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Creating Comics: How Social Media subscribers can be your biggest asset

Oliver Wetter, head of Fantasio Fine Arts, is a freelance illustrator and Art Director from Germany who I first encountered while editing SciFi Art Now, my collection of SF art for ILEX, back in 2010. He has a lectureship at the IBKK art institute in Bochum/Germany, where he teaches digital painting.

 He recently published the article on how publishing has changed in a digital world below on his “fantabulous visions” blog, and kindly gave us permission to re-post it here on downthetubes.

This article doesn’t talk about social media tools, but rather explores the heart of how publishing has changed and how to exploit those changes to your own advantage as a creator.

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This article doesn’t talk about social media tools, but rather explores the heart of how publishing has changed and how to exploit those changes to your own advantage as a creator.

This one is a wake-up call, one to contemplate how we use social media and publishing strategies.

Print magazines have used subscription models for a long time, so it was perhaps inevitable that some television stations would decide to go the same route. I also believe that is the reason why we have subscriber-based social media networks now, where every person can get subscribers to their Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Google+ accounts, to name but a few such services.

And, while there are a lot of differences between a magazine, a television station and you as an individual creator, I have to wonder:  how big is the difference if the currency is attention time?

I think we are now living in an age where there is no big difference anymore between a premium TV broadcasting show and your content on, for example, facebook. What makes the difference is the added value and experience from a user. When TV is boring (even when you’re paying for it) and a facebook post has made your day, then the latter won the contest and future decisions will be made upon that realisation by the consumer.

For me, your social media subscribers can have a major impact on how successful you are as a creator or publisher – and you should treat them well.

Brighton-based Harry Pointer may have had a cult following in the 1880s with his famous cat postcards, but the reach of these early photographs was miniscule, compared with a LOL Cat image that goes viral today. Image via <a href="http://www.photohistory-sussex.co.uk/BTNPointerCats.htm">Photo History of Sussex</a>

Brighton-based Harry Pointer may have had a cult following in the 1880s with his famous cat postcards, but the reach of these early photographs was miniscule, compared with a LOL Cat image that goes viral today. Image via Photo History of Sussex

Once a freelancer can understand that the knowledge we have available today allows us to benefit from years of experiene and the failures of others long before us, this is a huge advantage.

For example, when the first photographers established their medium they probably had nowhere near the number of fans that anyone can have today posting photos of cute kitten to facebook.

Consider this… How did our landscape look some 20 years ago? If you are older than 20, you’ll remember the joy of waiting for the day in the week when your favorite magazine came to the kiosk or that day when you walked into the video rental store to get that new action flick or that bookstore across the street to check for intriguing offers.

Now, a huge number of us don’t do these regular walks anymore, We enjoy a book or audiobook on the commute to work on a mobile device and check our updates from friends on fb and twitter.

The landscape has changed. But it is not worse or better, it is just different.

But in a society that uses the internet as a replacement for television, comics and magazines, book stores and video rentals, as a freelancer, how is it possible to thrive in such a society and to make a living of it?

It’s a tough question, but it’s not unsolvable.

First, I want to put the pros and cons in a list, to evaluate the status quo.

Pro internet market:

  • Huge audience
  • Faster ways of finding a target audience (and be found)
  • A growing market
  • Established ways of getting and finding new clients
  • Arguably better for the environment
  • Opportunity through globalisation
Contra internet market:
  • Much white noise: it’s hard to get noticed
  • Most places are too crowded for new brands, and even the established ones are facing hard times
  • Lots of job losses (regionally through globalisation)
  • Established brands struggle or have to change their business to withstand hard times
  • More “difficult waste” through higher sales of ebook readers, smartphones and tablets

It would seem there are as many pros as cons, depending on your own point of view. For personal use and small businesses the internet market bears many opportunities and little to no risks.

The downside of this recent development are increased sales of ebook-readers and tablets. In my opinion this increase can save some trees if the market keeps on developing at the same pace, but a different material as replacement for plastic is in order. Otherwise the increase in toxic waste and difficult waste from not renewable raw materials will exponentially keep on having a negative impact on our climatic development.

But, leaving that aside, let’s imagine humans are able to learn and use new materials from mushrooms to replace plastic in the future. How am I able to compete with thousands of other artists and freelancers in the already crowded market?

Let’s begin with understanding the subscriber model on Facebook. I use Facebook as an example because, right now, it is the most popular network and it is easy to understand but of course there are others, and some, like Patreon offer a subscriber model  with some very obvious benefits many different creatives are beginning to wake up to.

  • Subscribers or fans (on Facebook pages) are just numbers, unless they interact with you. This means, these numbers can be 10k or 500k, but due to Facebook’s algorithms only 1%-2% are able to see your posts. So buying more audience in terms of buying fans or advertising on Facebook actually does not help, it increases only the numbers, and not magically the level of interaction.
  • Interaction is the key. You have to write engaging content, share only interesting things and don´t spam.This way it will probably take longer to get a bigger following, but in the end interactions are a lot more authentic and the level of engagement in terms of likes, comments and shares is significant higher.
  • Bigger is not always better. With great power comes great responsibility. The pressure big companies have when they’ve made a mistake was easy to play down some 20 years ago. In the age of Facebook, any issue can become a big company’s worst nightmare. Take, for example Greenpeace against Nestle – definitely a priceless example on how much costs could have been cut with the right decisions. The power of the users combined can have a big impact, the smaller the waves, the more secure for smaller businesses in the beginning, where many decisions might be wrong due to a lack of money, self esteem, whatsoever.
  • Making good decisions will take time and self awareness. Having a tribe or community in your back makes it easier to learn from others and to gain reasonable feedback.
  • Involving your fans and followers and even your subscribers to your development, or your way on your very personal journey makes others happy as well. No one wants a finished product – we are all heading back towards a do-culture and from a have-it-done- culture, but it takes time.
  • When making-ofs in Blu Ray´s and DVD Boxes are longer than the actual movie, you know something has changed in the market. Not only in the consumer, but in the makers, because they understand that their consumers want to be part of something – so give them a purpose, give them a reason to live!
  • That is actually the only valid reason why crowdfunding works today; people want to be special and they want to be involved, they like to spend premium money on something that not everyone can have – and that is an opportunity. An opportunity for artists and freelancers to deliver something special. Something that not everyone can have -and not being able to copy.
  • Regardless if your product is music, a sculpture or a digital file, what you do with your subscriber is important – so treat everyone you meet with respect and an open heart and you should never need to worry about your future.

There is no simple to-do-kind of a list that you can crawl your way through, but only these essential things listed above that require your understanding and inherent passion. If you don’t treat social media with passion, you won’t understand the impact it has and thus will not be able to reap the benefits in the long run.

That can ruin your business for you before you even took the plunge.

• Oliver Wetter is currently available for a wide range of projects, such as concept art, book covers and portrait / figure – related illustrations -private and commercial. Besides the client based works, he writes about art and marketing in his blog “fantabulous visions” and contributes personal works to the world. Feel free to contact him for a noncommittal quote on your project. 

About John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative" who is currently working as a freelance editor for TITAN COMICS, as Creative Consultant on the new DAN DARE audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the LAKES INTERNATIONAL COMIC ART FESTIVAL and LANCASTER COMICS DAY. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 25 years, starting out at Marvel UK, where he edited a number of the Genesis 1992 books with Paul Neary, including DEATH'S HEAD II and WARHEADS. At Marvel he wrote strips for THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS, THUNDERCATS, DOCTOR WHO and co-created SHADOW RIDERS with Brian Williamson and Ross Dearsley. His numerous credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines, where he was Managing Editor. He also edited STRIP Magazine and worked as an editor on several audio comics for ROK Comics, including TEAM M.O.B.I.L.E. and THE BEATLES STORY. He has written comics for Marvel UK, Judge Dredd Megazine, Lucky Bag Comic, CGL (an Italian publisher), STRIP Magazine and ROK Comics; and edited some of Titan's British comics collections including Dan Dare and Charley's War. Most recently he is writing CRUCIBLE as a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and DEATH DUTY and SKOW DOGS with Dave Hailwood for the digital comic 100% Biodegradable.
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