger. I will literally never forget that. They ended up buying every book I had out at the time and are always one of my supporters at C4, even having gone and reviewed the LEGACY trade paperback on one of their episodes. The odds are very good that they would never have picked up any of my books had Greg not thought to mention me. 

See at this time I was still really getting out there with my books and had no idea what the creative community was like. You hear stories of people cutting each others throats just to get that step up to expose their work and such. I had some creator friends who I'd met mainly online that were supportive but of the local community I knew very little. It was encouraging. 

Since then I've gone to a number of Greg's launches for his own work, including the stellar graphic novel, Infinitum and have found him to be a hell of an artist and writer. How this guy isn't on everyone's Must Read list, I have no idea. The art is all a style of its own, heavy on the black with a feel reminiscent of comic book greats like Tim Bradstreet but still very much its own thing. His writing is equally impressive; as layered and deep as his art, while still being entertaining. 

The thing about him that continues to impress though is his attitude and personality. His "day job" as a teacher shines through in his speaking (you must see him live at one of his launches- he's VERY good) and in his on-going pursuit of encouraging others to create and to get their creations out there for others to see. Gregory believes that the creative process is something to be embraced, enjoyed and that sharing in the love and excitement of it is essential above all else. 

Passion is what drives a creator to do what they do, both the fuel and the fire, and G.M.B Chomichuk has that in spades. To quote his website: Join the Fight! Make Comics! At the very least go grab a couple of HIS comics; they're as awesome and inspiring as the man who created them.

GMB Chomichuk on: Instagram, Twitter and his website.
  

Friday, 29 April 2016

Some Days (Beware, This Is A *Whiny* Rant)



Some days I hate my life. Don’t get me wrong, I know people all over the world have less and are happy. It’s not about having for me. It’s about doing. It’s about feeling like I’m not doing enough, like what I am doing isn’t what I am meant to and it’s certainly not what I want to.

Again, this is nothing new or unique.

I never claimed it to be.

Overall I have a fairly good life- love, family, a job that pays (some) of my bills. Things that some people would kill for; things some may never have. Does that make me ungrateful? Maybe. Do I care? Not especially.

I know I’m grateful for the things I have and the people that are in my life- if anything the awesomeness of those things is what makes it that much more frustrating.

Before I started making comic books I worked a shitty job, much like the (less) shitty job I work now. Working as an auto parts person in a dealership means you’re never right, it’s always your fault and doing two or three things at once is never enough. I know you’re thinking “yeah, right”.  Tell you what, you go do my job for a week and tell me it isn’t like that. For the most part that doesn’t bother me; I’ve got a solid enough ego and the pay is decent for a fairly reasonable amount of work- there’s some heavy lifting but far from what one would call back-breaking. Stress, sure, but lots of jobs have that.

No, what gets to me is that I started making comic books and discovered a whole new world a world that I want to live in, not the drudgery of the one I do now.

It’s a world where people, at least the ones I have worked with, are extremely talented and even more humble than that about their gifts. A world where working together as a team is a must but more than that, it is a pleasure. One where everyone works towards the same goals and gives it their best effort and always wants the next job to be even better. It’s a world where, although the pay is low or even non-existent, the rewards are immeasurable.

You can’t put a price on what it means for a group of people to bring to life a story that didn’t exist before- to birth new ideas and new characters and situations. Pulling that off is amazing. And, much like the birth of a “real” person, it is not without its perils and pains. But it is ALWAYS worth it. Even when things don’t turn out the way you expected or wanted to, it is worth it. 
Until you’ve worked the hundreds of hours that it takes to put together a comic book it’s really hard to appreciate fully- I was a fan for almost 30 years and still never really understood how harrowing and elating it is to create a story in this medium. 

As a writer, you live with these characters in your head for days, weeks, years; they become as real as to you as the people you walk past on the street. You can hear their voices as you type; you understand the things that motivate them, the things they fear. Despite this knowledge, they still surprise you. They make decisions or take actions that seem so against what you had planned for them- not unlike a child might do to a parent. 

As an artist- whether it be pencils, inks, colors or letters, you create the world that these characters inhabit as much, if not more, than the writer who wrote the story. You fill in all those little details that make it come alive. The way a character holds themselves as they deal with a stressful situation, their body language, their expressions, the way the lighting strikes their face. Artists do all this as they toil away for hours and hours. They get to know every facet of each page, building and erasing, adding and taking away until the art of the page, of the book is done; so much of it subtle enough that only THEY know everything that went into it. 

There lay the problem- these are the things that I love and the people that I love doing them with- artists and storytellers, creators of worlds that are fictional only in the sense that they do not exist unless we create them, and once we do, they become real- to both ourselves and our readers. We cheer them, we boo them, we witness the rise and fall of both heroes and villains. With every page we experience we invest some of ourselves into it- both creator and reader. 

So how can one NOT want to live in that world? A world where people care, where they want nothing but the best of results and support each other in doing so?

Clearly there are many reasons one cannot do so- chief among them is the financial costs- putting these sorts of stories together are not cheap and we all have bills to pay. Comic books, even at their height, are unfortunately not a large money medium. One cannot hope to invest a few months of work and see the sort of returns that you would from a feature film- and even though some charge such, good luck getting ten bucks per head for a comic. 

Like the majority of independent comic book creators I know, that means I have to have a day job- some are lucky and have ones that they love doing, others… Well we do what we need to get by just like anyone else. We use the time we steal from friends and family to pursue what we are passionate about- telling stories and sharing them with others. We stay up and pull all-nighters to finish inking a page, we write dialogue in the shower, we letter on our lunch breaks and color the moment our kids go to bed. We work on birthdays and anniversaries, on days off and after long shifts. 

We do it not only because we love to but because we are driven to. 

Something compels us to keep chipping away at the ideas that call to us while we wake and even while we sleep. Characters whose stories need to be told; stories that resonant with us and perhaps with some of you; stories that can have great depth and meaning and some that are just meant to be fun and taken at face value. 

If you are one of those brave souls who have embarked on this path with us, as a reader or fellow creator, I must thank you. Your words of encouragement and excitement are the shoulders that we lean on when the story just isn’t working out right, when it seems like the page will never finish being drawn, that the colors seem off or the words just won’t fit. It propels us to greater heights as we strive to one-up the story we did before to excite you as much as scare ourselves that perhaps we might have over-reached or pushed so far that our reach exceeds our grasp. Just because we are driven to do something doesn’t mean it’s easy, but you all make it that much easier. 

Even on the days where we hate everything for being so damn hard. 

The days where it seems nothing will ever work out, that we’ll never get ahead or get that break that allows us to do what we love as our sole occupation. It’s a double edge sword, once you fall down that rabbit hole of creating comics- it can cut you with a harsh reality of mounting bills and low sales, but it can cut away all the troubles in the world with a simple, “that was a really great read, dude.” 
 
That’s my rant, thanks for being there- I’ll keep plugging away at these books if you’re willing to stick it through with me- it’s no fun when you go at things alone. I don’t want fans, just friends along for the ride.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Novel Writing Journal Entry #1

So.

I'm writing a novel.

No, not right now. This is just the first instalment in a series of journal entries that I'm going to write chronicling my... Well, my journey. After all, that's why they call them journals, right? I seriously have no clue but it sounds right so let's run with that.

As I said, I am writing a novel. If you subscribe to the S17 Newsletter, not only are you already aware of this, but you've read the rough draft for the first chapter. So far all the feedback I've received has been positive. I'd write the book either way, but it's nice to hear other people think the story so far is interesting.

I have begun several novels but so far have yet to finish any of them. This one, Formerly Known As the Indestructible Kid, will be the first. It might kill me in the process but by damn it will be finished. Even if it has to be published posthumously. The reasons for not finishing them all pretty much come down to losing interest. It's probably why I'm suited better for writing comic books- a typical S17 comic book script clocks in at under 5000 words. A "typical" novel is usually in excess of 120,000.

Quick math will show that to be like writing LOTS of comic scripts. My attention span is to the point that, while I'm writing those 5000 words my brain has already gone off on three different NEW ideas that I'd like to work on. It's not that what I'm working on (novel or script-wise) is by any means boring, I just naturally run to the shiny new idea. Self-discipline and I are not exactly the tightest of friends. 


To sit at a keyboard or with a notebook (but let's face it sooner or later the damn thing needs to be typed up anyhow) for the amount of time to write a novel, even if it's the thing that you're most excited about in the whole wide world EVER? That takes a LOT of willpower.
Like A LOT.

So, yeah. Lots of other shiny ideas and sitting there hammering away at the same thing day and day out. That's a couple of reasons I have a hard time with writing novels. Pacing was also an issue for the longest time until I realised a chapter is just like a comic book page. You have to have something at the beginning to draw people in, some cool stuff that happens in the middle, and an ending that makes people NEED to keep reading; early mornings and obligations be damned. Once I figured that part out, pacing was no longer as tricky.

The other problem I have is once I know an ending for a story, I start to get bored with it. I read because I want to know the story- from start to end. Once I've read it, I'm good. I don't have to go back to it again. I do, but that's because of habit more than anything. So when I plot out a story, it's essential for me to get to it as quickly as possible before other ideas pop up, ones I don't know enough about just yet, and take over.

I started FKA sometime back for National Novel Writing Month (a pretty neat event where you try to write 50,000+ words of a novel within the month of November) and I've more or less picked up where I left off, adding a few thousand words to where I had stopped a couple years back. Getting back in the groove of writing the character, Jared Rayburn, was not quite as easy as I had hoped but I figured a little rust was to be expected given the length of time between writing sessions. The more of it I write, the smoother it becomes so I take that as a sign I'll be back in tune with him before long.

Right now the goal is to finish the first draft by the end of April/beginning of May. Looking at my word count and how far along I am, that may be a bit optimistic, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to try to do it. After all, I've already announced a release date of September 1 and there's a lot to do after just one draft- more drafts, editing, putting it all together for release- tons of work. I'm going to do a few more of these journals to update my progress (or lack there of) and the struggles involved in writing this book (hopefully they are far and few between) to not only keep track for myself, but so anyone else who is thinking of writing a novel sees that they aren't the only ones going through this- because there are certainly times where it feels like that.

Thanks for reading and we'll talk again soon.

Andrew

Saturday, 12 December 2015

One More Down, Lots More To Go!

Today I wrote the script for the six page preview of Daughters of Darkness, a series that I'm looking forward to writing in 2016. It features five female protagonists, all of whom possess supernatural abilities, and their stories- which I'm not going to give away just yet. 

Why not? 

Well part of it is that I do not have an artist as of yet and I don't want to get you all excited for something that is most likely a year off from seeing print. So why bring it up at all, you ask? 

The script I just finished marks the twenty-third completed script (LEGACY #9 and New Guard #4 are 2/3 done so they don't count) for the S17 Universe. Nearly two dozen stories written with, to date, only half seeing print. The rest are coming, it'll just take some time for the art to catch up. 

When you work (regularly) for one of the larger comic book companies, you can expect to release a dozen or more books per year. Indie? Well that's all about budget- both dollars and time. Most indie folks have a couple releases per year at the most.  

So why write so far out? 

Why not? One of the things I like best about the world I'm creating for S17 is that i can tell any type of story. Horror, sci-fi, historical, whetever. All of that and more has a place within the pages of S17 comics and novels. 

LEGACY was always viewed as a weekly drama/action show, The Sentries as a big blockbuster movie, Troubleshooters as something akin to The X-Files or Fringe meets The Authority. While those titles are mainly science-based, titles such as Daughters of Darkness, Arcane and Magistrate deal with the magic side of things- each in their own way. 

Metal Monk scratches any sort of marital arts or post-apocalyptic itch you might have while Auroraman, in conjunction with Jeff Burton, is the perfect call-back to the Silver Age zany adventures of comic books past. 

So why bring up Daughters of Darkness? Because I just like throwing it out that there that while you may THINK you know all the cool stuff we're doing at S17, that we've only just begun to show you what we have lined up. There is much, much more to come. 

-Andrew

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Cool Canadian Creators Part 1: My Local Scene

So the other day I posted on my Facebook that S17 has had a crazy amount of support from other Canadian creators and that I wanted to take some time to recognize them and their efforts to promote our books. 

As I sat down and started making a list it became very apparent that there were too many people to cover in one post and that breaking it down to my local scene (Winnipeg and surrounding area), Western and Eastern Canada was the only way to keep it short enough but still give everyone a fair shake at hearing about how great they are and why they are. 

Of course I cannot just stick to Canada, as there have been a number of American creators that have been just as great and that will be the fourth such post. 

It's only fitting that we start with the guy who showed me that a local guy could actually make his own superhero stuff and get it published and out there for folks to read, Mr. AP Fuchs. His Axiom-man series was one of the (as I've mentioned before in several posts) influences on me going the whole self-publishing route and still remains one of the books I look forward to with each new volume. AP has been extremely encouraging as S17 has grown and not only have I been lucky enough to have his support, but also to count him among my friends. On my first Free Comic Book Day as a "pro" I was seated next to AP and he was cool enough to sketch out Paragon (from LEGACY) and write a little blurb to "keep the stories coming", something I fully intend to do. That sketch is now framed and hanging on my office wall. Find out more about AP Fuchs here: http://canisterx.com/





 Rod Salm was a guy who's book I came across when he ran a Kickstarter for it and was drawn in by the title, Death At Your Door. The quick pitch on it is Death decides to... Well, here, check out the very first strip for yourself: 

 Anyhow, I was intrigued and I finally got to meet the man behind it at one of the single day comic cons we have in Winnipeg. Right away I could tell Rod was a great guy- friendly, out-going, quick to show an interest in what I was doing... Just a really cool dude. I was able to get to know Rod a bit more and, when I knew I was going to need a letterer for Canadian Corps, he was my first and only choice; I wanted to find some way to work with him and luckily he agreed. Because Rod is such an awesome fellow, not only did he join as letterer, he took it upon himself to put together a new, fancier website for S17, and it's going to be SO COOL when we go live. Who puts together a wicked website for someone else without even being asked? Rod does because Rod rocks. 

Donovan Yaciuk was introduced to me by Canadian Corps penciller/inker Justin Shauf as someone that he had worked with and said was a "good guy" who might be the solution for our search for a colourist for the book. I was hesitant at first because I'd had a few people in mind for the job already but once I met Donovan... One of the best things ever to happen to S17. His enthusiasm for creating comic books in incredibly infectious and I've always believed passion sells people on projects- with him I expect C.Corps to hit the New York Times Best-Sellers List. Whether it's him chatting up people on the digital colouring process or saying far too kind things about me, Donovan is really one of the good ones. Much like Rod, Donovan has gone above and beyond the call of duty several times as a member of the S17 creative team and when he's not rocking the pages of C.Corps or The Sentries, he's busy being a great dad (a common them among the C.Corps crew) and doing his own fantastic book, Spacepig Hamadeus.  

Speaking of people that I met at conventions, GMB Chomichuk was a gentleman that I met at the same show as Donovan, when he came around to my table and introduced himself. He was very friendly and asked about my books and, while not in the same vein as what he created, he seemed quite happy to listen as I stumbled over my "elevator pitch" about the books. While we were talking, a local podcast interviewer came up and asked him if he'd be able to be on their show- without missing a beat, this man who had just met me, who had plenty of his own works to promote, turned to them and said "It's new local creators like Andrew here who you should be interviewing". I was floored. This guy had literally JUST met me and was pushing my books? But that's what GMB is about. He lives for the community of it all. When the Canadian Corps Kickstarter happened he quickly volunteered some of his art to be used in any way I saw fit. Like I said, he is a true gentleman and I appreciate the things he has done when he has not had to. His website has a ton of cool stuff on it- you can find it here: http://comicalchemy.blogspot.ca/ 
As James D. Miles said, "You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who cannot do anything for him". Mr. Chomichuk is a pretty classy guy, indeed. 

Lytwyn Studios is a local comic studio that, once again, I met at that very same comic con (hint, those are a GREAT place to meet cool people) and since that time I've gotten to hang out with a few of them and talk comics and such. Matt Lytwyn, the head honcho there, has been a very vocal supporter of S17 and he and I have developed a sort of one-upmanship that I quite enjoy as I think it's pushed us both to do more and be better. Jake, one of their artists, was the guy who first came up to the S17 table at the con, and besides having a beard of epic nature, is a super friendly guy with whom I love talking comics. I'm excited to see their books when they are ready to launch them- once again, very different from what I do, but they still sound pretty cool. And, as per Matt's repeated demands (it's not even requests anymore, he's sending goons to my door) I will be working on a few projects with them in the next year. It's very exciting and flattering when people dig your stuff enough that they ask to work with you. Their website is still under construction but they are on the Twitters, as the kids say. http://lytwynstudios.ca/

Now for a couple folks that I "met" while doing the Canadian Corps Kickstarter and have since met 2/3 of in person- Chadwick Ginther (author of the FANTASTIC Thunder Road trilogy- if you dig urban fantasy or Norse mythology you HAVE to check it out), Sean Trinder (also an author, his book The Guy Who Pumps Your Gas Hates You is a must read for anyone who has ever worked in that, or any, customer service industry- it's easily one of the best standalone books I've read) and Greg Waller (creator of the comic book Magnitude, a cool book that came out from Ape Entertainment in the mid 2000s). 

All three of the aforementioned gentleman were names that were familiar to me before I launched the Kickstarter but their support and kind words for a fellow local creator was very very cool. They had no reason to invest in the book (beyond all being comic book fans themselves) but they did and I appreciate that. Mr. Ginther even took it another step and interviewed the C.Corps team about the book during the Kickstarter. Greg and I spoke on Facebook about his time and some of his experiences creating Magnitude and I'm looking forward to meeting him in person at the C4 Comic Con later this month. Sean and I got to speak at (because it IS a small world after all) Chadwick's recent book launch and I am pleased to report that he is a super nice guy. How nice? He went straight home and read Canadian Corps after the signing and tweeted about his love of the book. That's pretty nice, I'd say. You can find out more about Mr.Trinder on his Facebook page and Mr. Ginther on his website here: http://chadwickginther.com/  I strongly encourage you to buy their books- both guys tell great stories and I am a fan of whatever they do next. Greg has sworn me to secrecy but I would say you will hear more from him in the future. 

I'm going to lump two more people together because, well I'm the one writing this damn it, and that's what I'm going to do. Besides those reasons, I'm doing it because they are both Young Adult authors who are, to my knowledge, some of the sharpest ladies you'll meet. Seriously they are both a hoot (ya, I said it) to talk to and while I've only met one face to face, the other and I have engaged in many a conversation online and found her to be quite fun.  

Melinda Friesen and I first met when she (along with AP Fuchs and S17 editor Christine Steendam and myself) embarked on a writer's retreat this past June. Here's a fact you need to know about her: she is a writing machine. Not only did she beat the rest of us word count-wise, she DESTROYED us, cranking out a ridiculous amount of words. Another fact: she is FUNNY. You know that friend you have, that quiet one that just seems to pick their moments to give a friendly shot or wry observation? Ya, that's her. She's always quick to support a fellow creator though- and has always been good enough to share all my posts and tweets and stuff, as well as that of many other local talents. Her novel, Enslavement, is sitting on my bookshelf waiting for me to have some free time to read it (I've read the first 40 pages but haven't had a chance to continue yet) and you can find out more about her on her website: http://melindafriesen.com/ 

The other lady is Jessica Gollub, author of the Hummingbird series, of which I have read the first of the trilogy, The Mark of the Hummingbird. If you like post-apocalyptic style stories this will be up your alley- but it's not like anything you've read before in that sub-genre, or at least nothing I had read. Check it out and you'll see what I mean. What you WON'T see, at least not just yet, is Jessica at a launch or book-signing. Despite being a hilarious and fun person to talk to online, she informs me that is where she prefers to interact (or maybe she's just worried I'll show up and start literally singing her praises in public) but we're working on that. Signing or not, Jessica has become part of this little writer's collective that I am fortunate enough to be part of as well and every one of them is talented and supportive of each other. Even if that support sometimes reaches harassment levels in the vein of DO A SIGNING ALREADY, JESSICA!

Last, but certainly never least, is Christine Steendam. Christine and I have only known each other a few short years but have quickly become close friends and I admire her talent and knowledge to the degree that I hired her as editor for S17. Don't hold it against her for agreeing to such a terrible task; she's very generous that way. As I mentioned, Christine and I are good friends, and because of that friendship (one based on brutal honesty and lots of jokes at each other's expense) she has always been one of my biggest supporters and I hers- with each book she turns out I can see her writing getting better and better (I hope the same can be said of mine!) and I am excited to see where she will be five or ten years from now. Here's a hint: get to know her name- I fully expect it to be gracing the Best-Sellers lists for some time. I always have said that the S17 books are good because of the artists I work with and that rings true of Christine as well as editor and, for the first time ever for me, co-writer, as she joined me on New Guard #2. There's no one else I'd rather work with to make the stories better in S17's books. 

Christine's website is http://christinesteendam.com/. What's with these writers having such unoriginal sounding websites? Get CREATIVE, people! 

Seriously though this is but a fraction of the talented and supportive people that I have met since starting out on this comic book writing journey. Tune in next time to find out about all the cool Canadian creators West of Winnipeg! 

-Andrew




 

 

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Kickstarter Tips

Ever since I first backed a Kickstarter, I've been a fan of the crowd-source funding site. Not only is a great way for us indie guys to fund a project, it's even better as a fan, for discovering all sorts of cool things that you might not have ever heard of otherwise. 

To date, I have created one project on Kickstarter (Canadian Corps- 173% funded) and backed 45 projects (unfortunately having had to pass up at least another 15 or 20 that I wanted to back). 

Let me get this out of the way first: I am by no means an expert on running a Kickstarter. I have run exactly ONE. It was successful, yes, but that doesn't make me an expert. What it does mean, is that I have at least a SENSE of what does and does not work. 

Since running the Kickstarter for Canadian Corps, for some reason I've taken to reading through all of the other comics projects that hop up in there- sometimes to make sure I'm not missing out on something cool, sometimes to make sure I pay forward the success that we had with ours, and sometimes because... well, just because. 

While reading through them, I started taking them apart- seeing what I like and didn't like about them. What works and what doesn't. And sometimes getting a little outraged over the stuff that people put out there thinking that it is ready or should be on there. 

Things that drew my ire included a supposed novelist who wanted to raise $30,000+ for his book (which is a LOT of money to produce a novel) and did not capitalize the "i" when referring to himself; among at least two dozen other errors in spelling and grammar. Now in this day and age of texting and messaging, I can understand a slip or two- we're all guilty of that. I can handle that. But when you are asking people for money to help fund you for a WRITING project and you do that? Really? REALLY?? I just can't deal with that kind of thing. 

Running a Kickstarter is asking people to invest in you and your idea. Not to hand over money because you are poor or cheap and don't want to do it and you're going to take it and forget about them. Some treat it like that, unfortunately, but they should not. You are asking your backers to take part in this journey and, whether you like it or not, that means you are beholden to them for a few things. Like proper spelling. A clear message of what you are trying to achieve and what they will get in return for helping you reach your goal. Kickstarter is a business venture and should be treated as such. 

Part of any business venture is doing research- knowing who your audience will be, what you can offer them, and how you will go about doing that. If you cannot answer those things, you are not ready to launch your Kickstarter. 

For the Canadian Corps KS I looked at the levels that people pledged at on other Kickstarters- what sort of things they wanted and were willing to pay for them. Easy enough, right? A quick look at what's on Kickstarter right now will tell you that there are many who have not done that. When in doubt approach your reward levels as a fan- would YOU be willing to pay $10 for that PDF copy of a 20 page comic book? I know I wouldn't. $5 and we're talking. It's about value to your backers. Make it worth their time. And still worth yours- after all you are trying to raise money, not give things away. It's tricky but it can be done. 

Research everything that you can think of that you might need to tackle- production/printing costs, shipping costs (which is where a LOT of projects run into problems), how long it'll take to finish the project (and it's always safe to assume it'll be longer by a month than what you think it will) and then ask friends and family for any questions that they might have. Get all your stuff lined up before you launch- if you don't, it'll fall apart fast. 

Once you are set up and running the campaign, make sure when people back you that you thank them. When I ran the CC one I made sure to send every backer a personal thank you message- if you're able to do that, do it. It takes literally a minute to do so and that's the least you can do for something throwing $40 at you to make your dream come true. People work hard for their money and they want to know that their pledges are appreciated. And if they take it upon themselves to tell others about it, you HAVE to thank them. That's above and beyond and should be recognized and appreciated as such. 

The real key to running a Kickstarter that performs well is to do all the little things right that you would want to see as a fan- interact with backers on social media, be polite and friendly to those that show an interest in it (I mean you should be those things as a default but...) and show that you've done some work on your project. 

I understand that sometimes the cost of a project is so insurmountable that the only way to do it is to seek outside funding, but do SOMETHING to show people that you've at least STARTED working on it. If you're funding an album- have a song for people to hear (even if it's just you in your bedroom and an acoustic guitar). If it's a comic book, have some pages for people to look at. A board game? Samples or mock-ups of what it might look like. This should be common sense stuff, but so many people drop the ball on this. If you're not willing to invest a little time and money into getting your project ready, you can sure as hell bet no one else is going to be willing to either. 

Use common sense, think like a fan, be polite and engage those who show an interest. It's not hard stuff, though it does involve a lot of hard work. If you're willing to do it however, you'll succeed. 

Or you can hire me for cheap and I'll look it over for you- odds are that I'll be checking out anyhow if it's a comic book, and be ripping it apart. For a small fee, I'll tell you how to fix it. ;)  

Best of luck!

-Andrew 
 

The Challenge of Creating Indie Comic Books In Canada

Wow, that sure sounds like a fancy title for one of my blog posts, eh? Usually it's things like "Why I Like Cheeseburgers" or "Neat Things You Should Read".

Either way, it's accurate and what this post is about. 

This is not a knock against indie comics creators anywhere else- I know for a fact many of them face quite a few of the same challenges that we here in the Great White North have, but that's for them to write about, and this is what I am doing. I can say one thing- no matter what country you make indie comics in, you work your ass off to do so and you have my respect for that. As you should everyone else's that has ever made anything- the effort and time required to create is not something that you can quantify as anything more than "a lot". Even when things come easily, there' the journey that took you to that point. Alas, I digress. 

Creating comic books in Canada is full of many challenges that are unique to living here. First and foremost is that for independent creators, there are very few places where you can get your work actually printed. True, there are many quality printing companies throughout the country, but very few of them offer traditional comic book printing and those that do expect BASE print runs of 10,000+. Even at $1 each, that is far more money than most indie creators have. You're going to sit on most of that, even if the book sells well, for awhile and that is a ton of money to invest. 

Solutions to that come in one of three ways: don't print and stay strictly digital, find a different format (usually fancier and costing more) to print in, or go with a printer from either China (takes forever and quality is inconsistent) or the United States. Which brings us to the next challenge: paying in US dollars. 

Anytime you source out of Canada, whether for printing or for talent (aka artists), you pay in US money. Three years ago when I started making comics, it wasn't so bad- $1 Canadian was equal to $0.92 American. This has changed considerably since then, with the Canadian dollar averaging only 70 CENTS over the last year. 

What does that mean? It means when you pay an artist $300US you are actually putting out nearly $400 Canadian. 25-30% above the actual "cost" of what you are paying. If you average an indie comic's cost at $4000US (it's quite often higher), that means that, for a Canadian publisher, that book is setting them back over $5200. BEFORE it goes to print. 

Following that math, let's say we print with a US company, 200 copies of said book. Not a lot, but good enough for a decent selling convention. The average price for printing a 24 page comic book is $2.75 per book. US dollars. Two hundred books at $2.75 each, after exchange, comes to roughly $715 Canadian. Plus shipping. 

In the past three years, shipping from the US to Canada (and vice versa) has tripled in cost as fuel prices have gone up. Paying close to a dollar per book for shipping is not unheard of- and that's just regular no-frills shipping. With shipping thrown in, this single book has cost roughly $6000 for 200 copies. 

Unless you're able to sell those 200 copies for $30 each (good luck on that!), you clearly will not make money back this go around on it, and will have to continue to print books to start making a dent in the costs. Indie comics typically sell between $5-$10/copy, so assuming a price of $8 each means you will need to sell 1600+ copies to break even. 

Why so many? Why, that brings us to challenge number three! Getting the books out there. 

Many comic stores are run by awesome people who want nothing more than to help comics creators get out there and show off their stuff. Those same awesome people unfortunately work on very tight budgets with even more limited room to showcase their goods. What does that mean? It means that if you are lucky and have a great shop to work with, you may get a small space for your books and will sell them on consignment. If you are unlucky, you'll have to find somewhere else to sell your books. The most popular place to do so, of course being comic book conventions. 

Conventions are a great place to get your books out for people to see. Often folks are there looking for that kind of thing when they go there, though in recent years I, personally, have seen less and less people buying and more just checking stuff out as the emphasis has shifted away from comics and more to pop culture celebrations. I have a blast either way, but as a publisher, I want to see people spending money. Preferably on my books. 

There are always costs that are incurred in doing conventions- the tables, hotel rooms if applicable, travel to and from, and of course food and drinks. None of that comes cheap. Even if it's a local con, you can expect it to run you hundreds of dollars. Luckily these days we seem to have more and more conventions across Canada. I just got back from the fantastic SaskExpo last weekend and am very much looking forward to doing the C4 Comic Con in Winnipeg at the end of next month.   

The only problem with doing conventions in Canada, and it's also the same problem as generally getting your books out, is the distance. Canada is not a small country and getting across this great nation is time-consuming and expensive. It's also what you have to do if you want to build a following for your books. You might be able to get great digital sales (and more power to you if you can) but nothing sells a book like the creators getting to talk to the fans and general public about it. I've said it time and again, passion sells projects. Even more so than talent. 

So, so far we've covered the actual costs of making a book, the printing and shipping the book and the getting it out there. All of this is true of any indie comic book, all made a little harder due to the Canadian dollar these days, and I'm going to touch on one more; being a CANADIAN creator. 

As I said, I attended SaskExpo this past weekend, and one of the things I was able to do was take part in a Canadian Comics Creator panel alongside Justin and Donovan (my Canadian Corps creative partners) as well as Kurtis Wiebe (Rat Queens- great book, buy it) and Ed Brisson. One of the things that came up during the panel was about identifying as Canadian comic book creators and how, yes even though we're living in a global community now, that many creators don't make it a point that they are from here. 

In fact, many of them seem embarrassed to admit where they are from (nothing that is unique to comics, many entertainment industries seem like that) and yet some of the biggest names in the field are from Canada- David Finch, Marcus To, Jason Fabok, Ty Templeton, Fiona Staples, and many more. Jeff Lemire too, but he's from Toronto and well all know Toronto doesn't count itself with the rest of the nation. (I kid, sort of.)

Being a Canadian creator has a variety of challenges because people have certain expectations of what you should do or be- they want you to acknowledge your routes/where you are from but not in a way that is TOO Canadian (no Tim Horton's jokes apparently) but at the same time they want all the bombastic action and adventure one might find in an American production. It's a fine line to straddle. American enough for commercial success but Canadian enough that you aren't too American. Crazy, right? It's tough but it can be done. If you're willing to put the work in and if the audience is willing to give it a chance. 

A quick little story about that- at SaskExpo I broke one of the rules of selling as an indie comics guy. I had a guy come up and tell me how great it was that we were putting out this Canadian Corps book and how we were all-Canadian creators doing a book about all-Canadian heroes. He went on and on for about five minutes about how him and his friends are always saying that "this is exactly what we want and need more of" (I remember it very clearly) and I thanked him for his interest. 

This is where I made a mistake, however. It was clear that despite his supposed interest, he wasn't going to buy, and I made a comment along the lines that "lots of people say that they want more Canadian content but aren't willing to help support it". Without a doubt part of it was due to frustration, but part of it was merely stating a fact- there will be TONS of people who SAY that they want to support indie comics, but not actually DO it. 

Was I wrong to say what I did? Maybe. It was the truth, though I suppose I didn't have to say it. At the end of the day, all of these are challenges that any creator will face- be it comics, novels, music or art; only you can decide if it is worth it to you to do so. 

I know my answer and I look forward to seeing you at a convention sometime down the road. Maybe you'll buy something, maybe you won't, but maybe you'll have a greater appreciation for the hard work people put in to their projects. It's not easy but we think it's cool and fun and hopefully you will too. On behalf of all my fellow Canadian indie comics creators, thank you for your support.  

-Andrew