That’s the magic question. If there were an easy answer, we’d all be rich and sitting on a beach while a robot served us endless Piña Coladas. But we’ve all seen Terminator and know how that ends. So, back to my point. What leads to success?
A gentleman named Richard St. John spent more than a decade researching the lessons of success — and distilling them into 8 words. His 3 minute video over on Ted.com is a *must* see. A link to the video is at the end of this article.
I’m going to look at the sixth word in his list of eight: Serve. Or specifically, serve others something of value. This key point applies to any business, but really is the answer we comic artists are looking for. A successful comic brings its readers something of value. It may be a good story, it may be dynamic characters, or it may simply be a slight chuckle as they watch Charlie Brown miss the football… again.
As with most entry level comic strip artists, I am looking to monetize my webcomic. But, if the thing of value that we serve is offered completely for free, then HOW do we make money? Nothing is going to make your readers buy your t-shirt, your latest book or latest trinket… unless they find value in it.
Creating that value is our job. It is not an easy task. To be blunt, if the only thing you are serving is your comic strip, the odds are greatly against you that you will ever make any significant money from your webcomic. WAIT! Don’t run away depressed now, there’s light at the end of this dark tunnel.
You simply have to listen to your readers. Observe their comments. See which comics hit a chord with your readers and build on that foundation. Your readers will tell you what they want. For a couple years now I have heard a message from my readers over at 1977 the Comic. I have been reluctant to serve what was being asked for two simple reasons: 1: I didn’t think I was talented enough to deliver a quality product and 2: I was being asked for pin-up style artwork of my characters.
Now, it’s not what you may think. Pin-up art is actually very hard to do (and do it well). Dean Yeagle makes a ton of money drawing his character Mandy in various tasteful nude poses. This is what my readers were asking from me. Did I feel a stigma about drawing semi-nude characters? Sure, at first. It’s not exactly work you draw while sitting at Grandma’s house. Here’s how you might imagine the conversation going: Grandma: “Whatcha drawin’ sweetie?” Me: “Large breasted women in bikinis…. Crap, Grandma’s fainted!”
But, recently I have gotten the courage to take on these commissions and have surprised myself. One, I’m not that bad. I’m not Dean Yeagle, but hey, I just started this! Two, people are buying it. Holy crap! That was too easy. Imagine that, I listened to my readers, I pushed past my self-doubt and bingo, I’m selling. Am I rich enough for the robots serving drinks on a beach? No, but maybe I can motivate one of you in the right direction!
Am I saying the path to success for you is to draw semi-naked women? Of course not. Your Grandma’s health is at risk here for God’s sake! But, what I am saying is to listen to your readers and overcome the self-doubt and know you can serve something of value. If you apply Mr. St. John’s list (which is below and includes pushing past self-doubt) to your comic, then success will come. It may be as easy as listening to your readers!
What Leads to Success by Richard St. John
- Passion – Driven by your passion. Do it for Love, not Money
- Work – Nothing comes easily. It’s hard work, but fun. Work-a-frolics.
- Good – Get damn good at what you do. Practice, practice, practice.
- Focus – Focus yourself on ONE thing.
- Push – Physically, mentally, you gotta push, push, push. Push past shyness & self-doubt.
- Serve – Serve others something of value.
- Persist – Persist through failure. CRAP = Criticism, Rejection, Assholes & Pressure
- Ideas – Listen, observe, be curious, ask questions, problem solve, make connections.