The trouble with creating multiple book collections…

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Have you been thinking about putting a book collection together but have been intimidated by all the work that might go into creating such an endeavor? The good news is that when you’re creating your first book, even though there’s a lot of work that goes in to it, it’s also a lot of fun. In some ways, it’s very similar to the energy, excitement and work that goes into creating your very first strip. It’s a lot of work creating a strip… there’s the part about creating the characters, designing them, writing them and then putting them in various situations. That’s hard work. But it’s also a lot of fun.

The really difficult part comes after all that hard work… when you have to keep building new situations and new characters over and over again. And that can be tough because you’re trying extremely hard not to repeat yourself, to be fresh and energetic – just as what you were when you created your first strip.

Well, creating multiple book collections of all your strips can be just as exciting – and just as taxing  – as creating a long running web comic.That’s basically what the following article is about. It’s about my internal struggle to complete my fourth book collection. Sometimes, we can learn more from another artist’s struggles then we can from their successes – that’s what I hope to accomplish with this article… to show that all of us will hit road blocks every now and then. Even those of us that have been doing it for a very long time. Heck, maybe especially for those of us that have been doing it for a very long time.

Before we get into all of that though…

Let’s go back a few weeks to a Slate article I came across titled “Tramps Like Us”. It’s an article that talks about Bruce Springsteen’s struggles with writing his ultimate rock classic, “Born to run”. It’s a really interesting article – especially from an artistic viewpoint. It was interesting to read that even a “rock god” like Bruce Springsteen suffered from that same thing many of us have dealt with when an idea or a vision in our head just isn’t translating on paper. And no matter what we do or try, we just can’t seem to be able to physically create the vision trapped in our brains. It’s not really a writer’s block as much as it is something very, very different.

I also found it interesting to read that it took Bruce an extremely long time to write what amounts to a 4 minute, thirty second song (thanks Wikipedia!). That was mainly because he was purposely trying to write “the greatest rock ‘n roll song ever”. Talk about adding just a little bit of pressure on one’s self.

Now, for the forth Capes & Babes book, I’m not trying to make the “greatest webcomic book collection ever” but I have been struggling with putting it together for a quite a while now and it’s turning out to be a very slow, sometimes agonizing and sometimes a dissatisfied process. The thing is, I have all of the hard work done. I have already created the bare minimum of 200 strips I like to put in every one of my Capes & Babes book collections. The problem I’m having is trying to come up with some really cool and interesting extra stuff that’s completely unique from anything I had done in my first three books. I love artists who really take the time to come up with some awesome features for their books… the interesting tidbits, the behind-the-scenes stuff… things you can’t get on their web sites at all and are only available in book form. Those are the things that help sell the book at conventions or to people who may never have heard of you before.

The thing is though, I put a lot of effort into creating all of the extras in each of my previous books. A LOT of effort. But just like Bruce’s struggle with “Born to Run” when he was trying to match the sound in his head, I haven’t come up with any new extra features I’m truly happy with and it’s frustrating because I know I need to put it all together very soon because people are frequently beginning to ask me at conventions when the fourth book will come out.

It’s not all bad news though…

The Extra Features of book four wasn’t the only thing that was holding me back. It was also an idea for the book cover and a new title. I knew I wanted to get away from the series of titles playing on my last name: You Can’t print Flick, You STILL Can’t Print Flick and finally, THAT’S Why You Can’t Print Flick. The “Print Flick” title well was running dry and I wanted to try something new and the fourth book would be a perfect time to do so.

But I still didn’t have an idea for a potential title or an idea for the cover.

That’s the great thing about the Webcomic Alliance Workshop Podcast though. Thanks to some suggestions by Dawn, I started going through the book four strip archive and found a strip that I think would be great for the cover. And, because I now had that cover image in my head, it was a simple process to come up with the name. So, consider this a Webcomic Alliance exclusive! The title of the fourth book will be called “This Fur Don’t Burn!” You’re going to have to wait to see what the cover looks like though.

Yeah, I’m a stinker.

But the point I’m trying to make is, I never would have thought to do what Dawn suggested so sometimes, you need to seek some outside help for ideas. That can work with creating a strip as well. Sometimes, your friends can see something you don’t because you’re looking at every individual leaf instead of seeing the forest.

I’m still coming up black with the Extra Features…

The reason why that is an issue is because of what I mentioned before about all the work I put in to the three previous books. Below is a break down of what I have in each book for extra content so far. Perhaps it might help you brain storm what to include in your own book(s).

BOOK ONE
Cast Page (this really should be in every book, I think)
A Dedication Page
A foreword by Brad Guigar (Thanks Brad!)
A blank page for drawing a sketch and signing the book
Sketch Book Extras
(a section dedicated to all the one-off characters that appeared in the first year)
Comic Book Forum Sketches
(a collection of sketches that I drew for various forums before starting Capes & Babes)
How I draw Marc, Joey and Roy
A small collection of my previous webcomic, CMX Suite
Eight of my surviving college cartoon strip, “525 Calhoun Street”
Sketches and Commissions
A small collection of my professionally designed T-shirts
Two web conference programs I designed called “Geeks on the beach”
The robot illustration I did for an Autism Awareness comic book called ‘Bots!
Joey’s original concept design
A thank you page highlighted various people that helped me with my cartoon strips over the years
A pull list listing all of the comic strips I was a fan of at that time
A page to contact me for any freelance work

SECOND BOOK
A Dedication Page
A blank page for drawing a sketch and signing the book
A foreword by Byron Wilkins (Thanks Byron!)
An updated Cast Page
A page dedicated to friends that made guest appearances in the strips
A section devoted to all the various celebrities that appeared in the strips
A step-by-step process of how I create a Capes & Babes strip
Some super hero sketch cards I have done at conventions
How I draw Roni
How I draw I.R. Hungre – my zombie character
More CMX Suite strips (my previous web comic done for a web site called Community MX)
More Commissions
Guest strips people have done for me
Guest strips I have done for other people
A “Things I learned from Bull Durham” poster I designed to see at conventions
A page of credits, thanks and an updated pull list
A “Back word” by Elijah Pipkin

A “back word” is something I created because I had two friends that wanted to write a foreword for me – Byron and Elijah. Byron offered first but I didn’t want to turn down Elijah since he’s a terrific writer, so I created a “Back Page” and dedicated the last two pages to Elijah and whatever he wanted to write. I was really excited about this and love telling people about “The Back Word”.

BOOK THREE
Dedication page
A blank page for drawing a sketch and signing the book
Foreword by Dawn Griffin and artwork graciously donated by Charles Dowd
Updated Cast Page
(The cast page may all have the same characters from every book but the look of all the characters are updated)
Two pages dedicated to my father-in-law who passed away in 2011 but was a character in the strip
I Have The Coolest Friends
(A section dedicated to all of my friends that made an appearance in the strip along with the strips they appeared in)
Guest Strips that people did for me
A step-by-step guide of how I created the Capes & Babes logo
(which eventually became a Webcomic Alliance article)
How I draw Al the Alien
Convention filler strips (Strips I ran when I was away at a convention)
Convention sketches and Commissions
Convention Sketch Cards
The Roy Gallery
(Another super section where I asked 10 of my friends to donate a sketch of their version of Roy. My daughter was one of the ten.)
A Bio Page for every one of the creators that sent me a Roy sketch
The Art of Self-Promotion
(A collection of all the promotional postcards I have designed since starting Capes & Babes)
A Thank You page to some of my friends
An updated pull list
A contact page in order to contact me for freelance illustration as well as graphic and web design work
The Back Word – this time featuring my good friend (and another terrific writer), Rob Anderson

So here’s the problem with book four…

I don’t have a NEW cool idea like The Roy Gallery.
I already covered how I create the strip. That process really hasn’t changed at all.
I already covered how I created my logo. My logo hasn’t changed. It’s still the same.
I have included almost all of my promotional postcards.
I will include more commissions as people seem to like that but that’s a continuation of something I’ve already done. It’s not NEW.
Likewise, I’ll include many of the things I have before such as a Cast Page, Guest Strips and I’ll highlight any and all friends that appeared in any of the book four Capes & Babes strips.

That being said, I’m looking for some kind of creative idea that will equal or top “The Roy Gallery” and, just like Springsteen, I keep coming up blank.

So, maybe some of you have suggestions. What are some things you would like to see in my fourth book? Or, what are some of the extra features you include in your own book(s)? Seriously, inquiring minds wanna know because…

The highway’s jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive.

🙂

 

 

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Posted in Business, Featured News, Helpful Hints, Writing and tagged , , .

18 Comments

  1. great article Chris.

    Not sure if this idea is cost effective or just cheesy but some of your younger fans would probably think a pop up werewolf to be cool somewhere in your new book ( and it would use up two pages) p.s if this becomes a new comic trend remember me lol

    • Hey Aron,
      Glad you enjoyed the article. As you said though, I don’t think the pop-up werewolf would be very cost-effective. It would be kind of cool but even if it was cost effective, there would still be one other problem…
      I don’t know the first thing about how to design ANYTHING that pops up out of a book! 🙂

      • ok chris another idea

        have a page with a drawing of your werewolf’s face and instructions on how to trace it using tracing paper and draw it on a paper bag to make a mask. ( this would be great if a reader has an ugly little brother ,but I never said that!)

  2. A lot of work goes into creating the book, but in the end it is such a rewarding experience.

    One thing that might be interesting is to add how you came up with certain ideas, for instance on a specific strip you can tell how your grandmother said something that reminded you of something and so you created this strip or that character, etc. etc. Basically the mind set or the inspiration for certain gags or characters could be explained and it would make it more personal.

    • Hey Tom, thanks for the reply. I should have mentioned that I already do this to a degree. I don’t do this for every strip but for the ones I deem worth of commentary – such as the strip concerning my Father-in-law. I dedicated two pages to that particular strip alone. For others, I’ll include one or two lines of interesting tidbits.

      But good suggestion for others that don’t already do this. 🙂

  3. Interesting article! I can’t think of any great suggestions off the top of my head.

    I’d be curious to know if it’s even worth doing all these extras. For example, if most of your sales come from conventions from people who don’t regularly visit your site, they might be happy with just getting the comics themselves.

    How many of your sales are from your site versus from conventions?

    Have any of you ever tried putting out a book without all these extras to see how well it sells in comparison? I’m getting ready to put out my second book, and honestly I’m simply adding like 8 to 10 new comics and otherwise it’s just stuff from my site. It seems like too much work and I’d rather spend my time working on more updates on my site so that I can get more readers.

    How many additional sales do you think all these extras net you? It would help make it clear if it is worth the considerable work you’re putting in.

    On the other hand, maybe putting extra stuff in your book is just something you like to do for yourself. In this case, it’s really a mute point if it helps sales or not.

    • Those are all really great questions, M.A. and some I’ve asked myself.

      I think, for me, I always want to strive to out do whatever I’ve done in the past. That can get pretty hard when you set the bar pretty high already. That’s the trouble I’m running in to now.

      I know, as a fan, I love getting “extra stuff”… whether it’s a DVD, a book or even a CD. I know I’ve really enjoyed other web comic books where the creators have really gone the extra mile and put a lot of extra stuff in their books. Does it lead to any extra sales? Boy… that’s a REALLY tough question.

      Maybe it should even be a question we open to everyone else.

      What do YOU ALL say? Would you be more willing to pay for a book with extra features or a book that only has the strips?

      • My personal experience is that when I’ve bought webcomic book collections, I was already a really big fan of the comic and I would have bought the book whether or not there were extras.

        That said, in all those cases when there were extras, I really appreciated it and enjoyed it.

        So I guess my answer is that it doesn’t create new sales. Rather it rewards and better enfranchises existing fans. It’s a form of fan service, which probably shouldn’t be overlooked.

        Again, one should weigh how many fans this is really serving versus the new fans that can be gained by making more updates.

        • Another interesting point, Magic…
          Especially when you consider that by the time you get to a fourth book, how much “extra features” are really benefiting brand new readers? I could see where a first or second book will be more beneficial to have lots of extras in it, but as the strip grows, I wonder if that really matters?

          Hmmmm… something to think about…

  4. What if you took a weeks worth of strips and made companion “Director’s Commentary” strips. You could do it MST3K style at the bottom of each panel or give them their own panels.

    -Denis

    • Denis, that’s not a bad suggestion except…
      I already did that with all three previous books. I also intend to do it with the fourth one as well.

      Maybe not MST3K style, but I do write various commentary about certain strips though. 🙂

  5. Chris,

    I think we, as artists, sometimes put unnecessary pressure on ourselves. Clearly, this is what’s going on here…

    The new collection cover, strips, plus a best of your awesome commissions is plenty for a great 4th book collection.

    ANYONE who is going to buy book #4 isn’t looking for you to reinvent the wheel…rather, they want the next book in their Capes-n-Babes collection. Are you really going to hold up getting that book into their hands because you haven’t come up with a brilliant idea for backmatter that most readers probably aren’t going to read?

    Knock out the 4th book…then start working and planning for the CAPES-N-BABES Ultimate Collection volume 1 Hardcover.

    • Hey Tyler,
      Yeah, I can’t disagree too much with a lot of what you said. I think I might have even mentioned in a previous Webcomic Alliance podcast the fact that maybe I have been focusing too much on the leaves of the forest instead of seeing the tress… 🙂

      Some of it also comes down to wanting to always top your last piece of work… to make the next album better than your last one… or to be in a bigger movie than your last one.

      As artists, if there’s a project the doesn’t seem to really get your blood flowing, it can be very hard to muster the energy to put something together that you’re not 110% truly excited about. That’s been my problem with this fourth book. In a way, you could say that I might have even hit a “book valley” when it’s come to trying to put this fourth one together.

      But fortunately, after talking to a bunch of artists and friends, I’ve been able to FINALLY start putting a list of “Extras” that are really starting to excite me. So yeah, I’ll be starting the process of the cover and the extra content very, very soon because, as I mentioned in the article, all the REAL Hard work is already done – the strips.

      The thing that should have been the easiest ended up turning out to be the hardest for me.

  6. not sure how you feel about ripping your book apart, but how about:

    a perforated page that tears into seperate bookmarks of each character?

    and/or

    a Q/A with each character? Favorite Movies/Foods. If they could meet anyone in history. What superpowers they would want if they could

    A History Lesson: a section of “photos” of the characters when they were in their teens? Would be funny to see Roy with an “afro” or with Long hair. Maybe some high school year book photos

    • Hey Cory, thanks for some great suggestions!

      I don’t think the perforated page idea is doable though, from a POD/CreateSpace side of things but might be interesting if someone had their book published with a different printer and they were able to accomplish this. For me, I know that option is too expensive or even possible.

      But if money was no object, you could expand on this idea and have a full-color section of Roy as a paper doll and have various outfits your could dress him up as.

      LOVE all the other ideas like the Q & A or the “high school portraits” of everyone. Now THAT would be easy and very fun to do!

      Thanks for the suggestions, Cory!

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