Nervous System, where you can learn more about ThoughtScape Comics and Lifeformed. ThoughtScape Comics #1 on sale now in print and digital!
Hello ThoughtScape gang! Welcome to the new future. It is a straight-up strange and scary place, filled with uncertainty. To suit the uncertain times, I am working on making ThoughtScape Comics more adaptable, and thus (hopefully) more viable as an ongoing concern. This brings us to this week’s primary topic: What’s the best approach for an indie creator like myself when it comes to building an audience and a sustaining a mode of operation these days? There are more options than ever, but there are SO MANY options that it is pretty overwhelming and hard to know where to start, and how best to spend your creative time, efforts and funds.
So, supposing one is going to make comics independently these days, what models for creating and releasing them work, which don’t, can we even know, and how do we communicate with and build an audience that will support the work?
I am only really able to figure stuff like this out by hacking my way through it, so following the unsuccessful campaign for TSC #2 on Zoop, I have been writing down a bunch of notes and ideas about what I want out of this whole comic making business and what actually makes sense (and is possible) from an financial perspective. Read on for what is likely Part One of this topic, or just head to the bottom of the page and get a free peek over the paywall to check out process work from in-progress TSC stories. NOTE: if you sign up for the yearly subscription or the founder level plan, I’ll send you digital versions of all the ThoughtScape stuff that exists now AND new stuff as it is released - do founder level and I’ll send you a physical copy of TSC #1 and maybe even a poster or two.
Alright, you stuck around, so PART ONE begins:
Matt’s Existential Comics Conundrum, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Just Make Comics, or More Specifically, What is the Fate of TSC in 2022?
After moping about for a while following the end of the Zoop Campaign (I kid… mostly), I realized that before I decided what to do next, I needed to figure out what was important to me. Because here’s the thing: as much as folks dig the book, it takes, of course, a ton of work and money and time to put it together, and I am constantly having to remind myself that, especially since the project nowhere near pays for itself, the only reason to do it is because I love it. And I do love it. But WHAT ABOUT IT do I love? The endless, relentless promotion on social media that is so obnoxious it annoys even me? No, that I don’t love. The ups and downs of campaigning? As much as I love communicating with backers (which I truly do, best part of campaigns hands down), even the successful campaign for TSC #1 on Kickstarter last year was stressful and distracting from actually creating comics in the extreme, so no, not really the campaigning either. Anyway, as I was thinking through this I wrote out the following (screenshot directly from my Notes app):
So, yeah, I guess the bold really shows where my heart is at, but Digital no printing cost is where my wallet is at, and of course you will notice that “crowdfunding” is not written anywhere.
As I was wrestling all this, and making the above notes, I was getting a number of orders in off my website, and seeing that a fair amount of folks were opting for the digital copy of TSC #1. And hey, I get it, I am old and am REALLY a print guy, I maybe am not representative of a majority of readers, necessarily… so, perhaps, I thought, it is time to get with the times, and use digital to do the thing that really is MOST important, getting the stories out into the world. Because I’ve spent the last four years or so writing, financing and working with artists to get these comics made, and - I am starting to think to myself - it would be silly to just sit around and wait until I can fork over the cash to get them printed up as physical issues JUST BECAUSE. I mean, how many of these theoretical physical copies would I be able to sell, and how many would just sit here in my office? As someone who only recently finally recycled a few hundred copies of my old band’s 2004 CD release, I have experience sitting amongst unmoved units. That’s not a great time or anything. Do I need to do it again? Also, I have a bit of momentum with ThoughtScape, if one can have momentum these days in self-published comics, and it would be a shame to squander that.
So, my practical side is/was starting to get the upper hand. BUT, here’s my big reservation: Digital feels disposable to me, and worse, I don’t know if I understand how to make it work. Technically, easy peasy. Marketing wise, how do you make any kind of impact or inroads in a time when everyone comics-adjacent has a newsletter, everyone making comics has digital comics for sale, etc.? It reminds me of walking into Floating World when I was first developing Lifeformed and seeing the jaw-droppingly dense racks of self-published comics. Like, how does my comic matter amid ALL THIS?! What’s the point?
Well, I of course now know that the point is that there is nothing cooler and more fun than doing the work, or than people digging the work. And I have come to appreciate much more the wild and untamed ecosystem that is comics: the fact that there’s so much work that you could never take it all in is part of the glory of comics and of all creative endeavors, and being a part of that ecosystem means something to me.
Alright, so here I am typing this post and convincing myself even more that I do indeed want to try and execute some digital plan. But WHAT?! How do I do it in a way that makes some sort of sense, AND gives me a plan that is both realistically scoped, potentially executable and viable, and might provide some economic fuel for creating more stories (and possibly, if we’re real lucky, arriving at a place where printing is eventually indeed a possibility as a part of the overall TSC publishing strategy)?
Tune in next time to see what I’m thinking, and most importantly, to weigh in with what you think of it! In fact, you don’t have to wait until next time to drop any amazing ideas or feedback you might be willing to share… please (seriously, please), drop your thoughts in the comments here and let’s discuss! I am open to all the help and brainstorming I can get.
Thanks, and have a great weekend! Oh, and below is that peek at the type of thing you get as a paid subscriber: a look at some stories in progress!
Free look at paid-type content!
A couple updates on stories in progress:
Artist Rob Gaughran and I are still working away on this epic, and meeting occasionally to discuss, but I thought I’d share a couple of sneak peek thumbnail panels for fun. Warning: Minor spoilers for the far future!
Playing Opossum! As mentioned previously, a script I wrote over a year ago has found its artist in Desolina Fletcher. This week we’ll continue our look at page one of this tale with some PENCILS!
But first, a refresher. Here’s the script for the page…
… and the thumbnails…
And now the pencils…
As you can see, our main character, Betts, has taken on more defined form, and Desolina has blocked out a bunch of the darkness that is encroaching at this point in the story (which, though it is Page One, is actually the start of the end of the story as well, due to the story’s flash forward format). Anyway, Betts and the art have the lovely edge that I expected from Desolina and I can’t wait to see how these pages finish up. And then I get to letter this thing, which will be a fun challenge. So far the stories I have lettered have allowed me to sort of play it safe lettering style wise, but this one is a bit more untamed and it feels like my usual timid/not-super-experienced approach will need to both level up and loosen up. Looking forward to it.
Thanks, and have a great weekend!
On Thoughtscape - First you need to nail down the economic side. Are you and your compatriots doing this as a hobby or as a means of income? That drives all decision making.
Case in point, I flirted with crowdfunding my small press comic and eventually decided against it when I realized the level of effort necessary to break through in a field that, when you step back and look at it clearly, isn't interested in that broad of subject matter. It just wasn't worth it.
Economics aside, TSC #1 was a FANTASTIC book. As I've written elsewhere, the stories were great and the production quality was second to none. You have so much to be proud of, and it would be so sad to see it die because Kickstarter jumped on blockchain and Zoop isn't entirely ready for prime time. We all would be less for such a decision.
I'll stop there, but you know how to reach me on Twitter if you want to continue a dialogue.
Looking forward to this!