Million Dollar Advice for Indie Comic Creators from the Humble “Master of Reality!” (Opinion)
In 2020, you have the opportunity to do something with a level of ease never before conceived in the history of mankind. If Stan Lee was born in 1980, he could access current tools inconceivable in 1965 – tools to reach and influence millions beyond what the smartest billionaire could imagine in 1990. The access available to your potential market at a relatively low cost opens the entire world to your grasp!
Well, the world of comics, at least.
Consider this – reaching wealth near one million dollars is achievable if you can provide $1 of profitable service to .26% of the population from the world’s top ten richest countries (That’s 3.841 billion total people or so – we’ll just call them the “folks” from here forward). That’s equivalent to little more than 2 and 1/2 persons serviced (*snicker!*) per each 1,000 people. In other words, your task to be a near millionaire in one year is to sell to 2,600 people a day, at a mere dollar of profit for each sale. See the potential? Make that $10 of profit, and you need to reach 260 people a day. For $100 of that dirty “P” word, you need 26 customers daily.
These goals are to specifically make one million dollars of fungible cash in one 365-day year. Let’s say we scope that to what’s a bit more realistic…. Perhaps you are happy with $50,000 a year? You can make folks happy at a profit averaging $10 a sale. If you decide to work 240 days a year, the job is to market to reach 8,100 folks daily while converting .26% to sales. That’s only 21 sales each workday. That’s about 1 1/2 hours of customer service and shipping, in my experience. That leaves plenty of time to get those pencils and inks flying along with time allotted for convincing folks to buy.
That’s the true job. Drawing the book, writing the words, or complaining on video is the effort – not the work. How many people scratch out “art” each day that people won’t buy? The true JOB is reaching the folks and selling to 21 of them each day. Selling is a chore. Ever meet a deliriously happy car salesman?
Boy, all that is too hard. Well then, double your profit and cut the the number of people needed in half. If that sounds too difficult, quit reading here. If you are ambitious enough to achieve those numbers, keep reading. I’m about to make you rich much easier.
Remember those tools I mentioned? As an example, reaching 8,100 potential customers is easier than ever. With all the data that’s being collected, targeting people who have actually spent money on comics is easily done on various social media sites. Targeting customers allows you to make that conversion rate (the .26%) higher. Every time that gets higher, the less you need to spend – or do – to reach your goal.
Using any one of the available social media channels, you can find a source of customers who are – let’s say – both politically conservative and comic book buyers. Targeting that specifically for cents on the dollar is a pretty efficient tool. Why blast advertisements for comics to 3.8 billion folks if you can carve out the most likely candidates with a few selections in a marketing app? You can even see how many people there are who make up the available pot, which some apps will tell you while you design your campaign. Making a book and using word of mouth is more of a religious experience than a business strategy.
BUT WAIT – there’s more! You can reasonably expect roughly 80% of new business to come from previous customers. WHAT? Suddenly, after building a foundation of customers, I only need to convert 1/2 a person a day of new business to meet my goal. Cool right?
Let’s put that into comic books. My first edition touches 2,800 individuals. My second edition has 2,240 people virtually pre-sold as long as I continue achieve the level of satisfaction of my first attempt. (You still gotta massage and kiss the customer from time to time. I’m warming the oil now, Vestige creators. Ten minutes will be a “Good enough for now”).
With an 80% retention rate, I now need only 560 new people to achieve the success of the first. Don’t cheese off your base. Got that? If you make customers feel appreciated, not alienated, the JOB is 20% as hard as before for the same level of success. Can you do that? Well, yeah, you already did exactly that more than than once.
Now consider publishing 2, 6, 10, or 12 books a year. The more you turn out, the more opportunity you have. Each new book should have a built-in pool of sales of approximately 80% of the previous attempt merely by making the new product available. Available means having the product as well as making sure the people know about it. Constant contact anyone?
Dear sweet creator how much money do you want? Once you have that goal, that’s when the job really begins. Otherwise, you are haphazardly producing comics and hoping for success. That’s not business. It’s a hobby that makes money. Obviously, you can succeed that way, but you’ll be more effective using the experiences of business past (Thanks, Scrooge you were all right, after all). Experience tells us which data to keep and how to analyze it. From that, we can create realistic performance goals. Goals keep us focused and help us plan. A plan beats a wish – just ask the A-Team.
Lesson two is “Act purposefully and deliberately.” Each activity needs to be thought out. What’s my desire here? Does this action start me toward that goal or does it not? At a minimum, you should have an understanding of the volume needed to meet your needs. “Do I need 2 campaigns or 3 this year?” Baby has to eat, and momma’s got to sparkle.
Personally, I’d start by designing a financial model in Excel. There I can tweak the various factors to see which actions provide what result. With a little fine tuning over time, I’ll know how much I get for each hour of effort. That’s a nice thing to know, right? Behold, a path for success!
For example, I’m running a lunch counter. Every day I would know that by the 10th customer I am profitable. When I’m under 10 I’m losing money, and when I’m over 10 I’m making money. Next, how much money do I need for life’s necessities? I need 20 customers a day to make ENOUGH money. Above 20? Now I’m starting to get ahead. Goals as simple as those will make the difference between success and failure.
“I don’t need data to know what works!” Bull feces to the 11th power, I say. Do you know how many successful initial startups fail when the company grows beyond a one man operation? Well neither do I, but it’s a lot, A LOT (I’m not motivated to find the answer, but it’s out there).
Failure often happens when someone great at his job can’t translate his success to employees and higher revenue. Ask a local one-man subcontractor how it went when he added bodies so he could take on more jobs. The failure rate here is heartbreaking. Between regulations, litigation, taxes, and employee benefits, simply going back to a busy one-man shop is often impossible. Payroll taxes and employee liabilities aren’t discharged in bankruptcy. They follow you for the rest of your life while accruing interest and penalties. It’s like high interest rate credit card debt infected with herpes.
Scared? You don’t need to be. Act deliberately while using information instead of “gut feelings” and flying by the seat of your pants. That’s how you grow for success.
Back to knowing what works. Do you know intrinsically why something worked? What factors contributed to success? What worked 10 years ago and does it still work? “Data, you need, yes” (Yoda voice). Many years of experience tells me your perception of what works is faulty. Is it faulty leading to a critical failure down the road, or is the fault immaterial to success? You need data to know!
In summary, if you are in business or are going into business for yourself, you need to know what’s possible. How do you access what’s possible? How do I assess my efficiency in getting to what’s possible? How much do I need to survive? Getting this information is very doable through trial and error. Start by tracking the data and then move on to analysis. It’s not the most efficient way to start, but due to available resources, it’s the most readily-available way to start.
Finally, remember that comics are a very mature industry. Are they mature like producing automobiles or mature like producing horse-drawn buggies? Time will tell. I am able to tell you that the “collector money” is out there. Money not being spent on new comic efforts is making the way to the past. Don’t believe me? Follow some comic auctions. There’s a real market for high condition books.
The trick is to know the direction of the money early on. By knowing, you’ll have the competitive edge. An edge which will help you succeed or avoid critical failures.
Here endeth the lesson for today. It’s only a scratch of the surface. If you have interest, I’ll develop these concepts further in future articles. If there’s no interest at least I’ll have the data!
My thanks to The Splintering for the soap box. Thank you for your time, and special thanks to all who read this! Please feel free to leave comments below or contact me directly on Twitter here.