chrisgumprich.com

LESSONS LEARNED #1

By Chris Gumprich. (Originally appeared April 24, 2005)

It's no secret that the Internet has revolutionized self-publishing comic books. Anywhere you turn there are countless resource websites, how-to articles, and an endless array of professionals willing to give advice on everything from coming up with an idea to handling crowds at conventions. Yet here I come, starting yet another column talking about my journey through self-publishing. So who am I, and why should you listen to me?

My name is Chris Gumprich, and I am a battle-scarred veteran of self-publishing. Unlike some, my comic has not been snatched up by Hollywood. My minicomics have not won awards. My all-time total sales can be measured in the triple digits. I am not what you would call an overnight success.

And yet, I did everything "right." I did all of the research. I studied the markets, became well acquainted with the business side of things, learned more than I ever thought I would need to know about salesmanship and marketing. My copy of True Facts is held together with duct tape. I followed the rules and I made mistakes - and that's what I'm bringing to the table.

It's really quite simple. I made mistakes and I learned from them. Seems pretty obvious, doesn't it?

Many people seem to think that there exists a "magic bullet" - the one secret which will guarantee them success, glory, fame, riches, all that good stuff. Professionals are all too happy to share this so-called "secret" - it's a little thing called Hard Work. Let me say that again because it deserves a line of its own.

You cannot be successful without Hard Work.

But - and this is equally important - Hard Work alone will not guarantee success. Nothing will. You can follow all of the "rules," read every suggestion in every book, but at the end of the day there is no control over whether or not you become "successful". (I'm assuming my own definition of success, consisting of glory, fame, riches, and all that good stuff.)

There is only one hard-and-fast rule which guarantees anything in the publishing game, especially comics: You can only fail if you give up. As the cliché goes, "there are only two people in this world: those who CAN and those who CAN'T. And they're both right."

And now that we've gotten that little bit of warm fuzziness out of the way, let's get to the background stuff: the reason why I started publishing my own comics - our man Larry Young, from the previously-mentioned True Facts, column one. "You want to do a comic? Do it. Nobody's stopping you."

At the time, I had an eight-page story that I was trying to get published in an anthology. Unfortunately, no anthologies were looking for work by two complete unknowns. The artist had done the work for nothing, the only proviso being that I would get the story in print. One year after the work had been completed, and I was no closer to holding up my end of the bargain.

"You want to do a comic? Do it. Nobody's stopping you."

Well, why the heck not? I set myself a deadline - the comic would be finished in time to be submitted to that year's Isotope Mini-Comic Awards - and went to work. I received permission from the artist, spent a week or so putting together a cover, printed a mock copy on my desktop printer, and ran to the local copy center. The next day I was the proud owner of two hundred and fifty copies of my very first comic, Recriminations. Five copies went into the mail to Kirsten at the Isotope, several other copies went out to reviewers, some copies went to pros, and I waited for the raves to come in. Overnight success would surely be mine.

Don't you believe it.