What indie authors can learn from indie comics
There's been a recent explosion in indie comics, and I don't mean comics from non-Marvel or DC publishers. I mean actually independently produced comics made through crowdfunding. From what I understand it stems from a frustration with an industry wrought with gatekeeping and purity tests (sound familiar?) Many of these creators have just launched their second campaigns, during which they've increased both readership and sales from the first. I've a lot of respect for the creators involved and think that indie authors can learn a lot from their model. Here is a list of some of the most important takeaways.
1. Customers First: When being a writer is your job, your readers are your bosses, your customers. And the customer is always right. Treating readers and potential readers with respect and professionalism goes a long way to win new ones. This is something many mainstream novelists are having trouble with at the moment, shrieking on twitter about how they don't want fans with the wrong opinions. When you're publishing independently, there is nothing standing between you and your customers so directly interfacing with them and listening to what they have to say is vital.
2. It's a business: At the end of the day, you're selling a product. One you've poured all your creative energy into and love very dearly but it's a product and you have to market it like one. That means finding and cultivating an audience and actively working to grow that audience regularly. I think a lot of prose writers struggle with this because it tends to gather introverts.
3. Escapism is paramount: A great deal of indie comic creators have maligned the lack of escapism present in current mainstream comics. Saying that they have become essentially political propaganda. I'm inclined to agree. I think the same thing is true for many mainstream novels as well, particularly in certain genres. What this new independent push shows us all is that there is a hunger for escapism that is not being met by the mainstream.
Escapism vs Propaganda.
Escapist fiction is for the reader. Taking them away from the chaos of their lives to somewhere they can feel heroic, excited, romantic, sad or scared without being judged.
Propaganda is the judgement and fear of the real world chasing you inside a book
4. Embrace crowdfunding: Though it can be intimidating, I think indie authors really need to embrace crowdfunding as a platform for bringing their work to life. The engagement and success these indie comic pros have had shows that there are a great many comic book readers who want to spend money but don't see anything in the mainstream worth buying. I believe a similar unserved audience exists for novels. It's certainly nerve-wracking, but the crowdfunded structure is demonstrably one that works
Not just for comics but for novels. There have been several recent prose crowdfunding campaigns that have been very successful, run by talented authors such as Adam Lane Smith, Brian Niemeier and Rob Kroese.
I hope this has been helpful and wish everyone the best of luck in their writing and publishing. Independent is the future regardless of the medium and we can all learn a lot from one another along the way.