Saturday, 10 March 2012

Building an Audience: Making a Living from Comics - John Allison

John Allison was probably one of the most entertaining speakers that we had this week! He really made the lecture a positive experience, and made the future sound not quite as scary as it really is. His most recent work is Scary-go-Round and Bad Machinery.

John had no artistic training, but he had loved making comics since 1997. Between graduating from university and finding employment, he completed a strip a day, and put them up on the internet. He kept drawing and drawing and putting them up on the internet, and his audience liked this; after all the relationship with your audience is all about TRUST!

Any change to your work will shock people, and you may even end up loosing some of your audience. John found this out the hard way, when he changed his media several times; he started with traditional methods, then moved onto Adobe Illustrator, moved to another computer program, and then went back to traditional methods.

John puts his work up on the internet, because he says putting your work on the internet allows you to try things you can't with printed work, for example, changing the typeface, or composition etc of designs, as you can upload the new version and delete the older one.

John gave us some advice on making contacts:

  • People doing work like you - become friends with people who work like you but are slightly better. as you can use each other for support and advice
  • Conventions - meet people who are further along
  • Be realistic!
This lecture was mainly about giving us some advice, rather than him telling us about his background, though he did mention this at the beginning. The advice he was giving included: Write for yourself, but keep in mind your audience, as there has to be people ready to read your work. Don't by shy to have confidence, especially at conventions, e.g. to literally hand people your work like it's the best thing since sliced bread. Do-It-Yourself is a good way to go about things nowadays; if no one's interested in publishing your work, then do it yourself, with websites/firms such as Inky Little Fingers. Anything you can afford to produce, so that you can sell it on, and is a reasonable amount to make back, then try it; create a portfolio of things you sell, e.g. t-shirts, coasters, tea-towels etc. 

Advertising is free money! Although it's a good way to get free money, John advises not to opt for this when you are starting out, as they just cram up space on your website. This is something that you should consider when you are more successful.

Another helpful piece of advice John gave was pinch pennies like there was a war on; take a job that you're not so keen on, to pay for another job that you want to do. BE A BUSINESS BARON!

Some of the things that he wishes he's been taught were:
  • "Exposure" is meaningless
  • The difference between success and failure is usually a lack of intellectual curiosity
  • The lower the price of job, the more difficult the client will be
  • Learn how to be a pain about money
    • Always charge the price that you think the job is worth
  • Fake mistakes - mistakes you do on purpose so that the client can notice them, and put their input into the discussion
  • Most publishing deals aren't worth anything, but a good one is worth everything
  • Business cards get thrown away - they give us your details, they don't tell us that you exist.
Overall, John Allison was very entertaining, but was also inspiring with it. The advice he gave was very helpful, and very insightful. He is a great example of someone who has had no artistic training, but has got by on passion alone. I particularly liked the advice John gave on self-publishing and ways of selling your work. This is something that I may seriously think about once I have a larger portfolio (selling work through t-shirts, accessories etc.) as I think this would be a great way of keeping a relationship with audiences, and will be a new experience of making things, and getting them out there to your readers.

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