Finding Your Inner Promoter
Submitted by Scott Story on August 6, 2008 - 10:15
Most cartoonists, and artists in general, would prefer to just sit and draw and cartoon. I’ve often been in the position, when engulfed in website work and business, that all I really wanted to become a cartoonist for was to draw. A great many artists are naturally shy, are a bit introverted, and have rich inner lives. I know what this is like, because all this describes me. Over the years, in the indie comic world and the webcomic world, I’ve met a great number of folks who are just like me in this regard. (Indeed, it’s shocking how man pudgy, balding guys with facial hair and glasses I’ve met who do the exact same thing I do!)
Being introverted is just fine, especially if you are drawing for your own amusement and nothing else. Being a cartoonist, especially a webcartoonist, means that you have to break out of your shell and learn how to be a salesman and community builder.
If you are a natural salesman, and a real people person, then good for you! This is not written for you, and you can stop reading now. If you are a member of the “everyone else” subset of people, then take heart—you can learn to be a salesman, and to wear many hats.
Hats are as good an analogy as any for all the roles you will have to fill as a webcartoonist. Not only do you have to cartoon, but you have to be a webmaster, a salesman, a promoter, a community builder, and a business person all wrapped into one person.
What I’m not writing about here is how to close a sale, or how to write a press release, or how to do a book signing, or any of that. There are great guides available for these things on the web and in bookstores. No, what I’m referring to is changing your attitude and learning to step out of your comfortable shell and put on the promoter’s hat. You have to promote yourself, because it’s unlikely anyone will do it for you.
First up, you have to put aside any distaste you might have of salesmanship, merchandising, and becoming commercial. In the beginning you may well feel that you are an ‘Artist’ with a capital ‘A,’ and that commerce and sales are somehow beneath you. Maybe you’ve never actually expressed this, but you may well feel it subconsciously, as if becoming commercial were ‘selling out.’ I won’t address the whole issue of ‘selling out’; if you have issues with it, get out in the commercial world for a few years, earn a living, pay your bills, and see art for what it is: A product. You are a producer, and your art is a product, and as such it has a value. If you can’t deal with this, then you may well enjoy a long career as a fine artist, and maybe your work will become quite valuable after you die.
Next, learn to tell everyone about your work. Tell family, friends, acquaintances, perfect strangers, everyone! Learn to mingle with crowds and introduce people to your work! Learn public speaking, and spread the word! Pass out business cards everywhere you go to everyone you meet! (My webcomic has its own business card, for example.) Wear shirts with your characters and URL whenever it is socially acceptable to do so. Comics are meant to be shared!
Have confidence. You have to believe that your webcomic is simply the coolest thing ever, that you are doing people a favor by telling them about it. Do you feel uncomfortable taking money for your product? Do you routinely cut special deals for people you like or feel sorry for? Stop It! Find the right price and stick to it! If people want your art, and they have the money for it, they’ll buy it! If they want it, and they don’t have the money, they won’t! (But, maybe later, when they do have the money, they’ll be back.) That’s just basic marketing—it’s not personal, it’s business!
Don’t be a Luddite. I’ve met so many art school students who ‘don’t do the computer thing,’ or just aren’t interested in the internet. This astounds me whenever I hear it—there was no internet to speak of when I went to high school and college! I have avidly watched for and usually adopted every new technological advance or internet trend that has come along! Some younger people may believe that being aloof from the net makes them cool, or rebellious, or different, or whatever. It doesn’t. It makes them turtles in the age of hares.
So, if you learn to sell, have confidence in your work, learn to casually talk with everyone, and use the computer for all it’s worth, you are well on your way to becoming a promoter.